Coffee Cup Chats: DIY or DIWhy?

diyameliaartYou would think with as much respect as I  have for all things Pinterest, that I’d be a super amazing DIYing mom. Sadly, this could not be further from the truth. DIY stands for “do it yourself”, and while that should be pretty empowering, it can frustrate our family. When summer rolls around, and I can study Pinterest like a doctoral student, all I really do is nod and smile at the bravery of the moms highlighted there. I think the roots of my fears regarding crafting started in 4-H. While I loved the horse-riding, speech giving part of this childhood group, nothing could bring me to tears like a homemade gym bag or a cross stitch whatchmajig. I think this weakness can be attributed to my dislike of detail and my inability to see the big picture of things. Whatever it is, I feel like it could play a major role in my daughter’s inevitable teenage angst of her mother. I decided to try some DIY crafts and activities to force myself out of the stagnant mother role and into a mom who was fearless, patient, and talented. It turns out, you can’t fake this kind of thing.diymichaels

Craft Stores are Hard if You Don’t Craft.

There I was in the midst of professional DIYers on the search for a darn canvas. I was trying to play it cool. I had heard canvases were inexpensive ways to make your kids feel like Picasso, but I couldn’t even fathom where the  goddesses of my local Michael’s store had stashed them. I called my sister in Florida, so I could still keep up my facade of belonging in a craft haven. She told me to remain calm, and then, successfully led me to the correct section of the store. My sister is the polar opposite of me in creative art endeavors. diycanvasShe’s a photographer, and she loves to hunt for fabric, whereas my pictures are usually out of focus, and I break out in hives even thinking about searching for the perfect pattern. On this day, I left with four canvases, some burlap for a wreath I wanted to try, some paint, and miscellaneous amounts of ribbon. I was going to DIY if it killed me. An hour later, I made it out of the store with only sort of outing myself as an impostor. I may have fooled strangers, but my kids know when I’m going to be “trying” something that is unnatural for me. They called my bluff right away. When I said things like, “Are you excited to try painting?” “How about a burlap wreath? It can’t be that hard. Let’s do it.” My oldest looked at me with questioning eyes and a deep sigh. He knew how much moral support this would require on his part.

DIY Wall Art

diyangstPainting with my kids was a brave endeavor, and as I reflect on our time, it was fun for three out of the four of us. Since we don’t craft often, I used one side of an egg carton for our paint, and I used the other side to hold paint brushes. That worked wonderfully. I did my research, and the kids and I looked up fun kid canvas paintings online to get ideas. I even differentiated for ability between my three children. I made the outline for my daughter’s butterfly, I verbally gave my middle kiddo instructions, and I just let my oldest sink or swim. Sink he did. The poor guy has as much artistic talent as I do. We both enjoy writing, but that might be where our creativity stops. He ended up just painting his canvas blue. That’s it. No designs. No fancy shapes. No sports emblem. Nothing! And the whole experience still ended in ten-year-old frustration. He says he’ll come back to it later, but I’ve said that with countless projects myself. We’ll see.

An egg carton worked wonderfully as a paint holder. Since we don’t do this very often, improvising was key!

My daughter showed up with the same kind of hesitation as my oldest. However, with a little help, she had a shape that was butterfly-like, and although it did not look like the Pinterest pictures, she maintained that’s exactly how she planned it. My middle guy is so loving. He not only told me I was a great artist, but he made two different canvases. He is happiest when he is making art (he must get this from my sister). We have pictures to hang on our walls now, but if I were to rate our success while making our own art, I would say we achieved a 6 out of 10. 

DIY Front Door Burlap Wreath

Youtube, like Pinterest, can give a person false dreams. However, I would like to say that the burlap wreath attempts were beautifully successful. When I started my first tutorial, my oldest sat next to me, knowing that I’d need him for moral support. As the video played, and my head lowered to my hands, he patted me on the back and gave me a much needed vote of confidence. I was, however, determined to succeed. This video: How to Make a Burlap Wreath in Two Minutes is amazingly easy to follow and has produced two excellent burlap wreaths for my home. It’s just long enough for my attention span, and I like these wreaths because they look difficult. I love them because the kids can trade out the decorations by simply switching the flowers or other adornments. We made one staple for our door year-round, and we constructed a Memorial Day/Fourth of July wreath with ribbon and pom poms. I think the trick here was the video. If I get step by step instructions, I now believe anything is possible. I would rate our DIY success with this endeavor at a 9.5. (There is always room to grow.)diywreath

DIY Baking/Cupcake Wars

Amelia working on her own cupcake design.

Okay, I’m not the best at baking, but at least I can hammer out a decent cupcake mix with my daughter. She loves baking. I prefer cooking, but I can’t help love how excited she gets when it comes to baking with me. Recreating cupcakes we see at stores is a for sure win DIY activity. My kiddos take pride in what they create, and the cost and mess is minimal. However, I do have a friend that takes it to the next level. She recreates Cupcake Wars in her kitchen. Here is her first-person account of how it looks in her home:

Have a Theme

I usually get my kids pumped up with a viewing of the television show, available on Netflix.  This also buys me the bonus of a cup of coffee, some uninterrupted work or cleaning time, or a shower with the door closed.  As soon as the show ends, I set the stage for our home version by introducing their theme.  I’ve done things like, “April Showers Bring May Flowers” and “A Picture Paints A Thousand Words,” or the theme just becomes whatever holiday is approaching.

Relinquish Control of Your Kitchen

As an over-the-top Type A personality, the most important thing I do is relinquish control.  My pre-teen daughter being old enough to trust in the kitchen with my 3rd grader without fear of injury allows me to leave the room and not care (as much) about the mess being made until it’s over.  If your kids aren’t old enough for that yet, just concede that there will be a mess of colossal proportion, and let that be okay.  From there, one cake mix provides two pans of 12 cupcakes.  Having 2 kids means each child is responsible for anything involved in creating her pan (which would become her 8 cupcakes if you have 3 kids, or her half of the pan if you have 4, etc.).  They can add ingredients to their individual cupcakes (chocolate chips, peanut butter cups and the like), and–when they are done baking and ready to be frosted–each child gets to decorate the cupcakes however she sees fit according to her interpretation of the theme.  They must choose their 5 best  (which can be uniform cupcakes or 5 different kinds) to put on a plate. I encourage my kids to add “extras”–like on the show, where there are craftsmen who create large, wooden displays–such as construction paper creations or props; the sky (and their imagination) is the limit!

What’s Great About It

I love the panicked cries of, “Oh, no! We’re running out of time!” (even though there is no timer), and, “My frosting is too runny!” that can be heard in the process, as they are mimicking what they have heard contestants say on the show.  

Parent Contribution

Sarah’s girls showing off their masterpieces.

When they have their 5-cupcake plates ready, my husband and I are typically the judges.  We, too, have seen enough of the episodes to know what questions to ask and comments to make (i.e., “Now, tell me why you chose to…” or “I really like the texture of…”).  When it’s time to hand out the awards, we make sure each is recognized for something–best flavor, best decorations, best presentation. They would tell you the best part is getting to eat two cupcakes when they’re done.  I would say the biggest rewards, though, are the siblings working side by side on an individual goal, the creativity they exercise in the process, and the sense of independence and accomplishment they gain by the end.  They make the mess in the kitchen worth it.”

I give these friends an 11 out of 10. What a great idea!

There you have it. This post is quite confessional. I’ve always admired DIYers, and I have tried to be them once in awhile, but it’s not as easy as the professionals make it look. However it was fun for my kids and I to work together to create these above mentioned masterpieces. That, alone, was worth a try. What are your favorite DIY activities with your children? Have you had any successes or fails? We’d love to hear about them or email them to 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *