Halloween on a Dime, er… Dollar! Dollar Tree Craft Challenge

Happy HALLOWEEN! For me, the entire month of October is Halloween. I don’t know why I love Halloween so much – I’m not really into scary things, and not at all into the occult, but for some reason, at the end of summer, I can’t wait to start seeing cute skeletons and pumpkins and witches and ghosts all over the place!

Holiday decorations can get expensive fast, so I wanted to attempt to get creative with some cheap items this year. And what better place to get cheap items than the Dollar Tree! Everything I’ve made here is a combo of random scrap pieces around the house and Dollar Tree items.

My first project was inspired when I saw packages of colored, sparkly “tube.” The package even showed a neat wreath you could make with them. SOLD! I added in some spiders for spooky effect.


However, when I actually got the tube home and opened the package, I found out that the materials were just a small piece of what you’d need to make a wreath, and I found out after handling them that they were a stupid piece of that wreath, and if you tried to augment them in any way by opening them up and making them not-a-tube, they fell apart. Sigh.


Not one to be discouraged for long, I got creative and grabbed an old beat up piece of wood from the garage.


Look – free spiderwebs already!

I started gluing the tubing down in a random mess, hoping to make something that looked like a really colorful spiderweb out of it.


After adding my spiders – and some leftover Halloween colored tulle tied in a bow, I came up with…


… the ugliest thing I had ever seen. It was part modern art, part huge failure. I wanted to share it with you though so that you see that not all crafters are prefect – we just tend to hide the bad projects and not talk about them. Not me – I’m putting it out there for all to see!

I did rescue it – by tearing off the awful tube-y stuff and replacing it with some Dollar Tree fake spiderwebs.


Not terrible! The wood was technically free since it was in my garage, and the tulle was leftover from another project, so for this project, free. So in total, I spent $2 on what is shown above ($5 if you count the original purchase of worthless tube stuff), and the cost of the hot glue used to attach.

You can also get some really cheap glassware items from the Dollar Tree, including some very generic looking glass vases. Glass also takes extremely well to spray paint, so you can easily customize some glass pieces with different colors of paint. In a previous year, I took some empty glass bottles and sprayed them with stripes of white, orange, and yellow, to look like candy corn!

This year, I took  my hot glue gun and put a spiderweb like pattern of glue on the vase. Once that dried, I covered it with black spray paint for a shiny, black spiderweb vase. The flowers added into it later were not from the Dollar Tree; however, they do sell fake flowers that could also be spray painted into Halloween colors.

It’s a bit hard to really show off the spiderweb in photos thanks to the shine in the vase, but it’s a really neat way to dress up a cheap vase. You could also use hot glue as a sort of negative and peel it off after spray painting; however, if doing this, I would do a base color under the glue as it might be hard to see the clear space below with black showing through from the back of the vase. This would also be a great way to make some jack-o-lantern vases by using orange spray paint as the top coat and using the glue to shape out the face cut-outs; afterwards you could go over the face cut outs either by hand or by spraying the inside of the vase black (I would be cautious about spraying the outside black first and then trying to cover with orange. It could work, but it might take a lot of orange to cover the black!). Remember always to use a lot of ventilation when spray-painting. The fumes can get to you really quickly and it’s quite flammable as well. My grass with it’s many outlines from spray painting projects can attest to being a great place to use spray paint!

Decorating for the holidays does not have to be an expensive feat – it can be done cheaply with a little imagination, hot glue, spray paint, and being okay with having a few failures here & there!


Kid Friendly Art Project – Toy Prints

It is a dreary, dark, rainy day today. And honestly, I’m not all that sad about it. It signals the coming of fall, and the end of summer. Fall is my most favorite time of the year! It’s like spring, but less mushy. This fall will be a difficult time for me, though, since I am returning to school and am currently in a night class that takes 12 hours a week for 7 weeks. My mom guilt is hitting hard since it keeps me from my family for 3 nights a week, and on some of those nights, the only time I will see my daughter is before work/school that morning.

To counteract that mom guilt, I’ve been trying to fit in as many family activities in my free time as I possibly can. That does mean burning the candle at both ends for me, but it’s only for 7 weeks, right? It’s all temporary! I’ve chosen the sunniest project that we’ve squeezed in recently to bring a little vitamin D to your day.

This project was actually inspired by a tangled slinky. Trying to untangle it, I ended up just bouncing the bottom of it around on the coffee table and noticed that the action was similar to stamping something over and over and over again, which led my mind into imagining it was bouncing in some fresh paint and then bouncing on a clean canvas and leaving it’s imprint behind. My mind is colorful – what can I say? It got me wondering – what other toys could be used to make unique prints on a canvas? I discussed it with my husband and daughter, and I was affirmed that this was not one of my crazier ideas, because it got them thinking about it, too. So since I already have a stash of paint & blank canvases in my craft studio, we were off to the Dollar Tree to get some toys that could act as neat prints!


This project is great for more than just busting boredom, or getting those creative juices flowing. We had a really fun time looking at different toy shapes and trying to find out if they would have a distinctive shape. Even my 4 year old daughter was grasping the concept – when she wasn’t just trying to get new toys. It made us think about things and shapes in a different way, and that kind of spatial, conceptual thinking can be hard to reign in with children (and to inspire in adults), so it’s a great thinking method to foster and develop. Yes – this toy is  a pull tractor – but what does it look like just from underneath? What kind of shape would it leave behind? Would you stamp it – like the pony hooves – or drag it – like the sand roller? How would it be distinctive – or, how would you know afterwards which toy it was that left that shape behind?

The toys we ended up choosing were a plastic dinosaur, pony, the broken slinky, a tractor with a pull behind cement mixer (though we couldn’t figure out how to attach the cement mixer to the tractor – that’s what you get for buying toys at the Dollar Tree), and a sand roller, which I guess is used while playing in sand to leave neat imprints in it? I felt a little bit like we were cheating with that toy, but it was neat so I let it slide. The only thing I put my foot down on was a rubber bouncy ball. Not only did I think it was only a ploy to get another rubber bouncy ball (how many bouncy balls does a child need), but even if we did use it, I did not want a ball covered in paint bouncing around my porch – even if it was outside! I didn’t want to try and get hot pink acrylic paint off of my siding, or out of my hair, or off of one of the high up windows. So I was mean mom about the bouncy ball😉


Funny story – when we got the dinosaur, we were so intent on looking at the foot shape that I didn’t realize until we got it home that I have no clue if this was ever an actual dinosaur, or if this was just another Dollar Tree toy fail. Thoughts? Anyone know what this is? Duck Billed Platysaurus?


I had two blank canvases and some assorted acrylic paints. Using a piece of cardboard from our recycle bin as a palette, we were ready to go!


We did the tractor first with bright pink paint. The tires were a little too small to leave a distinctive tread – the paint seemed to just go onto them so thick that it was hard to see. But in some places if you look close enough, you can see it, and the two tracks right next to each other made it a distinctive print.


Next up was the platy-sarus, which left the two little blue foot prints on the page there. My daughter was getting pretty dramatic with the dinosaur stomps, hence how high in the air he is. He was really stompy.


The pony hooves left four distinct purple prints. I feel like this toy was chosen just because my daughter really wanted a pink pony to add to her pony collection, but that’s okay, too.


We used light green for the slinky, and sadly, this was the most disappointing of the toys. It didn’t bounce up and down and all over like I thought it would. Instead, the viscosity of the paint held it to the canvas once it hit the canvas, so it really had to be pulled up and then forced back down to be hard enough to stick. It did not act as bouncy as we thought it would. In hindsight, using an ink maybe, instead of a paint with a level of thickness, might have made the bouncy prints we thought it would have. But we were still happy with the “forced” placement of the green rings.


Last up was the sand roller, and since this toy was remarkably wider than the other toys, we were going to need more paint spaced out on the palette. So we used all of the colors already on the palette for a sort of muddled rainbow effect (without mixing them into an icky shade of brown). If you asked my daughter, this was her favorite tool, and the one she was looking forward to the most. It worked like a paint roller does, only it left wavy lines rather than just a solid block of color.

After that, we went back with the other tools to fill in areas that looked empty, or to add more prints from those that we thought were under-represented. Since the colors were mixed up on the palette, we didn’t stick to the colors from before and ended up using the random colors on the prints.


Our finished prints! I really like how these turn out! I am hoping to find some cheap pop-in frames to put these in and hang them on the wall in the toy/play area in our family room. You can definitely see the pony hooves and the roller marks. The dino prints are a bit more hidden, but there. What I like most about these is how I remember so vividly making them whenever I look at them. I can remember shopping for the toys and trying each one individually to see how it looked. And I can remember my daughter’s sense of wonder when we saw what they did. Maybe I’m just sentimental, though.

Clean up from this project was quicker and easier than setup. The cardboard went back into the recycle bin, and the tractor and slinky toys went into the garbage. The pony hooves and dino feet got washed off for future play, as did the sand roller for play at the sand pit next summer. If I hadn’t decided to wash them and just toss them, I would have only been out $3. Since I did this outside on our front porch, I wasn’t worried about paint splatters on anything.

Other applications I could see this for would be for remembering a special toy or item that doesn’t hold a function, but still holds a special place. If you have a certain color theme in a nursery, this would be a neat way to incorporate those colors in a fun, homemade print. A lot of baby items have distinctive shapes, too – like little baby shoes, pacifiers, teething rings… Although I wouldn’t recommend holding onto any of those once they’ve been used for painting. My daughter is old enough (most of the time) to know not to chew on toys, so I worry less about her ingesting the paint. And she’s nearly 5, so I’m sure her immune system is pretty strong by now (right?).

It can be a challenge to do projects like this with kids – they are messy, they have short attention spans, and sometimes they are just so unskilled (amateurs). Just kidding… But seriously – if you’re a perfectionist, or a naturally control-driven person, it can be hard to let go. Give this project a try, though. If your child understands WHAT each item can do, they can mimic it pretty well. Clean up is minimal, and it’s easy and quick, and if your child is like mine and drawn more to experiments than art, it can be a way of experimenting how different toys look that will still capture their curiosity. Putting art into children’s lives is so beneficial that it should never be seen as a waste of time, but an investment into their future success and creativity. I only wish there was more of an emphasis on that in schools! But I’m not a teacher, nor do I wish to be😉

Crib Upcycle, Part 2: Clothes Drying Rack

Earlier, I told you about how I had planned a 3 part project using all of the parts of my daughter’s long since outgrown crib (you can read about that here). I’m ready to share with you part two of this use it all adventure – my new clothes drying rack!

Done Open

This part of the project involved using one of the long panels of the crib that held the little bug inside with vertical slats.

Crib Slats

It also involves the use of power tools – namely, a circular saw and a drill. I’m pretty proud of myself, I’m not going to lie. If you’re ever nervous about using power tools, spend a day volunteering with Habitat for Humanity on a site build, and you’ll quickly learn more than you ever thought you’d learn. Continue reading

Crib Upcycle, Part 1: Memo Board/Photo Hanger

Anyone else out there a parent? A few of you? I swear, there’s never been a time in my life where I’ve spent more money on things I’ve used so little. The baby swing, the cloth diapers, the adorable clothes, the bottles… I guess I could have had more than one baby to make these items have a little more life, but that seems like a lot of investment just to get more use out of a bottle!😉 I’m a one and done mom. More power to you if you have a large brood, but my family feels whole as three.

One of the biggest investments my husband and I made was the crib. Paired with the matching dresser/changing table (which is now a “buffet” that is storing towels & washcloths in my hallway), the total came up to right around $300 – and that’s cheap compared to the fancy furniture some parents buy! What can I say? I’m frugal.

Thankfully, most of our baby items found new homes after they grew out of usefulness for our family. We loaned out the crib once my daughter was in a big girl bed to a friend that had need for two cribs at a time, but I’ve found that there is little need out there for used baby cribs. It seems that among families that don’t mind buying new, the crib is something that is rarely bought used. There are those that buy everything used, which is a great way to be – but when it came down to it, I felt a little bit attached to the thing once it found it’s way back to me. Sure, there were other things I kept, too – some baby blankets, some of the cutest little teeny tiny baby outfits, a couple special toys… But those are easily packed away into my special things chest.

The decision was made – keep the crib, but upcycle it into items that are more purposeful. The internet is FULL of furniture upcycle ideas, and cribs are definitely up there in terms of reusability. I’ve divided the parts of my crib into three projects of varying difficulty. I’m using the whole buffalo, as it were. (Is using that phrase cultural appropriation? Or offensive? I hope not. It isn’t meant that way..). No parts left behind (except maybe hardware, and a couple little bits and pieces that I cut off here and there)!

Crib Part 1 CoverThe first project is by far the easiest and takes about 5 minutes and a small investment of hardware. I was actually inspired (who am I kidding, I totally stole the idea) by a friend of mine who did something similar (not even similar – absolutely the same thing) in her living room.

By taking the metal grid that holds the mattress and hanging it on the wall, you now have a lovely, large picture or memo hanging grid.

Grid Close Up

I use clothespins to hold the items on. Clothespins are also great to customize with some acrylic paint, markers, glitter, spray paint, washi tape… Another fun thing about this is that it’s magnetic – so you can use magnets where they will fit.


To attach it to the wall, I used my husband some large sized screw in hooks and just hung the grid right from them. That’s it – easy peasy.

Photo Hanging Grid

I did say this was the easiest of the projects. One piece of the crib used, a pile more to go! What do you think? Is this too “out-there” of an idea for you, or are you going to kick your toddler out of their crib early so you can get a head start? Let me know what you think!