Let the kids collect some on your next seaside adventure, then transform their finds into cool room décor or gifts for friends!
1. Write Your Name (or a Pal’s): Everyone needs his name on his door, right? (Right!) Glue a canvas sheet (available in the craft-paper section of an art store) to a picture-frame backing. (Save the glass for another project.) Use shells, driftwood, coral, twigs, or dried seaweed (or a combo) to form letters, then glue down.
2. Raise a Rainbow: Add a dose of happy to the walls! Cut a rainbow shape from cardboard. Divide a stash of shells into three or four piles. Paint each pile a different color. Let dry. Lightly draw arches on the cardboard and paint each the same colors as shells. Glue shells to corresponding colors.
3. Leave an Impression: Kids can make their own fossils. Form three medium-size balls of air-dry clay. Roll out into ⅓-inch-thick slabs. Cut out circles with cookie cutters. Evenly press the top of a shell into the center of the clay circles; remove. Poke a hole in the top with a skewer; let dry. Hang with twine from a branch.
4. Make Your Own Mandala: This is a fun way to play with patterns: Place a shell in the center of a wooden or cardboard craft round (check the cake-decorating aisle). Work out from the center to create a repeating circular design with shells; glue down. When it’s done, tell the kids their mandala represents the universe!
Turn paper ephemera from your vacation into a container to showcase your family's happy memories.
Use a 1-inch circle punch to create 45 to 65 paper circles from colored paper and printed material from your trip -- maps, brochures, tickets, photos, and so on.
Wrap the outside of a cereal bowl in plastic wrap; try to keep the wrap as smooth as possible. Place the bowl upside down on waxed paper.
Brush decoupage medium (such as Mod Podge) onto a section of the wrapped bowl near the rim. Add a circle, then brush the top of the circle with more medium.
Continue adding circles, overlapping them slightly to prevent gaps. Let the bowl dry completely.
Remove the paper bowl from the original bowl and gently peel off the plastic. Paint the inside of the bowl with acrylic paint, if you'd like.
Turn a sheet of cork into a shipshape rowboat. First, print our boat template below. Paper-clip it to a sheet of thin cork (available at craft stores) and cut out the shape. Paint the cork with acrylic paint and let it dry. Use hot glue (adults only) to glue the bow and stern together where shown on the template. With a hole punch, make a hole for a twine towline. Create two oars from wood coffee stirrers, craft foam, and hot glue. Make slits in the boat's sides and insert the oars. Let your child's tiny critters row merrily down the stream.
This mesh sack lets natural-treasure collectors leave sand, water, and dirt behind.
Fold over the top two inches of a plastic mesh produce bag (fold outward, not into the bag). Cover the resulting flap with a layer of duct tape. Unfold the bag so the tape is on the inside.
Make a handle by folding a 14-inch length of duct tape in half lengthwise. Adhere the ends of the handle to the tape on the bag. Cover the exposed tape with another layer of tape, sandwiching the handle in between.
If the bag is open at the bottom, fold a length of tape over it. Patch any holes in the bag by sandwiching them between two pieces of tape.
This observation station gives kids a closer look at found insects.
Start with a plastic juice bottle. Use a craft knife (an adult's job) to cut a hole about an inch smaller than a window screen repair patch. Fold 1-inch-wide strips of duct tape over the cut edges. Do the same with the screen's edges. Tape one long edge of the screen to the bottle, creating a hinge. Add a strip of adhesive-backed Velcro to the opposite side of the door. Note: Be sure to evict your bug tenants after a few hours.
Make a menagerie of critters by sculpting just a few simple shapes. See the step-by-step instructions for our cat at the link below. Then, using the same technique, try your hand at creating an elephant or a bunny, penguin, or pig!
Give plain-Jane rubber flip-flops an upgrade that adds comfort as well as style. Cut a 1/2-inch-wide strip of knit fabric about 4 feet long. Use fabric glue to adhere the end of the strip to the edge of the strap where it meets the sole. Wrap the strip around itself once and apply more glue to hold it. Wrap the strip around the rest of the strap, adding dots of glue as you go. Finish the strap as you started it, then trim the excess fabric. Cut circular shapes of various sizes out of scrap fabric. Using a large sewing needle or a craft knife (adults only), poke a hole in the center of the circles. Insert a brad into the holes and fold back the arms to secure the circles. Use fabric glue to attach the flower to the fabric-wrapped straps.
Hit the beach in an easy-to-make surfboard tee. Your child can help choose the fabrics and cut out the shapes.
Make the most of the fleeting days of summer with a linear calendar that is part planner, part scrapbook.
On card stock circles, write numbers for all the dates of the summer. Start with the day school vacation begins for your family and end with the first day of school in the fall. Glue the circles to clothespins, then clip the pins to a length of sturdy yarn tacked to the wall. Before the summer vacation begins, clip items that correspond to plans you have, such as tickets to an event or a museum brochure. As the days pass, clip mementos of what you did each day, such as a feather from a hike or a seed packet from your new garden.
Illuminate your summer table with the soft glow of these bloblike lights.
For each, cut the neck from yellow and orange 12-inch-round balloons. Stretch the opening of the balloon over the top of a battery-operated tea light. To fill out your balloon, pinch open a section of its base and puff some air inside.
Idea by Camilla Fabbri
Go for the gold with a ribbon streamer wand that's perfect for rhythmic gymnastics in your own backyard.
Start with 1 1/2 yards of 1 1/2-inch-wide satin ribbon. Trim both ends with pinking shears to prevent fraying. Bend a 2-inch length of 20-gauge craft wire in half, forming a narrow "u" shape. An inch from one end of the ribbon, use a large needle to make two holes about 1/8 inch apart in the center of the ribbon's width. Insert the ends of the wire into the holes and pull the wire two thirds of the way through. Bend the ends of the wire so that they're perpendicular to the length of the ribbon. Fold the end of the ribbon over the wire ends and secure it with tacky glue.
Push a thumbtack through the loop and into the end of a 5/16-inch dowel. Don't press the pin all the way in -- leave some space for the wire loop to rotate.
Jazz up a cheap pair of flip-flops with lightweight craft foam embellishments.
Download our flip-flop templates below by clicking here and cut the shapes from craft foam. Use glue dots to attach the stacked pieces of the flower and to adhere the bird's wings and beak to its head. Add eyes with permanent marker. Attach the shapes to the flip-flop's straps with heavy-duty mounting tape (we used Scotch brand).
With a little help from an adult, your child can recycle a T-shirt into a comfy tunic that she'll jump, twirl, and flip over.
Start with an ironed T-shirt (men's medium or large). Lay it flat and following the illustration, mark and cut the sleeves and neck from the shirt. At what will be the neck of the tunic, fold and press with an iron a 1"-inch hem toward the inside of the shirt, on both the front and the back. Use embroidery thread and a needle to sew the two hems into 1-inch-wide channels. Attach a safety pin to a 48-inch-long, 3/4 inch-wide fabric ribbon. Feed the ribbon, pin first, through both channels to form a loop. Pull the ribbon to cinch up the neck of the tunic, then tie the ribbon ends in a bow.
Transform a cardboard tube into a fanciful tiara that'll inspire magical play.
Decoupage a paper towel tube with colorful tissue paper and let it dry. You can use a decoupage medium, such as Mod Podge, or a solution of equal parts tacky glue and water. Brush it onto the tube, one section at a time, cover with pieces of tissue paper, and brush the top with more glue. Flatten the tube, then make alternating cuts into the sides, almost all the way through, as shown. Unflatten the tube and gently stretch it apart to create connected rings. Tape the ends of the tube together. With tacky glue add glitter, sequins, feathers, and pom-poms.
Got an amateur entomologist in the house? Let him get up close with a bug buddy for short observation sessions. Be sure to remind your scientist to free his subject after a half hour or so.
With a pushpin, make holes all over the cap of a plastic toy capsule from a gum ball machine. (Not interested in bugs? Omit the airholes from the cap and use the capsule as a revolving display of favorite tiny items: pebbles, acorns, Squinkies...) In the center of the cap, make a larger hole with a nail. Thread some beads onto a length of cord that's long enough to easily slip over your child's head. Feed both ends of the cord through the large hole in the cap. Thread the ends through a small bead and knot the ends together.
Make safety fun with stick-on (and peel-off) helmet decorations.
For the Rockin' Mohawk: Cut a 3-inch-wide strip of fake fur long enough to span the helmet. Fold the strip in half, lengthwise. Cut 1-inch slits into the fold every 3 inches or so to allow the fur to follow the curve of the helmet. Place strips of double-sided carpet tape onto the helmet to create a 1 1/2-inch-wide stripe. Press about 3/4 inch of both edges of the folded fur to the tape so that the fur sticks up.
For the Cute Cat: Cut felt facial features, four outer ear shapes, and two inner ear shapes as shown (see our template below). Make each ear by adhering two outer shapes together with tacky glue, leaving the bottom 1/2 inch unglued. Glue the remaining felt pieces (pupils, and so on) to their felt bases. Cut slits into the muzzle and weave through two pipe cleaner halves for whiskers, as shown. Using double-sided carpet tape, attach the eyes, muzzle, and ears (bend open the unglued edges).
The perfect summer decor? Homemade sea creatures that flutter in the breeze.
Collect materials for the tentacles: we used curling ribbon, a few strips of bubble wrap with 1/2-inch-wide bubbles, a bath pouf (cut open and unwound), and heavy-duty paper towels cut into spirals. Our tentacles are 12 to 18 inches long.
Gather the tentacles at one end and thread them up through the hole of a plastic dome drink lid (from a coffee shop or convenience store). Tape the ends around the outside of the lid with clear tape.
Tape a colorful paper cupcake liner over the top of the dome.
Cover the lid with three layers of plastic wrap, one sheet at a time, tucking the excess wrap under the bottom edge of the lid.
Add adhesive-backed pearls to the outer edge of the lid.
Knot the end of a length of elastic cord and tape it to the top of the lid. Hang the jellyfish on a porch or by a breezy window.
Turn beachcombed finds into shoreline critters that'll help keep vacation memories alive. For each, paint a clean, dry shell with acrylic paint and let it dry. Cut three pipe cleaners in half. Twist five halves together at the center. Glue the twisted center to the inside of the shell with tacky glue and let dry. Spread out the pipe cleaners so that each side has five legs. Cut the remaining pipe cleaner half in two, then fold the end of each front leg around a half to form the claw. Bend the section ends to create claws. Glue on googly eyes.
Our sturdy catamarans are virtually unsinkable, thanks to their pool noodle pontoons. With a pair of scissors (adults only), cut two 13-inch lengths from a pool noodle, angling the ends. Strap the pieces together, side by side, with three strips of electrical tape. For the sail, use pinking shears to cut a fabric triangle (ours is 8 1/2 by 8 1/2 by 12 inches). Run a line of tacky glue along the back of one of the short sides. Place a foot-long dowel (ours is 3/16 inch wide) onto the glue so that the bottom end extends 2 inches past the fabric. For the boom, trim a bamboo skewer to 8 inches and glue it to the other short side of the sail, leaving a small space between the boom and the dowel mast. Let the glue dry. Slide the dowel between the pool noodles. Add a washi tape flag to the top.