learning from kids

On Sunday Owen watched a Youtube video, showing how to make a Star Wars Angry Bird from modeling clay.
It was one of those, Star Wars + Angry Birds + DIY = love at first sight things.

He couldn’t stop thinking about the video….or talking about it….or watching it a few more times.   Then he made me sit down and watch it with him, for 16 minutes.
And surprisingly it was pretty fun—almost hypnotic with the dad in the video calmly explaining the steps and some sweet jazz music in the background (you should check out the channel–Evan Tube.  It’s a boy and his dad doing all sorts of star wars-y, lego, science-y stuff.  Really fun for kids).


He became obsessed with this idea—that he could actually make an Angry Bird model.  And he wanted to do it right then!  I told him that we would do it in the morning (since it was 9pm and way past his bedtime)….and that we would try making it from Play-doh (since that would be easier for a 5 year-old than modeling clay).  He quickly reminded me, however, that we were out of black play-doh!
So I assured him that first thing in the morning when we were all dressed, had breakfast, brushed our teeth, made our beds, etc. that we would go to Target and buy more Play-doh.
(Score for both of us).
And he went to bed giddy with anticipation about Target and Angry Bird supplies.
Woulda thought it was Christmas eve.

So mid-morning after swinging by Target, Clara went down for her nap and we started rolling and molding our dough.  And by we, I mostly mean me.  And we came up with a pretty sweet Luke!  Owen helped with little things along the way and reminded me of the proper steps (since he’d watched the video 7 times now).
Then we baked Luke in the oven to harden him up a bit, which I’ve done in the past with Play-doh but never on such 3-D creations.  And.  Well.  The playdough did get hard, but it also shrunk a bit and and his belt/light saber fell off.  It wasn’t very successful.

And we were both a little bummed.
So.  Owen decided we should try the clay version.
And he went to bed that night dreaming of a trip to Hobby Lobby, dancing down aisles of colorful clay….which we did the next morning. And I danced around because all the clay was on sale!
We bought tons of different colors and tons of different brands to try out.

Then, same routine as the day before–put Clara down for a nap and we started rolling and sculpting.  This time Lucy wanted in on the action so we made a Princess Leia too.

And while it was fun to see the little birds come together….I’ll admit, it was also kind of “not fun”.
There, I’ve said it.
It wasn’t how I would choose to spend the precious nap-time hours, two days in a row.
But it was one of those projects where the kids really needed help.  I was pretty much doing every step for them, while they watched, since I could just imagine the melt-down that might happen as Owen tried to cut those angry eyebrows by himself and they just didn’t work right, and he’d be yelling from the other room “mom! It’s not working!”

It was okay. I loved that the kids loved it.  And we were making cool stuff.
So I hung out, made birds, and an hour later we had these two siblings:

They turned out great! The kids were totally excited.
“Good job mom!”
I was feeling better about the whole activity.
Then we put them in the oven at 220-250 degrees, as recommended in the video.
And Angry Birds became Sad Birds.

It was so lame.
We were so bummed.

I was probably more bummed than the kids….thinking about all the things I really, really needed to get done in the small 2-hour window I have each day while Clara naps.   And I had just spent it molding clay that melted into a pile of goo.  Ugh.  The stress was building inside of me.  Do you have those moments?
The stress of summer?…where you’re so happy to have a free schedule and to have kids home, and to go swimming, and play till the sun goes down.  But at the same time you realize that you’re getting nothing done?  (nothing on your working-mom schedule that is).
You can see why I’ve been blogging only once, maybe twice a week these days.

I had reached my melting point.

And I walked away, with Owen asking if we could make another one.
I just couldn’t do it.

I needed to check an adult-task off my list or I’d go insane from constant kid-life.  “We can try one again tomorrow or maybe Dad can help you later.  But I just have to work on a few things before Clara wakes up.”

I had just caught a fish for my son and it fed him for 10 minutes.
Maybe I should have taught him to fish instead.

Or. Maybe when there’s enough determination, he’ll teach himself to fish.

And while I quickly sewed another pair of shorts for the new KID Shorts pattern, Owen and Lucy tip-toed into the room and set-up their new creations.

For the past hour, they giggled and laughed and had rolled out their own versions of Luke and Leia.
I completely loved it!

Better than what I had done! (because they had made it)
That made me smile again.

They were so proud.

And immediately started playing.

They even put the melty birds in the game too, which made me even happier—that they didn’t care about perfection, they just wanted to have fun….and they decided that swirly, melty clay looks kind of cool afterall.

Lesson #1 of the day, learned from my kids:  Let go and let them learn.
Lesson #2: Figure out how to bake clay properly
Lesson #3: Summer is long and short.  So soak it up.
And don’t kiss your brother, or one day you might regret it.

Have a great Thursday!

  1. 1) Leah Ketchum

    SO cute! I am so sorry the baked versions didnt turn out for you. I made my boys basic angry bird/ bad pig bean bags for Christmas and got a set of wood blocks to go with it. After everything that they got for Christmas, that is the one thing they still play with daily. I highly suggest making some (I found a tutorial online, then made it easier by fabric painting some details and added some beans as well as polyfill). I can email you details if you are interested… but I know you would probably be able to figure them out on your own in minutes 🙂

  2. LOL this is totally great. Totally get it. Can be so hard to figure out how to work with kids at home for the summer. I tried doing that last summer and got really frustrated. It’s so fun to go to the pool and play, but then nothing gets done, workwise.

    And new shorts pattern, fun fun!! Have been making shorts like crazy too, now that the temp is finally over 70 here in Michigan (it’s been weirdly cold this year). So, I guess you don’t have to worry too much about release date, by mid-July it should be perfect for shorts up here, LOL.


  3. Just HAD to comment…love this whole story! This is definitely something that would happen to me 🙂 Sometimes the days don’t go as planned but in the end, the kids have fun. Have your kids ever tried perler beads? My kids love them (and it keeps them busy) and the melting is on purpose! Thanks for sharing.

  4. 4) Joy

    I.love.this.post. It encapsulates so much about parenthood. We try so hard to give our kids what they want (or what we think they want). And when it doesn’t work we are so frustrated. And the kids just go and do their own version of it and are happy as a clam. 🙂

  5. I have days like this too, and I don’t even have a baby in the mix! I love having my kids home for the summer, but it does make juggling work more tricky for sure! It sure is amazing how they can turn it around though, the birds turned out really cute and it’s so cool that they were so proud. Glad your day turned around.

  6. Oh, I can totally relate. The working-mom summer schedule is a rough one. I love love having my kids home and run into the same problem…when’s my stuff going to get done?!!!

  7. Oh man… I totally get this. My kids are 4 and 6 and letting them do things on their own has been one of the most difficult and unexpected parts of parenting for me. Especially when it’s something I’m good at – like embroidery or crafty projects like this one – even just making cookies! Letting them do it imperfectly has been a big lesson for me, but ultimately I think it’s making me more gentle with myself – and less of a perfectionist. But it’s still challenging. Thanks for sharing, Dana!

  8. 8) Meg W

    Ha! I can just see this happening at my house, rotten melty uncooperative playdoh and clay! I think Owen and my 5yr old son are long lost brothers. My boy loves Star Wars (especially Star Wars Legos) and Angry Birds. He was in heaven when they created Angry Birds Star Wars! I will have to show him the video after I make a trip to JoAnns for modeling clay. I wonder how our homemade playdoh would do in the oven?? (Psst, has Owen seen the Bad Piggies app? We found it in itunes, free. It has the bad pigs from Angry Birds and you get to create “contraptions” that can roll down hills or fly,etc and my son Loves it!)

  9. Yes. It happens a lot. The kids want me to help with something and I am totally convinced they should be able to do it themselves. Sometimes it works out, sometimes it just doesn’t. But since my studio hasn’t been completed yet I am not sewing anything so the kids have my full attention.

  10. 10) Lisa

    LOVE it!!!

  11. I just adore this post. Isn’t amazing how much we have to learn from our little one? Thank you so much for sharing.

    • 13) Julie

      Sculpey is great for a baking clay. Crayola makes something called model magic and it air dries great, and it light like foam after.

      • 14) Amanda A.

        I agree! We love sculpey clay and our craft store usually has it on sale!

  12. 15) Jenny

    great post!

  13. 16) Cristi

    Laughed so hard at the blurbs! I love the white bench/toybox in the background. We had one just like it growing up!

  14. 17) Alice

    You really can’t bake oil modeling clay that isn’t designed for oven baking, or it will melt. Clay for modeling over and over again and clay for baking respond to heat differently. 🙂 See how your clays say “never hardens” on the package? That’s because it’s not for bakin’. You need to get the kind that has oven baking instructions on the package.

    Use Sculpey if you’re set on oven-baking. It’s easy to find and it bakes like a charm. The package size is pretty small, though, so your kids might not be able to make the Angry Birds at full hand size. Maybe half that size would be more manageable with Sculpey. It will bake more evenly, too.

    Or, if you want something that air-dries, get Crayola’s “Model Magic.” It was one of my favourites as a kid. Model Magic feels kind of like sproingy rubber, but it’s not too hard to pull and tear and roll and cut. Then you stick it to itself in your finished project, and leave it out to air dry for however many days it takes to dry all the way through. Sometimes it gets a few cracks, but not nearly as much as Play-Doh that has dried out.

    • 18) Jo

      Great instructions! I used to make Sculpy and Fimo clay projects all the time as a kid (from instructions in a Klutz book)and they always baked up perfectly. We had a toaster oven, so my parents would usually let me do that by myself, too.

      If you didn’t already, I’d make the body with a ball of tinfoil inside to save clay and reduce baking time.

    • We’ve used Model Magic, too, and it’s so fun! It’s not an oven-bake dough, so, like Alice said, you do have to wait a few days for it to air dry. Growing up, I always used Fimo clay. I’ve never had it melt on me. Always cooks perfectly! Have fun! 🙂

  15. 20) bleu

    Yep, my son whom is 6 “discovered” EvantubeHD as well. He did the same thing, made angrybirds out of playdoh 😀

    And for awhile, all you heard was ” Evan made this as well” hahah

    Kids 😀

  16. I loved everything about this post – first, you are such a good mom! Second, I laughed out loud when I saw the melted versions…totally something I would do! What a great memory you made with your kids!

  17. Oh my gosh! I had this EXACT thing happen just yesterday. My little guy decided, days ago, that he wanted to make clay creatures. He is not quite old enough to do it by himself, so I used my twins’ nap time to make silly creatures with him. He was really excited at how they turned out and wanted to play with them. I stuck them in the oven to harden them up and got the same melty goo going on. I even IG’d about it: http://instagram.com/p/aead12F87o/

    So then, as I was trying to get birthday things done for my husband, disappointed (to the point of tears) Liam began playing with some blocks and built some incredible things. Amazing what we can learn from the little tykes.

  18. Really great post! Thanks for sharing

  19. Model Magic is a great way to go for these. My kids made angry birds out of model magic this winter and use them to knock down their block structures. They are still going strong months later.

  20. 25) Nan

    You are such a great mom with so much patience. Kids do teach us how to enjoy life a little more and not to take things so seriously. The toys turned out well.

  21. 26) Sally

    My stomach hurts just thinking of losing ‘mom time’. What a struggle it is. Thanks for the pep talk.

  22. Oh man, what a frustrating story with a super cute and happy ending! I totally understand not getting anything done. I keep reminding myself to enjoy the moment, but sometimes you just gotta run to the next room and do an adult task- like make the bed. 🙂

  23. Not all clay is bakeable 😉 and it all bakes differently so you have to follow the directions on the box lol Creative Art is a non bakeable brand, but I guess you know that now.

    I think they did a fantastic job on the birds 🙂 I bet they are so proud of their projects too!

  24. 29) Ann

    Oh Dana! I don’t comment a lot on your posts (although I do follow them, and your instagram feed). But I had to say, this post made me so happy (and a tiny bit relieved!) Because it was so relatable! It’s one of the reasons I love you and your blog. I loved everything about this story from start to finish! Thank you!

  25. I can sooo relate!! I love the summer but am going nuts having my older daughter home all day, who wants to craft and bake and spend LOTS of time with me. I’m trying to be a good mom but I have an awful lot of my own stuff to get done. It can be really frustrating.

  26. That’s so cute! I had to laugh when I saw the picture of the melted ones…although that’s pretty sad haha. In case you are wondering, Sculpey clay is made to be baked and hardened, so that’s the kind I’d recommend. I think it’s a little pricey though so make sure to buy it on sale or with a coupon! 🙂

  27. 32) Jody

    Oh my gosh. This made me laugh – in a wonderful kind of sympathetic and understanding and giggly kind of way. Thanks for sharing…….

  28. 33) Sara

    That sounds like my life! I could totally relate to every step of it and how you felt about it. Thanks for sharing!

  29. We are SO THERE this week. I am having to learn over and over every day that none of this is brain surgery, and honestly, the summer is already flying by (mid-June?? Seriously??). Loved seeing this from you today and knowing that I’m not the only one who has to take breaks and do things that are non-kid-friendly or else I’ll go bonkers… Am working this summer on going just a few more minutes each time, so that they’ll have those minutes to remember later. (And learning when I finally do walk away that I’m important but not essential, and that they’ll make their own memories if I’ll just shut my trap once in a while–not sure which lesson is harder to learn!)

  30. 35) Carolyn Thornley

    Cute story!

  31. 36) Jenn

    So. stinking. true! I have learned this one the hard way also– I think I’m making things easier on myself and on them, but really, they would be just as happy doing their own explorations. It’s so hard to know when they reach that stage when you can pull back a little and they’ll be cool with it. Hooray for independent play!

  32. 37) Meg W

    Dana I mentioned how my son loves angry birds star wars in my first comment and how much he liked the bad piggies app from itunes. I just read an article saying there was a fake bad piggies app on google play so beware. I didn’t want you to get stuck with malware or something from a game I mentioned! I think google pulled it from their store.

    I seriously can’t wait to get home and show my boy this post and the video so we can try making some clay birds!!

  33. Oh my word, your post had me laughing out loud at the end. Sorry to hear about the “failures” in the beginning, but it sounds like lessons learned from Lucy and Owen are good lessons for us all. So nice to see them play together. And the funniest lesson being, not to kiss your brother. LOL!!!! I love the little speech bubbles. So hilarious!

  34. 39) Niki

    I can soooooo relate! My five- and three-year-old always want to do things like that and I hate having to do all the work. I’m also afraid of getting them started and then having to stop what I’m doing to help them a million times, so we don’t do as many crafts as they would like. I am now inspired to let them do it themselves a little more! Also, I TOTALLY agree with your comment on the on-the-lips kiss (kisses? Might have been more than one?). That has always creeped me out!

  35. Awesome. Children are amazing and it’s SO COOL to “let them do,” or teach them to fish. I applaud this post. It’s awesome.

  36. 41) Julia Reed

    Great post, Dana! It actually made me cry. I love their Star Angry War Birds 🙂 Thanks for sharing this!!!

  37. 42) fforan

    MADE my day! Another Mom admits craft fail! I am not alone.

  38. Thanks for posting the good and the bad. Reminds me not to sugar coat everything when I am blogging too. It’s too easy to gloss over it and pretend your life is perfect. So refreshing.

  39. 44) Robyn

    What an excellent post! The kids’ birds looked great and it was nice that you got something done, too!

  40. 45) Jes

    Wow that is exactly how I have felt this summer…fun and yet sometimes not fun as that nap time clock is ticking and something is melting. Thanks for saying it so eloquently. And it is definitely fun to see how the kids made it work anyway.

  41. 46) Terri Miller

    LOVED this post!!

  42. Oh man, what a great story, Dana. You’re a good mama. 🙂

    Good luck finding that “you” time too, though. I know I need that or I start going a little cray.

  43. 48) Sarah K.

    Love the end result!

  44. 50) jodie

    lol Dana you just described my day!, while its super fun to do stuff with the older kids (me, 4 and 5) the holy grail of baby nap no disturb makes it tricky……
    still laughing at the last bit, have a good summer…..while we shiver in cold Melbourne….:O)

  45. I very much appreciate your honesty! You are an awesome mom. Really, you deserve a gold star for doing that two nap times in a row! I have been having summer highs and lows too. I love doing fun stuff with my kids – yay! But, yes, I am exhausted trying to stay up and do as much as I can at night while they are sleeping. Boo. I have decided that I am just not going to really clean the house for the next month so I can focus on the kids and the million and one blog commitments I’ve made. Gross, I know. 🙂

  46. 52) Julie

    Skulpey brand works great in the oven. Maybe you accidentally used modeling clay and baked it?

  47. great, candid post — it helps to hear that we all feel overwhelmed by kid needs, under-accomplished on the stuff we need/want to get done, and then ultimately reassured that life is okay and happening as it should! I get so possessive about nap time, I sometimes find myself becoming frustrated if a friend calls to talk during that time, because I want to yell, “NOOOO, this is MY time to get some stuff done.” Silly, but true. Thanks for sharing. Have a great weekend!

  48. It is so different to hear all the moms talking about summer challenges with the kids at home!!! 🙂 We are a homeschooling family, so our kids are always at home lol!
    Love your blog, it is super colorful!!

  49. 55) Michelle Giese

    I can SO relate to this post! Thanks for sharing!

  50. haha! Thanks for the laugh. Yes, we all feel this way from time to time! Or right now, when my husband is looking for a job so we’re getting the house ready to sell or rent and we’re taking trips out of town for said job hunt and then a garage sale and …. *sigh* I hear myself telling my kids too many times that I have too much going on to do [fill in the blank]. So, I applaud you for taking the time to make a few angry bird star wars characters. And their own creations in the end are so sweet!

  51. 57) Heather

    I’m hoping our boys can be BFFs.. Cause this is right up his alley too!:) love!! Best mom! #iwouldhavegiveuphoursago #nopatiencewiththat lol! 🙂

  52. I have done that SO many times! “Helped” my kids make or do something, only for them to do it on their own even better when I turn my back for a minute! Amazing little creatures they are these kids! I need to have more faith in them sometimes… but that’s being a mum, or a person for that matter, sometimes you just forget how awesome others can be =D

  53. 59) EG1972

    Thanks for this. Sometimes it feels like mommy bloggers lives are all perfect photo ops and joyous family moments. It’s nice to hear about some of the same ups and downs as I experience.

  54. I really, really love this. I have a two-year-old who can’t do much without constant supervision, and well…
    Thanks for sharing a story about something that didn’t go as planned, we all need to hear it sometimes. 🙂

  55. Such a “real” post – all the moms can relate! Thanks for posting the whole story. Our 5 year old boy loooooves Evan Tube and wants to be video-taped demonstrating his own toys. Ha!

    Another fun Angry Birds DIY is recycled tin cans painted to look like the pigs, and a red bouncy ball painted to look like the red bird. My sister made a set for our boy, and it has been hours of entertainment!

  56. totally felt your pain there! another melty one??? so glad it turned out good in the end and thank goodness for kids who let you sew, right?! happy summer and thanks for keeping it real!

  57. I am sure your kids are having fun making the angry birds but it is rather unfortunate it end up tragically. Its OK, they can always make another one 🙂

  58. 66) Kris Kimbrough

    I can relate to this post SO MUCH!
    I can honestly say that there are days where I look at your blog or adorable instagram feed and feel awful because my days just don’t go as smoothly as yours seem to. It is hard sometimes as your reader to remember that you live in real life too and you choose to just show to good, which is what keeps us all coming back to read more. I find myself doing all the work for the kids crafts and getting less of my own list accomplished. I do love that your kids just went on about their business as if the snag in the plan never happened. I appreciate you showing that your days aren’t always sparkles and rainbows because i know mine aren’t and it’s nice to know i’m not alone.

  59. 67) Amy K

    I love that you shared your human-moment with us. Too often bloggers only show us the FB version of their lives…serene children swaddled in home-made creations, beautifully decorated houses, home cooked meals from garden-grown-goodness…I love you. You are real, and we would totally hang if you were in Rhode Island. I just know it. I have to laugh…that perfect little orange beak still intact in the midst of the melted gooo…as if it is mocking you (or at least that’s how I’d feel if this was my mess!!) Perhaps my favorite post EVER of yours. Thank you!

  60. 68) Rachael

    You should NEVER bake modeling clay. It’s mostly for kids to play with because it never dries out (or at least it takes a very, very long time.) Baking modeling clay is actually kind of dangerous because it can sometimes release toxic fumes. You should use polymer clay for this sort of thing if you want it to bake hard. There are several brands available just about anywhere. I use Sculpey brand normally because it’s good quality and I use it to make jewelry. It’s sort of heavy, though, so I’d recommend surrounding a foil ball with the clay just in case they ever decide to play with their birds in a way better suited to digital mediums only. You can use a similar technique as this blogger did on a bigger scale. http://www.designmom.com/2012/11/the-perfect-gift-gold-leaf-polymer-clay-pendants/ (You have to scroll a bit, but you’ll see it.

  61. Oh, wow, man. You put “clay” that “Never Hardens” in the oven?! Is plasticene a trademark name? That’s all that stuff is, it never hardens, can’t be painted, can’t be baked, and it attracts dust that makes it feel grimey in a week. Hate the stuff! If you want to bake it, you need Fimo, or Sculpey or Primo (I think it is). All your hard work!!
    Another option–do you have Crayola Model Magic? We didn’t have much luck painting it, but you can colour small amounts of white using markers, while kneading it to blend. It air dries, and sometimes pieces fall off when it dries, but you can glue them back on. It’s cool cause it’s so light, and doesn’t shrink, not like Play Dough. Glad to see it all turned out in the end.

  62. 70) Marisol Byrd

    Some clay you bake. Some you let harden over time. Just depends on the type you purchased.

  63. 71) Snoof

    Try Sculpey brand clays next time – pretty great quality and they do come in coloured versions (but I prefer making them out of plain Super Sculpey and then painting them!).

  64. 72) Sarah

    Dana! I am so sorry that your creations melted! The kid’s birds were amazing! What an empowering project for them! I worked at Hobby Lobby for many years and just thought I would reiterate what many other posters have already said, Sculpey or Fimo, or anything that say “oven bake clay” (because there are several brands) are SO much easier to work with than modeling clay! Modeling clay is oil based and can leave surfaces and fingers stained and slimy! Even if me and the lad don’t plan to bake it we still use the less greasy oven bake clay! But even with the over bake clay we have had baking casualties!

  65. 73) Rocio Estrada

    My 4 yr. old son was also addicted to Evan tube and watched his videos over and over again on his iPod Touch. Needless to say, the iPod Touch had to be taken away because he would sneak the iPod Touch in bed and stay up watching it. The little boy has some entertaining videos, but I had to limit my sons viewing time. My son now wants to make his own “kutorials”, but instead of Angry Birds he wants to feature Cars!

  66. 74) Andrea

    I laughed out loud at that last line.

    Thank you Dana, you’re awesome 🙂

  67. 75) NiCaam

    Thanks Dana for your honesty, I have three too (7,4 and 10 mos) and not having adult time has been difficult for me to contend with. My kids love slime, so that is a repeat in our home. I’ve been meaning to pull another recipe, maybe tomorrow will be kool-aid watercolors day. Thanks again for being candid.

Leave a Comment