50 Thrifty Fun Things To Do: Clay Fairy Food

My daughter has something of an obsession with fairies and spends a lot of time crafting elaborate houses for them. I’ve lost count at how many she’s made, and some of them live permanently outside. She’s made them at her grandparents’ house, too. Whenever we bust out the playdough she’s made little plates and bowls and food for the fairies but, because of the ephemeral nature of play dough creations, they’ve all crumbled and disintegrated and become, well, gross. What she’s needed was clay.

Enter my artistic Aunt Trisha. Aunt Trisha is a full-time artist who can create art with anything: eggs, oil, stained glass, dolls, sculpture, and of course, clay. During our last visit she learned of Isobel’s desire to “make art” and promised to send us some Sculpey clay in the mail. (She did the exact same thing for me when I was a kid, and for much of my life my main goal was to be an artist “like Aunt Trisha.”)

When the box arrived I squirreled it away to be used as part of our Daily Summer Fun Thing. I set aside a whole day for this activity because I knew she was going to love it and it would occupy her for a long time, and also because the process involves more steps than play dough and it’s been so long since I’ve used clay I knew there’d be a learning curve. The box came with instructions which I glanced at but Isobel was chomping at the bit and I learn by doing, so we tossed caution and the directions to the wind and forged ahead.

Some of the things we made include:

  • a fairy’s cup of water
  • a bowl with strawberries inside
  • a pink and a red bell pepper
  • several varieties (colors) of carrots
  • a mandarin orange
  • strawberries of various sizes
  • tomatoes
  • two bowls
  • a plate
  • a weird giant mushroom that I think I may have overbaked a tad
  • a plum
  • a slice of watermelon
  • candy canes
  • an eggplant that doesn’t exist in nature probably

See if you can spot them from the pictures!

I put on various clay tutorial videos on from pinterest and youtube as inspiration while we worked, though we didn’t follow any of them. I did notice that in just about all the videos the women who were expertly creating the most amazing things out of clay also had long, immaculately done faux nail manicures. I am finally healthy enough to have long nails again and they were immediately crusted over with clay. I have no idea how those women managed to keep their manis clean, rhinestones and all. It’s a mystery to me. This is one of the facets of womanly arts I know I will just never master. (And I’m fine with that!)

The one tip that we learned from a video that we did follow was tremendously helpful and worth sharing: Have a small bowl of cornstarch handy for dipping molding utensils in so they won’t stick when you un-mold them. We used paintbrushes of various sizes plus two little tools my aunt sent us.

This was super fun and we are already planning on what we are going to make next time–beads maybe. Elias was with us and so he didn’t feel left out we gave him regular play dough, which he tried to eat whenever he thought I wasn’t looking.

50 Thrifty Fun Things To Do: Cheap Coloring Pages

We don’t buy coloring books anymore. It’s not that they are very expensive, it’s that they are wasteful. In our house, anyway. Early on Isobel turned her nose up at coloring books printed on color-dulling brown paper, and the coloring books she did approve of usually only contained a few pages she’d actually want to color. The others she just wasn’t interested in and we’d be left with a whole book of blank pages with just a few completed that she considered “done.” Worst of all, the only pages she would want to color she’d want to color over and over again. But once it’s colored, it’s done. Let’s just say we’ve had our share of coloring book angst in our household.

Until we started finding free coloring pages on the internet.

Initially we despaired of ever finding a squirrel coloring book to match her fervent request, but one “squirrel coloring pages” search later pulled up more results than she could ever color. She picks the ones she wants, we print them out, and there’s no waste. That time she only wanted to color sunflowers? Or Wasp from the Avengers? Or Pikachu? Boom. Boom, boom, boom. We are just a few clicks away from finding coloring pages for whatever crazy thing she can think of, and since she’s choosing the images, they are all Isobel-approved so they will be colored. You really can find anything you want to color.

There are entire websites that exist solely to provide free coloring pages, and you can match up pages to whatever your child is studying in school, or the season or a holiday, or a strange obsession they happened to cultivate. Free coloring pages have never let me down, and my daughter can have quite the random tastes at times. I do still buy coloring books, but these days I buy them for me.


It’s not a completely free exercise, of course, because you have to have access to a computer, the internet, and a printer with ink. We have to have these things for our work, and I try to offset the environmental cost by using blank back sides of papers. But it is convenient, and cheap if you already have these things on hand, and offers less waste if, like us, a coloring book was useless to your child after s/he had gone through about ten pages.

This is also a very useful tip if you don’t have kids yourself but occasionally watch some. You don’t have to worry about them rejecting your Yo Gabba Gabba coloring book because that was so two developmental stages ago. Picking out the images to color is actually really fun for both parties and I like that if we are coloring together, we can each chose something that we’d like to color.

We started doing this about a year and a half a ago, but I wish we had known about this much earlier.

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