Archive for June, 2012

June 30th, 2012

Festive 4th of July Marshmallows

This fun recipe courtesy of  The Wicked Noodle

Festive 4th of July Marshmallows

Festive 4th of July Marshmallows


  • Lollipop sticks (You can find these at craft stores)
  • Marshmallows
  • 1 packet red jello
  • 1 packet blue jello


  1. Place each packet of jello (dry, colored sugar) into a small shallow bowl.
  2. Wet the individual marshmallows by either dipping them VERY quickly into a bowl of water and letting the excess water drain off on a paper towel, or by misting them very lightly with a small water bottle.
  3. Roll the marshmallows until coated.
  4. Alternatively, you can also add the packet of jello to a large plastic bag, drop a few (not too many) in and shake away until they are all coated.
  5. Add the colored marshmallows by color - Red -White-Blue to the lollipop sticks and serve.
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June 27th, 2012

Summer Party Games for the Entire Family

Courtesy of :

Have you ever thought about hosting a block party? With these creative summer games your house will be the highlight of the neighborhood with these terrific family-friendly game ideas from Jamie Yahn of Glitzee Glee, Redplum personal finance expert Lisa Reynolds and Excited2Learn founder Amanda Carman.

Ice cream games

You supply the ice cream, each guest brings a different topping and everyone enjoys an afternoon of frosty fun:

  • Banana split building contest: Set out ingredients, bowls and utensils and give each guest five minutes to create a banana split. The prettiest (and most complete) banana split wins!
  • Ice cream eating contest: Use the banana splits you just made or provide each competitor with a big bowl of ice cream. Whoever can eat the most — without using their hands — wins!

Photo games

The best part of playing these games? You end up with fab photos that last a lifetime!

  • Photo contest: Each family brings a digital camera and takes photos throughout the party. At the end of the gathering, share the photos and select winners: best nature shot, most creative, funniest, etc.
  • Photo scavenger hunt: Provide each guest with a list of items to find. When the explorers find something on the list, they take a photo of it. Whoever finds the most items wins!

Water balloon games

The object of playing water balloon games: get wet!

  • Toss game: Guests throw water balloons into containers of various sizes, earning one point for every balloon that makes it in without breaking! Most points wins.
  • Hoops: Shoot basketball free throws with water balloons! For extra points, teammates stand under the hoop to prevent the balloons from breaking.
  • Hot potato: While music plays, gently toss a water balloon from person to person. Whoever is holding the balloon when the music stops — or when the balloon pops — is out! Last one standing wins.

Lawn games

Whether partying in your lush backyard or tailgating on your favorite team’s parking lot, these outdoor games will put you in the competitive spirit!

  • Rollors: While on active military duty, Matt Butler created Rollors, which he describes as a “combination of bocce ball, bowling and horseshoes.” Set up a family vs. family tournament using poster board to track the winners, bracket-style! It will become a yearly neighborhood event.
  • Summer Olympics: Divide guests into teams and compete in backyard games such as volleyball, soccer, wheelbarrow races and an obstacle course. Buy medals from your local dollar store or make them at home to present to the winning teams!

Chalk activities

Sidewalk Chalk Games

Sidewalk chalk isn’t just for children — everyone can join in the fun!

  • Body tracing art contest: Provide each competing artist with an array of colored sidewalk chalk and five minutes to trace party guests on the pavement. Best likeness wins!
  • Sidewalk games: Use chalk to create old-fashioned games such as hopscotch, four-square and the long jump. Adults will want to join in too!

Fruit games

Fruit is aplenty in summer, so have some fun with it!

  • Fruit roll: Each child tries to roll a sphere-shaped fruit (honeydew, grapefruit, orange, lime) across the yard. First to the finish line without destroying or picking up the fruit wins!
  • Seed spitting contest: This game requires little explanation… whoever spits a watermelon seed the farthest wins! The prize: a watermelon!

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June 25th, 2012

11 Water Games and Summer Activities for Kids

Courtesy of: 

If you are trying to beat the heat this summer, here are some great activities to cool you and your family off.

  • Jump Water. Run a strong stream from a garden hose back and forth like a snake under your child’s feet, allowing him to jump over it. With more kids, turn it into a competition: Whoever’s feet don’t get drenched wins!
  • Liquid limbo. Use the stream from a water hose as the stick for a high-stakes game of limbo. 
  • Backyard Bath. Take advantage of a warm summer evening by bathing your baby (and older siblings if they’re game!) outdoors. Fill a kiddie pool with water, bath toys, and bubbles, and turn a chore into a delight.11 water games and summer activities for children
  • Sponge-worthy. Give each of your kids two buckets — one filled with water and one empty — and a sponge. Instruct them to transfer the water from one bucket to the other using only the sponge. Whoever does it the fastest gets first choice of ice-pops. Solo kids can also play by racing against the clock.
  •  Spray of light. Little tykes can help you garden by watering plants with a spray bottle; give bigger guys the whole hose (and expect them to get wet!). If it’s a sunny day, show them how they can spot a rainbow in the mist.
  •  Ball blast. Use ropes to create a circle or square on your lawn. Place balls of varying sizes and weights inside. Give your child a hose and challenge her to push the balls out with the water in less than a minute.
  • Balloon babies. Fill up a water balloon and draw a face on it with a dark marker. Wrap it in a paper towel, then hand your child (ages 4 and up) his new “baby.” See how long he can take care of it before it breaks.
  • Water-gun tag. This clever twist on a classic is pretty self-explanatory: Have everyone don bathing suits and play tag. Whoever is “It” gets the water gun and tries to tag the other players with a cold squirt!
  • Freeze! Place plastic bugs, toy cars, or other small treasures in your cube tray, add water, and freeze. Then hand a piece of ice to your child (age 3 and up) and have her melt it in her hands until the prize emerges.
  • Pool ping-pong. Float an inner tube in the center of the pool, then toss a bunch of ping-pong balls in the water. Kids who know how to swim unassisted can jump in, retrieve the balls, and try to toss them in the tube.
  • Drink up. Encourage your child to try water flavored with different ingredients. Include slices of cucumber, lemon, lime, orange, and various berries (raspberry, strawberry, blueberry) — and see which one she likes best.

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June 22nd, 2012

Family Pizza Night – Pizza Recipe for Kids

Family Pizza Night - Pizza Ideas for Kids

Family Pizza Night - Pizza Ideas for Kids

Kids love pizza. They love being creative. They love spending quality time with mom and dad. What better way to satisfy all of these needs than by getting in the kitchen and creating a family pizza night?


  • Pizza crust
  • Pizza sauce
  • Bite-size and shredded toppings
  • Round or rectangular pans (optional)
  • Pizza stone (optional)


  1. Divide pizza dough into single-size portions or take a whole pizza crust and designate a section for each person.
  2. An efficient way to make a lot of individual pizzas: pat most of the dough into a large rectangle and make a grid pattern with strips of remaining dough. Let kids fill the grids with the toppings of their choice. When the pizza is baked, use a pizza wheel or large knife to cut along the grid lines.
  3. Explore other pizza shapes. How about hearts, flowers, bears, fish, or even kid-shaped pizzas?
  4. Make individual pizza pockets--or calzones--by spreading half a round of raw pizza dough with sauce and toppings, leaving a 1-inch border. Fold the other half over and seal the edges by pressing the dough together with a fork. Brush with olive oil and bake.
  5. For a quick and easy pizza night, start with pre-baked pizza crust or make your pizza dough ahead of time.
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June 20th, 2012

Some Low Cost Summer Activities for Families

Courtesy of: Valley City Times Record

homemade bubbles for summer funHere are a number of wonderful low cost summer activities for kids and families that help families keep their hard-earned money in their pockets.

You may want to take each one of these ideas and put them on 3 x 5 cards labeling whether the idea is for “outside” or “inside”.  Then label a box like a shoebox with “outside” and “inside” on the outside of the box.  Let each family member take a turn picking a card of the activity which will be done for that day. This is a great way to avoid activities that cost a lot of cash and a fun way to create a family plan.

Low or no cost outings and activities are something consider for your own kids or a group of friends getting together that will create fun and memories without heating up your wallet or credit card bills:

  • Visit a farm, pet store or the animal shelter
  • Visit a fire station
  • Have cooking lessons at home (bake bread, make homemade ice cream, grandma’s cookies)
  • Visit a pizza store (they’ll sometimes let the kids make one for little or nothing)
  • Visit a television station, radio station, or newspaper facility
  • Visit the Department of Conservation’s nature centers and enjoy educational exhibits
  • Learn to knit or do needlework
  • Get a giant piece of paper and colored pencils and draw your dream house interior view with all the details
  • Participate in free summer reading programs and story times offered by many local libraries
  • Visit zoos and museums that have free or reduced rates for kids on special days
  • Have paper airplane or paper boat races or try making and flying your own kites (books at the library have the instructions)
  • Put on a theatrical performance, a puppet show or a talent contest
  • Write and illustrate a story
  • Plant a small garden or container garden and watch it grow
  • Have sack, peanut or egg races
  • Plan a picnic as an activity
  • Hold a bring-a-dish block party
  • Rent a movie and have special “movie night” snacks
  • Take your kids on a tour of family history and photos
  • Search garage sales as family fun and walk away with a few really good deals
  • Play board games on rainy days
  • Go swimming at the local lake, pond or pool (you can ask for a one day guest pass at a local YMCA to check out the facilities)
  • Visit Vacation Bible Schools, Summer Bible Clubs, Kids Camps, Day Camps
  • Walk, hike, and enjoy nature
  • Go camping in the backyard

And last but certainly not least… make your own bubble solutions and spend hours dipping bubbles and playing with family and pets in the backyard!

Do-It-Yourself Bubble Solution

  • 1 tbsp Glycerine
  • 2 tbsp Dish Soap
  • 9 ounces water
  • Mix it all up (the glycerin added to the mixture is key)
    Pour it into small plastic bottles or a pie pan, grab your favorite wand and enjoy big beautiful bubbles.

Wishing you a very busy, rarely bored and not too costly summer!

This article is adapted from one written by Megan O’Neil-Haight, The University of Maryland Extension, and originally published in Delmarva Youth Magazine, July/August 2006.

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June 18th, 2012

Fun Summer Craft Ideas For Toddlers and Preschoolers

Here are several very fun and easy crafts to keep your toddler or preschooler engaged during the summer. They will love to gift these to mom and grandma!

Courtesy of:

Sand Box Painting

You don’t need a real sandbox for this sand-painting craft and it will give your kids hours of fun this summer.

You will need

  • Sandbox or large plastic tubs or dishpans filled halfway with sand (fill one pan for each child to avoid squabbles).
  • Spray bottles filled with water (You can pick these up for a $1 at any Dollar store
  • Food coloring
  • Small plastic sand shovels (Also available at your local Dollar store).


  1. Add 20 or more drops of food coloring to spray bottles to make colored water. Seat children in front of their sand-filled tub, or together in the sand box, and give them several bottles of colored water. As they spray, the sand will change color, creating a beautiful painting. If the kids want to ‘paint’ a new picture, direct them to mix under the top layer with their shovels.
  2. Safety note: Most commercially sold play sand is actually powder from quarried quartz – a substance declared by OSHA to cause lung disease. You can purchase safe sand from companies like

Coffee filter butterfly craft from Operation SantaButterflies

When your kids tire of chasing butterflies in the backyard, they can make some of their own to display inside.

What you need:

  • Round coffee filters
  • Spray bottle
  • Watercolor paints and brushes
  • Black pipe cleaners


  1. Spray water on to the coffee filters until they are wet enough to lay flat. Give your children the brushes and watercolors and let them paint ‘til their hearts’ content. The colors will run and blur, creating a beautiful pastel effect.
  2. Dry the filters/butterflies in a shady spot. Once completely dry, gather up the filter in the middle and use your pipe cleaner to create a body. Spread the wings and fly!

Kool-Aid Painting

Did you know that using Kool-Aid for summer crafts is 100 percent safe for kids?

What you need

  • Several packets of sugar-free Kool-Aid
  • White construction paper
  • Scotch tape
  • Ice cubes


  1. Tape a large sheet of construction paper to the table or floor.
  2. Sprinkle the paper with Kool-Aid and hand each child a cube of ice. Instruct them to move the ice over the Kool-Aid powder, turning it to liquid. Keep “painting” until the ice is fully melted to make a sweet-smelling, watercolor masterpiece.
  3. Let dry and take home to mom or send to Grandma!

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June 15th, 2012

Patriotic Robot 4th of July Centerpiece Craft

Fun 4th of July craftsA Patri-botic Centerpiece

Courtesy of Family Fun Magazine

This is a super cute craft that your kids will love to do for the annual 4th of July gathering. Kids love robots and this one is sure to please!

You Will Need

2 cardboard tubes (toilet paper tubes, or wrapping paper tubes trimmed to about 5-1/2 inches)
1 roll each of red, white, and blue duct tape
Clear 1-gallon, food-safe plastic pail
2 (15-ounce) unopened cans of food, with labels removed (for weight)
Clean, empty metal can or plastic bucket (ours is a 12-ounce peanut can)
Parchment paper (optional)
2 metal bottle caps


  1. Wrap the cardboard tubes with red and white duct tape. Affix an arm to each side of the pail with a loop of tape.
  2. Wrap the bottom of the canned goods with red tape. (Tip: Write the contents on the top of each can so that you’ll know what’s in them.) Place loops of tape on their lids, then press the pail into place on top.
  3. To make the robot’s head, wrap the empty can or bucket with blue duct tape. Cut eyes from white duct tape and a mouth from red. (Tip: The eyes and mouth are easier to make if you first attach the duct tape to a piece of parchment paper.
  4. Cut out the shapes, then peel them off the parchment backing.) Attach the bottle caps to the white circles with loops of tape. Stack the head on top of the pail.

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June 13th, 2012

Uncle Sam’s 4th of July Crispy Treat Recipe

Uncle Sam’s 4th of July Crispy Treat Recipe

Uncle Sam’s 4th of July Crispy Treat Recipe

This very versatile and fun to make holiday cake recipe can also do double duty at Thanksgiving. You can make a Thanksgiving Pilgrim's hat by using chocolate icing w/ black paste color added and a yellow icing buckle.


  • 8 cups miniature marshmallows
  • 1/2 cup butter, cubed
  • 12 cups crisp rice cereal
  • 2-1/2 cups shortening
  • 3 cups confectioners' sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 jars (7 ounces each) marshmallow creme
  • Red and blue paste food coloring


  1. In a Dutch oven, combine marshmallows and cubed butter. Cook and stir over medium-low heat until melted. Remove from the heat; stir in cereal. Press 4 cups into a greased 9-in. round pan. Form remaining mixture into a 5-in. diameter x 6-1/2-in. tall cylinder; place on waxed paper to cool.
  2. For frosting, in a large bowl, beat softened butter until fluffy; beat in confectioners’ sugar and vanilla until smooth. Beat in marshmallow creme until light and fluffy.
  3. Unmold cereal mixture from 9-in. pan and place on a cake plate. Place 3 cups frosting in a small bowl; beat in red food coloring until smooth. Frost top and sides of 9-in. cake with 1 cup red frosting.
  4. • Place 1 cup white frosting in a small bowl; beat in blue food coloring until smooth. Frost bottom 2-1/4 in. of the cylinder with blue frosting. Place cylinder on cake. Frost the rest of the cylinder with red frosting.
  5. Cut a small hole in the corner of pastry or plastic bag; insert #48 basketweave tip. Using white frosting, pipe stripes on sides of hat. With a #7 round tip, pipe trim.
  6. Using a 1-1/2 in. star cookie cutter, press a row of stars onto hatband. Fill in stars with white frosting using the #7 tip. Yield: 24 servings.
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June 11th, 2012

Cheap or Free Summer Fun For Kids

Cheap or Free Summer Fun for Kids - Operation SantaHow to find free and cheap things for kids to do this summer.

The school year is at an end and many parents are faced with the same dilemma they faced last year, but more than likely with less available money to spend on outings and vacations. The good news is that there are plenty of fun, free and cheap resources available for the enterprising parent.

Go online and check with your local library and parks department.

  • Many libraries offer summer reading clubs where your children can earn prizes while maintaining those important reading skills.
  • Many towns and cities run day camps in the local park where your children can take part in sports and arts and crafts for free, or for a small fee.
  • Don’t forget our nations wonderful National Parks where you can take guided tours and sneak a bit of history into your summer outings.

Local industries may offer free tours. For instance in my town, there is a wonderful bread company that gives amazing tours of their facility. And it smells wonderful! Go here for a free list of factory tours in the United States. You can also check with Lowe’s and Home Depot to see when they are hosting free make-and-take craft events.

50 Free or Cheap Things to Do With Kids

By Cameron Huddleston, Contributing Editor,

Plant a garden. My kids love planting seeds in the spring and watching them grow through the summer.

Have a water balloon fight. Let the kids toss water balloons at each other or you. My youngest daughter loves the chance to soak her dad.

Go bowling. The Kids Bowl Free program allows kids to play two free games a day at participating bowling centers.

Watch birds. My friend and her two sons take their binoculars and a book of their state’s native birds to the backyard and try to identify as many birds as possible.

Create a water park in the backyard. Turn on the sprinkler, fill the baby pool, get out the Slip ‘N Slide and let the kids have fun cooling off on a hot day.

Take a bubble bath outside. If the kids are tiring of the inflatable pool, make it fun again by filling it with bubbles — and tossing small toys in for them to find under all the foam.

Visit the public library. Public libraries often offer free summer reading programs that include workshops, movies, children’s theater, puppet shows and more. Or just check out how-to books so you and your kids can learn something new together.

Start a book club. Create a summer reading list for your kids, then discuss the books after they read them. Invite their friends to participate, too.

Listen to a concert in park. Many cities have free summer concert series during the day or evening.

Go to a museum. If you have a Bank of America or Merrill Lynch credit or debit card, you can get a free ticket on the first Saturday of every month to 150 participating museums (in 31 states). Check out the Bank of America Museums on Us program for more details. Also check with museums in your hometown to see if they offer any freebies for kids.

Participate in a workshop. Home Depot has free workshops for kids ages 5 to 12 on the first Saturday of every month between 9 a.m. and 12 p.m. Kids make a craft they can keep. Kids can build a wooden project at Lowe’s free kids clinics on weekends.

See free or cheap movies. Many theaters have free or cheap ($1 to $2) showings of family-friendly movies on weekday mornings. Check the Web sites of theaters in your city. Many advertise their summer movie programs on their homepage. Otherwise, check the site’s specials or values page.

Make a movie with your video recorder, smart phone or iPad. If your computer came with free movie-editing software (most do), upload the video and add special effects to it.

Stage a play. If you’re not technically inclined or don’t have movie-making equipment, encourage the kids to create a play instead.

Be Jackson Pollock (the artist known for his drip/splatter painting). Grab a large piece of material, sheet or canvas and let the kids splatter it with paint outside.

Pitch a tent in the backyard and roast hot dogs and marshmallows if you have a fire pit (or on the grill).

Collect bugs. Send the kids out at night with jars to catch (and release) lightning bugs, or let them search for creepy crawlies during the day.

Take a hike along nature trails or at a nearby forest.

Play in a creek. Our daughters loved wading and catching tadpoles in a creek that runs through a public park in our county so much that they asked to go back the next day.

Have a scavenger hunt. Hide items in your house or yard, then give the kids a list of the items and see who can find them the fastest.

Create comic books, then share them with the family.

Make a cardboard box house and let the kids decorate it with paint or markers. My kids spend hours in their box house.

Build a fort. If you don’t have a big box, build a fort with sheets and blankets instead.

Invent something using old parts or things from around the house that you don’t need.

Decorate windows with washable window markers.

Set up a spa. Paint your kids’ nails, do their hair and apply makeup — or let them provide spa services to you.

Visit the fire station. My kids loved visiting the fire station, where fire fighters would let them sit in their big fire engines and load them up with stickers, coloring books and more.

Conduct a science experiment. My kids never seem to tire of the science experiments their dad conducts (even the simple “volcano” made with baking soda, vinegar and food coloring). So pick up a book on kid-friendly science experiments at the library or bookstore and amaze your children.

Launch a rocket. Probably the best $15 we spent was on the Stomp Rocket, which has four foam rockets kids can propel into the air by stomping on a launch pad. Whenever my children’s friends visit, they compete to see who can send the rockets the farthest down the hallway.

Bake. Let the kids help you make cookies, a cake, anything. We fill plastic condiment dispensers with pancake batter and let kids create shapes in the frying pan (we do the flipping).

Go on a picnic. A meal is more fun on a blanket in the park, woods or even the backyard.

Fly a kite after your picnic (or anytime there’s a good breeze).

Create obstacle course in the backyard and let the kids race.

Visit a construction site. For little boys (or girls) who love hammering, sawing and big machines, let them be mesmerized by all the action at a construction site.

Have a dance party. Play your kids’ favorite tunes and let them boogie.

Play in rain. The kids will love the chance to do something that’s taboo.

Have a tea party. Pull out those fancy silver trays or plates you never use (or stick with plastic for toddlers), pile on some cookies and treats, and get dressed for high tea.

Participate in nature programs. City park systems that have nature centers usually offer free programs for children that let them explore the outdoor world.

Play hide and seek. Its’ a favorite at our house, and you can do it indoors or outdoors.

Build ice castles. Freeze water in plastic containers of various sizes then let the kids take the ice blocks outside and create castles with them.

Play charades. My family played this when I was a teen, and we’d try to come up with impossibly difficult things to act out. If you have an iPad, download the free Charadium app — it’s loads of fun.

Have an egg toss, then hose the kids down after (if your kids are squeamish, avoid this activity).

Visit a pet store. Think of it as a mini petting zoo. Just warn the kids before you go that you won’t be bringing home a pet (unless you actually want to). You also could take the kids to the humane society, which might need volunteers to walk the dogs.

Take a trip to the dollar store. My sister used to take my kids to the dollar store for a little math lesson. She would tell them how much they could spend, and they had to find items that didn’t exceed that amount.

Make instruments. Rainsticks are easy to assemble by filling a paper-towel tube with rice and crumpled wiring (or something to make the rice move slower) and covering the ends with paper and tape. Or get really creative and create enough instruments for an entire band, as these Florida high-school students did with items found in the trash (see ‘The Garbage Men’ Rock a Trashy Sound)

Learn a language. Check with your public library to see if offers free programs online. Or visit YouTube and type in, for example, Spanish lessons.

Travel the world without leaving home. Learn about other countries (using Wikipedia) and make their traditional meals (with help from the kids) for dinner.

Create a driving obstacle course with orange cones for teen drivers and award them points for accuracy (not speed).

Look at the stars. You can download an app that helps you identify constellations — or check out a book from the library. If there’s an observatory or planetarium in your town, see if it offers free shows.

Teach your kids money skills. See Kiplinger’s Editor Janet Bodnar’s list of games, Web sites and books that teach personal finance.


June 5th, 2012

4th of July Sidewalk Chalk Stars

Courtesy of

Patriotic 4th of July Sidewalk Chalk CraftThe fourth of July is always a nice time to be outdoors with friends and family. This is a simple summer project with many possibilities for kids of all ages. We made our chalk with a star-shaped candy mold, but you could make chalk in any shape or color. I think that these would make nice little party favors. My six-year-old pointed out that it might be easier to buy sidewalk chalk at the store — but with a large container of Plaster of Paris for $5, a mold for $1.99 and paint we had on hand, I think this is a pretty economical project. You could start a chalk factory!


  • Plaster of Paris or hobby and crafts safe substitute (available at art supply or craft stores)*
  • Tempera or acrylic paint
  • Plastic or silicone mold
  • Containers for mixing
  • Mixing utensil (disposable fork or chopstick)
  • Water

* I would advise parents to mix the ingredients for this project when the kids aren’t around. Please be sure to read and follow the safety precautions for this or any product recommended here.


  1. Mix two parts plaster mix to one part liquid. Since I used regular paint (rather than a powdered mixture), I mixed two heaping tablespoons of plaster mix with one level tablespoon of paint then added a dash of water as needed.
  2. Stir until all the lumps are gone and your mixture is the consistency of toothpaste.
  3. Spoon the mixture into the molds and wipe the edges clean. Tap the mold and poke out any air bubbles that you can see from the bottom.
  4. Allow the mixture to dry for several hours, possibly 24-48 hours if using larger molds. Be sure to clean your containers at an outside faucet as you don’t want chalk in your pipes!
  5. Turn your mold over and gently tap it to release the chalk. Scrape off any messy edges.
  6. Go draw on the sidewalk!


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