Crochet Reusable Water Balloons – Summer Fun with No Mess!

Have summer water battles without having to pick up bits of broken latex with these awesome homemade crochet reusable water balloons! Fun to use in the yard or at a pool or lake, and perfect at a summer birthday party as a game, gift or party favor!
Have summer water battles without having to pick up bits of broken latex with these awesome homemade crochet reusable water balloons! Fun to use in the yard or at a pool or lake, and perfect at a summer birthday party as a game, gift or party favor!

Earlier this year, I saw the coolest thing on Pinterest. I wanted so badly to try it out. I was so curious and I knew my kids would love it. Because who in the world wouldn’t want to try their hand at DIY crochet reusable water balloons?!

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Only thing was, it was the very beginning of January, and was probably the coldest day of the year. We were doing everything possible to stay warm.

Have summer water battles without having to pick up bits of broken latex with these awesome homemade crochet reusable water balloons! Fun to use in the yard or at a pool or lake, and perfect at a summer birthday party as a game, gift or party favor!

Flash forward six or seven months to the summer. One of the absolute worst Italy has seen in a long time. Months straight of heat and humidity with virtually no rain. So, we were doing the exact opposite, doing everything possible to stay cool.

At this point, crochet water balloons were sounding even more amazing.

Have summer water battles without having to pick up bits of broken latex with these awesome homemade crochet reusable water balloons! Fun to use in the yard or at a pool or lake, and perfect at a summer birthday party as a game, gift or party favor!

Because everyone loves a good water balloon fight, right? But nobody likes having to go around picking up all the bits of rubber from the broken balloons. And think of all that non-recyclable waste! It drives me nuts!

Have summer water battles without having to pick up bits of broken latex with these awesome homemade crochet reusable water balloons! Fun to use in the yard or at a pool or lake, and perfect at a summer birthday party as a game, gift or party favor!

That’s the genius in this crochet water balloon design by Left in Knots! They avoid all that! You don’t actually fill them up as you would with a classic balloon. You just put them all in a bucket of water and the yarn fibers soak up the water. Throw them at your opponents, then pop them back in the water when they need another soak, and throw them again!

You use the same balloons over and over again, so no waste and no broken pieces of latex to clean up!

Have summer water battles without having to pick up bits of broken latex with these awesome homemade crochet reusable water balloons! Fun to use in the yard or at a pool or lake, and perfect at a summer birthday party as a game, gift or party favor!

When you’re done, just give the balloons a rinse off and air dry them. You can also machine wash and dry them! They flatten out nicely so they don’t take up too much storage space, either.

Let me tell you a little more about my experience making these crochet reusable water balloons.

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DIY books and notepads: Reuse leftover notebook paper

Rimangono sempre delle pagine nei quaderni alla fine dell’anno scolastico, quindi usale per creare dei libretti e quadernetti fai da te da riempire con disegni, racconti o segreti! Bastano 5 minuti ed è GRATIS!
There are always some leftover pages at the end of kids’ notebooks at the end of the school year. Rip them out and use them to make your own fun DIY books and notepads to fill with drawings, stories, or secret diary! It only takes about 5 minutes!

What is it that’s so appealing about a nice, new and never-before-touched blank book or notebook?

I suppose it’s the anticipation and excitement about all the things that it can become. You can write a book in it. Draw pictures. Study plants or animals or anything else that you love and keep your notes in it. Glue magazine cuttings in it. Write a secret diary. There are no limits to your imagination and creativity!

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My kids love blank books, too. We have piles of illustrated books, their own made-up school books for their toys, and tomes of secret writings that I’ve been warned to never look in. Even before they knew how to write, they just loved filling up those blank pages with drawings and stickers. Something about the fact that the books had covers made them feel so much more real to them.

There are always some leftover pages at the end of kids’ notebooks at the end of the school year. Rip them out and use them to make your own fun DIY books and notepads to fill with drawings, stories, or secret diary! It only takes about 5 minutes!

It’s now the end of May and school will be out soon. And, as always, the kids will come home on the last day of school with a bunch of half-used notebooks. Like this one above. “Read and complete.” Apparently Sofia never did get around to completing this assignment before the end of the year.

Normally I just rip out the used pages and give the kids the notebooks with the few remaining pages to draw and write in. But by the time summer vacation comes around, they usually are sick of using those same notebooks that they’ve been using all year round. They don’t want to see the same old covers that remind them of sitting at a desk for hours on end.

There are always some leftover pages at the end of kids’ notebooks at the end of the school year. Rip them out and use them to make your own fun DIY books and notepads to fill with drawings, stories, or secret diary! It only takes about 5 minutes!

But if I give them that very notebook paper in a different form, it’s a totally different story. A mini notebook with a pretty colorful cover?! Yes, please! I want to write a story in it!

There are always some leftover pages at the end of kids’ notebooks at the end of the school year. Rip them out and use them to make your own fun DIY books and notepads to fill with drawings, stories, or secret diary! It only takes about 5 minutes!

A clean cover and blank pages? Yes! I want a book to draw and write about dinosaurs in!

All of a sudden, after a tiring year of studying and writing, they want to study and write again! All because of a new packaging of their usual school materials! And what’s best is that you’re using paper you already have, so it’s free, and it takes less than 5 minutes to make one!

So, what do you say? Want to reuse leftover notebook paper to make “brand new” blank books and notepads? Let’s get started!

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Rotten Banana: a fun early reading game

A fantastically fun and easy game for kids to practice reading without it feeling like work! Five levels of vocabulary to get your child to immediately recognize sight words! Try not to get the rotten banana! (in English or Italian)
A fantastically fun and easy game for kids to practice reading without it feeling like work! Five levels of vocabulary to get your child to immediately recognize sight words! Try not to get the rotten banana! (in English or Italian)

My little boy just turned six and is in first grade this year, which means that he’s learning to read and write. While my daughter had no problems learning written Italian in school and didn’t really need any outside help to pick up written English on her own, it hasn’t been quite as easy for my son.

So while he’s out of school for Christmas vacation, I decided that he could use some reading practice.

A fantastically fun and easy game for kids to practice reading without it feeling like work! Five levels of vocabulary to get your child to immediately recognize sight words! Try not to get the rotten banana! (in English or Italian)

My mother was a reading specialist in an elementary school for many years. This means that she worked with hundreds of children to whom reading didn’t come easily. She developed all sorts of techniques and fun methods to get kids to love reading, but one of the all-time favorites was an early reading game called “Rotten Banana.” It’s a really simple game to get children to recognize what are called “sight words,” which are the words that they should learn to instantly recognize without having to spell them out.

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When my mother retired, her Rotten Banana game continued to get used with her grandchildren, and ended up living at our home so that my bilingual kids could get some English reading practice while living in a non-English-speaking country.

A fantastically fun and easy game for kids to practice reading without it feeling like work! Five levels of vocabulary to get your child to immediately recognize sight words! Try not to get the rotten banana! (in English or Italian)

But before I started using the English Rotten Banana game that my mother made, I wanted my son to get a firm grasp on reading Italian, which is much more simple because it’s a very phonetic language in which most words are pronounced exactly as they are written, unlike the much more phonetically complicated English language. And so I decided to make my own Italian version of my mother’s Rotten Banana game for him to practice with, which I translated as “Banana Marcia.”

A fantastically fun and easy game for kids to practice reading without it feeling like work! Five levels of vocabulary to get your child to immediately recognize sight words! Try not to get the rotten banana! (in English or Italian)

And, just like my mother did, I also made rotten pears, apples and oranges to give a little variety as the child progresses from one level to the next. Something about all that colored fruit is so appealing!

Is there a child in your life who could use an early reading game to begin a lifetime of happy reading? Then continue reading for the downloadable template and word list and to find out how to play!

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Make homemade pick up sticks (with carry bag)

Learn how to make homemade pick up sticks (Mikado) from skewers, with a DIY pouch to hold them. Printable playing instructions included! A perfect gift for kids and adults! Tutorial by www.cucicucicoo.com
Learn how to make homemade pick up sticks (Mikado) from skewers, with a DIY pouch to hold them. Printable playing instructions included! A perfect gift for kids and adults! Tutorial by www.cucicucicoo.com

Toys are too complicated these days.

I sometimes hear parents saying that their kids get bored if their toys don’t make sounds or light up, or aren’t animated or interactive games. And of course all these electronic toys and games cost more and break really easily.

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I sometimes feel like an old fogey, but seriously, do children really need all those bells and whistles? Sometimes it’s the simplest of things that make people happy, and the same goes for the classic games that kids have been playing for generations.

Learn how to make homemade pick up sticks (Mikado) from skewers, with a DIY pouch to hold them. Printable playing instructions included! A perfect gift for kids and adults! Tutorial by www.cucicucicoo.com

A pack of 41 colored wooden sticks, for example. No electronic parts, no plastic. Just simple wood. And happy bright colors. If just contemplating them doesn’t intrigue a kid, this definitely will:

Learn how to make homemade pick up sticks (Mikado) from skewers, with a DIY pouch to hold them. Printable playing instructions included! A perfect gift for kids and adults! Tutorial by www.cucicucicoo.com

Make a big colored mess?! Yes, please! What fun it is to bundle them up and watch them fall all over the place, like a big moving rainbow!

I think that this is one reason why pick up sticks have been a cherished game for such a long time. They’re aethetically pleasing, but also such a simple game that requires concentration and small motor agility.

Learn how to make homemade pick up sticks (Mikado) from skewers, with a DIY pouch to hold them. Printable playing instructions included! A perfect gift for kids and adults! Tutorial by www.cucicucicoo.com

There are lots of variations on this game, but what I propose here is Mikado, the classic pick up sticks version. They’re really simple to make with very basic materials, and are a wonderul gift for kids and adults alike when you sew a little pouch for them and include playing instructions!

And I know that you probably don’t have time to create an instruction sheet, so I’ve made one for you that you can download and print out! You’re welcome!

Learn how to make homemade pick up sticks (Mikado) from skewers, with a DIY pouch to hold them. Printable playing instructions included! A perfect gift for kids and adults! Tutorial by www.cucicucicoo.com

I actually researched Mikado quite a while to find the “official” rules, colors, stripe scheme and point system, but it turns out that there are loads of different versions. I made up my own colors and stripes (I also made a set without stripes which looks more like the plastic game I had when I was little), as well as my own point system based on what I found most often. Feel free to vary any of these as you please.

So, what do you say? Are you ready to have some good old-fashioned fun? Let’s get right to work on our homemade pick up sticks!

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Tutorial: Crochet Carry Bags from Fruit Nets

DIY Tutorial: Crochet carry bags for kids from upcycled fruit nets. A quick gift in under an hour, perfect for collecting treasures at the beach or in the woods! www.cucicucicoo.com
Inspiration for crocheted carry bags from upcycled fruit nets. www.cucicucicoo.com

It all started with this. My son found some fruit nets in my collection of recycling-for-crafting and decided to use one to hang up his toys. Total genius right? And so, I came up with these:

DIY Tutorial: Crochet carry bags for kids from upcycled fruit nets. A quick gift in under an hour, perfect for collecting treasures at the beach or in the woods! www.cucicucicoo.com

Oh yes! I took those fruit and onion nets and crocheted around their edges, creating a comfy shoulder strap and… voilà: kid’s carry bags!

These are seriously so awesome. They take about one hour to make, are cost free to make (unless you count random yarn you already have hanging around) and are a perfect gift for kids. Over the past six months or so I’ve given away loads of them, usually with some candy or other goody inside (because you can’t give a kid an empty bag, right?!). They fit comfortably over a child’s shoulder and are wonderful for collecting treasures at the beach, in the woods or in the yard because sand and dirt just fall right through the netting, leaving just the things that count most! And you don’t have to be a crochet expert to make them. All you need to know is single crochet, double crochet, chain and slip stitch. Want to find out how to make these sweet crochet carry bags? Then read on!

Read moreTutorial: Crochet Carry Bags from Fruit Nets

Refreshing summer activities for kids in the house

Beating the summer heat: Refreshing summer activities for kids to do in the house, without taking a step outside! www.cucicucicoo.com
Hello, all! I just got back home a few days ago from a 3-week trip to the States to visit family and friends. We had a great time, which is why- despite my best intentions- I didn’t do ANY of the blogging or pattern or shop work that I’d planned on. Whoops! But I really needed a break, and I had a wonderful one complete with visits with loved ones that I hadn’t seen in years, an abundance of delicious food (that I’m currently in withdrawal from), and lots of swimming in lakes and the ocean, frequently having to make sure to stay away from seals to avoid getting eaten up by sharks. Such good times! If you’re interested in poking into my private vacation life a little, I did post a few pictures on Instagram (some belatedly, after my return to Italy), and now I’m getting back to work on everything that I’d taken a break on!

And so today I’m betting back into my Beating the Heat summer series, with ideas on how to stay cool when you’re forced to stay home in the worst of the worst summer heat. Last time I wrote about making homemade iced tea, which is my absolute favorite hot-weather drink (although this trip to the States reminded me how ridiculously good green tea Starbucks Frappucinos are….) and is light years better than industrial-made iced tea. But seeing as a lot of my readers have young children, like I do, and they’re all on summer vacation right now and probably bored out of their minds, today I want to share a few of the many ways to cool down inside the house with refreshing summer activities for kids! These are all things to do IN the house, without having to take a step outside into the broiling heat. This is by no means a definite list, so I’d love to hear your ideas in the comments below!

Beating the summer heat: Refreshing summer activities for kids! Start the day off by eating breakfast outside before it gets hot. www.cucicucicoo.com

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Tutorial: Make Easy Recycled Crowns for Kids

Tutorial: Make easy recycled crowns for kids with foil wrapping paper and cardboard | www.cucicucicoo.com
Tutorial: Make easy recycled crowns for kids with foil wrapping paper and cardboard

Happy Easter Monday! Hope you had a lovely day yesterday! And if you have children, I’m sure you now have insane amounts of candy and chocolate in your home. Here in Italy there’s no Easter Bunny, but kids get these huge chocolate eggs with a little gift inside. The eggs are wrapped in big squares of fabric or, more commonly, foil wrapping, similar to the type used for gift wrapping.

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It drives me nuts to have to throw away all of that wrapping, so I always flatten and fold it the best I can, and put it aside for wrapping future gifts or, as my kids prefer, for making easy recycled crowns that are shiny and fun! Oh, and did I say easy? Well, let me say it again, because you get a LOT of kid satisfaction from this 5-minute project! And it’s pretty mamma-satisfying, too, because by using upcycled materials, it’s totally free! Woohoo!

Tutorial: Make easy recycled crowns for kids with foil wrapping paper and cardboard | www.cucicucicoo.com

In order to make these crowns you need:

  • a big sheet of upcycled foil wrapping (from Easter eggs or gift wrap)
  • strips of lightweight cardboard (in Naples, they put these in packages of fresh pastries to keep the wrapping from touching the gorgeous creams and other decorations, but you can use any bendable cardboard)
  • glue
  • a big paintbrush
  • scissors
  • a stapler (not pictured)
  • permanent markers
  • glitter glue.

Let’s get started!

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DIY felt bowtie pasta tutorial…WITH BOX!

DIY felt bowtie pasta tutorial... with a printable box!
DIY felt bowtie pasta tutorial... with a printable box!

A couple of months ago, I wrote on my Facebook page that I was working on a project that just made me laugh… over and over again, the whole time I was making it. I’m certainly not the first person to make felt bowtie pasta (farfalle, in Italian), but throw in an authentic-looking pasta box, complete with a see-through window, and I promise that you will be smiling, too!

DIY felt bowtie pasta tutorial... with a printable box!

I think we can all agree that felt food is pretty fun, but it’s not always beginner-friendly. But you can’t get much easier than this butterfly pasta. And it’s hand-sewn, so no sewing machine necessary! It’s perfect for little hands to play with…

DIY felt bowtie pasta tutorial... with a printable box!

…but still looks incredibly realistic! Just yesterday, my daughter fooled a couple of friends with this, and they couldn’t believe that it wasn’t real pasta!

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Three DIY street toys for kids who love cars!

Three DIY street toys from repurposed materials for kids who love cars! Toy streets, street signs and a stoplight | www.cucicucicoo.com
 Three DIY street toys from repurposed materials for kids who love cars! Toy streets, street signs and a stoplight | www.cucicucicoo.com

Both of my kids love playing with cars, but my little guy in particular goes nuts with his toy cars. Seriously, there is really something in some boys’ DNA that draws them to cars because I am sure that none of us has conditioned him to this preference. It was Nicky’s birthday last week, a few days before Christmas, and so I decided to make up two DIY street toys that I knew that he, his sister and all the kids who come to our home would like to play with. Heck, even *I* like playing with them! And what makes these toys even cooler? Using all repurposed materials and things we already had around the house, these projects cost me a whopping €1.50! And they’ve been more loved in these past few days than many more expensive toys have been with the kids.

The photo above is what Nicky was presented with on his birthday. What the heck was in these containers? Just read on to find out!

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Tutorial: How to make easy letter magnets with kids

How to make easy letter magnets with kids
How to make easy letter magnets with kids

My kids, like pretty much every other kid I know, just love drawing and coloring.

We just got back the other day from a fantastic visit with family and friends in the United States. Before we left, a friend of mine requested some of my children’s artwork to hang on her refrigerator as a gift. She has a little girl herself and so, knowing how much kids love magnets, I thought that a useful and fun way to give fridge artwork would be to make colored letter magnets that are fridge artwork in and of themselves!

How to make easy letter magnets with kids

This was a great project to do together as a family and my kids loved making these, as well as playing with them afterwards. (And they were a big hit with my friend’s daughter, too!) Want some for yourself? Well then read on to find out how to make them!

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