15 Ways LEGO Encourages Kids to be Creative

As a creative mama, I think it’s incredibly important to encourage creativity in my kids. There are so many ways to do this, but in our house, LEGO is one of the biggies. Rarely a day goes by without the sound of my boys digging through the LEGO bins (parents, you know the sound!) and bounding up the stairs, creation in hand, with a loud chorus of “Look! Look, Mom! Look at this!” If your littles have yet to discover the joy of these colorful bricks, here are 15 ways Legos encourage kids to be creative:

15 Ways LEGO Encourages Kids to be Creative

1. Endless possibilities – There’s no end to what can be made with LEGO. Whether they’re using a kit or a box of random bricks, if your kiddos can think of it, they can make it. Creations can be however elaborate or simple as they wish.

2. Open-Ended Play – unlike toys with buttons and screens, kids can play however they want. They can tap into their imagination to create an elaborate battle scene, an enormous mansion, or simply play with their Lego guys and have them talk to each other. There isn’t just one direction their play can take, it can follow their whims and interests wherever they go.

3. Teamwork – Not everything can be built alone! Sometimes you need a brother or a friend to help you out, find the right piece, suggest a different way. Or occasionally (ahem, every.single.day.) your brother wants to use the piece that you want, and either have to cooperate and build something tougher or compromise and change your design.

4. Problem Solving and Perseverance – When something doesn’t work, when what you’re building isn’t turning out the way you want it to, you try it another way. Or start over and try something different. In sewing (and life!), there are so many times that I have to try something two, three, or more times before it turns out the right way. This allows kids to brainstorm and come up with new ways to solve problems.

5. Improvisation – Sometimes life doesn’t come with directions, and not every design can be found in a LEGO kit. The LEGO Master Builders who built the incredible large-scale model of the U.S. Capitol didn’t say “Hey, let’s make the Capitol Building!” walk into the LEGO store and come out with a kit. They worked for hundreds of hours, designing and building, making mistakes and changing their plans along the way I’m sure.

IMG_1373

6. Follow Directions, but Make it Your Own – When I’m following a pattern, I don’t always want to make it exactly the way the designer created it. So I’ll add my own twist and take it in a new direction. This is the beauty of creativity! My kids have gotten quite a few LEGO kits, but after they build them once or twice by following the instructions, they get an idea of how they could make it better or taller or faster or cooler. They get ideas and inspiration from the kit, but their creativity makes it their own.

7. Explaining your DIY – Let’s be honest, it takes a lot of creativity to be able to explain how you made something to someone else. It’s a skill that needs to be developed, and it doesn’t always come easily. My kids love to tell me why they put a specific brick in a certain place or how they got the front of their rocketship to look that way.

8. Don’t Worry About What Others Think – You love to build with only red bricks? Awesome. Your friend likes to build the tallest towers he can? Sweet. Your brother only wants to build race cars to see which one is the fastest? Fantastic – everyone can do their own thing, because that’s what building with LEGO is all about.

IMG_1412

The car racing ramp in Mayfair Mall at the Lego Americana Roadshow

9. Make What You Don’t Have – Isn’t this the backbone of every DIY-er? If my boys don’t have clothes for a wedding, I can make it for them. Can’t find pants that fit over baby’s cloth diapers? Design and sew them! The other day, my oldest said to me, “Legos are awesome, because if I don’t have a certain toy, I can just make it!” Thank you, LEGO, for helping my kids to love to DIY even before age ten.

10. Step Out of Your Box – Sometimes it’s hard to take apart the pieces of a kit and make something new. But after awhile, kids get brave and realize that if they use the piece that came with the camper kit in their flying car, it would make it even better.

11. Aesthetics and Design – It’s not always about function. Sometimes you really want something to look good. LEGO gives kids so many opportunities to practice symmetry and patterns and color blocking – all things I think about when I’m creating a garment or thinking up a new design. I don’t just want clothes that cover my body, I want them to flatter me and look good!

12. Builds Confidence – Don’t you love that feeling when you made something really awesome? And you get so excited to show everyone, and they’re all excited and amazed? It builds your confidence and gets you super pumped to do it again. When your littles make a car that really moves or a building that is taller than they are, it gives them the guts to try it again and to try something even harder next time. One of the first landmarks we saw at the Lego Americana Roadshow was the Statue of Liberty, and my boys were.in.awe. They couldn’t wait to go home and try their hand at something so jaw-dropping.

IMG_1369

13. Concentration – Have you ever tried to build something intricate with Legos? You need a lot of patience and concentration. Same goes for sewing, knitting, hand lettering, building furniture…. you need to focus on your craft to get good at it. LEGO teaches kids to sit in one spot and work on something for more than five seconds.

14. You Can Entertain Yourself – I have to say, I’ve never heard my kids tell me they’re bored. They know how fun it is to entertain themselves and stretch their imaginations and make something outstanding. They’ve had a lot of practice. The more freedom you give them to just build and play however they want to with their bricks, they’ll blow you away with what they can do.

15. Build and Understand What You Can’t See in Real Life – We’re not all lucky enough to be able to travel around the world or even across the country. We can, however, build a miniature version. And if you can’t figure it out? You can look at someone else’s creation. If you’re local and you haven’t checked out the Lego Americana Roadshow yet, there’s still time. It is AMAZING, and I’m not one tiny bit exaggerating. If you’re not local, you should find out if it’s coming close to you – and it’s even worth a drive! If it weren’t for naps, we could have spent all day there, discovering all the tiny details on all the phenomenal creations.

IMG_1385

You can still see the FREE Lego Americana Roadshow at Mayfair Mall through this Sunday, June 28th.

Mayfair Mall
2500 N Mayfair Rd
Wauwatosa, WI
Mon – Sat: 10:00 am – 9:00 pm
Sun: 11:00 am – 6:00

Disclosure: I am being compensated for this post, but all opinions are my own.

Easy T-shirt Dress Tutorial

Easy T-shirt Dress Tutorial

My basic everyday uniform is a t-shirt and jeans. In the summer, though, I love to switch it up and wear t-shirt dresses, so I can pretend I’m not being as lazy with my wardrobe as I actually am. So when Melissa invited me to join in on her 30 Days of Sundresses series, I knew comfort would win out in the end!

DSC_6730

Making a T-shirt dress (or a tank dress!) is super easy. I used two favorite patterns for these dresses: the Union St. Tee from Hey June Patterns (which I’ve already made into a dress) and the Greenwood Tank from Straight Stitch Designs. If you don’t have a pattern you love, trace your favorite store-bought tee instead.

DSC_6606

1. Lay your pattern (or your t-shirt) on top of your fabric. Measure from your armpit down to where you want the dress to hit. Remember that you will need to add extra length for the hem.

DSC_65972. Cut down to your desired length. Unless you want your dress to be form fitting, angle it outward slightly as you go down toward the hemline.

DSC_65873. If you want to give your dress a looser fit than it would be as a shirt, grade it out a little on the sides. If you have more of a pear shape, make sure you grade it out to allow your hips to have enough room.DSC_6772

Then sew it together as you would according to the shirt pattern instructions! Easy peasy!

DSC_6715The comfort of a t-shirt, with the sassiness of a dress! Basically everything I love all wrapped up in one ridiculously easy-to-sew package. If you start to sew them, though, be warned: you may not be able to stop. And with a serger and a coverstitch (affiliate links), you can seriously just fly through these and whip up one after another without even thinking about it. I may or may not have another one already cut and ready to go…

DSC_6752Both of these fabrics came from JoAnn’s and I think are lycra blends, so they have kind of a silky feel to them. Jersey fabrics will lay a little differently, but they also can be easily worn with sneakers for trips to the zoo or the park. You can dress it up or down, depending on jewelry or shoes. But you still feel like you’re wearing your pajamas. Who doesn’t love wearing their pajamas??

DSC_6716There are so many amazing dresses over at Melly Sews for the 30 Days of Sundresses series – for women and for girls! There are lots of tutorials, free patterns, and great dresses to inspire you to sew your own. Plus, there are giveaways!

Sundresses2015-250pxYou can enter this week’s giveaway – a mystery box of sewing yummies – and scroll through all the oh-so-lovely dresses.

Happy sewing, friends!

Turn a shirt pattern into a dress

LEGO Americana Roadshow

It’s no surprise that with four young boys in my house, we also have a lot of Legos. I love the open-ended creative play that comes with building everything from elaborate scenes or simple vehicles. My little guys can spend hours creating!

DSC_0622

Lego Minifig Carrier tutorial

That’s why I’m super excited that the Lego Americana Roadshow is coming to Milwaukee at Mayfair Mall from June 13-28th.

The Lego Americana Roadshow is a free event (four kids = we love free events) displaying large-scale models of American landmarks, made completely out of Legos. We’re studying U.S. History next year, so I’m super excited to be able to show my boys some of the landmarks that we might not be able to actually visit in person. The landmarks include: U.S. Capitol Building, White House, Supreme Court, Washington Monument, Jefferson Memorial, Lincoln Memorial, Statue of Liberty, Independence Hall and Old North Church. My history + lego loving boy is especially going to love this.

DSC_0158_zpsd909da50Lego Lunchbox Tutorial

You can visit the free Lego Americana Roadshow any day between June 13th (today!) through June 28th:

Mayfair Mall
2500 N Mayfair Rd
Wauwatosa, WI
Mon – Sat: 10:00 am – 9:00 pm
Sun: 11:00 am – 6:00

Disclosure: I am being compensated for this post, but all opinions are my own.

Create your own Summer Essential Car Kit

Summer days in our house are filled with play dates at parks and splash pads, zoo days, road trips, and spontaneous stops to get frozen custard. Over the years, I’ve gotten smart and have begun carrying some essential supplies in the car for the inevitable messes and to avoid as many meltdowns as possible. Because nothing can make a day go sour like a toddler melting down because his shirt is soaked or his hands are sticky or (Heaven help us) we forgot to pack a snack. My mom secret to disaster-less days is a Summer Essential Car Kit!
Summer Essential Car Kit - help curb all the mini-disasters that happen away from home

Every Essential Car Kit will look a little different, because each family has unique needs. And as the summer goes on, you’ll probably find that you don’t need something you thought you would or that you need to add something. I like to use the reminders app on my phone when I’m out of the house when I think of something that I need to add to the bin.

What to put in your Summer Essential Car Kit

  • Paper towels
  • Extra clothes
  • Snacks that won’t melt
  • Sunscreen
  • Huggies ® Wipes – even if your kids are out of diapers, wipes are a must. I can’t tell you how many times I’m so grateful to have them!
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Band-aids and/or first aid kid
  • Extra diapers, if you have littles
  • Water bottles (we prefer reusable bottles, but no one wants to be stuck without water on a scorching hot day!)

DSC_6785I put everything in a bin with a lid that snaps on, but you could also make a tote bag to put everything in. This is especially helpful if you want to carry your supplies with you when you arrive at your destination. I like to know that when I put it in the bin, it’s going to stay in there, and not fall out as the car moves or if it gets kicked around the car.

DSC_6782

One of my kiddos does NOT like to be messy. Anything sticky or muddy can turn into a major disaster. So carrying wipes with me is a non-negotiable. Huggies ® Wipes have Triple Clean Layers for handling even the biggest of messes. A change of clothes is also necessary to avoid meltdowns. I add clothes that are in the middle size range, since my kids aren’t all that far apart in age. They might be a bit too big or small for some kids, but will fit the kids that are most likely to make a mess and will work in a pinch for the others.
DSC_6786
Here are some other ideas you can put in your Summer Essential Car Kit:

  • Bug spray
  • Larger first aid kit
  • Bubbles (for when you arrive at the pool before it opens and have to wait!)
  • Sweatshirts for cool summer evenings
  • Blanket
  • Instant ice packs
  • Extra sunglasses or hats

 photo Screen Shot 2015-06-08 at 9.07.22 PM_zpsgxe0iodx.png

Stock your Summer Essential Car Kit before your summer gets too busy, Because Kids Outgrow Diapers, Not Messes*
Here’s to a meltdown free summer!

The Honest Truth of a Handmade Wardrobe

If you’ve been following me on Instagram at all this month, you’ve probably noticed a trend. Along with many other sewing friends, I embraced the challenge of Me Made May: wear handmade clothes every day of May. And then take a slew of awkward selfies and let the world see just how dirty your mirrors really are.Me Made May collageNot too long ago, I prioritized sewing for myself. Instead of waiting for the perfect circumstances to sew for myself, I just did it. But since I spread out my sewing time between the boys and myself, I hadn’t realized how much I had actually sewn for me! I didn’t take pics of everything I wore in May, because let’s be honest… everyday selfies are really not my style and you can only stare at yourself in the mirror so many times before you realize yes, that really is the face you make when you take a selfie and no, you can’t do anything about it.

Here’s what I learned from #memademay:

  • I need to clean my mirrors more. Seriously, that’s the first thing I learned.
  • I don’t make enough everyday garments. The few days that I didn’t wear handmade, it’s because I just wanted to wear a T-shirt and I didn’t have one. T-shirts have already been added to the to-sew list.
  • I wore my yoga pants to bed or to work out, so I didn’t feel guilty on the days I didn’t choose handmade during the day. I like to be a rule follower.
  • I have a few handmades that I just never reach for. I liked them when I made them, but I just don’t anymore. I need to pass them along to someone else who will enjoy them.
  • I totally enjoyed hearing “You MADE that??!” more often. It really never gets old!
  • I should sew more cardigans. I wear a lot of cardigans.
  • I don’t wear as many dresses as I’ve made. So either I have to stop making dresses or I need to actually wear them. Stopping is silly… wearing is not.
  • I wear my hair up way too much. I’m working on that.
  • I. Can. Make. Jeans. I wear jeans nearly everyday, so I need to perfect these and make some more.
  • I have way too many clothes. Compared to a lot of women, it probably isn’t a lot, but I really only wear a tiny fraction of the ones I have.
  • Handmade clothes fit well. Duh, right? When you make garments specifically for your body, they should fit you and flatter your body (after you get those first-time-make kinks out, of course). I have a lot of ready-to-wear clothing that doesn’t fit will or doesn’t flatter me, so I’m not sure why I’m letting them take up space in my closet.
  • Wearing handmade is empowering! Maybe that sounds cheesy, but it really is true. I don’t feel like I have to rely on stores to have what I want to wear in my price range. I can make what I want when I want it. Being able to take a piece of fabric and create a wearable garment really is an accomplishment. And I feel good in what I’m wearing!

me made may collage 2It was super fun to see that I really can wear handmade everyday if I choose too – and to see the holes in my wardrobe that are keeping me from doing it all the time. But I think I’ve made such progress in my handmade wardrobe! And it really gets me excited to keep sewing and really fulfill the handmade wardrobe dream!

So… Jess Generated June? Does that work?? ;)

Painted Planter Tutorial and FREE teacher appreciation printable!

You can smell it in the air… summer is coming! If your little ones are still finishing out their school year, chances are you’ll need a teacher gift or two. As a former elementary school teacher, I can tell you how wonderful it is to feel so appreciated at the end of a long school year! This easy DIY is something that teachers can enjoy year-round, and if you don’t have a teacher to buy for, make one for yourself!

DSC_6077

Supplies:

  • succulent planter (I found these fabulous ceramic hanging planters at Target. Here is a similar one and a glass one.)
  • paint {or a Sharpie marker!}
  • paintbrush
  • Free Thank You Printable

1. Choose the color and find a paint that is appropriate for the material of your planter.

DSC_5991

2. Begin to paint your design! I began with polka dots:DSC_5999

3. Continue to paint all around the planter until you’ve covered it as much or as little as you want. Experiment with fun designs, like these plus signs:

DSC_60244. Fill with succulents and the appropriate dirt/rocks.

DSC_60585. Then, if you’re giving these to a teacher, print off these easy thank you cards that say “Thank You for helping me grow” – I love a good punny thank you note!

Download the Free Teacher Appreciation Printable Thank You for Helping me Grow cards now

Each page has four cards, so you can print them out on card stock and have ready made cards for each teacher in your child’s life or print them onto regular paper and glue to the front of a card that your child colors. I found that they print perfectly on these postcards, which are perforated to it super easy if you have multiple teachers!DSC_6073

And if you aren’t in need of a teacher gift, just hang them up and enjoy them yourself!DSC_6098

Or maybe do both? Because let’s be honest, you just can’t have too many succulents around! So fresh and bright – great for a gift or great for your own home.DSC_6093

This is really one of my absolute favorite non-sewing crafts I’ve made lately, and I just couldn’t part with these two. So I had to make a different one to send with my oldest for his last day of his homeschool group. And hopefully my black thumb will be able to keep these lovelies alive. :)

Painted Planter

Greenwood Tank: a wardrobe staple

I’ve been thinking to myself lately how much I needed a good knit tank pattern. Luckily for me, Straight Stitch Designs is releasing the Greenwood Tank today!
Greenwood TankWarning: if you sew one Greenwood Tank, you will be unable to stop and will need to sew more. As part of the testing team, I’ve already sewn three! It’s such a fast sew, pretty soon I’m going to have one for every day of the week.

DSC_6479

The Greenwood Tank comes with options for a regular high back or a low back that mirrors the front of the tank. I chose the low back option (even though I failed to actually take a picture of the back!).

DSC_6348

I shortened the straps a bit, but this is something I have to do quite often with ready-to-wear clothing and PDF patterns. Once I did that, the fit was fantastic. Also fantastic? This knit from JoAnn’s. I’m in loooove with this floral!

DSC_6510I had a little bit of this luscious Anna Maria Horner knit left from this dress, and it was perfect for this tank! This will definitely be an everyday wear this summer.

DSC_6559This tank really is a wardrobe staple. Depending on your fabric, you can dress it up or down. The knit binding on this tank is one of my favorite ways to do binding. Kimberly has a great video to walk you through this if you’ve never done it before.

DSC_6497I loved the Capitol Hill and the Ballard, so I knew right away I would love the Greenwood. Kimberly’s pattern instructions were easy to follow, as always, and it came out with a superb garment!DSC_6352So what are you waiting for?! Hop on over and check out the newly released Greenwood Tank! It’s 30% off through Sunday, and if you’re anything like me, once you start sewing them, you won’t be able to stop :)

Happy sewing, friends!

Disclosure: I received this pattern as part of the pattern testing group, in exchange for my feedback.

Simple Table Runner Tutorial

When it comes to home decor, nothing makes me happier than simple changes that quickly spruce up a room. As seasons change, I like to shake things up a bit – especially after the looooooong winter. This simple patchwork table runner is easy to make, even for a beginning sewer!

Simple Spring Table Runner Tutorial

I love easy decor that can be used over and over again. Use it to display a beautiful bridal shower buffet or host a bouquet of spring flowers. Or simply use it to cover up the marker stains on your kitchen table (ahem..) However you use it, your table will be happier for it!

 

make a simple spring table runnerSupplies:

  • non-stretchy woven fabric {I used 100% cotton}
  • sewing machine/thread
  • iron
  • scissors

table runner top
How to Make a Patchwork Table Runner Tutorial

Cut your fabric:

The size of your spring table runner will depend on how big your table is and how long/wide you want it. My table runner has four panels (15.25in x 20.50in), but yours can have as few or as many as you’d like. Just make sure you cut them all the same size. Also cut one long piece of fabric for the back of the table runner. I used a table cloth that wasn’t the right size for my table, but any woven fabric would work. This fabric should be the same length as your four panels once they are put together (mine was 81.25in). Alter the measurements to fit your table.table runner step 1

 

1. Sew two panels together, right sides together using 3/8 seam allowance. Sew the next panel to other side of panel two. Continue until all the panels are sewn together in one long row.DSC_4880

 

2. Press all the seam allowances open.spring table runner step 3

 

3. Press the outside edges of the panels under 3/8in. Repeat this with the long fabric that you’re using as the back side of the table runner.spring table runner step 4

 

4. Pin or clip the panels and the backing fabric wrong sides together. This is a good time to check that the front and the back are the same size. Then sew the two pieces together along the edges using a straight stitch.make a table runner

 

I put this on my table while my boys were playing outside, and one of them literally gasped and said “Wow!” when he came inside and saw it. So I call that a win! It really does bring a brightness to the room that winter definitely lacked. With a different fabric, it would be perfect for any season!

Spring Table Runner Tutorial from If Only They Would NapHappy sewing, friends!

DIY Painted Planter + Free Teacher Appreciation Printable

Today I’m over at Craftaholics Anonymous with a perfect end-of-the-year teacher gift! A DIY painted planter (that I’m super in love with) and a free thank you printable. So hop on over and check it out!

DSC_6077

Super Skinny Pants over at Melly Sews

My post for the Blank Slate Sewing Team is up, so head on over to Melly Sews and check out the Super Skinny Pants I made for my little man!

super skinny pants