Christmas Craft: Potato Stamp Wrapping Paper

Around here I am always looking for fun things to do with Elliot while Clementine naps. Once in a blue moon he’ll fall asleep during his “quiet time” but usually he pops up after about 10 minutes of reading books by himself or puttering around in the living room — they share a bedroom so he takes his quiet time on the couch downstairs — and wants to be entertained. And I’m like “seriously you are done ALREADY?” but I keep my mouth shut and then try to remember how much I will miss him when he moves out of the house.

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My children are very different; Clementine will play by herself, alone, unprompted, for long beautiful periods of time. Elliot is a more typical first-born, craving adult attention almost constantly. Or he’ll start pestering me to watch TV. I will admit, it’s easy for me to fall into the habit of just letting him watch TV or play games on the tablet while Clementine sleeps, which, when combined with the one hour of Busytown Mysteries or Pink Panther they usually watch in the morning while I shower/chug my coffee/check my email AND the half hour of video games he’s allowed to play while Mr Rae makes dinner starts to add up to more media time than I am comfortable with. And honestly, while my Perfect Self thinks the amount of media time I’d be happiest with is NONE, my Real Self realizes that as much as I’d like to be the Wundermum who doesn’t ever have to rely on TV to entertain my children, it’s not a realistic expectation for me personally. So. I’m happier with a reasonable set of rules for media time than none at all. Currently that’s 1 hour of TV in the morning for both kids, and a half hour of video game time for Elliot before dinner (Clementine sometimes watches him play, but more often plays by herself while he does this).

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Which brings me to that hour or two of time in the afternoon when Elliot and I find something to do together. Sometimes we draw pictures or play games. Sometimes I let him sew. I’ve really enjoyed Meg’s Things We Do After Nap series over on Sew Liberated and the websites she links to in this post where she finds more great ideas. And now that Christmas is upon us there’s a bunch more things we can do, including making homemade wrapping paper with potato stamps! I remember making potato stamps as a kid with my mom, so when we got a package from amazon that had a ridiculous amount of packaging in it for the size of the item I saved it for this project. Score!

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I’m pretty sure the pictures speak for themselves, but basically I cut a potato in half and used a knife to cut out the two basic shapes here (a star and tree) and then used a couple of 99 cent paint trays at the craft store and sponge brushes to spread out acryllic paint so that the paint would go on the potatoes relatively smoothly. And then we just made an assembly-line style station at his little table and stamped away. He probably lasted about 15 minutes before he got sick of it but there it is: homemade wrapping paper!

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I’m always looking for new ideas, so throw them at me if you’ve got them. And what about “media limits?” Are there rules at your house? For kids or even yourself? I am infinitely interested in this topic.

28 thoughts on “Christmas Craft: Potato Stamp Wrapping Paper

  1. I’ve been lurking here for a while and thought I’d come out of hiding. I have similar thoughts about media time. I’d love to keep it to none, but the fact is that I struggle to keep them entertained and out of mischief without some. Still working on that balance. And mine are younger so I get a bigger chunk of naptime/quiet time. I expect, like all things, my needs and theirs will change as they grow. I’ve been thinking of doing potato stamping too lately. It looks like fun for me too, but I’m trying to figure out how to pull it off with a 21/2 year old without my 1 year old getting into too much mischief. Hm…maybe we’ll get around to it one of these days. I enjoyed seeing yours!

    • Love the stamped wrapping paper! We swore off wrapping gifts with paper a long time ago, but the kids aren’t too into a ribbon with a tag on it around the gift. I’ll have to try this for them instead!
      As for media limits, all the research I’ve seen says absolutely no media time for children under the age of two (this includes watching others play video games), because it messes with children’s brain development. After that, a limited amount of time seems okay.
      We are a no media household. My hubby plays video games or we watch a show after the kids are asleep. If I need to do something with them so I can get time to read email, I set them up to play together in another room, give them books, or send them outside (I use this one a lot).

  2. Yup, we’ll be doing stamp wrapping paper in the next couple of weeks for sure. Yesterday I did some finger painting with my 15 month old, but I used painters tape to make a simple Christmas tree on the paper first. Not a very elaborate project, but anything using painters tape is quite satisfying!

  3. Do you still have any leaves hanging around where you are? I just did some leaf printing (at school– I’m an art teacher) with metallic paints on some leftover brown packaging paper. I’d thought it’d be perfect to wrap a gift in.

  4. We do 1 show (20 minutes – right now we’re on a Pocoyo kick) per day during the week and more is allowed (like a movie) on the weekends. It got pretty nuts tv-wise over the summer with new baby, 4yo out of school, and me working still, so once school started it got cut waayyyyy back. He’s only allowed video games as a very special treat.

  5. We average 30-60 min in the mornings so I can get a jump on the day – get both kids fed, check email, start some laundry, etc. And depending on how smoothly the day goes (or not) there’s a little more TV while I’m cooking dinner. But there are always exceptions like if someone is sick they get more TV time. We don’t have cable, only Netflix, so I love that I can easily control how much my 3 year old watches. Episode finished? Then TV time is over :)

  6. I love the stamps! I recently made koolaid playdough out of kitchen ingredients! You should be able to google it. He loved it. We had problems with too much tv (which i vowed would NEVER happen) until i moved his art table out of the living room, and now when my son asks for tv I usually tell him no, its not time to watch tv right now, its time to play. I read something about how in the old days our grandmothers knew that boredom was okay because it led to creativity and imagination and even invention. While I am still very much involved in what he does, I dont always feel like I need to entertain him all the time, and i can do housework while he plays. We do watch tv occasionally, but more often it is a video.

    • “our grandmothers knew that boredom was okay because it led to creativity and imagination and even invention”

      I like that!!!

  7. Oh the screen time, it’s a slippery slope isn’t it? I say you do what you gotta do to get through the day. Make sure the screen-free time is quality time and then a bit of tv and games isn’t a big deal. Reassess as needed!

    I have 3 year-old twins who can usually entertain each other incredibly well while I check email, shower etc. Like… for hours some days. Seriously. I like to think it’s my karmic reward for their first 9 months! But every 5-6 weeks they have a solid week where they’re just driving each other (and me!) nutzo and need constant policing. So I park ‘em in front of the tv. Problem solved! I just have to remember to turn it off a few days later when they’ve settled down again and we don’t really “need” it.

  8. Love the wrapping paper! We did the same last year and now I’m inspired to do it again. I find the TV/no TV thing probably harder now than when my kids were smaller. When my big boys (9 and 10) come home from school they’re pretty exhausted and most days I let them zonk out in front of the telly or DVD for a while… which can easily become a couple of hours. I don’t feel great about it and I should cut it back.
    However to balance that they have ‘quiet reading time’ every night from 7 – 9pm which is up in their bedroom, reading, doing homework, drawing, dressing up, playing with their pet rats, listening to me read chapter books aloud. That I do feel good about!
    Finding a balance is tough but I know I’ll never be that Wondermum either.
    We restrict video & computer games to weekends only and use the kitchen timer to limit the time.
    Something I’m very glad of is Australia’s ad-free ABC Kids channels, which means very little exposure to the latest ‘must-have’ toys. Especially at Christmas, I notice there’s practically nothing my kids really ‘want’. Yay.

  9. Boy, oh boy, my son is the same way! He wants me to watch every single thing he does! He’ll be 3 in late February. I just had another baby in August so it seems like I let him watch more tv than I’d like just so I can stay above water! Eek!

    This is really cute. I did a potato stamping project over a year ago. I’m not sure why I haven’t tried anything else. I’ll be adding this to our Advent activities. Thanks for sharing!

  10. Funny Rae, I just posted about TV time on my blog this week.

    http://kookababy.blogspot.com/2011/11/finding-marbles.html

    We found a solution to too much and man it’s working so well. They are play all sort of great imagination games together and I find myself thinking about how if only I could plunk them in front of a show I’d … Granted I feel like I am always cleaning because just as one mess is up another one gets made.

    At least they are having fun without tv.

  11. We’ve always tried to limit screen time, but recently I’ve been making the kids earn vouchers for TV/video games (my kids are 9 and 5). When they do homework, chores, or extra jobs around the house, they can earn a voucher for 15 minutes of screen time. No vouchers–no TV, end of story. I do occasionally bend this rule for special events. Tonight, for example, we are watching “Where the Red Fern Grows” as a family, because my 9 year old just finished reading the book, and his teacher loaned him the video.

  12. Oh Rae my kids are just like yours! My boy (5) constantly wants us involved in his play time. My girl (2) is happy amusing herself…at least until her brother tries to butt in.

    We also limit media time. The boy would love to play Angry Birds everyday, but so far we’ve kept that as special treats. He does love Sprouts on PBS and at least that’s educational. During basketball season (hubby coaches) he watches more because it keeps him quiet and downstairs while I put the girl to bed. But mostly I try to limit that to a day or two a week. And 1 movie on the weekends. Period. (And that’s partly for my sanity. I can only watch Cars/Toy Story so many times.)

    Always loved potato stamps! Might have to break this out around here too! Part of our advent activities. (Our advent calendar consists of things to do, both service wise, craft wise, and fun stuff.)

  13. isn’t it so frustrating to spend more time with crafty set up and clean up than they actually spend DOING the craft?!?!?! urggg!!!

    with tv time, i just go with the flow. not all days are perfect and not all days have good moods. we sometimes go days without turning the tv on. other days, we all just want to veg out and we watch tv for a few hours. i have a 6 year old and a 14 year old so i have a large age difference. also i havent had cable or dish in about 4 years, just netflix and hulu.

  14. I love the stamped wrapping paper! Sometimes I just get out some stickers, fun papers, glue and crayons/markers and just let them create! It amazes me what they come up with.

    Since both my children are in school, TV time is pretty limited anyway because they are not at home most of the day. During the week, they have to finish their homework before any tv or games, sometimes there will be time for 30 minutes or so of tv after that, sometimes not depending on what else we have going on.

    I have to admit, though, that I am pretty lax about it on the weekends. My kids are so busy during the week and they work so hard at school that I don’t mind them having a little downtime in front of the TV or the Wii. Luckily, I have the kind of kids that love to play and get bored in front of the TV for too long, so I haven’t had to set any strict rules.

    As for myself, I would like to increase my time in front of the TV! I have so many shows to catch up on but it seems like I am always too busy or too tired to watch!

  15. I grew up with ‘no tv during the week’ except star trek on thursday nights. And then we could watch TGIF on ABC on friday nights (remember urkel and step by step?? oh man….) We got 2 hours of saturday morning cartoons, watched 2 hours of PBS home-improvement and cooking shows on saturday night, and usually got to watch whatever sunday night family-friendly movie was on. It sounds like a lot, now that I’ve got it written out, but i’m thankful now as an adult for my parents’ ability to limit us (and themselves!)

  16. My kids are about the same age as yours, Rae. My daughter is 4 and my son just turned 2. We have very minimal screen time here – no daily TV. Friday night is movie night, so they get to choose what they want to watch (from our kiddie DVD library) for an hour. Other than that, the TV is only on for my hubby’s weekly college football game and the kids don’t pay much attention to that. It helps that we don’t have cable TV, I suppose. ;)

    Keeping them busy, well… that’s definitely a full time job! LOL Now that my son is getting a little older, I don’t worry about him eating crayons while I’m in the shower so he usually colors or reads or plays with his trucks while I’m showering. My daughter likes to listen to my old read-along tapes or play with her army (yes, we have at least 50 of them!) of paper bag puppets. We eat all of our meals together and I like to let them listen to a story while I check my email during breakfast (they don’t watch the screen, just listen) – you should check out http://www.mousevinyl.com for an extensive online library of old-school read-along books.

    These days I also like to tear off a large sheet of paper from the roll on their easel and let them go to town drawing and coloring on it. They also play really well together, which helps when I’m trying to get something done!

  17. Oh when Rocco and Luca were younger they watched too much t.v. (well, Rocco listens). Now it’s weekends only. I’m pretty lax about weekend time since we don’t do video games and the kids have so much homework during the week. Most nights Rocco is working for 1 1/2-2 hours. Not fun.

    I want to get rid of the satellite and go strictly to Netflix but Chef is totally not on board with that.

    I have it opposite of you with the kids that keep themselves busy. The first two were so independent with free time. It was heavenly! Vinny is soooooo clingy and only manages a few minutes at a time by himself.

  18. So much fun! I just made some stamped wrapping paper for my mother-in-law and sister-in-law’s b-day gifts. It was a big hit, and so will his star paper. I have to make some with the kids. What a fun craft.

  19. Hi Rae! Closet lurker, here. I think it’s a constant struggle to find a balance between what is good for the kids & what is good for the mama. We don’t have cable just netflix, & we have 2 kids, aged 5 years & 19 months. We follow the rule of absolutely no media of any kind under the age of 2 & very limited media after 2. My daughter (who is 5), gets about a half an hour a week & no branding (Dora, Disney, etc) or video games. She would like more, but we say no. When she doesn’t have it for a couple of weeks, she completely forgets about it. I see her (& our) reaction to screen time & view it as crack. I’m totally into us watching some good stuff together, but I *try* to keep using it as a sanity tool to a minimum. I totally feel your pain – I am often at my wit’s end trying to deal with a rambunctious first born who wants constant stimulation while doing something useful/satisfying for myself. There is no good answer. It also helps that my daughter attends a Waldorf school, where none of the children are exposed to screen media. http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/children-and-tv/MY00522

  20. I’ve never been one to worry about tv time and game time. I’m the atari/nintendo generation. My brain developed just fine despite the hours I put in. My daughter is fine too. I never worried about how much tv she watched. I guess if she was a kid that turned into a zombie in front of the tv and did nothing else I would have intervened but she was just fine policing herself, so was I growing up. I think that some times we worry too much as parents. I’m saving the potato stamping idea for when my grandson is old enough.

  21. The media thing is hard. I tried doing no TV but then he could not relate to other children when they talked about elmo or spongebob,etc… So I started letting him watch about an hour a day. Usually 30 minutes in the morning while getting ready for school and then a 30 minute show after school. We leave the video games for weekend only (he was getting obsessed with them). He is four and I have a two year old girl who couldn’t care less about tv but loves to play games on the pc or ipad. Sometimes it’s hard playing media police. In the long run I don’t think an hour of media is going to harm anyone.

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