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Thanksgiving Fun on a Shoestring

By Beth Engelman and Jenna Riggs of Mommy on a Shoestring

Celebrate the spirit of Thanksgiving with these family friendly crafts and activities.

Story Bracelets

Teach your kids the story of the first Thanksgiving with this memorable craft.  Your kids will love having a special bracelet for their Thanksgiving feast and you will love knowing they learned a bit of American History in the process.  Thank you to Jennifer W and her blog, Ramblings of a Crazy Woman, for inspiring this activity.

You will need:

Colored Beads

Pipe Cleaners


Have your children string their bracelets according to the story of Thanksgiving.

  • String 1 bead (any color) to represent the Pilgrims leaving England.
  • String 1 white bead to represent the white sails on the Mayflower.
  • String 3 blue beads to represent the long trip over the ocean.
  • Add 1 green bead to show when the Pilgrims saw land.
  • The Pilgrim’s first winter was long and snowy, so add 3 white beads to represent winter.
  • String 1 green bead for the arrival of spring.
  • String 1 yellow bead to represent the warmth of the sun.
  • Add one bead (any color) to represent the Native Americans who helped the Pilgrims.
  • Add 4 beads to represent the food the Pilgrims and Native Americans enjoyed together on Thanksgiving which includes:
    • 1 red bead for cranberries.
    • 1 yellow bead for corn.
    • 1 brown bead for turkey.
    • 1 orange bead for pumpkin.
  • Once the beading is complete, twist the ends of the pipe cleaner together to make a bracelet.

Thankful Tree

Create a family heirloom with this charming craft idea.

You will need:

Small tree branch (cleaned and dried)


Paper (cut into leaf shapes)

Markers and / or crayons




  • Place tree branch in vase.  If necessary, use stones or acorns to anchor the branch in place.
  • Ask each guest to write or draw one thing for which they are grateful. On the other side of the paper, have them draw a self-portrait and write their name and age.
  • Punch a hole at the top of each leaf and hang them on your “tree” with ribbon.
  • When the holiday is over, keep your leaves in a secure spot so you can hang them on your tree next year, being sure to add “new” leaves as well.  In years to come your tree will be full of leaves as well as reminders of holidays past.

A is for Apple, U is for Unscramble Place-Cards

If you or your children love puzzles, this clever DIY place-card craft is for you.

You need:

Apples and/or pears

Colored cardstock or index cards


Sharp knife


  • Make the name-card holder by making a slit at the top of each piece of fruit.
  • Make the name-cards by writing the scramble letters of each guest’s name on a small piece of card stock.
  • Place the scrambled name-cards in the fruit holders right before the guests come to the table to ensure the paper doesn’t get too soggy.
  • When your guests arrive at the table, ask them to unscramble each name to find their seat.

Family Games

If you are in search of an icebreaker, or need an activity the whole family can enjoy, try one of these Thanksgiving games that come courtesy of Mary Giles, Executive Editor of Disney FamilyFun magazine.

Chopstick Pass:

This game keeps restless kids engaged and entertained between courses.

Object: To pass a set of items (almond, acorn, cranberry, and pea) around the table using chopsticks (or a small spoon) without dropping them.

You Need:

Chopsticks or spoons





Small plate


  • Each player gets either a set of chopsticks or a small spoon (perfect for younger players).
  • Place the almond, acorn, cranberry, and pea on a small plate.
  • Place the plate next to the oldest player who will begin the game by passing each item to the person on his right, who will receive it with chopsticks and pass it along to the next player. The game continues until all the items have been passed around the table.

Turkey Egg Hunt

Object: To find the hidden turkey egg using the following clues:

“Gobble, gobble” = you’re getting closer to the egg.

“Giblet, giblet” = you’re moving away from the egg.

You Need:

One hard-boiled egg


  • Chose one player to leave the room while the “turkey” egg is hidden.
  • When the player returns, the others will call out “gobble, gobble” or “giblet, giblet,” to help the seeker find the egg. Once the egg is found, a new seeker is named, and the game repeats.

Jenna Riggs and Beth Engelman are the creative talents and owners of Mommy on a Shoestring, a website and weekly radio show chock full of ideas on how families can live creatively and large on a small budget.

Thanksgiving Game Idea – Taking Pictionary to a Whole New Level

Here is a family fun idea for Thanksgiving this year (or any family get together) that we had a lot of fun with last year.  We played Pictionary as a family (I think there were around 18 of us playing) by dividing into two teams.  One team was called Team Pilgrim and the other Team Turkey.  All you need for this game is the Pictionary game, two table top flip charts (you can buy them at your local office supply store) and a few markers.  Optional are the team t-shirts that I made in advance.  They added to the fun, but if they won’t fit in your budget or if you don’t have time to make them (I bought blank tshirts online and ironed on the decals), they you can easily skip them.

BOOtiful Halloween Crafts and Eats

By Beth Engelman and Jenna Riggs of Mommy on a Shoestring

This Halloween, scare up some holiday fun with these clever craft ideas that are easy to make, even at the last minute!

Recycled Bag Luminaries

(Thanks to the folks at for contributing this idea)

This easy and affordable craft is perfect for last minute decorating. It’s also a great way to reuse paper grocery bags.


  • Paper grocery bags
  • Light Sticks (available at most craft and hardware stores).


  • Use a black marker to draw a face onto the middle of each bag (I recommend using the side that has no writing).
  • Use sharp scissors to cut out each face (this should be done by an adult).
  • Place light stick inside the bag.
  • Place luminary in a dark area and enjoy.

Helpful Hint: This craft also works well with plain brown paper lunch bags.

Glue Ghosts

This craft is perfect for young children who love to pour glue all over everything. Be sure to make these ghosts a day in advance, as they need roughly 10-12 hours to dry.


  • Glue
  • String, yarn or pipe cleaner
  • Waxed paper
  • Craft stick or plastic spoon
  • Googly eyes
  • Construction paper (for the mouth)


For each ghost, lay a piece of string in the shape of a ghost onto a piece of waxed paper. Be sure to leave the bottom part open.

Have your kids pour glue to cover the entire ghost area. Use a plastic spoon or craft stick to make sure the glue is spread evenly. Note: the thicker the glue, the longer it takes for the ghost to dry.

Add personality by placing googly eyes and a construction paper mouth onto each ghost. Let dry for about 10-12 hours.

Once dry, peel each ghost off the waxed paper. Trim rough edges if necessary.

Poke a hole at the top of each ghost with a pushpin and thread a piece of string through the hole for hanging! Bootiful!!!!!!!!!

Glow-in-the-Dark Creepy Crawlers

(Thanks to the folks at for contributing this idea)

Delight your kids with these easy to make crawlers.


  • Ping Pong Ball
  • Styrofoam Cup
  • Mini Light Stick
  • 3 Glow Bracelets
  • Mini Light Stick
  • Tacky Glue


Paint cup and let is sit until dry.

Poke a small hole in the ping-pong ball. (I recommend using a pair of scissors or pushpin). Use a black sharpie to draw the creepy crawler’s face.

Push mini light stick into the hole of the ball.

Glue the ping-pong ball to the bottom of the Styrofoam cup.

Poke three small holes on each side of the cup and slide a glow bracelet through each hole.

For maximum effect, place creepy crawlers in a dark area and watch your kids face light up when they see them glow.

Candy Wrapper Bowls

Once Halloween has ended, don’t throw away your old candy wrappers! Instead use them to make this “sweet” bowl.


  • Newspaper ripped into small pieces
  • Mod Podge or PVA glue
  • A bowl with a smooth bottom (to be used as your mold)
  • Aluminum foil


Wrap the outside of bowl with aluminum foil.

Begin wrapping bowl with newspaper pieces dipped in Mod Podge. Be sure to smooth out each piece and overlap edges. Continue process until you have wrapped the entire bowl, in 3-4 times. Note: The more layers of newspaper, the sturdier your bowl.

Arrange the desired order and pattern of your wrappers and carefully glue on them on your bowl with Mod Podge. Cover the entire bowl with an additional layer of Mod Podge to ensure everything is sealed.

Let stand for 48 to 72 hours until dry.

When your bowl is completely dry, pull the original bowl out from under the paper and remove the aluminum foil.

Paint the inside or outside if desired.

Note: This bowl is for decorative use only! It is perfect for holding school supplies, wrapped candy, and trinkets. Do not use it for serving food.

How about a few treats?

There is nothing “tricky” about these treats that come courtesy of Bean Sprouts Café in Madison,Wisconsin. Be sure to visit their website for more information! (

You will need:

  • 6 whole fresh strawberries
  • ½ cup white chocolate chips or vanilla candy chips (melted)
  • Chocolate sprinkles or mini chocolate chips
  • 6 lollipop sticks (available at most craft stores)
  • Wax Paper


Dip entire strawberry (except for the stem) into the melted white chocolate.

Place berry on a plate covered with wax paper. Make sure the pointy end of the strawberry, which will be the top of the ghost, is facing up.

Add eyes and a mouth with chocolate chips or sprinkles.

Repeat with remaining strawberries.

Place “ghosts” in freezer for 8-10 minutes, or until coating is solid. Use a table knife to cut off the stem and place a lollipop stick in the bottom of each strawberry.

Bean Sprouts Pumpkin Pops

This tricky treat adds a nutritious boost with whole-wheat flour and chickpeas but all your kids will notice is its sweet flavor.

For the vanilla cupcakes you will need:

  • 2 1/2 cups wheat flour
  • 2 1/4 cups packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 2 1/4 tsp. baking powder
  • 6 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2 Tbsp. white vinegar
  • 1/2 cup pureed chickpeas
  • 1 1/4 cups water
  • Cupcake liners


  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  • Line a muffin pan with 12 cupcake liners.
  • In a large bowl, combine flour, brown sugar, cinnamon, and baking powder.
  • Stir in olive oil, vanilla and vinegar.
  • Fold in pureed chickpeas, slowly add water and stir until smooth.
  • Divide the batter among the muffin liners and bake for 16 to 18 minutes. Let cool

For the pumpkin coating you will need:

  • 2 cups white chocolate chips or vanilla candy chips
  • 2 tsp. milk
  • Natural orange food coloring (available at health food stores)
  • Mini chocolate chips
  • 1/4 cup pretzel sticks
  • Lollipop sticks
  • Wax paper


  • When the cake is cooled, place it in a bowl and mash it up into tiny pieces.
  • Add milk until the cake becomes sticky.
  • Form 1-inch diameter balls using the sticky cake.
  • Carefully slide a lollipop stick in each ball.
  • Place on a plate lined with wax paper and put in the freezer for at least 8-10 minutes, or until the cake hardens.
  • While the cake balls are in the freezer, melt the white chocolate chips in the microwave for 30 seconds at a time, so as not to burn the chocolate. Stir until smooth.
  • Add food coloring and stir until the chocolate is pumpkin color.
  • Dip each cake ball in the orange chocolate coating and place on wax paper. Add eyes and a mouth with mini chocolate chips. Top off with a “pretzel stick” stem.
  • Repeat with remaining cake balls.
  • Place in freezer for 3-5 minutes until coating is hard.

Jenna Riggs and Beth Engelman are the creative talents and owners of Mommy on a Shoestring, a website and weekly radio show chock full of ideas on how families can live creatively and large on a small budget.

Fall Fashion on a Dime

By Beth Engleman

Mommy on a Shoestring

Jazz up your fall wardrobe with these easy to make fashion accessories made out of recyclables!

Candy Wrapper Belt:

This is a great fashion statement for kids and adults.  It also makes a really fun rainy day or birthday party activity.

You will need:

Colorful candy or gum wrappers


Tape measure

Clear packing tape

2 – 1 ¼ inch, D-rings (available at most craft and fabric stores)


  • Measure waist and determine the desired length of belt.
  • Trim candy wrappers into 1-inch wide pieces.
  • Arrange the order and pattern of the wrappers.
  • Cut a piece of packing tape that is several inches longer than the desired belt length and lay it sticky side up on a table.
  • Carefully place the candy wrappers, face down in a line along the center of the tape.  Overlap each wrapper slightly to ensure there is no extra space between wrappers.
  • Fold the edges of the packing tape running lengthwise over the backs of the wrappers. If necessary, cut an additional strip of tape in half lengthwise and cover the back of the wrappers, ensuring your belt is properly sealed.
  • Slide two D-rings onto one end of the belt leaving about 6 inches of before securing with packing tape.

Water Bottle Bracelet

Heidi Borchers and the team from came up with this clever idea that turns a water bottle into a fashion statement.

You will need:

Colorful Fabric

Decorative Buttons or Sequins

Water Bottle (cut into a 2 ½ inch-wide ring)

Tacky Glue


  • Use fabric and tacky glue to cover the water bottle ring.
  • Be sure to fold the fabric over the sharp edges and glue the fabric inside the ring.
  • Add buttons, sequins, or coordinating fabric pieces as desired.
  • Allow to dry before wearing.

T-Shirt Tote

Turn an old T-shirt into a cute tote with a few snips and stitches.



Needle and Thread


12- inch bowl and paper


  • Use the bowl to trace / cut a 12-inch  paper circle (to be used as a template).
  • Cut off sleeves of t-shirt.  Tip:  Leave the seam to prevent the material from fraying.
  • Use circle template to trace / cut a 6-inch scoop along the neckline of the shirt.
  • Turn the shirt inside out and sew bottom closed.  Tip:  If the bottom seam is too thick, cut it off before sewing.  Also remember, the closer the stitches the sturdier the bag.

**To make a rosette embellishment:  Simply use the left over t-shirt fabric and cut three circles (different sizes).  Sew the circles together using a basic rag-stitch, being sure to pull the thread tightly to gather the material into petals.

This craft idea comes courtesy of Jessica Wynne Taylor.  Thanks Jessica!

To find more family fun activities check out

Sidewalk Chalk Recipe

By: Beth Engelman of Mommy on a Shoestring

Thanks Beth for this great idea! If you want to hear more of Beth’s great ideas you can listen to the replay of our recent radio show.


  • Small Paper Cups
  • 2 Tbs Powdered Tempura Paint – any color (available at most craft stores)
  • 3 Tbs Plaster of Paris (available at most craft stores)
  • ½ Cup Water


In a paper cup, mix powdered paint and water.

Stir in Plaster of Paris until the mixture is as thick as cream.

Allow the mixture to harden-approximately 2 hours.

Peel off the paper cup and take out the chalk.

Repeat for additional chalk pieces.

Mud Pies for Butterflies

By: Beth Engelman of Mommy on a Shoestring

Thanks Beth for this great idea! If you want to hear more of Beth’s great ideas you can listen to the replay of our recent radio show.

Mud Pies for Butterflies Recipe

  • Combine soil, sand, and a pinch of salt.
  • Add a flat rock in the middle for the landing pad for butterflies.
  • Add a few drops of maple syrup to rock.
  • Stand back and watch for butterflies

Simplifying Easter

By: Mandi Ehman of Organizing Your Way

As with any other holiday, it’s easy to get caught up in commercialism at Easter. In any given store across America, you’ll find large pre-packaged Easter baskets filled with cheap trinkets and candy, fluffy stuffed animals just begging to be taken home and aisles lined with chocolate and marshmallows of all kinds.

In our home, we prefer to take a low-key approach to Easter, focusing more on the historical and religious significance of the day than on the pressure to shower our kids with gifts. Here are a few ideas for focusing your Easter celebrations as well:

Separate the Bunny-Stuff from the Easter-Stuff

I like bunnies and chocolate as much as the next person, and I have wonderful memories of dyeing Easter eggs and going on egg hunts with my family. Rather than turn into an Easter scrooge, we simply separate those things from our Easter celebration. For example, this week we’ll be doing projects focused on spring with our girls, including dyeing eggs, planting grass in little gift baskets and making crushed shell art.

In the days leading up to Easter, we’ll be focused on the story of Jesus’ death and resurrection, and our crafts and activities will reflect that focus with things such as paper palm leaves, resurrection eggs and crescent roll tombs.

I’ve never quite understood how chocolate bunnies relate to such a significant holiday, but separating the two helps our family find a balance that works for us.

Select Meaningful Easter Basket Items

Rather than heading to your local superstore and picking up a basket of toys that will likely end up broken, lost or set aside after a few days, choose meaningful items to put in your children’s Easter baskets. We always start with a new pair of sunglasses for each of our girls, but your baskets should reflect your children and your family values. The key is to be thoughtful in your selections rather than just filling a basket to keep up with the Joneses.

Here are some more ideas:

:: Pretty stationery and pencils

:: A special necklace or bracelet

:: A family game

:: A travel or nature journal

:: A sketchbook

:: Crayon roll or art supplies

Create Family Traditions

Most importantly, take the time to thoughtfully plan family traditions that will become part of your family’s fabric over the years. Whether these include making breakfast together on Easter morning, having an early-morning egg hunt or reading the story of the resurrection while curled up together in bed, your children are sure to remember them for years to come!

Mandi Ehman is a work-at-home mom to four spunky little girls. She believes that organizing only lasts if you do it your way – to fit your needs, your preferences and your lifestyle – and she shares organizing and time management tips at Organizing Your Way.

Fresh Start Idea – Decide How Your Family Can Make a Difference in the World

Our Fresh Start idea for today is to discuss and decide how your family can make a difference in the world.  From saving the polar bears to buying school supplies for kids in your community, uniting around a cause or volunteering your time is a wonderful way of building family unity, opening perspectives, and building self-confidence.  So take some time today to discuss as a family how you can make a difference in the world and then create an action plan to make it happen.  Here are some tips to help you get started: Continue Reading…

Fresh Start Ideas – Schedule Family Nights

Today’s Fresh Start idea is to schedule family nights on your family calendar.  It seems simple and a little silly to dedicate an entire blog post to scheduling family nights, but somehow if we don’t get them scheduled with all the other things they can get lost in the shuffle.  Here are a few tips to help you get started: Continue Reading…

Fresh Starts for Your Family’s New Year

The start of a new year is one of my favorite times of the year.  In part because I am a typical Type A that loves taking on new challenges, projects, and changes but more importantly because it gives me a good chance to become a better mother, wife, and friend.   The New Year lets me mentally and emotionally shed baggage, struggles, and worries and make a fresh start in my attitude, routines, and habits.

So to help myself and you make fresh starts we are beginning a new series called 31 Days of Fresh Starts for Your Family. Throughout the month of January we will be posting a new fresh start idea. Each fresh start idea is designed to encourage families to make changes in their lives and work toward becoming a better family.  Whether your struggles are with parenting, communicating, clutter, or time all families have some area of their lives that need changes, improvements, and fresh starts. Continue Reading…

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