Welcome to my blog! I started it when I was a new Girl Scout leader and needed some kind of organized "to-do" list. I decided the best way to keep things organized was to start a blog. So here it is! Our troop has since bridged up to Brownies, and I've taken on a second Daisy troop, so I will continue updating with new Brownie information and additional Daisy stuff too. My hope is to continue to update with every level as my troops advance (not just Daisies and Brownies). But we'll see.

Thanks for stopping by, and I hope it's helpful!

Sunday, May 17, 2015

SWAPS and Bridging to Juniors Badge

Today we're looking at one activity that achieves two different goals for Brownies.

1. SWAPS! Special Whatchamacallits Affectionately Pinned Somewhere.

New to Girl Scouts? Here's some info on the tradition of SWAPS.

Last year before camp, we made Fairy SWAPS. They were super cute, and easy to make.

This year we made a few changes.

If you have a small troop, you're fine with just doing one craft for your SWAPS, I think. But if you have a larger troop, you might want to make a few different SWAPS, to not saturate the market, so to speak. ;)

The challenge with making ten identical SWAPS per girl is that if you go to camp (or other event where swapping SWAPS is happening), then the girls will start to encounter other girls who already have that particular version of SWAPS from one of your troop members already. And then you're stuck with members in your troop who cannot trade their SWAPS.

While that did not happen to us last year, it did happen to another troop in our service unit.

So this year we combined our pre-camp prep SWAPS with our Bridging to Juniors badge requirements, and had our Brownies assist the Daisies in making SWAPS for camp.

2. Bridging to Juniors involves two steps:

  • Looking back at what we've learned/experienced and assisting a younger troop by passing on what we've learned (teaching Daisies how to make SWAPS is a great example).
  • Looking forward and finding out from other Juniors what opportunities lie ahead (this was not covered in this meeting; we split the Bridging requirements over a couple of meetings).

Bridging to Juniors badge goes underneath membership stars on vest.

Please note, while the Bridging to Juniors badge has requirements, the "Flying Up" Wings badge does not. It is given to all girls who move from Brownies to Juniors, a tradition dating back to when Brownies were called Brown Owls.

Leave room under the Bridging badge for the Junior Aide badge. The wings go underneath that.

So, we had our Brownies and Daisies together in one special "Sister Troop" meeting. We had three stations (long tables) set up, with one SWAPS craft per table. Because the numbers weren't perfect for every Brownie to be assigned a Daisy, we had them sit D/B/D/B (etc.) at the stations. We spent about 15 minutes at each table, then each group would move to the next table, so everyone had a chance to make several of each design. The Brownies did an outstanding job helping the Daisies make SWAPS for camp. :)

I had enough supplies on hand for each girl to make 13 SWAPS: ten to trade, and one of each design to keep (if she wanted). It's fairly common to have 10 SWAPS per girl, for trading, in my experience. You can always do more if it's a large gathering.

We did not stick with our camporee theme this year, as it was tie-dye and I knew there would be gobs of tie-dye themed SWAPS there. So we went with something a little different.

Dragonfly SWAPS

These were by far the easiest of the three, and took the least amount of time. We had some extras left over (hang on to leftover SWAPS. You can use them in later years!).

Supplies you will need:

- Tiny clothespins (I got mine on Amazon. You can find yours at Michael's or other craft store, if you prefer). The ones I used were 1" long and came in a variety of colors. Teensy and so cute!
- Stick-on bar pins (safety pins can work but not easily; this is what I'm talking about)
- Gauze ribbon -- at least two different shades (be sure it is wire-free. Wired ribbon can scratch)
- Scissors
- One or more samples pre-made ahead of time

If you don't have stick-on pins, you can use glue or a glue gun to apply the bar pins to the clothespins ahead of time.

If you want to get fancy, add your troop number to these! We were running tight on time preparing for camp (and February was a bust for troop meetings, due to snow). So we had some designs that did not have our troop numbers on them. SWAPS typically should have a troop number on them, but eh. You do what you gotta do!

So, each girl gets one clothespin with pin stuck on it, at a time (or, if you are beyond Daisies, let them stick the bar pins on there too. Since we had Kindergarteners, and 13 SWAPS to make per girl total, we did it ahead of time).

Then she chooses two colors of gauze ribbon and cuts ~2" length of each. Place one atop the other, and pinch them together in the middle, then clip the clothespin around it. Ta-da! Instant dragonfly!

These are super cute!

Doc McStuffins/Band-Aid SWAPS

My Daisies love Doc McStuffins. You don't have to call it that, if you have older girls or whatever, though. These required more prep time on my part ahead of time, but it was super easy.

Supplies you will need:

- Felt in skin tone(s) and white (you should only need one white felt sheet, as you can get a lot out of it)
- Heart foam stickers
- Glue dots
- Scissors 
- Safety pins
- One or more samples pre-made ahead of time

Preparation ahead of time, if you like:

Take your skin tone(s) felt sheets and cut strips that are approximately 1" wide and 3.5-4" long. 

Cut 1" squares out of your white felt sheets.

Have the girls glue dot the white felt in the middle of the skin-toned felt. This is the "gauze" part of the bandage.

Flip it over, and stick the foam heart in the middle of the back of it.

Stick a safety pin through one end.

Ta-Da! Instant Band-Aid SWAPS.

It's funny how all the girls immediately knew what these were supposed to be!

My Pet Clouds

I love these SWAPS. They are so stinkin' cute! And a bit more complicated than the others, but well worth it.

Supplies you will need:

- Small cotton balls (do NOT get jumbo ones, otherwise they won't fit in your baggy)
- Jewelers' bags (mini Ziploc-style bags; I bought mine in bulk off Amazon. God bless Amazon. You can find yours at Walmart or Michael's, etc.) I used the 2"x3" size, which is very small, but was perfect for what I wanted. You don't want to go too large for SWAPS, since some girls wear them on hats, etc.
- Googly eyes (small)
- Glue dots
- Stapler (with extra staples)
- Pre-printed paper labels
- Marker/pen to write troop numbers on label (not Sharpie though; it'll bleed through)
- Safety pins
- One or more samples pre-made ahead of time

Preparation ahead of time: Print off your labels and cut them out.

Click on this image to download the template.

The poem says:
In the whole wide world,
with everyone in it,
you're one of a kind,
and the sky's the limit!

Thank you to this awesome blogger for the inspiration!

Have the girls first write their troop number on the paper. It's easier to write on it before stapling, in my experience. But it really doesn't matter.

Then flatten the cotton ball a bit, to give it a nice "cloud" shape (not necessary, but cute). Then apply googly eyes with glue dots. Or you can use googly eyes with adhesive on the back. Those were a lot more expensive when I checked though. I love glue dots. They're super handy!

Gently insert the cloud into the baggy (doesn't matter which direction it goes).

Pinch the bag shut, and fold the label in half, so the poem is on one side, and the heart with My Pet Cloud/troop #s is on the other.

Slide the paper over the top with the poem in the front, and staple once, directly under the poem. 

When you put your safety pin in, do it on the top side, through paper and baggy. Otherwise it might tear your SWAPS.

Awwww, isn't it adorable?

Once we were finished, I collected all the SWAPS and separated them into sandwich-sized Ziplocs, 13 per bag. These went into my camp stuff. 

SWAPS are not about what each individual girls makes, though you're welcome to let them keep one of each when they make them if you like. It is traditionally a troop effort. And since they're going to be traded away, it doesn't matter who made which one. By taking them home with me, I ensured they all made it to camp intact. If you let the girls take them home, I guarantee someone will forget hers. 

So gather them up and split them up, and hand them out when it's time to trade!

Looking for a cute way to display SWAPS? Check it out!

And that is it for this year's SWAPS! More to come as soon as I catch up on end-of-year stuff and laundry. . . . 

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Learning to Sew (Part Two -- All Levels)

Last time, I introduced my third grade Brownies to the concept of hand-sewing by making Sit-Upons (see this post). This time, we backed up a tad and focused on three primary stitches, as well as things like threading needles, making knots, and "tails" when hand-sewing.

You might choose to do this activity before your Sit-Upons. And that's fine! But I wanted to do this craft right before we move on to our "real" sewing craft at the next meeting, so hopefully the different stitches would still be fairly fresh in the girls' minds.

Before we did this project, I emailed my parents (many of whom have commented to me in the past about not knowing how to sew), letting them know that I needed volunteers (who did know at least the basics of how to sew) to attend the meeting, but that ALL parents were welcome, if there were any who wanted to learn alongside their daughters.

If you want to do this for your parents, make sure you know ahead of time who's coming, so you can have extra supplies on hand. 

Things You'll Need:

1. Tapestry Needles (one for each child, plus yourself -- metal tapestry needles work much better for this craft, than plastic ones)
2. Embroidery Floss (pre-cut lengths if possible)
3. Sharpies
4. Thin, Styrofoam-Type Plates
5. Scissors (sharp)
6. Adult helpers if you have a large troop

Amazon has a super deal on a pack of 25 here. Don't get the plastic ones. They bend too easily.

This craft is great for any age, really, even Kindergarten Daisies! But as with most crafts, the younger the girl, the more help they may need.

Before the meeting, you will need to prep several things. The activity itself should take between 45 minutes to an hour.

If possible, match your embroidery floss to the Sharpie colors you're using.

You can never have too much embroidery floss. Seriously.

Make dots with Sharpie along the outer edge. This is for your overcast stitch. Do not make the dots too close to the edge, as pulling the thread through can rip the plate.

Make dashes inside (two circles if possible, so they learn how to continue on to a different section using the same thread). This is for running stitch.

Make X shapes inside, for cross stitches.

You don't have to use different colors, but it makes it easier for the kids, especially when working from the back, I think. Don't use washable markers on styrofoam. Sharpies/permanent markers work best.

Create a sample plate for you. Consider not knotting your embroidery floss initially, as you'll need to measure it out (I just eyeballed it, and wrote down how long my thread was for each section, then added a couple of inches for good measure. It worked fine).

The nice thing about these plates is you can hold them up to the light and see the Sharpie from the back side, which helps when they're getting started with each section, so they know where you put their needles.

See how well the Sharpie shows through the back, when held up to the light?

Before your meeting, prepare a plate with Sharpie marks for each girl, and pre-cut lengths of embroidery floss for each plate. Put these and a tapestry needle into a small Ziploc baggie.

Have a spare plate (pre-colored), floss, and tapestry needle, for you to use to show them how to do it, at each stage during the craft. Then you can put it down and walk around to help as needed.

So you have two plates for you ahead of time: one that's complete, and one that's just like the girl' plates, in progress.

Don't worry about finishing your in-progress plate along with the girls during the meeting. Just pick it up and use it to illustrate various stitches as needed.

Explain the "right" side and the "wrong" side by showing them your finished plate. Ask them how they can tell which is the front and which is the back (knots in the back).

The wrong side of your sample plate.

Show them the tapestry needles, and how they have a large eye (better for thick thread), and a dull point. (I always ask them to tell me what they see, instead of telling them initially. Good way to exercise powers of observation!)

In the next meeting, we will be working with standard needles. So I took a minute to sit next to the girls at the table, and show them how NOT to pull thread up, toward your neighbor's face. Needles (even dull ones) can be hazardous. Best to spread out around the tables for this craft.

There are several ways to knot the thread: my grandmother taught me to lick the tips of my pointer finger and thumb, hold the end of the thread between, then "roll" the thread between them, and pull the rolled part down. This forms a knot.

(But that trick is easier with regular thread than thick embroidery floss.)

You can also use a wrap-around method to knot the floss.

Or just have them tie a small knot at the end.

A list of methods can be found here. Or just Google how to knot thread.

It's likely they will need to just tie a knot in the end, and that's fine. If possible, leave  about 3" of thread beyond the knot, as they will tie this to the end of their floss once they're finished. (This is not a typical way to knot thread upon completion, but for this style of project, it's fine, and it will be more intuitive to them.)

The plates can break if you fold them or squeeze too hard. So be gentle. :)

Thread the needles (put tip of thread between tongue and front top tooth. Pull out to flatten. If the embroidery floss tip begins to fray while trying to thread it, snip it at an angle with sharp scissors).

Leave about 5-6" as a "tail" from your needle. Do not double the thread entirely when tying it off. It will be too thick, and you'll need twice as much embroidery floss. Just thread it through and leave a tail hanging. You may need to adjust the length of the tail as you go. (I have no idea what the correct term is. I always called it a tail. Leave me a comment if there's a more correct term.)

This crafty mama blog has lots of fun activities with sewing!

Start with the overcast stitch along the edge. It's not necessary to tug hard on the thread as you go, because the styrofoam can rip if you pull too hard. Also, it's key to have them keep an eye on the thread, and the tail to make sure it doesn't tangle as they go.

Overcast is running loops around the edge. My grandmother just called it an "overstitch."

Then tie off the end of the pink/overcast thread to the end you left at the original knot. Snip the pink thread, re-thread needle with green, and move on to the running stitch.

Be sure to have them hold their plates up to the light when starting the running stitch; they are literally stitching on top of the green dashes on the plate. So start at one end of each dash on the back, push needle through to the front, cover the green dash, poke needle through the other end of dash, and so on. When they hold it up to the light, there will be a solid line of green from the stitches. But from the front (or back, not held up to light), it looks like dashes.

Don't tie off from the outer ring to the inner. Just continue on with the new ring of running stitches that's closest to the one you finished in the outer ring.

Tie it off when finished, re-thread with purple, and start on cross stitches.

The correct way to do a cross stitch is to do all the same direction per row, then back the opposite direction. This is confusing when learning how to sew, especially when there are only 5 Xs. If you prefer, mark your Xs in rows, close to each other. I have a large troop and was running out of prep time. So I made it work.

In the meeting, I told them just to cover the purple lines in each X, the same as they covered the green dashes before, and to do each X closest. I had them look at it first, and decide for themselves the best way to do it, so as to not waste thread.

It worked out fine. :)

Tie it off, and ta-da! You're finished!

All done! :)

If you have extra time and extra embroidery floss, you can have them do another overcast the opposite direction of the first one, so the edges have V-shaped stitches all the way around.

Next Up? Finishing up learning to sew!

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Brownies: Pets Badge

We chose to do this as a 100% do-at-home (or at a friend's home, or an animal hospital, etc.) badge. Normally I try to avoid giving them homework. However, it simply wasn't feasible for us to work in a troop visit to the animal hospital, or something, in the midst of the holiday craziness (plus our service unit has several events during the holiday season, plus there are school parties and gah! Too much!).

So yeah, I totally used the "girl-led" approach for this one, and let the parents know I had faith their daughters could easily complete the requirements for this badge.

I tweaked them, so they'd work. You do what you've got to do. See your Brownie book for more

I told the girls it was their choice. I was pleasantly surprised at how many did it.

Here's the handout. Feel free to follow any or none. As always, do what works for your troop!

Pets Journal for girl scouts

Fill in the blanks and complete at least five of the steps at the bottom and back of this sheet. When you've finished, have your parent drop it in my mailbox, email it to me, or bring to the next troop meeting. Don't lose it! If you do, have your parent contact me.

You may choose to do this for more than one pet, if you want. Just write the information down for each pet. If you do not have a pet, you can help with someone else's pet, or visit the Humane Society, Adoption Center, or Animal Hospital if you want.

Girl's Name:____________________________________________________________
Pet's Name: ____________________________________________________________
Type of Animal: ________________________________________________________
Breed (if known; also list physical description):________________________________

Choose FIVE (or more) activities and document your actions by listing what you did. Not all pets need the same things, and that's okay (you can't walk a fish, after all)! Just be sure to complete at least five of the activities at some point during the next two weeks, and write about what you did:

  1. Physical Needs (feed, water, walk, potty/litter box):__________________
  2. Emotional Needs (playing with pet, showing affection, petting, and so on):
  3. Describe Your Pet's Personality:_________________________________
  4. Something You've Learned from Caring for an Animal:_____________
  5. Draw a Picture of Your Pet:

  6. Describe How You Feel About Your Pet/Animals in General:______________

  1. Learn About Animals! Have your parents go to this website so you can read about caring for all kinds of pets: http://www.petco.com/CareSheets/petco_CareSheets.aspx. List something you learned here: ______________________________________________________
  2. Create a LOST Sheet for Your Pet. Include the pet's name, physical description, recent photograph, and your address/phone number. Keep it on hand just in case. (Check yes if you did this: _____ YES. Leave blank if not.)
  3. List Some Ways to Keep Pets Safe. Include foods/plants that can be dangerous to pets, information about safe shelter for when the weather is cold, and so on:

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Brownies: Sit-Upons (Sewing, Part One)

Recently I started teaching the girls how to sew. First up? Making Sit-Upons! My girls are second-year Brownies, and were able to do this project in one troop meeting, though we did run over about 15 minutes. Count on it taking roughly an hour from start to finish, not including any coloring/decorating.

This can be done at any level, but the younger the girls, the more adult assistance required. It was a perfect craft for my third graders.

If you have a smaller troop, and are able to find some of these retired Try-Its on eBay, you can work on the "Stitch It Together" badge! (Remember, they need to complete four steps to earn this badge.) Our troop is fairly large though, and it's tough to find affordable Try-Its in bulk, so I've opted for a cheaper generic fun patch instead. More to come on that!

What Are Sit-Upons, and How Can They Be Used to Learn to Sew?

Sit-Upons are a proper Girl Scout tradition. They're inexpensive, fairly easy to make, and a great way to introduce the concept of sewing (without a machine).

There are lots of different approaches, and not a lot of wrong ways to go about making a Sit-Upon, but the basic gist is:

- Waterproof material exterior
- Padded interior
- Some form of water/weatherproofing for exposed seams/edges

. . . and that's pretty much it! Anything else is just gettin' fancy. ;) Some leaders prefer to make these out of bucket lids, so the girls don't have to sit on the ground (plus, they can carry things in their buckets!). But keep in mind it can be tiring for little ones to carry big 5-gallon buckets everywhere when at camp.

The smaller square versions can also be used at camp, sporting events, wherever, and are more easily portable than the bucket versions. But they can't be used to carry other items in them, like you can with a bucket.

Because I wanted this to be the introduction to sewing for my Brownies, we went with the square versions instead of buckets.

As with all my posts, go with whatever works best for your girls. :)

To make a traditional Sit-Upon, you will need:

1. Waterproof Reusable Shopping Bags (it's okay if the handles and sides are a mesh material (this material is called "non-woven" even though it looks woven. The key is the front and back of the bag need to be laminated. You can use vinyl-type tablecloths cut into squares instead, if you prefer. Some people use the "non-woven" bags and cover completely in duct tape for weatherproofing. But it can get expensive). One for each girl, plus one for you (not a bad idea to get a spare to experiment with, if you're new to sewing)
2. Hole Puncher (regular size -- don't get the 1/8" confetti size. Those holes aren't big enough)
3. Yarn (pre-cut strands, prepped with masking tape on both ends; bring your skein to the meeting, along with the roll of tape, as well; see below for details)
4. Masking Tape
5. Adult-Sized Scissors (don't use your expensive sewing scissors. The ones you use will end up with lots of duct tape residue on them)
6. Duct Tape (bring more rolls than you think you'll need)
7. Padding (I used an old, old mattress pad, cut into 10" squares. These are some super comfy Sit-Upons! You can use newspapers, but keep in mind you'll need to ensure ALL the edges/seams are sealed well, because wet newspaper gets kind of gross. Packing foam works well too. Bubblewrap? Not so much, unless you have Girl Scouts who never bounce. Because otherwise bubblewrap will pop and flatten pretty quickly. Magazines can work, but may not be big enough. Be sure to remove staples if you use magazines). As with everything else, get creative, and use your resources wisely!
8. Sharpies (optional)
9. Adult Volunteers, especially if you have a large troop

Dollar Store Score! These polypropylene bags cost $1 each, and are laminated on front and back, to make them durable and waterproof. The sides are non-laminated polypro and not waterproof, but we're going to cover that bit up, so that's okay.

How to Make a Sit-Upon:

Step One: Flatten your bags and measure the padding to go inside. Be sure to leave room for the edges to be sewn together easily. My padding was ~2" smaller than my bags, so roughly 10" square.

Keep your bags flat throughout this process. Once you open them up, it's a lot harder to keep the padding in place, and to stitch/seal. 

Step Two: With the padding tucked securely inside the bag and centered, flatten the edges of the bag with one hand, and use the hole puncher to go through ALL edges in one punch, all the way around the bag.

Do not punch through the padding.

I punched my holes about 1-1/2" apart, roughly. Don't punch too close to the edge, as it won't be as reinforced when stitching and will tear easier. You'll be punching through many layers at once, in some parts of the bag.

You can sharpen a dull hole puncher by snipping through layers of sandpaper, if need be. If you have a ton of bags to do, wear a glove to protect your hand from the pressure of repetitive hole-punching.

Step Three (for You): Measure and prep the yarn.

When you're making your sample one, don't tie off the yarn when you begin. Run it through with masking tape on one tip only, leaving the yarn connected to your skein at the end.

Once you've stitched all the edges, and have enough left to tie off (~4-5" inches on each end), then snip the end connected to the skein. Carefully pull the yarn out of your Sit-Upon, and measure the length of your yarn.

Cut strands that length, one for each girl (I actually made them a couple inches longer than mine, just to be safe). Then immediately apply the masking tape to both ends of the strands (otherwise it will fray and you'll have to trim the yarn before taping the ends). Your masking tape tip should be at least 1-1/2" long.


Step Three (for the Girls): Hand-stitch ("sew") using classic overcast stitch (continuous loops around the edge). Start up at one corner near the top, so when you're finished, you can tuck the ends of the yarn down into the bag easily.

Don't aim for perfection. This is all about function, not form. Reassure your girls that it's okay if they make a mistake. It'll be covered with duct tape anyway.

Leave 5" or so as a tail for your yarn (you shouldn't need to anchor your yarn or knot it. It should stay put as is, but you can do a small overhand knot if you like, at the beginning) so you have something to tie it to once you're done.

Pull it taut (carefully) all the way around, so the edges are snugly together as you go. If you pull too tightly though, it may rip the fabric slightly. Which is no big deal, because you're covering it up with duct tape!

Don't be intimidated by the handles. You can stitch in between if necessary. The point is to try to keep the edges as flat as possible, and the holes lined up fairly well. But don't fret if it gets a little off-kilter; you're going to cover it all up. 

Be sure to have adult volunteers on hand for this project, as the girls are not only learning how to hand stitch, but also how to do it effectively. And the bags can be unwieldy when you begin. 

Your adults don't need to know how to sew in order to help. They just need to be on hand to assist the girls as needed, especially when it comes to cutting the duct tape!

Bring extra yarn and the roll of masking tape, and plenty of scissors (child-sized ones are too small to cut duct tape effectively, so I asked my adult helpers to bring along a pair of regular scissors with them). It is possible the yarn might break, especially for very enthusiastic seamstresses! :) If that happens, tie off the broken part, then prep a new strand on the spot with masking tape, tie it through a hole onto the broken part, trim the broken part, or tuck it inside the bag, and continue.

When finished, tie the yarn ends together (remove any slack in your stitches), and tuck the ends down into the bag.

Step Four: Once the edges are nice and snug (so you've hidden ALL of the "non-woven"/non-weatherproof bits, except for the handles and trim), cut a piece of duct tape that is slightly longer than the length of the bag, and place along one side, covering the holes and stitched. Fold the tape over carefully, so that both sides of the bag have all holes covered, for weatherproofing. Don't worry if there's some hanging at the ends. You can fold it over and cover with duct tape when doing the top/bottom edges.

Cover up everything you just did. The duct tape will be folded over to cover both sides of holes/stitching, and will effectively prevent moisture from seeping in through the holes.

Do the same on the other side, and then along the bottom of the bag.

Taping the top can be tricky, because you want to seal the holes, but still leave the handles accessible. First, cut two small lengths of duct tape to go on the outside of the handles. Apply as you've done with the side edges. Then take a third strip of duct tape and place in between the handles. Adhere to one side, then fold over, between the handles, to cover those holes.

Top edge, with three separate pieces of duct tape.

Once you've done all this, and all holes/seams are taped, you are going to use four additional strips of duct tape, cut slightly shorter than the length of each side (cut as you go, otherwise the duct tape will stick to itself and become a wadded up mess). Use two per side, at the top and bottom.

One goes on the front/top, covering the exposed edges of your three pieces, but is not folded over the edge. The other goes over the bottom folded tape, but flat on the front side only. 

Using additional strips of duct tape reinforces the folded/seam tape, and helps keep it in place. 

You may need to do the same to the sides as well, or just certain areas (corners, etc.) and that's okay. It's better to have a little too much tape than not enough. And some of the girls may need extra tape -- let them do as much of this as possible. 

Now, flip the bag over and do the same on the back side.

Reinforce corners as needed. Fold any overlapping bits and tape over them. Anything left hanging will eventually start to come unstuck, so tape it well.

You do not need to duct tape the whole bag, unless you're using the "non-woven" bags, which are too breathable to be waterproof, and are also pretty hard to clean.

Non-woven bags are made of polypropylene, and are very lightweight, but not terribly durable, or weatherproof. It can be costly to completely cover a bag in duct tape -- more so than buying the laminated bag, or using laminated tablecloths, etc.

Step Five (Optional): Use Sharpie to write names on the bags, and/or color the bags, if desired. 

Please note, regardless of the material used, if the surface is laminated/waterproof, Sharpie will rub off onto skin, especially if you've applied lotion or bug spray, etc. To prevent this, apply a sealant over the Sharpie. 

Test your sealant first, as it may cause the Sharpie to run or fade. Generic permanent markers seemed to fade more than Sharpie brand, but your mileage may vary.

My Sit-Upon! I love it. :) I decorated one side only, with a mix of Sharpie and generic, let it dry completely, then coated with waterproofing Mod Podge. It took several days for the surface to dry completely, and the generic markers did fade slightly, but it turned out great! 

Next up? A Fun and Easy Way to Learn Basic Sewing Stitches!

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

How to Train Your Dragon Fun Patch (All Levels)

Oh gosh, y'all, it's been ages since I've posted! Sorry. Life's been hectic. Two troops, two homerooms, several websites, and my house is in shambles. So of course, forget the laundry. Let's update the blog!

Woohoo! I survived the holidays! 

Anyway. So, let's get right to it shall we? First off, prepare yourself for a bit of a scavenger hunt, because the fun patches we used for this were a one time special edition patch that is no longer available (sorry!). So, sharpen those Google skills, and head out to magical eBay, Etsy, and other online sites for your own Dragon Trainer fun patches. I have faith you'll find something.

We took two meetings to cover this fun patch, and used several of the suggested steps below. As with any fun patch, you're welcome to adjust as needed to best fit your troop. I did this with third grade Brownies. The list of steps runs the gamut though: you'll find fun activities for Daisies all the way up to S/A in here.

So this post is a little different. Normally I type up in great detail what we did. This time, I'm giving you a host of activities to choose from. Knock yourselves out! ;)

And if some of these won't quite work for you, do some searches for How to Train Your Dragon party games/activities. There are gobs of parenting blogs out there loaded with great suggestions that could be incorporated into a fun patch!

Awww, look at this great picture! Thanks, Google.

How to Train Your Dragon Patch Requirements

Each level completes a different number of requirements (preferably at least one from each section if possible): Daisies – 2 to 3, Brownies – 3 to 4, Juniors – 4 to 5, C/S/A – 5 or more

Feel free to adjust the suggested steps, or change the requirements to fit your troop's needs. These are suggestions only for this fun patch. 

The focus is on Knowledge, Loyalty (Friendship), and Diplomacy.

  1. Research dragons or other mythological creatures. Share one fact (or more) with the troop.
  2. Draw a picture of your own made-up mythological creature (or make a sculpture, or write a list of its features, etc.). Can work in teams to show Friendship and Diplomacy.*
    *We did this one but a bit differently. I had each girl create her own creature and name it (Rainbow Boogers anyone? Ha!), then everyone slid their paper one girl to the left, and that girl added a new feature and new characteristic/talent to the creature, while respecting the original artist's work. It was fun! It was a good exercise in working together, in being Diplomatic by pointing out the positives, etc.
  3. Write a story or poem about your favorite animal (real, extinct, or mythological/imaginary).
  4. Pick a wild animal and learn about it: habitat, food, etc.
  5. Learn about endangered animals. What can you do to help them?
  6. Do you have a pet? How do you take care of it? Do something special for your pet (make braided leashes, decorate leashes/collars with fabric pens, look at the ingredients in the pet food, research healthy foods for pets, do something for your local animal shelter, etc.).*
    *We incorporated out Pets badge into the HtTYD meetings. It was a good fit.
  7. What are some misconceptions people have about some animals (think of an animal that is viewed as dangerous – versus those that are not viewed as dangerous)? Are these views always accurate? What are some safety tips for interacting with animals (dogs, cats, ocean/beach, even insects)?
  8. Play the “Which Animal Am I?” game: Write the name of various animals on slips of paper. Place in a bowl/hat, and have each girl draw one, then act out the animal. Girls guess who you are, and next one takes a turn.
  9. Make paper dragons (Google “origami dragons” for instructions, and/or make paper airplanes and decorate with faces, etc.). Here's a good site: http://www.wikihow.com/Make-Origami-Dragons
  10. Or paper airplanes colored as dragons. Have races to see whose goes the farthest.

  1. How do loyalty and friendship fit into Girl Scouting?
  2. Play a collaborative game.
  3. Break up into teams (buddies) and design your own team colors.
  4. Design a logo for your team.
  5. Use face paint for teams (HTTYD2 Dragon Races) and have relay races.
  6. Pretend you are chief of your village (town/city). What are some things you would do as chief, to help your village?
  7. Show your support for your “village” (school, town, sports team, etc.), by attending an event wearing its colors.
  8. Create a troop banner (using troop crest or other design).
  9. Write one funny fact about yourself (something you like, something you can do, etc.), but don't put your name on it. Place all facts in a bowl and draw them one at a time. Have girls try to guess who wrote what.
  10. Working with a buddy: Make Viking shields with one other our of cardboard and markers/duct tape.
  11. Working with a buddy: Make Viking helmets for each other out of cardboard and duct tape: http://bugbooandbean.blogspot.com/2011/04/dragon-party-armour-part-1-viking-hats.html
  12. Come up with your own activity here.

  1. When you have a disagreement with someone, what are some healthy ways to resolve it? What are some unhealthy ways?
  2. Have a mock debate. Pick the topic (can be something serious like Animal Preservation for older girls; something less serious/more opinion-based -- like cats versus dogs -- for younger ones) and draw names out of a hat to choose sides.
  3. How can you have a difference of opinion and still live by the GS Law (key: Respecting Others)?
  4. What is an ambassador/representative? How are you an ambassador/representative for your troop?
  5. Discuss ways wearing your GS vest impacts how others view you. What about school shirts/uniforms? And so on.
  6. Do a postcard exchange with a troop in another country/area.
  7. Pair off into buddies. Come up with three things you have in common: these must be common interests (not just how old you are, in the same GS troop, etc.). You can find something in common with ANYONE if you're willing to try.
  8. Learn about one aspect of government or law, and how it works to help resolve or prevent conflict.
  9. Your own Diplomatic activity here.

Other Just for Fun Activities:
  1. Pretend you're riding a dragon. Create an obstacle course near your meeting place and have “dragon races” around it.
  2. Have a tournament with your paper airplane dragons, from the top of a slide or other (safe) location.
  3. Use fabric markers to make t-shirts with your team logo/design on them.
  4. Play “Chase the Dragon's Tail”: Everyone stands in a line and places their hands on the shoulders of the person in front of them. The first person in line is the Dragon. The last person is the Tail. The Dragon tries to catch the Tail without breaking the line. When the Dragon succeeds, she becomes the Tail, and the next person in line becomes the Dragon (and so on).
  5. Play “Simon Says” with a Dragon twist: Choose a dragon-y name for yourself instead of Simon.
  6. Here are some free online coloring page templates from HTTYD: http://www.coloring-book.info/coloring/coloring_page.php?id=237

Note: Check to see if you can also work badges into these activities. Many of the steps will work for Wearable Art (retired** Brownie Try-It), Pets, etc. Check your guidebook and Google for more ideas!

**Yes, I know, there's a big hoo-ha over whether "retired" badges are still official. Honestly? While I'm incredibly picky about many things, this is one battle I'm not even given more than this bit of thought to: If it ain't broke, don't fix it. Loads of retired badges are still relevant. If you can find them, earn them, and wear them proudly. Is that the "official" stance? No clue. I'm not even Googling this one. Because I'm still hoping they'll bring them out of retirement and give us full access once more....

Here are some things we did:
First, I had them come up with three great things about themselves. Not things they were interested in (Legos! Ponies! Glitter!) but actually think about their strengths, their best traits, as well as the things they held dear (Family, Friendship, etc.) that helped guide them, helped make up their goals. Most of the girls wrote things like "Smart!" and "Creative!" Some had a challenging time with it and needed some encouragement. We involved each other in this -- pointing out each other's best qualities. It was good! 

Once they came up with their three traits, I had them draw three things (anything they wanted) to represent those traits, to create a personal Coat of Arms.

I love it when the girls get creative. They did a great job!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Brownies: Harry Potter Magic/Science Fun Patch (2 Meetings)

So the top patch the girls picked to work on was a Harry Potter "Scientific Sorcery" patch. I found the patches on a Facebook site that sells patches for troop leaders, based upon popular movies, books, etc. There are a variety of wizard-themed fun patches out there. Any of them would work. You don't have to use Harry Potter, but my girls like HP, so that's what we did. :)

Some of these activities could work for other patches/badges. It's basically fun science experiments, with a little magical twist.

First up, we made magic wands! You may choose to make them ahead of time, and let the girls paint them, or have the girls make them from start to finish. It involves a glue gun (must have for this project), so be sure to use a low-temp one if the girls will be doing the first part themselves.

Because I have a large troop, and didn't have enough glue guns to go around, I pre-made the wands, and they painted them.

When I brought them in for the girls to paint, I had them raise their right hands and repeat after me:


They all repeated dutifully and then the fun began!

How to Make Wands

You will need the following supplies to do this:

Small wooden dowels (one per girl)
Glue gun (low temp)
Lots of glue sticks (like a whole bag. Seriously. This project takes LOTS of glue sticks)
Twine (don't get hemp, or something that frays. I used cotton cooking twine. It worked great!)
Beads (optional but fun; one per girl)
Paint (we used acrylic craft paint)
Brushes or sponges with handles
Painting dishes/water bowls
Paper towels
Baking sheet for a drying rack (optional)
Gallon Ziplocs to put them in afterwards, if they're still a little wet

Stuff You Will Need

First, glop glue around the base of the dowel (yeah, glop is a word. If not, it should be, because this is a very gloppy project). Stick the end of the twine around the bottom of the dowel.

You'll want to glop on enough glue (about three inches or so) from the bottom of the dowel, up its sides. Coat this section well. This is going to form the handle of your wand.

Wrap the twine around it as you go, pressing it into the glue, to form a nice grippy handle.

Making magic!

Then apply (glop!) glue up the dowel at an angle, like a candy cane. Twist the dowel as you go, and apply (glop!) glue. Pause and stick the twine to the glue as you go (hot glue dries pretty fast). Don't worry if it's a mess. Paint will cover it up. The purpose of the glue and twine is to give it texture.

This is what I mean by candy cane shape

Then once you get to the top, glop on a good bit of glue and wrap the twine and squish it into the glue really well. Clip the twine. Glop glue on the very top of the wand, and stick a bead on it. Put lots of glue around the base and side of the bead (the purpose of the bead is to make the tip rounded, so use beads that are the same size as your dowel is thick, if that makes sense).

You need that extra glue around the bead, or else it will pop off

Once you're finished, add more glue around the base, over the twine. This will help ensure the twine doesn't come off, and will add more grip, and make it more comfy.

They're all a little bit different. That's okay!

Stack them somewhere to dry. I just criss-crossed mine on top of a can. Be careful not to put super gloppy wet ones on top of another one that's gloppy, as they'll stick together.



I left mine overnight to dry. But it doesn't take long for hot glue to dry. I just did all this ahead of time. If you're doing it during a meeting, and the girls are using the glue guns, you can set them up to dry and have a snack, or skip to the next activity, while they're drying. Keep in mind you will also need drying time after painting. So if you're crunched on time, make them yourself ahead of time, and let the girls paint them. Then have an activity to do while the paint dries. It took our paint 25-30 minutes to dry enough to put into gallon Ziplocs to take home.

Ready to paint!

I packed them up, along with a bunch of paint and foam brushes with handles (paper towels, water containers -- I use plastic restaurant take-out containers. They lids were turned upside down and used as palettes, the bowls were used for water. Bring lots of paper towels), and took them in to the troop meeting. I let the girls choose whatever colors they wanted. Some were solid. Some were multi-colored. All were unique. I told them to paint over the beads if they wanted (this helped them not fuss about who got whatever favorite color bead, etc.).

This is mine. Because I wanted a wand too!

Mine is brown, because I wanted it to look like wood.

After they finished painting, they laid them to dry in an old baking pan (I brought it in from home). After they were mostly dry, when it was time to go home, we put each one in a gallon Ziploc for each girl.

While waiting on the wands to dry, we started talking about light and photography. I brought out my camera and asked them what would happen if I turned off all the lights and tried to take a picture, without the flash on. "It wouldn't work!" they all said. Yep. Wouldn't work. You have to have LIGHT to take pictures. We talked a little about how photography works, and the importance of light.

"LUMOS" is the Harry Potter spell for making light. You can talk about the root/stem part of the word "Lum" for light (luminous, luminaries, etc.), if you want. Or pick another spell from Harry Potter as your focus, if you don't want to do this project. It should be something scientific though, IMO. Try Googling Harry Potter party ideas, etc. There are some super creative ideas out there!

Nature Photo Paper Project

Here's a great resource for this project, and many others!

What you will need for this:

Nature/Sunlight Photo Paper
Cardboard (about 5x8" works)
Straight pins or tacks (straight pins work better, I think)
Plastic container with water in it (I used a Tupperware style rectangle shape one, packed supplies in it, then put water in it when we were ready to go outside)
Access to the outdoors, including found objects and sunlight (cloudy day can work but takes longer)
Letter stickers or a Sharpie (if you use stickers, the small fat foam ones work best. I got mine at Walmart for cheap. That link is to Amazon. Try Walmart first. Pick out first initial for each girl ahead of time so you aren't digging at the last minute)
Cardboard box with lid to put it all in
Gallon Ziplocs

I purchased some sunlight photo paper ahead of time (best deal I found was here). Be sure to get enough for some extras in case someone messes up (we didn't have anyone upset over how hers turned out though, but any exposure to light can muck it up. Don't expect them to be perfect. The focus is on the role of light, not creating a perfect photo).

I had other moms helping me, so we could get it done in a timely manner. It can get tricky when you're dealing with a large troop, so get some helpers if you have lots of girls.

Take the troop outside and explain to them what they will be doing. They have 10 minutes (or whatever), to find at least two objects. The most solid the better: so a rock, small pinecone, heavy leaf, etc., works well. Something very lightweight or thin, that sunlight could penetrate (like a super thin leaf), won't work as well, but is still okay. Good to have at least one thick, heavier object if possible.

While they're off finding their objects, be in a VERY shaded spot. Take one piece of paper out of the package (they come in a covered, sealed package to prevent light from getting in. Don't open them until you're ready to use them), get out your straight pins, cardboard sheets, and stickers (or Sharpie). Line them up on the ground in the shade. Carefully pin (at an angle so the pins aren't poking through) the corners of the paper to the cardboard (this is to keep it from blowing away). Lay the sticker on the PAPER (don't stick it -- just lay it on there. If you use the fat foam letters then they won't blow away). Or write initials/name in Sharpie at the bottom of each sheet. I didn't use Sharpie, so no clue if it acts weird.

As the girls return with their objects, pin any object that could blow away onto the paper. Then hand it to the girl and have her immediately go into the sun, and lay it on a flat spot (sidewalk) and don't let any shadows cover it. Stand by your sheet, don't let your shadow fall on it.

Keep going until all the girls are lined up next to their paper with objects. Hold up pretend wands (because actual ones were inside, drying, or use actual ones if yours are dry) and say, "LUMOS!"

The paper will begin to turn a different shade of blue once it's ready (about 5-8 minutes in full sun. 15-25 if it's cloudy). Once the paper is ready, have them come back into the shade and remove the objects and pins from the paper (don't drop the pins. It's tough to find them in grass. Not that we did that. Not too many, at least).

Take the paper off the cardboard one at a time. Submerge each paper in your container of water (one at a time). Doesn't take long at all. Just needs to get wet.

As soon as you pull it from the water, you can see the pictures of the items on it. Very cool! Yay!

Place paper back on cardboard, in the shade, to dry. Don't have to pin it. It'll stick because it's damp.

Laid out in the shade to dry

It's like . . . MAGIC!

After they've dried completely, the images will be even clearer. The kids LOVED this project! The moms did too. :) Science is fun!

Making GAK

For our second HP meeting, we made "GAK" (a sticky, gooey, gross mess. They loved it!). Gak is pretty much a staple in Girl Scouts, like Sit-Upons. Everyone needs to make gak at some point. Because it's a blast! It's crazy messy though, so make sure they roll up their sleeves and take off their vests beforehand.

Before we got started, I asked them what the word "durable" means. I was surprised at how challenging it was for them to come up with the right answer. (Kids surprise you; sometimes they can tell you the most complicated things, and other times? They don't know what durable means. It was fun!)

I picked up a spoon and dropped it on the floor. DURABLE! Hard to break. We talked about the difference between a wooden spoon and a plastic one. If I bent the wooden one it would be hard to break. If I bent the plastic one, it would break (I didn't break one. I needed them all). Which one is more durable? What else is durable? (The tables! The stools! The floor!) What isn't very durable? (A straw! Paper! And so on.)

The Harry Potter spell for making things solid/hard is "DURO" -- so we practiced saying "DURO!" and talked about the root/stem word and durable, etc.

We also talked about polymers and elastomers (Google it), and how spaghetti behaves (you could accomplish the same goal for this by making spaghetti instead of gak, but we don't have a stove at our meeting place. Plus, gak is fun). And how when spaghetti is dry, it doesn't stick together, but after it's boiled, and drained, it does. You can get as scientific/specific (or not) as you like here. Key is to keep it fun.

Anyway. On to gak!

There are tons of websites with instructions, but I'll go ahead and list it all here just so it's convenient for you.

What you will need:

Measuring spoon (or measure ahead of time 1 tsp.)
Measuring cup (1/2 cup)
One regular sized bottle of glue per TWO girls (I split them into pairs)
1 tsp. Borax per pair (I measured ahead of time and put into small Tupperware containers)
Plastic cups (1 per pair. I brought in a bunch of the "Take-and-Toss" cups)
Wooden spoons (1 per pair. Long-handled kind. Metal doesn't work as well as wooden, in my experience)
Small plastic spoons (1 per pair -- picnic type spoons)
Medium-sized plastic bowls (1 per pair. I bought some at the Dollar Store on clearance)
Package of food coloring (liquid -- the four-pack worked fine for the whole troop)
Access to a sink with warm water
PAPER TOWELS. A fat roll. This is messy stuff!
Sandwich or quart-sized Ziplocs with each girl's name written on the outside in Sharpie

Clear off the tables. Use your Kapers here for set-up, but each pair is responsible for cleaning up her own mess. You will need adult helpers, likely, especially if you have a lot of girls.

Put down paper towels. Give each pair a mixing bowl, wooden spoon, and bottle of glue.

The girls do the work: open the glue (easier to unscrew the top off completely than to squirt) pour into the bowl. Once it's mostly empty, fill it up with warm water. Carefully pour the water into the bowl and one girl (the 'stirrer") begin to stir. Some websites say add more warm water. Don't do it. Even the one full glue bottle's worth might be a bit much. But that's okay. You can't really mess up gak.

Give each pair the small container of Borax, or let them measure out 1 teaspoon of Borax for their gak. DO NOT DUMP IT INTO THE BOWL. Put 1/2 cup water (warm or room temp) into your Take-and-Toss cups. Then have the girls slowly add the Borax into the cup and stir, using the plastic spoon (other "stirrer" is still stirring glue mixture). Then carefully pour the Borax/water solution into the glue/water solution. Stir carefully.

OOOOOH! GROSS! COOL! NEAT! ACK! GAK! (I don't have pictures. I was too busy being messy. Google it!)

Walk around the room and ask them what color they want their gak to be. Work as teams! They all did great! :) Squirt a couple drops of food coloring into each mixing bowl (another adult is collecting the Take-and-Toss cups and Borax containers and rinsing out, while someone else is handing out more paper towels to the kids. Love my adult volunteers!). Mix slowly. Don't slosh it out!

Once it's solidifying, pull out the spoon and use your hands. Too liquidy? No problem! Just pull the wad of gak out of the bowl (set bowl aside) and place directly on the table. Do not place on a paper towel. It will stick.

Continue to knead it. Split it in half so each pair of girls has her own gak to knead. Play with it! Fun!

Once they're done, time to clean up! Lots of hand-washing and table-washing. Put the gak into the Ziplocs and straight into their backpacks.

Gak! Just as good as the kind you can buy. And way more fun, because you made it yourself!


The last thing we did for Harry Potter was kind of unrelated. But doesn't have to be. You can do whatever you like, really. A dry ice experiment, something with glowsticks, whatever! But one of our volunteer dads is good with knot-tying stuff (and archery and all kinds of thing), and came in to teach the girls how to tie different knots.

My original plan was to incorporate magic tricks in this activity (it is for Harry Potter after all), but we ended up running short on time once our knot expert arrived, and had to skip the magic show and dive straight into knots. That's okay. The girls didn't know about the magic tricks. They were excited that we had a visitor, and still hyper from all the gak-making.

Whether you have a visitor come, or you do it yourself, you will need at least two lengths of rope per girl, and a carabiner is nice to have as well. Decide ahead of time which knots you want to teach them (we focused primarily on square knots, and a couple others depending on how quickly each girl was able to accomplish the square knot). Here's a site with some info on knots.

Step-by-step with pictures: How to tie a square knot.

Why doesn't GSUSA offer a Brownie badge for this? No clue. So I found a fun patch that will be a bonus to the HP patch they're getting:

Overall, I'm pleased to say Harry Potter Scientific Sorcery was a HUGE hit! They had a blast. And so did I!

Up next? Pets! Or maybe How to Train Your Dragon. Happy, fall, all! :)

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Daisies & Brownies: Combined Troops and Badge Work

I've had a request for suggestions regarding mixed level troops (Daisy/Brownie), and how to meet the needs of each level's badge work with combined activities.

Sp, below is a list of Daisy Petals and which Brownie badge might correspond with it, or have similar activities. Also, don't forget about Brownies earning their Bridging to Juniors badge. Many of the typical activities for Daisy petals can be an opportunity for Brownies to help out, too. Look at doing some Try-Its as well, if you don't have a large troop and have access to the badges. The suggestions for Brownie badges here are in no particular order. There are also fun patches that can correspond to petals.

Some of the suggested badges may not seem to work at first glance, but basically there is an opportunity for Daisies to earn their petals while participating in some of the same activities Brownies can do while earning those badges. For instance, yellow petal can go with the art-focused badges, if the works of art are for gifts, to be donated, etc. Red petal can go with Senses if you have them taste new things or reach into something squishy. And so on. 

I would sit down and go through my calendar, see how many times your troop will meet this year, and how long you have with each level (is this first year Daisies? Then you can spread the petals out over two years, etc.). Have goals for the year and the levels (second year Brownies to complete X steps towards Bridge badge, etc.), and then start matching up what looks like it will work.

Also, Daisies might do 3 steps of something while Brownies do 5, with 3 of the 5 steps being tailored towards Daisies, and so on.

Center Blue (Promise) –
Girl Scout Way
Making Friends
Light Blue (honest & fair) –
Making Games
Making Friends
Fair Play
Yellow (friendly & helpful) –
My Great Day
Making Friends
Fair Play
Light Green (considerate & caring) –
Household Elf
Making Friends
Red (courageous & strong) –
My Best Self
First Aid
Safety Award
Orange (responsible for what I say & do) –
Safety Award
Home Scientist
Household Elf
(general Kapers too)
Purple (respect myself & others) –
Making Friends
My Best Self
My Great Day
First Aid
Family Story
Fair Play
Making Games
Celebrating Community
Magenta (respect authority) –
First Aid
Celebrating Community
My Best Self
My Family Story
Making Games
Fair Play
(cookie badges too)
Green (use resources wisely) –
Household Elf
Home Scientist
Computer Expert
Making Games
GS Way
Rose (make the world a better place) –
Household Elf
My Great Day
GS Way
Violet (be a sister to every GS) –
Making Friends
My Family Story
Making Games
Fair Play
Celebrating Community
GS Way

All the money/business badges can go easily with the Daisy leaves, I think. Safety Awards as well. I would recommend having separate Journey-in-a-Day events, if your girls want to tackle Journeys.