Category Archives: Free Downloads

Hot Cocoa for a Cause

If you have been following along on Instagram the past few weeks, you have seen me post and talk about the hot cocoa stand my kids did last year to earn money they could use to buy toys for those in need. It was an amazing experience and one we are going to make a tradition.

I decided to share all the details about it in hopes that it might inspire some of you to set up a hot cocoa stand of your own to raise money for charity. I have loved the response I have seen on Instagram and I hope this can be a guide for you to use while you prepare and set up one of your own.

How did it start?

Let me first give you a little backstory and then we’ll get into all the details. I’ll share some free signs and games you can use for your toy and hot cocoa stand, too.

Last year while my kids and I were reading The Friends magazine, we came across a story of a boy that earned money to buy a toy for someone in need by setting up a hot cocoa stand. After a few years of trying different ways of helping others during the holidays, we came across that special way for our family to serve together. This is what I had been searching for!

I decided to have the kids make homemade toys to sell along with the hot cocoa to make them work harder for the money. You hear so much these days about how our generation is raising entitled children who expect everything to be handed to them. These are not the kind of people I want to raise and send out into the world. I wanted my kids to invest a lot of their time and talents into something that, in the end, would benefit someone else instead of themselves. I also wanted a project that would require the whole family to work together and spend more quality time with each other. The hot cocoa stand was the answer. It allowed us to make a bigger impact than we normally would have been capable of on a small income. We gathered some supplies and got right to work. It was the perfect way to start the holiday season.

If this sounds like the answer to what your family has been missing during the Christmas season, I invite you to join us by hosting a hot cocoa stand of your own this year. Let me tell you all my tips and tricks for making it a success.

Prepare your kids

When I first told my kids (ages 4,4 and 2) about my idea for them to make toys and sell them, they loved it. They thought they were going to earn a ton of money to buy whatever they wanted. Umm… not quite. We had some expectations to clear up first, and I’m glad we did.

Each day as we sat down to make toys I would ask them what they were going to do with all of these toys. They would tell me that they were going to give them to their friends, or sell them to people at the cocoa stand. When I would ask what they were going to do with the money they earned from selling the toys they would get a big smile and tell me they were going to buy toys. Then I would ask them who they were buying toys for, and they would shout “Us!” Wrong answer, kiddos.

I’m glad we spent time working on this hot cocoa stand for a few weeks so that I could have all that time to continually review with them again and again what our purpose was. We talked about how some kids didn’t have toys, some just wanted new coats, and some didn’t even have homes. This was the first time they finally started to put the pieces together of how blessed they were in this life, and that they had the power and duty to help others.

Make the process of creating toys and games a fun experience. We worked on one project each day so the kids didn’t feel burned out. Every day they would wake up and be so excited to see what the “toy of the day” was.

I would have the table all prepped and ready for them to start working. We listened to Christmas music and I also filmed them making toys. They thought it was so fun to teach how to make each item on a movie. Almost like their own little YouTube channel.

ADVERTISING

I know it can be hard to share and talk about a service project you and your family are doing. It’s scary wondering how people are going to take it and if it’s going to come across self-righteous. I struggle with this. It’s not something I’m comfortable sharing, but if we wanted to provide a better Christmas for others, we needed people to come to our hot cocoa stand, right? I had to advertise and put ourselves out there. If it was just me selling something, I probably wouldn’t have spread the news like I did, but it was my kids who had worked so hard and were so eager to see this succeed too. I had to do all that I could to support them.

This meant I posted about it on Instagram and our neighborhood Facebook page. I let friends and family know what the kids had been working on and when the hot cocoa stand would be open. We posted signs along the streets with arrows giving directions to the hot cocoa stand, similar to what you would do for a yard sale. The boys are in kindergarten now and will get to take flyers to their classmates and friends on the bus inviting them to come to the hot cocoa stand.

Free Hot Cocoa for a Cause Kit

And now, here I am blogging about the whole experience to hopefully make a bigger impact. Your interest from my posts on Instagram sparked an idea to provide a free kit with signs and some game templates for you to download and print to help make your hot cocoa stand a success. If you have found this helpful, please share and help us make an even bigger difference in the lives of those who are suffering and without this season.

The more people we can get involved the better. My kids may have made the toys and set up the stand, but without other people generously stopping, purchasing items and making cash donations, they wouldn’t have been able to help as many people as they did. It takes a village to serve each other and I was so grateful for our village that day. Together we raised almost $200 in those 2 hours. We were thrilled!

Free kit includes:

  • Advertising street signs
  • Donation sign
  • Two styles of flyers
  • Thank you tags
  • Don’t Eat Pete game
  • Santa Countdown – coloring page and colored picture

PICK A CHARITY

When picking a charity there are a few things to think about.

  1. What are their deadlines for donations?
    You obviously don’t want to have your hot cocoa stand after they’re no longer accepting donations. We had ours the middle of the month last year and almost learned this the hard way. We barely made the Toys for Tots deadline on their last day. Most other charities had already stopped accepting physical donations and were preparing to deliver them.
  2. Can you cover the remaining cost to provide Christmas to a family if your hot cocoa stand doesn’t raise as much money as planned?
    If you are going to select a Sub for Santa family or pick a name off the Angel Tree or another charity like that, can you still afford to provide Christmas for them if your sales aren’t as high as you had hoped? If your answer is no, find a different charity, such as Toys for Tots, where you can donate whatever you have and they will find a place for it.

HOT COCOA

I was nervous about how we were going to be able to keep the hot cocoa warm outside in the cold weather, but it all worked out surprisingly well. Here’s how we did it.

Supplied Needed:

  • 5 gallon cooler
  • hot cocoa mix
  • insulated cups and lids — I’m not sure if these are the exact ones I used last year, but they are close. I bought mine at Costco and loved that they were plain white.
  • straws
  • mints or creamers if you do a hot cocoa bar with toppings.

Directions:

We boiled large pots of water on the stove and poured them into the 5 gallon jug. Then we mixed in the hot cocoa with a giant spoon. The insulated cooler kept the hot cocoa warm for 2 hours. It was incredibly hot at the beginning of the hot cocoa stand, so make sure you and your customers are careful.

If want to have different flavors of hot cocoa, have some toppings such at mini candy canes, creamers and whipped cream. And remember, toppings are extra. ;) People won’t mind because it’s going to a good cause.

TOYS

Children’s handmade toys are absolutely adorable… to their moms. There, I said it. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love arts and crafts made by kids. I have a house full that I cherish, but will other people want to spend money on crafts your kids made? They will most likely be kind and buy one or two, but would be more likely to buy a kit of the craft to take home and have their own children make.

We selected toys and games our kids could make, but wouldn’t look like a child made it. That meant if we painted something, it was all one color. We used molds when shaping things, and packaged items with care. Reese, who was two at the time, helped with every single project and they all looked like quality items. I tried to limit my involvement to just prep work, and not the actual creation of each item. That part was left to the kids and they excelled. It was important for me to have the kids do most of the work. This was their project. I was just there to help and support when needed.

I have a few ideas for toys and games your kids can make that I’ll share below. You can also visit a Pinterest board I set up with more ideas.

Journals/Notebooks

I let my kids sort through all my paper stash and select the papers they wanted to use in notebooks. We mixed pattern paper with printer paper. I trimmed the paper down to size and then they put the papers in the order they wanted. After each notebook was organized, I folded the papers in half and punched the wholes for the binding. The boys then sewed the books together using this book binding tutorial. Reese was a little too small to sew the books, so she measured and cut the string. There was a job for everyone and each one was important.

Tic-Tac-Toe

Do you have a stash of cotton muslin bags? I do and I love it. They come in all sizes and are so handy to have on hand. I drew a tic-tac-toe board on the outside of the bag using a Sharpie. My kids searched the backyard for small rocks that they washed and painted. We put 5 of each color of rock in a bag and that was it. A fun tic-tac-toe game for kids to take with them on the go. You can also use pom-poms, buttons, plastic jewels and more for the markers.

Hot Cocoa Mix

This is such an easy one for kids. We put plastic triangle bags inside cups to help hold them upright. Then the kids passed them down the line as each one took a turn putting their ingredients in the bag. First hot cocoa, then crushed candy canes, and finally marshmallows. We used clear hair elastics to close them tight and then tied some string around to make it look pretty.

Bath Bombs

These were a hit at the hot cocoa stand. They are a great gift idea and stocking stuffer for all ages so they went fast. You can put little toy prices in the middle for younger kids to enjoy. I didn’t love the recipe we used last year because it was hard to mold, so I’m not posting it here. There are a ton of recipes out there though, so try some out and see what works for you.

 Matching Game

We used the cotton muslin bags again for this game along with some wood discs and stickers. I divided out the stickers for each game. 6 different stickers, 2 of each one -12 stickers and discs total. The kids put the stickers on each wooden disk. You could also apply temporary tattoos to the discs like I did here.

Don’t Eat Pete

This game is a huge favorite at our house. Kids of all ages can play. You can search online for Don’t Eat Pete games and find a ton, but I wanted one that the kids could make and sell. I made a blank board for the kids to put stickers on. Each sticker must be different. After the stickers were on, we laminated each game and attached a bag of candy. I included the the file in the free kit for you to download and use at your hot cocoa stand.

PRICING

When setting your prices, remember that this is a hot cocoa stand for people passing by. They are most likely going to spend their change or what little cash they have on hand, so don’t get too carried away with the products you make to sell. With that in mind, card readers are easy to get and might make a difference in what your hot cocoa stand can earn. The convenience of running a credit card at your stand would be very helpful for some.

We kept most of our items priced at $10 or lower, with the exception of a few weaving kits that were $13. Our hot cocoa was $.50 per cup so that a mom stopping could afford to get a hot chocolate for a car full of kids.

We had a few smaller items like packs of stickers and scratch cards that were a quarter or $.50. The rest of the toys were mostly $1-$5. I hope that was somewhat helpful.

People are so kind. Just about everyone would tell my kids to keep the change. We had a few neighbors give my boys a $5 bill for 2 cups of hot chocolate. We also had a jar with a lid on the stand where donations could go for those feeling extra generous.

BUILDING A STAND

Building a stand is completely unnecessary, but I love to decorate and go all out for any event so we made one. I LOVE it so much! I have used it all year long with other parties and it’s perfect. We used some pallets that our neighbors had leftover from laying sod in their yard. I love the wide planks on the front. If you don’t want to go through all the work of building a wood stand, a folding table with some chairs works just as great. :)

BUYING THE GIFTS

I’ll be honest, even after all the prepping I did that we would be buying presents for others kids, I was worried we would get to the store and my kids would not be on board and would just want the toys for themselves. I was completely wrong. They were amazing. They were so happy going through the isles picking out toys and talking about the kinds of kids they thought each one would be perfect for. I laughed when they were surprised at how quickly their money was spent. I feel that way all the time.

They were so proud handing the money to the cashier and paying for all of those toys themselves. That’s stuff grown-ups do and they were loving the responsibility.

The thing I love so much about this project was that it brought our family together with more quality time and my children learned some big lessons. You don’t have to go all out and make handmade toys, a wood stand and decorations. A simple table and jug of hot chocolate will work too. And if you don’t have the time or resources to set up a hot cocoa stand of your own, please support one that you may drive by. It takes baths sides and everyone working together to help those in need.

** If you host a hot cocoa stand with your family or friends, I would love to here about it and see pictures. You can email me through the contact page or send me a message on Instagram. #hotcocoaforacause

Thank you so much, and have Merry Christmas!

hot cocoa for a cause helping kids raise money for charity at Christmas #christmas #hotcocoastand

Redbox Neighbor Gifts | Free Download

Still trying to get last minute neighbor gifts made? Here is a very easy gift that your neighbors will actually like. Did you know you can give Redbox movie rental codes? It’s so easy to do and I even made a gift tag for you to write the codes on. Just print and cut out the gift tag, write down your Redbox codes, and tie to some popcorn or boxed movie theater candy. Read below to see how to purchase your codes for your Redbox neighbor gifts.

redbox code popcorn 5

redbox code popcorn wrap

How to purchase Redbox codes:
1. At the bottom of the Redbox home page, select “Redbox Gifts.”

redbox code step 1

2. Select “Promo Code Bundles”

redbox code step 2

3. Select the item you would like to give and the number of codes you wish to purchase from the drop-down menus. Add to cart and complete your purchase.

redbox code step 3

Merry Christmas!
-Amy

Gold Foil Printing Tutorial | FREE Download

joy goild foil gift tag 2 blog

One of the favorite projects at my advent workshop was gold foiling tags. Everyone couldn’t believe how easy it was. I have a gold foil printing tutorial for you today showing how you can make your own gold foil prints at home. Professional printers charge a lot to gold foil, but for a tiny fraction of the cost you can do it yourself in only a few minutes. The key is using laminating foil (available in a variety of colors) and laser prints. Download your FREE tags and follow the instructions below to create your own gold foil gift tags.

Supplies Needed:

laminating foil
laser printed tags
laminator or iron
text weight paper
scissors
twine

gold foil tutorial 1

Instructions:

  1. Place laser printed tag with design face up.
  2. Place gold foil on printed design. Gold side up.
  3. Keep the foil in position and place in between a half sheet of text weight paper. Cardstock is too thick and won’t allow the gold foil to get hot enough to adhere to the printed design.
  4. Set your laminator to the highest setting. If using an iron, set to the highest dry setting.gold foil tutorial 2
  5. Send the half sheet of paper through the laminator, folded end first.
  6. If using an iron, place on a hard surface and press down firmly on the half sheet of paper for about 30 seconds. Make sure to iron over the entire area of the printed design inside the paper. You may have to test out different times with your iron. Be sure to protect the hard surface you are ironing on with a thin cloth, while still keeping the surface firm.
  7. Peel off gold foil.
  8. Finish your tag with a string.

joy gold foil gift tag

You may have tiny flecks that don’t completely transfer to the printed design. All of the tags are printed in gold to help mask the little imperfections that come with doing it at home. This technique isn’t perfect, but for the price and convenience, you can’t go wrong.

FREE Download | Bubblegum Machine

bubblegum reading download

I have a free download for you today as promised. Keep your kids reading through the summer with this fun poem and a bag of bubblegum. This would also be a great gift to new students for the upcoming school year.  The free download is available as a .pdf to print out, and an .svg to cut out the bubblegum machine with your digital cutting machine. If you have a Silhouette you need to have the Designer Edition software to import. There is a promotion going on for 40% off Silhouette Studio Designer Edition using coupon code ROBISON at checkout.

button_julypromo_robison

FREE Download | Rainbow Kids Craft Tutorial

rainbow tutorial BLOG

I have a fun kids craft for you today. This is one I remember doing when I was little and thought it was the coolest thing. The steps are easy, and depending on the size of rainbow you print, this will keep your kids busy for a little while.

Supplies Needed:

  • Rainbow Card | Free Download
  • Tissue Paper in a rainbow assortment of colors, cut into 1.5″ squares
  • Glue
  • Pencil
  • Cotton Balls
  • Gold Candy (optional)

Instructions:

  1. Download and print the rainbow card. (The sample above is using the size that prints 4 to a page.) Cut tissue paper into 1.5″ squares
  2. Wrap a square of tissue paper around the eraser of a pencil.
  3. Lightly dip the end of the tissue paper into the glue.
  4. Press the tissue paper onto the rainbow card.
  5. Continue to add tissue paper along side the previous one going by colors and following in order of rows.
  6. Glue cotton balls or candy to the ends of the rainbow.

You can also use the rainbow cards with other media. Try coloring, painting or glueing colored candies to it. For Silhouette users, you can import the .svg file using the Designer Edition (currently on sale) and cut out all the pieces in different colors to be glued together. There are a variety of fun ways to decorate your rainbows while spending time the kiddos. How are you going to use the rainbow cards?

Magnet Valentine | FREE Printable

heart magnets 1 crop

Heart Magnets 3 crop blog

The last of the heart magnet posts is today. I have a FREE download for you of a Valentine card to go along with the hearts. You can use staples or paper clips to attach the magnet to the card. Don’t forget to use the strong magnets I recommend. It will make a world of difference, and you’ll thank me for it one day. These would make great Valentines for grandparents, parents, and friends.

Check out my other two posts on making the magnets and using tattoo paper to transfer images onto your hearts. Enjoy!

Temporary Tattoo Paper Tutorial | FREE Printable

tattoo tutorial BLOG

My Valentine party is today, and I wanted to quickly pop in and give you a tutorial on using the Tattoo Paper from Silhouette. This stuff is seriously awesome! You can use it on just about any surface! I’m going to show you how I used it on the plaster heart magnets I made.

tattoo tutorial BLOG

The tattoo paper comes with great instructions on the box, but I thought I’d just give you a visual step-by-step of the process.

  1. Print out your designs on the shiny side of the paper. I have provided some designs for you as a FREE download. Make sure to mirror the image before printing so your words aren’t backwards on your project after you transfer the image. Peel the top strip off of the blue sticky sheet.
  2. Line up the sticky side of the paper with the top edge of your designs. Press and seal out all the bubbles.
  3. Carefully transfer the rest of the clear sticky sheet from its blue backing onto your printed designs.
  4. Rub over the design making sure the adhesive transfers and also smooth out any air bubbles.
  5. Cut out your design to transfer.
  6. Peel the clear plastic off leaving the adhesive over your design. Put your design face down on the surface you’re transferring it to.
  7. Using a damp cloth, I used a wet wipe, press down on the design for about 15 seconds until the images transfers.
  8. You can spray with a clear sealant to protect your design if you would like. I didn’t on the magnets and they seem to be holding up fine.

Isn’t that amazing?!  will see you tomorrow with a free download of a Valentine card to go with the magnets. You can see a sneak peak on my Instagram.

DIY BINGO Cards | FREE Download

BINGO cards blog

I have another fun Valentine party activity today.  I did this with my family several years ago when all my nieces and nephews were little and they loved it. I thought it would work great for my party I’ll be throwing with my friends and their kids. I had each mom send me a picture of their kids, which I also used for the photo banner. I inserted their photos into this Bingo card and printed out 3×3 photos of each kid to use as the drawing cards. Little heart confetti makes perfect markers for the squares.

BINGO cards 2 blog

I made the Valentine cards a FREE Download. The file contains two different card styles depending on the number of photos you’ll be using. There is a 4×4 and a 5×5 card. Each card comes in .jpg and .png format.

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FREE DOWNLOAD | Valentine Banner

be mine

heart garland

I’m continuing with my new Valentine designs in the Silhouette store this week. I just added 12 new Valentine patterned papers today that I used for my heart garland. I printed out a full sheet of each pattern and then cut them with my Silhouette like I would with any other patterned paper. Sew along the top half of the hearts to keep them from flipping upside down when hung.  Continue reading

FREE DOWNLOAD | New Years Fireworks

Free Download | new year fireworks

Here’s a little treat to start off your New Year! It’s a free download for firework wrappers that coordinates with my New Years Party Kit that’s available in the Silhouette Online Store. Print and cut and they’re ready to go. Enjoy your celebrations and I’ll see you 2014!

New Years Fireworks SVG | New Years Fireworks PDF

Hip Hip Hooray! Free Download

hooray banner crop

I made this banner to celebrate my niece’s kindergarten graduation. It’s a great banner that can be used for many occasions, and goes well with a variety or party decorations. It would be fun for a summer party or to celebrate small achievements such as an A on a spelling test. Make little party favors using a coordinating tag, ribbon, and small paper sack.
hooray bag cropYou can find the free download HERE. If you have the Designer Edition of Silhouette Studio, you can simply import it and it’s ready to cut. For those of you that don’t have the Designer Edition, Silhouette is having an amazing sale right now. Click on the image below to link to their store. The sale prices are only available through the link HERE or by clicking on the image. Use code ROBISON at checkout to receive these promotional prices.

Silhouette Studio Designer Edition Promo

Have a wonderful 4th of July holiday and I’ll see you Friday!

Silhouette Promotion + Free Download and Tutorial

Silhouette has a great promotion going on right now for their Silhouette Studio Designer Edition. This is what sold me on my first Silhouette. I wanted a digital cutting machine that could cut out my own custom designs without having to buy cartridges or only use the designs available from the company. The Designer Edition of Silhouette Studio makes this possible. Not only do you have more tools to create your own custom designs, but it also allows you to import .svg files from your favorite designers online that aren’t available in the Silhouette Online Store. I’ll have several free .svg downloads for you during the promotion to help you take full advantage of this great offer.
Silhouette Studio Designer Edition Promo

Want to know more about what the Silhouette Designer Edition has to offer? You can read more HERE or if you’re more visual like I am, you can watch a video HERE.

Click HERE to order your Silhouette and Silhouette Studio Designer Edition software. Enter promotional code ROBISON at checkout to receive discount pricing.

The first free download for the promotion will be these Star Sliders. They are perfect for party favors this 4th of July. You can either slide the sparklers right through the star, or use a ribbon to tie them around a box of snaps or other fireworks.star sliders Continue reading

Let’s Celebrate! Graduation Party

graduation table BLOG

Here is a simple little party you can throw together last minute. This party was for my husband’s graduation, but really you could use it for any occasion. I used these Let’s Celebrate letterpress invitations and created small circle tags to go with them. Using your Silhouette, simply draw a circle in the color of your choice, type “Let’s Celebrate” in the center, then print and cut. I printed some on sticker paper and used them to seal up glassine bags stuffed with a cookie. I used the school colors for my decor and matched the food to the color scheme as well.

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Serving Dishes + Free Download

DIY plastic Bowls with vinyl

As promised, today I’m showing another way to use Silhouette Premium Vinyl. I found these cute plastic bowls and plates at Ikea. They come in a pack of four and cost about $1.50. I couldn’t pass them up. This project was so easy and was finished in minutes. Cut any shape out of vinyl and place on the containers like you would a sticker. That’s it! You’re done! I’ve decided to share a free .svg download of basic shapes to get you started. Note: You need to have the designer edition of the Silhouette software to import the cut file.

I think these little bowls will look great on my desk holding odds and ends. They would also work well for holding wrapped candy and small treats at a party.

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