Win A Set of Two Purple YUCKY PUPPY Bags!

Recently we asked for your help choosing a purple pattern for our next PawZaar product: purple YUCKY PUPPY poop bag carriers! These waterproof, machine washable bags help you walk through your…



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DogTipper

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5 Ways to Encourage Kids to Tell Their Own Stories

This post is a paid promotion by Fisher-Price and all opinions are my own.

When my oldest was a baby, a friend who is also a teacher and I were talking about the most important skills to teach young kids. One of the skills she said was crucial to encourage (in addition to, ya know, them wiping their own bums) is storytelling. She explained to me that this doesn't just mean getting your kids to verbally tell stories like they might read in a book (although that can be part of it). She said that it also means allowing them to use their imaginations and creative play to tell their own stories in other ways. This really resonated with me, and it's something I have made an effort to promote as my children have grown from babies to young kids.

When kids tell their own stories in different ways, it can improve their language skills, foster creative thought processes and imagination, and help with overall learning. Storytelling is a big deal, guys! Today I thought I'd share with you some of the ways I encourage this kind of creative storytelling with my little ones, and share more about our current favorite toy, Wonder Makers™ Design System by Fisher-Price!

1. Try fun ways to get your kids to tell you about their day.
It can be difficult for a small child to verbalize what happened in their day (how many of us get "nothing" or "I don't know" as an answer when asking your child what he or she did at school?), but encouraging them to do so helps their language skills and teaches them how to express themselves. We make it into a game, where I sit down with them, try to avoid asking too many questions, and express excitement in them dramatically telling me what happened at school, or even acting out parts of their day. (When my 5 year old daughter does this it's legitimately like going to a comedy show and I am 100% there for it. Best free entertainment around.) Or I have them use hands on toys to show me how their day went! Our new favorite hands on toy is called Wonder Makers™ Design System (only available on Amazon!). Through non-electric (yay!) elements made from wood, fabric, rubber, and plastic that fit together in unlimited ways, Wonder Makers™ Design System truly allows kids to use their imaginations and creative storytelling skills to build their own worlds. They include cues that are familiar from our everyday lives, like people, trees, vehicles, and buildings, but also allow for flexibility so the different pieces can be put together in any way your child likes - which is the perfect tool for kids to tell us about their days in a way that is fun for them.

2. Give your kids toys that encourage creative storytelling.
This builds on my first tip, and is so important! Kids learn through play. They express themselves through play. And I have found that there is no better way to encourage them to tell their own stories than through toys that allow them to do so naturally and with ease. This is one of the reasons we are such huge fans of Wonder Makers™ toys. The fact that include pieces of things kids recognize from their daily lives but allow them to build any way they like is such an incredible means for them to creatively tell their stories. My kids love following the suggested builds (Emmett adores the Lift and Sort Recycling System set and Essley is mildly obsessed with the Soft Slumber Campground™), but they get really excited when mixing pieces from the different sets to build their own worlds. And the different pieces can be used in different ways. Emmett loves to use the wood elements to create tracks for all of the vehicles that come with the sets, and Essley likes to incorporate them into unique buildings. The Wonder Makers™ sets enable the kids to not only verbally tell their stories as they're building both alone and as a team, but also nonverbally tell them through their finished creations and the act of creating itself. It's pretty great to watch.

From a design lover standpoint, I also have to point out how beautiful these sets are. The simple lines and artwork are just as appealing to me as they are to my kids! Woot!

3. Put on performances and be an audience.
Have your kids put on plays, musicals, or puppet shows where they are acting out stories, or even just encourage them to get on a "stage" (we use the area in front of our fireplace) and talk. Most children love performing to their families and close friends with whom they feel comfortable, and any excuse to turn their everyday stories into a performance is fun. My daughter thinks it's the most enjoyable thing ever to talk about things that happened in her day or construct elaborate tales through improvised song. (You should hear this child's exaggerated vibrato, too. It's lovely, endearing, and comical at the same time.) They also have so much fun putting on little shows to tell their stories using the characters and builds they've created with their Wonder Makers™ Design Systems. Essley put on a three act puppet show style play using their Wonder MakersSoft Slumber Campground™where she using the wood characters and other pieces, and built and rebuilt the set with pieces from different sets as she went along. It was genuinely as fun for me to watch as it was for her to play.

4. Have your kids draw, paint, color, sculpt, or build. 
As I mentioned earlier, storytelling doesn't have to be verbal. It can also be done by expressing their stories through art. My daughter is learning to read at school, and her teacher has them draw out their own stories about their days in journals that they bring home everyday. My son loves to tell his stories through painting and coloring. Art can an incredibly effective way for little ones to communicate. This is yet another thing we love about Wonder Makers™ toys - they are pieces of art that your child creates! When my kids build with their Wonder Makers™ toys, they are using their imaginations to make mini pieces of architecture and and beautiful, colorful scenes inspired by their lives. The interchangeable elements make this possible and encourage little ones to artistically think outside the box.

5. Read out loud and often.
This one may seem obvious, but reading stories together, along with exposing kids to regular story hours (like at your local library), is one of the best ways to encourage them to tell stories on their own. We always read at least two books before bedtime too, and often I will also make up an improvised story that I'll tell them right before they fall asleep. I have done this since they were babies. Now they take turns telling their own stories as well, which is so much fun. My kids also set up the characters from their Wonder Makers™kits as audiences using the elements from the different sets to create seating areas, and "read" to them. My 3 year old son's most recent story hour for his Wonder Makers™characters was an elaborate story about a dinosaur who ate red bananas, blue olives, and orange garbanzo beans, and as a result, pooped rainbows. Fantastic work, buddy!

If you have other ways that you encourage your little ones to tell their own stories, I'd love to hear! And if you're looking for a truly wonderful toy to help encourage your kids' storytelling skills, head over to Amazon.com and grab a Wonder Makers set or two (or more!). Their elements made from wood, fabric, rubber, and plastic are both high quality and beautifully designed, and your kids will have hours of creative fun fitting them together in unlimited ways! We have three Wonder Makers™ design systems so far, and they are high up on our holiday gifting lists too.

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Bubby and Bean ::: Living Creatively

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How to Choose a Dog Training Class

Dog training classes are a great way to socialize and train your dog–and have fun at the same time! From puppy classes to dog manners to specialty classes such as agility, trick training and…



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DogTipper

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Win GROOM Bathing Tablets!

This giveaway is sponsored by and fulfilled by GROOM Bathing Tablets. Pet store aisles are littered with hundreds of pet shampoos that make magical claims but often cause adverse reactions because of…



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DogTipper

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Multiple cryptic species of jaguarundi?

jaguarundi

One must be very careful using studies of mitochondrial DNA to make conclusions about the natural history of animals. The DNA is inherited matrilinearly. It does not follow the entire genetic legacy of an organism.

However, it can point to the possibility that our understanding of taxonomy is incorrect, and these studies have pointed to multiple cryptic species in what we once thought was only a single one. Gray foxes and black-backed jackals have deep divergences in mitochondrial DNA lineages in populations that are not contiguous, which suggests that there are more species than the single one currently recognized.

Of course, these findings do require more study to figure out if these divergences are reflected in the nuclear DNA. But these studies are just the beginning.

Recently, I came across this paper from PLoS ONE that was published 2017. It looked the mitochondrial DNA of the jaguarundi, a neotropical cat that is most closely related to the cougar. It does range into the United States, but it hasn’t been seen here in decades.

This species has been a bit of problem for molecular biologists, because it is been quite difficult to figure out subspecies. There is little correlation between mitochondrial DNA sequences and morphology, which has made classifying them quite difficult.

But the authors discovered a rather unusual discovery. Using calculations of mutation rate, they found that the two main clades of jaguarundi diverged 3.2 million years ago. The same metric found that jaguarundis and cougars diverged 3.9 million years ago, and the divergence between the two clades of jaguarundi happened earlier than the divergence between lions and common leopards and the divergence between the tiger and the snow leopard.

This discovery does suggest that there at least two species of jaguarundi, which are morphologically indistinguishable.  Of course, the authors make it clear that more evidence from nuclear DNA needs to be included in the analysis, but the discovery does suggest that our classification of the jaguarundi as a single species may be faulty.

 

 

Natural History

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6 Tips For Making Nights Easier With Young Kids

6 Tips For Making Nights Easier With Young Kids

This post is sponsored by Jasco, but all opinions are my own.

When my oldest child was a newborn, I remember thinking that nights with children could not possibly get harder. Then she grew into a toddler, and another newborn, her brother, came along. Between the two of them and their erratic nighttime/sleep habits, I was convinced I was in the thick of it in terms of nights being difficult with kids and restful nights would soon return. I was wrong.

Yes, those newborn nights were absolutely the most exhausting of my life, but even today, with a 3 and 5 year old, nights aren’t easy. The biggest struggle is that, like most young kids, they fight going to bed. They also never grew into being excellent sleepers (sorry for passing on my light sleeper DNA, kids!), and often awaken in the night. From there, the challenges are endless, my friends. From “bad” dreams (the latest of which involved my son not getting to eat doughnuts for dinner) to it being too dark for them to go to the bathroom themselves (even if they’re in bed with us, which is basically always), nights can be a little arduous.

My husband and I decided a few months ago that enough was enough, and we started experimenting with things to try to make nights easier for all of us. Thankfully, once we were really committed to figure this out, nighttime did improve. In fact, most nights are (knock on wood, really hard) kind of a breeze these days. I hope these tips prove useful for those of you with young kids who also struggle with nights. (And I also get to talk about one of our favorite ways to make nights easier, our beloved GE Enbrighten Motion Activated Night Lights!)

1. Start bedtime early.
Honestly, it took us years (truly) to finally adhere to this, but once we did, things became easier for all of us. We’ve found that for whatever reason, when bed time is rushed, it takes the kids longer to fall asleep. If we start an hour beforehand to allow plenty of time for getting bathed, getting into pajamas, brushing teeth, and reading books, they fall asleep more quickly, and stay asleep better.

2. Be consistent with bed times.
My husband and I are naturally both night owls. For a long time, we would make sure the kids went to bed early during the week, but let them stay up quite late (and sleep in) on the weekends. Eventually we realized this was backfiring, especially once my daughter started kindergarten. She was cranky on Monday mornings (I mean, we all are, but this was excessive), and she didn’t sleep well the first couple nights of the week. Now we don’t let them stay up more than an hour past their weeknight bedtime on the weekends, and everyone sleeps (and wakes up) better.

3. Let there be (motion activated) light. 
This is a big one, guys. I’ve always loved Ella Baker’s quote “Give light and people will find the way.” It is so powerful and full of profound meaning, but let me tell you, it can also be applied to getting through nights with young children. THE DARK (has to be in caps because that’s the only way kids know how to talk about it) is probably our biggest obstacle when it comes to nighttime with little ones. They’re scared of it. They can’t see to get a drink. They can’t see to go pee. I can’t see to get to them when they call me. I can’t see when I hear a crashing sound downstairs loud enough to wake up the entire house and my husband is gone for work and I fall down the stairs and break my toe. (Yes this really happened.) When we leave on a light all night, however, it’s not dark enough and people can’t sleep.

Enter our newfound night light solution: GE Enbrighten Motion Activated Night Lights. Someone recommended these to us and we are forever indebted; not just because they’re pretty and add a little fancy to our normally very plain aesthetic (thank you GE), but because they provide the perfect amount of light at the perfect times so that we’re all able to get the best sleeps.

The GE Enbrighten Candle Glow SleepLite is my personal favorite, with its warm amber glow (almost no blue light emission = a healthy sleep cycle) that calmly flickers just like candlelight. I love that I can control the light output via 3 different setting options – soft white, amber, or candle glow. It also has a very cool light-sensing technology that turns the night light on at dusk and off at dawn.
I keep these in our bedrooms. They’re perfect for getting up to go to the bathroom or when my kids are irrationally screaming down the hall.

We also love the GE Enbrighten Motion-Activated Night Light, which we use in our hallways and bathrooms. First and foremost, this is probably the most attractive night light I’ve ever seen. No, really. It’s simple and chic and comes in 4 finish options. (We have the bronze finish). Secondly, it has an automatic LED that light turns on when motion is detected up to 25 feet away, and turns off after 90 seconds of no activity, and a dusk-to-dawn light sensor with an energy-efficient light that turns on at dusk and off at dawn. So smart!

The GE Enbrighten Motion-Select Night Light (which also has 4 stylish, modern finish options) has also been a major help, with its awesome ability to either be set at Motion-Activated or Motion-Boost. The Motion-Activated Light setting activates the light up to 25 feet away in low light, and the light turns off after 90 seconds without motion. The Motion-Boost Light setting allows the light to automatically turn on at dusk at a low 3 lumens, then boosts it to 40 lumens when motion is detected, and dims back to 3 lumens after 90 seconds of no motion. (So cool, right?) Perfect for our entry way and kitchen.

4. Keep the screens away.
Okay, so I’m a hypocrite (I read or watch Netflix on my iPad every night before bed), but making sure our kids didn’t have access to screens at least an hour before bed has made a huge difference in how well they sleep. (And this isn’t just my opinion; research shows it to be true.) Our only television in the house in downstairs, and screens aren’t within reach during night hours. (I do this for myself as well, because I used to grab my phone when I couldn’t sleep, which ultimately made things worse.) My daughter tends to wake up often from vivid dreams, and she often asks if she can watch something to distract her from feeling scared. I used to give in, but now tell her a story instead, and she falls backs asleep faster (and stays asleep longer). The only light is in room is from her GE Enbrighten Candle Glow SleepLite; never the disruptive light of a screen.

5. Use the bathroom right before bed.
This applies for your children and you. Maybe this is a given, but if you don’t do it, please take my advice. If I have to get up to pee at 3 AM, it’s going to take me a good half hour to fall back asleep. And no one likes to have to change a child wet sheets in the night. The right-before-bed potty trip is always a good idea. Make sure to keep a GE Enbrighten Motion Activated Night Lights in the bathroom too so that if your little ones do have to go, they’re not being jolted into a fully awake state by a bright light.

6. Do what works for you.
There is so much advice out there for the “right” ways for your child to be sleeping (let babies cry it out, never let babies cry, cosleep with babies but not kids, cosleep as long as you want, make them sleep alone from the beginning, use a bassinet, use a crib, use a floor mattress, use a toddler bed, don’t use a bed at all, let them come into your bed, make them stay in their rooms, etc. etc. etc.). And honestly, I disagree with all of it, because there is simply no right or wrong way. Period. I am not a sleep expert, but I have found that being openminded and paying attention to what works best for my kids and for us as a family is what makes nights the easiest for all of us. So while these tips have been extremely helpful for us, and my hope is that one or all of them helps you as well, you do you, guys. Feel out your family, take notice of what nighttime habits produce the best results, and go from there. You’re doing a great job.

Do you have any tips I missed that you can share? Have you tried any of the GE Enbrighten Motion Activated Night Lights yet? I’d love to hear which one is your favorite.

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Bubby and Bean ::: Living Creatively

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10 Tips for Keeping a Clean House for the Holidays (Without Harsh Chemicals)

This post is in partnership with Bon Ami, but all opinions are my own. 

The holiday season is (almost!) upon us, my friends. It seems to get earlier every year and always sneaks up on me while I’m not looking, all full of cheer and ready to pounce. This time around, however, I’m trying my best to be prepared. I am admittedly not a neat person by nature (my house is usually a hot mess of toys and discarded clothes on the ground, dishes in the sink, and piles of unfolded laundry), but during the holidays, I really, really enjoy a clean home. In addition to the fact that I simply appreciate my holiday decorations better when the house is clean, we have more people in our home during the holiday season than the rest of the year combined. Out-of-town friends stop by, my in-laws stay with us for Thanksgiving and my sister for Christmas, and we host Christmas Day at our house. (Did I mention that we throw my daughter a birthday party in our home in late December?) It’s important to me to keep our house clean and beautiful during the holidays, and over time, I’ve discovered the best ways to ensure this happens. The holidays can be a stressful time, especially if you’re entertaining; these tips will put your mind at ease so you can relax and enjoy friends and family during the most wonderful time of the year.

1. Let the kids help!
If your kids are young like mine, they might actually even (gasp!) ask to help. (My 3 year old absolutely loves having a “job” when we’re cleaning.) Make it a game, use a chore chart, or even remind them that Santa rewards good behavior! Especially during the holiday season, it’s helpful to maintain in terms of keeping the house clean, so give your little ones a task each day, like helping scrub the counters with the #1 staple cleaner in our house, Bon Ami. Bon Ami is nontoxic, eco-conscious, and contains no harsh ingredients, so it’s safe for children and pets. (It’s also been around and trusted since 1886!)

2. Stay on top of dishes.
There’s a lot of cooking and baking (and eating!) going on during the holidays, and it doesn’t take long for dishes to pile up. I really try to get each dish rinsed and in the dishwasher immediately following a meal. I also try to clean pots and pans as I’m cooking. Bon Ami‘s natural soft abrasives (feldspar and limestone) are tough at removing cooked on food. (And if you do have to let your dishes and pots sit, Bon Ami is perfect for removing dried on food as well.)

3. Stay on top of fridge cleaning.
In the same way that dishes pile up during the holiday season, food tends to pile up in the refrigerator. I always try to start off the holiday season with a deep clean of the fridge and freezer by throwing away old food, removing the good food, and using Bon Ami to clean every last inch of the interior. I usually sprinkle it straight on the shelves, and for the doors and racks, apply it with a damp sponge or cloth. Once it’s sparkling clean, I put the food back in an organized fashion. For the rest of the holiday season, I’m very careful to promptly remove expired food or old leftovers and keep the rest of the food in the fridge and freezer as organized as possible.

4. Vacuum every night.
I’ll admit that I’m a lazy vacuumer (is that a word?) the majority of the year, but this simple task of making sure you do a quick vacuum each night before bed is a game changer. We also have a robot vacuum that while not fool proof, is great for getting under furniture. I run that every night during the holidays while I’m asleep.

5. Clean counters (kitchen and bathroom) every night.
Just like my nightly holiday season vacuuming, I make sure that both kitchen and bathroom counters are clean before I go to bed. It only takes a few minutes and makes a big difference in how the house looks (which is important to me when I know guests will be frequently stopping in!). I just sprinkle a little Bon Ami on the surface and wipe off with a damp cloth.

6. Wash towels, wash cloths, and sheets frequently.
Staying on top of the laundry in general is incredibly helpful this time of year (and any time of year, really). But during the holidays when I know we’ll have a lot of people popping in, and sometimes last minute guests staying with us in addition to planned guests, it genuinely lowers my stress level to know there are always fresh, clean towels, wash clothes, and sheets on hand.

7. Scrub the sink.
I let the sink go way too long most of the time, but during the holidays, I give it a nice scrub every couple of days. Bon Ami has been the clean sink solution in my family since I was a little kid. My husband actually makes fun of me for the profound sense of joy I get from studying the sink before I clean it, sprinkling Bon Ami in the sink and on the faucet, giving a gentle scrub, and then basking in shiny, spotless surfaces. It’s one of my simple pleasures. Truly.

8. Remove household stains.
Stains (I’m talking everything from coffee to wine to marker to hair dye) are the last thing on my cleaning to do list most of the time. But during the holidays, I really appreciate having the house as clean as possible. At the beginning of the season, I go through with my trusty can of Bon Ami and a damp cloth, and clean the stains off surfaces in my kitchen and bathrooms. It’s very satisfying to watch the stains scrub away without using harsh abrasives or chemicals. It even got permanent marker out of our white kitchen chairs and rust rings out of our bathtub.

9. Clean toilets weekly.
I have some horror stories about unexpected guests dropping by when waaaaay too long had past since I last cleaned the toilets. (Okay, so not horror stories, but definitely a lasting feeling of deep embarrassment.) During this time of year when guests are frequent, I set a reminder on my phone (sounds silly, but hey, it works), to give the toilets a nice deep clean. Bon Ami works incredibly well on porcelain, and can be used anywhere on/in toilets except inside the tank.

10. Clean the stovetop every morning.
I know I recommended vacuuming and cleaning counters every night, but I save the stove for every morning right after breakfast. It’s another area of the kitchen that I tend to ignore, but during the holidays when it’s constantly being used, I make sure to clean it everyday. As soon as we’re done with breakfast, I remove the burners and sprinkle some Bon Ami on the stovetop. A few swipes of a damp cloth and it’s shiny and spotless without having to use harsh chemicals.

I hope these tips help keep your house nice and clean during this holiday season, the same way they have mine the last few years – both so you can welcome guests with less stress, and so you can relax and enjoy your space with your own family.

And if you haven’t picked up on it yet, I can’t recommend Bon Ami enough for your holiday cleaning needs. It’s one of those products I feel genuinely excited about recommending, not only because it’s incredibly effective and has been trusted in my family for generations, but also because it’s free of things that I prefer to avoid like harsh perfumes, chemicals, and dyes. Even the can itself is eco-conscious (made from 65% post-consumer recycled materials and recyclable).

If you have any other tips for keeping your house clean during the holiday season, please comment or email me. I’m always adding to my list!

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Bubby and Bean ::: Living Creatively

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Beginning e-collar conditioning

dare e-collar

I have started e-collar conditioning with Dare this week. This process is not cruel, and it involves no punishment.

What it does involve is her learning that very low static stimulation, which I can barely feel, can be turned off if she comes to my side. This process started on a long lead, and now she is doing it off-leash.  Eventually, this low level stimulation will be used to proof other obedience commands.

We are using the Einstein Mini Educator. Her working level, the level where she can feel the stimulation, is at a 6.  The stimulation levels go from 1 to 100.

People hate on these collars because they can definitely be used as a harsh aversive, and yes, they can be used to hurt the dog.  This way of using lower levels of stimulation to proof obedience, though, really isn’t more aversive than a gentle tug on a leash.

So hate these tools all you want. They are effective and are not abusive if used correctly.

 

 

Natural History

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Make a Dog’s Day is October 22nd!

As part of their “Subaru Loves Pets” campaign, the auto-maker has had October 22nd designated as Make a Dog’s Day, the focus being on adopting an underdog – one who is disabled or older – from a shelter. The National Day Calendar describes it more broadly: National Make A Dog’s Day on October 22nd provides … Continue reading Make a Dog’s Day is October 22nd!


Doggies.com Dog Blog

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10 Fun Halloween Themed Hair Ideas

10 Fun Halloween Themed Hair Ideas
10 Fun Halloween Themed Hair Ideas
10 Fun Halloween Themed Hair Ideas

About a year ago, my daughter had ‘Crazy Hair Day’ at her preschool, and because it was right before Halloween, we decided to make pumpkin buns. It was honestly much easier than I’d anticipated. I just used doughnut bun inserts to create two buns, bobby pinned them in place, coated with orange hairspray, and cut down green pipe cleaners for the stems, which I inserted right into the middle of doughnut buns. So fun!

She asked me the other day if we could do this again the week of Halloween, and said she’d love to try a couple of other Halloween themed hair ideas as well. I came across so many cool ideas while Googling and browsing Pinterest, and thought I’d share some of my favorites. These don’t have to just be for kids either! I usually just do a simple costume for myself where I mainly wear accessories, so these are perfect for getting in the spirit without the pressure of having to go all out.

  • pumpkin buns (two minis or one big)
  • spider hair (bun on top with eight braids hanging down)
  • spider braids (hair in two french braids with plastic spider rings attached down them)
  • spider web bun (bun on top with cotton spider webs bobby pinned over it)
  • crow bird nest bun (large doughbut bun with a black bird attached)
  • creepy bird next hair (tease/rat hair, add tons of hair spray, and insert sticks)
  • Bride of Frankenstein hair (tutorial here)
  • dirt hair (spray or paint hair black and attach rubber insects)
  • witch hat hair (spray or paint hair black and molded around a foam come to form witch hat)
  • devil horn hair (tutorial here)

If you have any other ideas I might have missed, let me know in the comments!

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Bubby and Bean ::: Living Creatively

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