Thursday, December 9, 2010

A People Factory

I am a firm believer in the Montessori and Steiner philosophy of child-motivated learning and play. Finn has a great interest in pipes, electricity, machines and factories which leads a lot of his questions and learning. The pages below are some of Finn's favourite pages from books which we used as inspiration for making our paper mache factory. 

The Lorax- Dr Suess

Michael Bird Boy- Tomie-de Paola

Materials: Tissue boxes, cardboard tubes, masking tape, wallpaper paste, paint, decorations (pom-poms, buttons, paddle-pop sticks). 

We made this factory out of cut up cardboard rolls and a tissue box, using masking tape to keep the pipes in place, then covering with ripped up newspaper and wallpaper paste. 

Once the paper mache dried, we used a white undercoat, then top coat. 

Finn then decorated his heart out (buttons, pom-poms, paddle-pop sticks and glitter glue). 

We used cotton wool to represent the factory smoke. 

Monday, December 6, 2010

Family of Four

I found a site which clearly explains children's stages of drawing development: 

Ask your child to draw family portraits regularly to keep a record of their artistic development. Always name and date them, and encourage your child to tell a story along with the drawing. 

Here are Finn's family portraits aged 2 years 8 months (in a wild mood). 

Evie (baby sister). 

This is a drawing of Evie with other baby Evie's inside her tummy. She is wearing a nappy.

 Me (mum)

Ashe (dad)

Finn (self)

Wax Resist Christmas Stars

I found these little wooden stars in a craft shop (but even better would be to ask your child to draw their own stars, or you make them for them out of thick card). 

We used Wax Resist painting techniques- when you draw use wax crayon, then paint over the top with a water based paint. The paint is repelled by the wax creating interesting effects. This effect isn't obvious on the wooden base we used, but they look pretty non the less. 

We crudely attached masking tape and string to the back to hang them on the tree. 

Rock Sculpture

Lately I have been reading a lot about 'nature deficit disorder' which is a term which describes  children who spend too much time indoors, removed from direct experience with nature. The following are some activities to get your child outdoors, exploring and working with natural objects. 

Rocks are a great source of entertainment in our house-hold. Once collected on a walk (or pinching them from the neighbours driveways in our case), activities can involve cleaning with a bowl of soapy water, then sorting into sizes, shapes and colours. 

You can ask your child to experiment with rocks- to rub them on a hard surface (concrete), drawing into the dirt with them, making patterns in the earth, or try carving into a soft piece of wood with it. You can also encourage your child to make a fairy house in the back-yard, or create an entire stone village.  

Rocks collected on a walk (or driveway in our case)
PVA glue
Small plank of wood

For this project Finn used PVA glue and a small paintbrush to create his rock sculpture. He spent a long time painting the glue to the rocks and deciding on placement. Once dried your child can or add feathers, shells other natural materials, or can even paint it with acrylic paints (adding a new dimension, as rocks have many sides and surfaces and no two are the same). 

Thursday, December 2, 2010


Materials: Cardboard tube, masking tape, paddle-pop sticks, coloured paper, PVA glue, buttons, pipe cleaners. 

Finn spent the morning playing with some toy frogs in a pond we made (we used blue quilts and towels, and pillows for lilly-pads). I suggested we make some insects for the frogs to eat, so Finn made this little creature. Usually I help him cut shapes, but this time I encouraged him to tear his own shapes which gave him more control over the whole process. He used pipe-cleaners for the antennae, and buttons for eyes.

He promptly took his insect over to the pond to continue playing. 

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Play Dough

I was reading about the importance of  play dough in a fantastic book called "Rapunzel's Supermarket', by Ursula Kolbe. 

On page 22: " Give children ample time to get the feel of dough and clay without cookie cutters or rolling pins. Toddlers love to make forms they can squeeze, roll, bend, twist and flatten. If they are not distracted by tools, they quickly acquire skills- a language of hands". 

A good reminder for me, as I tend to let finn go crazy with his box of play dough tools. 

This is the recipe I use for play dough which works every time. If you use 'cream of tartar' it helps preserve the dough for up to 6 months. 

Dough can be used for many children's activities. We borrowed this idea from Play School the other day, and made a little garden using the dough as the ground (on Play school they made a fragrant garden with cinnamon sticks, and herbs like rosemary). For our interpretation Finn added sticks, leaves and rocks that he found on a walk. 

We have also had fun making bridges across two dough islands, and adding little plastic animals to make jungles, and paddle pop sticks to make animal zoos.  


Finn and I love playing the drawing game Squiggles. It is a great activity to keep little people busy when waiting at the doctors, on a plane trip or in a cafe. All you need is paper and a pen. 
Draw some shapes, zig-zags, or swirls on a page, and the child does the rest. Joining them up, or creating their own drawing from the base shapes. 

I always carry a Bic 4 Colour Pen with me so Finn and I can each use a different colour. You can also reverse the roles (let your child do the squiggles you and you create the rest). 


These drawings were done by two pre-school aged girls. I showed them a page out of a simple drawing book called 'Draw Aussie Animals', which demonstrates that it helps to break the subject into simple shapes, then add detail. An older child may also like to add their own background or environment. 

I love the different, but equally wonderful interpretations. 

Elisabeth: Aged 4 

Isabel: Aged 4

Here is the page we used from the book