Monday, May 30, 2011

Colouring In

'Rapunzel's Supermarket'
has a paragraph about colouring-in books which makes perfect sense to me, and which is why I cringe when I turn up at some library and playgroup events for children where the only 'creative' activity is for children to  colour in pre-drawn sheets. I usually just turn the page over to the blank page and encourage Finn to draw his own lovely drawing (like shown above). To quote Ursula Kolbe on p. 118.

" It is sad when programs provide children with pre-drawn colouring in activities in the belief that these are 'educational'. Some claim that learning to colour within outlines helps children develop fine-muscle control and so assists them in gaining 'pre-writing'skills. That may be so, but why give children pre-drawn outlines to fill in?

When children are pleased with their own drawings, they usually take great care in colouring them in. Pride in their own drawings come from the confidence of knowing that they can draw. And confidence comes from having many opportunities to draw. If colouring-in activities are offered too frequently, children may miss opportunities to learn to draw. Less confident children may even lose faith in their drawing abilities. "

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Children and design

I recently ordered a copy of a wonderful book called "Beautiful Stuff" By Cathy Weisman Topal and Lella Gandin, which I've been reading and re-reading every chance I get. One paragraph I particularly like is about children's natural design sense on p. 32. 

"Looking at these arrangements of objects we see the strong sense of design in young children. It is in this sense of composition that Picasso refers to when he says, "Once I drew like Raphael, but it has taken me a whole lifetime to learn how to draw like a child". The strong sense of design that emerges in the early years is often misunderstood or not encouraged. To hear children describe how they put their designs helps us appreciate the complexity of their thinking and the many ways of making connections."

Gingerbread biscuts

We spent a rainy afternoon baking together. This recipe is fool proof and delicious from my favourite recipe book by David Herbert.

I love cooking with children, it opens so many literacy and numeracy learning opportunities for them.

Gingerbread Biscuits
(Makes 24-30, depending on size of cutters)
  • 125 g unsalted butter, chopped
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 2 cups plain flour
  • 1/4 cup of SR flour
  • 1/4 cup golden syrup
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar 
  • 1 tbs ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp mixed spice
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 tbs bicarbonate soda
  1. Place the butter, golden syrup and sugar in a small saucepan over low heat. Cook, stirring, until the butter has melted and the mixture is smooth. Remove from the heat and allow to cool.

  2. Sift both flours, the bicarb of soda, the spices and a pinch of salt into a large mixing bowl and make a well in the center. Pour in the melted butter and the beaten egg and mix well

  3. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth. Wrap in plastic wrap and put in fridge for 30 mins.

  4. Preheat oven to 170 degrees c. Line two oven trays with baking paper.

  5. Roll out dough between two sheets of baking paper the thickness of 5mm. Cut out shapes with a cookie cutter and bake for 8-10 mins or until firm and golden brown. Allow to cool on wire rack. 

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Finger Prints

For this activity you need:
A stamp pad (one or more colours)
Pens/ pencils/ Crayons

Magnifying glass
Book about Bugs/ insects

We started by looking at a few books about insects and bugs. Noting the different body parts that make up the insects (a journey into the garden with the magnifying glass would also be valuable). 

I then let Finn experiment with making prints and patterns by pressing his fingers in the ink-pad (show children how roll fingers in the ink then onto the paper).

Finn loved watching the different shades and tones appear (as he repeated printing before re-applying ink to his finger).

He also enjoyed testing out a variety of his fingers for creating different shapes and sizes.

We then looked at the patterns of the finger prints through the magnifying glass.

I then gave him some smaller pieces of paper so he could try his hand at turning some prints into his own insect. Adding wings, antennae, legs. etc.

Sticky Tape and Ink Wash

This is simple activity only requiring paper, sticky tape (or masking tape) and an ink wash (food colouring and water will be fine). Ask the child to apply sticky tape to the paper in what ever way they want, then let them experience what happens when the ink is washed over the top.

The plastic of the sticky tape repels the ink leaving behind the patterns made with tape.

Beautiful effects can be made by children of all ages with this technique.

Tissue Paper Collage

Tissue paper is a lovely medium for children as it is easy for them to tear and also can be layered and layered and layered.

I gave Finn two sheets of tissue paper and showed him how to rip it without scrunching it and how to apply the glue (PVA mixed with water) to the paper, and then on top of the tissue paper. He discovered for himself that applying the two colours on top of each other created a new colour, and that you can create some wonderful textural effects with the paper if it is crumpled before applying it.

I gave him access to choose other bits and pieces from his collage box to finish his 'monster', and allowed it to dry in the sun.

Playdough Dudes

Finn had a lot of fun creating little figures out of play-dough using mini paddle-pop sticks to join limbs and create features (such as hair).

He used a few plastic eyes to finish off his creation.

Space Craft

My little Finn is into all things Space related. He spends hours in a cardboard rocket we made for him at the beginning of the year (an empty booster seat box, with a door and window cut into it).

Today we to create a space control center for him.
The helmet we made by attaching empty paper rolls into a plastic 'builders' helmet, and for the visor attached some clear plastic to the front with masking tape. We covered the paper rolls with silver contact (although aluminum foil would also work).

For his control booth and computer screen, we used an empty fruit box and another sheet of clear plastic over the top of a drawing of a rocket blasting off (or any space scene). I also drew a keyboard, some buttons and dials on a sheet of paper and attached it to his desk. 

Monday, May 16, 2011

Flower Press

It was a beautiful Autumn day today, so the children and I went for a walk around our street collecting flowers with the intention to press some of them.

Finn chose which flowers he wanted to press and arranged them carefully on the blotting paper. If you don't have a flower press you can press flowers and leaves between two sheets of paper and leave them inside the pages of a heavy book for a few weeks (more info about flower pressing here). 

With the left over flowers, sticks and leaves we collected- Finn went into the garden with a metal mixing bowl, a wooden spoon and some plastic measuring cups and made his very own garden soup (using dirt, sand, water and what ever else he could find). He enjoyed getting grubby while mixing, experimenting and role-playing.

Potato stamps

This is another simple activity that creates a lot of fun for toddlers. Cut a variety of shapes and patterns into a small raw potato, give them a shallow dish of acrylic paint (with a paint soaked dish sponge to press the stamp into), or you can cheaply buy big paint stamp pads from most newsagents or art supply shops.

After experimenting with repetition and what shapes they can make, you can also encourage children to create scenes, objects, or images using simple geometric shapes (for example triangles and squares can look like houses or buildings, or robots using squares, circles and rectangles). 
Once the paint has dried, children can also work into their stamped images with other materials (pens, textas, crayons etc). 

Painting Chalk

This is a lovely simple activity that my three year old loves just as much as my (almost) 1 year old.

Just ask them to draw on their blackboard with chalk, then give them a pot of water and a few paintbrushes, and ask them to draw into the chalk and watch it disappear. They can also create interesting shapes with the black space they create.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

wet on wet painting

For this activity we used strong paper which we dipped in water (or can be wiped over with a damp cloth), then while the paper was still wet Finn painted on a washes of edicol dye (or food colouring) mixed up in empty baby food jars. The paper is fragile to work with, and can easily tear so encourage children to apply the paint gently. 

There is a lovely tutorial here: if you are wanting more details about the technique which is widely used in Steiner education. 

Monday, May 2, 2011

Car Washing Service

A simple and fun activity for toddlers is setting up an outdoor car wash for them. 

You can use outdoor toddler cars, trikes or balance bikes, a bucket of soapy water and a variety of clean rollers and sponges in a little bag.

Setting up a cash register on a table and tickets to hand out is also fun, as is using an electric fan to drive past for the final stage of drying.  

body drawing

This activity is by no means new or original, but I thought I'd let Finn experiment with drawing on a large scale, and on a different shaped piece of paper. 

I traced the shape of his body when he was lying down (if you are working with other children they could all take turns in tracing each other). He was then able to decide how he finished it off.

Finn is very interested in how the Human body works, so together we looked at a reference book and using large wax crayons, he added in organs and details of the body in his own way. 

i love nature

I recently ordered a great book called 'I love Dirt', which I often refer to when thinking of ideas for outdoor activities with my children.