Category Archives: Art

Spring Break – Day 2

When I first started this blog this is exactly what I envisioned – a daily post about what we did each and EVERY day. I don’t know what made me think I had that much ‘extra’ time. So after 173 posts in 1 ½ years I know this ‘daily journal’ of our spring break adventures may not continue through to the end of the week but so far….

Our second day of spring break was very busy.  As the children finished their morning snack I got stuff ready;

I introduced the ingredients one at a time without telling the children what each was.  The first container was initially identified as ‘sugar’ until a taste test proved it was “ewww, salt”.  They were more cautious for the second container;

It didn’t take them long to determine that it was flour – because it was whole wheat flour, the beige colour had them a little confused at first.  They eagerly investigated the third ingredient…what could it be?

No one had any idea – when I told them that it was ‘cornmeal’ there was a lot of interest and discussion about where it comes from and what it is used for (tomorrow’s cornbread for example).  The ingredient in the big bin was instantly identified;

“COFFEE!” they yelled in unison – the scent must have given it away – and really it was old coffee grounds.  I won’t admit how little time long it took me to save up that much. 🙂

So, what were we making?

‘Home Made Sand’ thanks to the handout from my full day workshop with the Ooey Gooey Lady.

We combined the ingredients and mixed them up;

And then we played;

But the day wasn’t over yet.  Later we had a discussion about ‘creativity’ and ‘originality’ vs copying and following directions.  Then we went for a walk in the rain – to the dollar store.  I instructed them to each choose any two items that they wanted to use for artwork of their design.

This is what they picked;

This is what they did;

And this is what they made;

That’s Not a Christmas Tree

I used to do a lot of decorating for Christmas.  I hung garland and swags on railings and door frames.  I put decorations on every available space on walls and shelves.  There were lights for all the windows.  My children helped me decorate our tree – we had more ornaments than we could possibly fit on the six foot tall tree.  I put the tree on a two foot tall table so the top of the tree touched the ceiling and there was plenty of room for plenty of gifts underneath.

I began all this decorating on the first day of December and took it all down on Boxing Day.  I felt it was a lot of work – it was something that I considered a duty not something that I actually enjoyed.  Some other members of my family would occasionally agree to help but I found out that they only did it because they thought it was important to me.  Huh?  I only decorated for them.

As my children got older I decorated less.  We bought a four foot tree and later I recycled the old six foot tree as part of the nature area in the playroom.  It was still difficult to persuade anyone to help me decorate the four foot tree and no matter where I put it it always seemed to be in someone’s way.

I got a two foot tall tree – I selected all the smallest ornaments and only decorated the tree once.  On Boxing Day I put the still decorated tree in a box and tossed it in the attic to wait for next year. It took just minutes to get it down, plop it on the table and fluff it up a bit.

This year I forgot to get the tree down at the beginning of December.  Maybe it was the warmer weather and lack of snow but I didn’t even think about decorating until it was almost the middle of December.  I put up my winter village – it stays in the window until spring.  I didn’t bother getting the tree from the attic.  I didn’t even put the window clings on the windows.  Nobody seemed to notice though.

Then last week one of the daycare children asked ‘Hey Cheryl, where’s your Christmas tree?’  I was going to tell them it was in the attic but instead I said, ‘It’s in the nature area’. There was silence as the children looked at each other – they seem puzzled.

There is no Christmas tree in the nature area.’ one of them said.  I pointed at the pine tree in the corner;

That’s not a Christmas tree’ they said in unison.

Why not?’  I asked

It has no decorations.’ They replied.

‘We could decorate it,’ I suggested, ‘but my decorations are in the attic so we’ll have to make some.’  I had seen a Christmas decoration craft over at The Crafty Crow that I thought would be suitable for all the children – and I had some sparkly poster board that would work for this purpose.

I gathered some supplies and started cutting out the circles and some pieces of yarn.

The preschoolers were most interested in the scraps that were left over after I cut out the circles.

The cats liked them too.

We got busy making decorations.  Everyone had their preferred method.  There were intricate designs with multiple colors and simple designs that had really long loops for hanging.  Some children spent a lot of time on each ornament and insisted that each one they made was different from every other one.  There was one child who mass produced a dozen identical ornaments in less than 15 minutes!

We hung all the completed ornaments on the tree;

There was still plenty of room on the tree and enough supplies to make many more ornaments so I’ve left the tray out in the sun room.  Each day there are some more ornaments to add to the tree.

Now we have a Christmas tree.  It’s ours and we love it.  There are no Christmas tree rules – each tree is special and unique.  Small or large, exquisite or plain, artificial or real, traditional or unconventional; it’s your tree – you decide.

Go check out some of these interesting Christmas tree creations

Sculptures

We often use play dough as a sensory play activity.  As they explore through touch — squeezing and squishing, rolling and cutting – they enhance fine motor skills too. With the addition of food coloring and spices the dough can excite the sight and smell senses also.  Of course there is always at least one child who insists on tasting.

When I make a new batch of play dough I divide it up into individual portions and put them in sandwich bags. The sandwich bags are then placed in a container and stored in the refrigerator until we want to use it.  I love watching the expressions on the children’s faces when they eagerly grab their ball of play dough and then quickly drop it back on the tray.

“Ooooh, it’s so cold!”  Feeling the change in temperature and texture as they work the dough adds a little science to the activity.

Using this storage method the play dough lasts much longer than if it was left at room temperature but it still doesn’t last forever.  Inevitably the dough will begin to loose its usefulness I need to make more.  The new batch will have different characteristics – maybe even some glitter or sand.

When I saw this activity over at Nurturing Young Minds I thought it would be a terrific way to extend the interest the children had shown for following the animal tracks in the snow outside.  I still had the ‘pumpkin spice’ dough we had been using but I didn’t think it would be a good substitute for snow.  Instead of just tossing it out I decided to let the children make some sculptures that they could take home.

I introduced the activity to the younger children in the morning when the older ones were in school.  They were thrilled to cut and shape the familiar dough but initially left the decorations untouched.  I think they may have been unsure about adding ‘stuff’ to the dough because usually I throw out the dough when it gets ‘dirty’.

I took some dough and supplies and made my own little sculpture as an example.  Tentatively they started making their own creations.

I left them to enjoy their creative process while I gave the baby his bottle.  I observed them from a distance as they made sculptures and then carefully separated all the ‘stuff’ from the dough and then made something new.

This process kept them engaged for over an hour! They seemed unconcerned about their lack of any ‘product’.  When I said it was nearly time to clean up for lunch that they hastily added a few loose bits to their ball of dough and placed it on the tray to dry.

The older children got their turn with this activity during quiet time in the afternoon when the little ones were napping.  They immediately dove in, rolled out their dough and stuck on some decorations – a process that lasted less than five minutes.  Then they moved on to other quiet time activities.

We’ve been watching the sculptures dry — checking daily to see if they are firm enough to pick up.  Today they will take them home.

For some it was all about the process and for others it was the product.

Making Faces

Some of you may know that I am not a fan of big celebrations and Halloween is near the top of my list of annoying holidays.  However, if you like that sort of thing, great — go wild and have fun 🙂

So here, for Halloween celebrations I follow the lead of the children.  They are welcome to wear their costume to show their friends if they want to but I find they rarely leave them on for long.  This year I was a cow girl — YeeHaw!

As the children were playing they began dancing in front of the mirror and making silly faces.  They tried out many facial expressions and really seemed to enjoy this activity.

So, keeping with the ‘faces’ theme I printed some ‘face parts’ and let the preschoolers make faces on paper pumpkins;

Then they played with the potato heads;

At quiet time, the older preschoolers used face parts cut from magazines to make some faces too.  Theirs were not as ‘silly’ since they are ‘big kids’ now — in school part days you know. They were very focused on making their faces ‘correct’.

Really, all they were really interested in was talking about the candy they were going to get.  Sigh, I’m glad Halloween is over for another year.  I’m looking forward to something more interesting.  Like maybe….snow 🙂

Sponge Art and More

Yesterday the preschoolers experimented with sponge painting.

I provided some shaped sponges, paint and paper and a brief explanation of the process.  The rest was up to them.

Interestingly it was the youngest member of the group that seemed the most confident – instantly diving in and working independently.  He was the first to start and the last to quit.  Honestly he probably would have been content to do this all day if the others hadn’t been so persistent about quitting.

The older children were more focused on the product they were trying to create.  Some put so much time and effort into applying the paint to the sponge that by the time they tried to stamp it on the paper most of the paint was already dry — leading to a bit of frustration with the project.

Others complained about the jagged edges of the shapes and insisted on doing touch-ups with the paint brush to define the shapes better.  In fact, they prefered to skip the sponge part and just paint with the brush instead.

The finished results were as varied as the methods of the individual artists.

The window sill in the sunroom is the perfect place for leaving the artwork to dry.  The abundance of sunlight is also great for other things too — like later in the day when I was summoned to come and see this discovery;

Yes, that is amazing isn’t it 🙂 Even more impressive because you discovered it without assistance.

Fall

It has been hard to believe it is really October.  We were still wearing shorts and experiencing record high daytime temperatures.

Still, the mornings and evening were becoming very cool and the sun was setting early. The leaves were turning colors and beginning to fall to the ground.

I took the preschoolers on a walk to collect some leaves.  When we came back we made some leave pictures;

I don’t think they were trying to make anything in particular with their leaves – it’s all about the process not the product.

Some of the children put a great deal of effort into leaf selection – being very particular about leaf shape and color and making sure there were no defects.  Others were more interested in production speed and the quantity of leaves they could attach to a piece of paper.

Such a simple activity.  Enjoying the season and all it has to offer.

Happy Thanksgiving Canada! 

Painting the Day Away

It was back in 2005, when I began working on my CBA portfolio, that I first saw a painting activity that used clear acrylic panels for children to paint on.  I thought this was such a fabulous idea that I just had to find a way to incorporate it here.

I love painting.  When I paint I become completely immersed in the activity.  I’d love to give the children the opportunity to paint all the time.  Sadly I had not been able to.  Certainly we do paint but not nearly as often as I’d like to.

I do have a designated indoor art area which the children use freely but it only has paint when we are doing a group art activity.  The reason for this is because there is so much set up and clean up involved with paint that it just isn’t feasible to have it available all the time.

Sure, I can involve the children in the set up and clean up – some of them would enjoy that.  The biggest problem is that no matter how often I read ‘washable’ on a container of paint I know from experience that they are lying.  In fact, I’ve had better success cleaning up after painting the walls in my house than cleaning up after the children have painted with ‘washable’ paint.

So, painting becomes an activity with too many rules.  I loathe painting rules.  Rules and creativity are antonyms.

Paper is the other issue with painting – more specifically, wet paper.   Some children enjoy creating elaborate creations with painstaking detail that requires the precision of a surgeon and hours to complete a single piece of artwork.  Others take mere seconds to cover a piece of paper in paint and then make another and another and another until there is no where left to hang any more.  Then there are the ones that like creating texture with their paint – piling it on so thick that it will be at least a week before the paint will dry.

Now I’m back to the clear acrylic panels for painting – it would solve the paper issue but what about the mess.  Then it occurred to me that the once place where we never worry about messy play is outside.  So this spring I incorporated a clear acrylic panel to the ‘manger’ (nickname for the covered seating area).  Located between the gravel area and the deck it can be accessed from either side allowing many children to use it at once. The addition of a garden hose with both hot and cold water and a laundry tub which drains into the gravel makes clean-up super easy too.

We have used it often this summer;

In fact, I’ve now run out of paint!

Calendar Art

Fostering independence is one of the goals of my childcare program.  Many areas of my home are set up to allow the children to choose their own activity and take responsibility for cleaning up when they are done too. Sufficient time for unstructured play gives children the opportunity to demonstrate independence but structured activities have a place too.

In my home the sunroom is set up as an art area to be used independently throughout the day.  Mindy’s (the dog) kennel is also in this part of the house and direct supervision of the sunroom is not always possible.  For this reason independent play here is a privilege.

There is not a specific age by which children are suddenly able to play here independently and like all new skills there is a learning process.  To help teach these skills I use the sunroom for the majority of our structured activities like story, circle and calendar time.  Sometimes these structured activities become the basis a child’s independent play.

During free play time last week, a four year old was drawing independently in the sunroom.  Knowing she was fully capable of engaging in this activity without any assistance I was only occasionally checking in on her. On one of these random checks I noticed that she had put away all her art supplies and was now sitting beside Mindy’s bed.  I waited and watched to see what she would do next.

She used her newly created artwork – a calendar and an illustrated story – to lead a ‘circle time’ activity for the dog (who was thoroughly entranced).

She listed the days of the week and pointed to the corresponding coloured row for each day. She discussed upcoming special events and then flipped the page over and continued by explaining about various holidays.

She recited the alphabet including words and names that begin with each letter – just like we do at circle time each day.  Then she switched to the other paper and began ‘reading’ her story.

It was a long detailed story about her adventures with an owl that she befriended while out hiking through a forest.

Independent unstructured play offers a wonderful opportunity to observe and appreciate a child’s knowledge and understanding of the world.

The List

At The Daily Post the topic suggestion from February 25th was “What keeps you up at night?”  My answer to that is;

The ‘To Do’ List.

This list contains a wide variety of household chores, errands, paperwork, program planning, and major projects. Occasionally this list keeps me up at night because it is stressful – too many items and not enough time or there is something on the list that I really do not want to do.

Most often though, as I lie awake contemplating the list, it is excitement that keeps me from falling asleep.  Planning the steps of a project, picturing the finished project, making changes to my plan, wondering if I should get up and write something down so I don’t forget, or maybe I should forget about sleeping and just start the project now…..

My most recent project was a little of both.  The sunroom is a multipurpose room used mainly as art space for both the preschool and school age children and as a storage area. We also use this area for various group activities and as a play area during quiet time for the children who do not nap.

It had become unorganised, was not functioning well and was causing a great deal of frustration — it was time for a major overhaul.

Knowing this was not going to be a quick fix I planned this project for the February 19-21 long weekend – and didn’t complete it.  In fact, for most of that weekend the sunroom looked like this;

Work continued this weekend and finally I think the room is beginning to resemble my vision.  As usual many of the items have been repurposed from other projects. There are still a few finishing touches – like paint and trim – that I will not be able to complete yet but the major work is done.

There are art areas that are easily accessible throughout the day and stored items are organized and out of the way of any messy art activities.

Within minutes the room can be transformed to allow for a wide variety of quiet time activities.

And I can cross another item off the list – while adding ‘paint and trim work’ and trying not to read the rest of the list.

Unstructured Art

I dislike product crafts.

Product crafts require you to follow step by step instructions to recreate something that was designed by someone else.  Product crafts require absolutely no imagination or innovation.

Like a paint/color by number, or assembling pieces according to a pattern product crafts can be completed incorrectly.

Art has no right or wrong. It is all about the process of creating something — freedom of expression.

I always have arts and craft supplies available for the children to use.  There are various types of paper, crayons and other drawing implements, as well as a variety of odds and ends and some glue and/or tape.  The children have access to all these things during free play time and like all types of unstructured play the emphasis is on exploration and experimentation.

Sometimes the children create the same piece of artwork over and over again.  Even when there are other options available they continue to use the same familiar tools to create the same type of picture as they have many times before.  It is all part of the process of mastering a technique and they will move on to something else when they are ready to.

Occasionally I schedule a craft activity time for the whole group.  This is usually done so that I can introduce a new item or tool to the children, or provide an opportunity for using supplies that require direct supervision.  Even for these planned art activities there is always an element of individuality.

Our most recent group art activity involved paint, glue, and various paper products.  Given the supplies and instructed to ‘Make Something’ the results are as unique as the children themselves.