Tag Archives: Art

Catching Up

I’m spending a portion of this four day holiday weekend catching up on some of the things I never seem to have enough time for. This morning my task list included going through a multitude of photos I have taken and deciding which to delete, file, add to the entrance area slideshow or write blog posts about.

Now I have to actually write some posts – this first one is actually about TWO projects that we worked on last summer. Yes, I am that far behind which is why I’m combining two projects in one post.

Back in June I wrote about the new octagon shaped dining table. I also wanted to write about the place mats the children (aged 2-8) made to define their spaces at the table. Each child worked on their place mat design independently so each one would be unique as some of the children are prone to copying or competing with others.

When they were all complete and dry I covered the place mats with clear plastic film to protect them from spills. Only once they were all together on the table did the children get to see what the others had created.

For several weeks these place mats were the main focus of discussions around the table at meal/snack times. The conversations were amazing. So many questions. So much interest in what others had done.

Interestingly it was the work of the two-year-old that garnered the most attention – ‘Hey, how did he do that?’

The answer to that question is ‘After he added paint, he used the handle of the brush to create the textured pattern’. This was exactly why I had them all work independently. Had they all been painting at the same time then either someone would have ‘corrected’ him by telling him he was using the wrong end of his paint brush or everyone would have copied him and the place mats would have all looked the same… End of conversation.

The second project didn’t involve the children but was a space I created for the children. The ‘Nature Area’ is the small room off the main play space. It has always been a quiet space to read, relax or reflect. This post from last year show what it used to look like after the addition of the nest swing.

The babies’ cribs used to be situated on opposite sides of the room with their long side against the wall and the ‘quiet’ space in the centre of the room. There was some ‘extra’ space at the ends of the cribs – not really enough to be considered useful for storage space or play space just wasted space. Wasted space bothers me immensely.

Last summer I moved both cribs to the same side of the room with their short sides against the wall and the cot storage between them – no more wasted space. At nap time a temporary divider wall is placed between the cribs to provide a little privacy for sleeping babies now that they are much closer to each other.

The open area of the room is now considerably larger with the addition of the space on the other side of the room. I rearranged the trees and added some cushions and a wall tapestry. It is now a much more cozy, comfortable area for reading and relaxing.

There is still plenty of open space in front of the window if the children want to stand and look outside at ‘real’ nature. Of course there are still fake branches, bird and butterflies to look up at when you lay on the nest swing.

But that could change too. I did buy another tapestry that I considered hanging on the ceiling here…but I love it so much I might put it somewhere else. I just haven’t yet decided where that may be…

The Table

Over the 23 years that I have been providing childcare in my home we have had many different table arrangements. Here are a few of the various setups from when we used the sunroom for art, meals, table games and activities;

And a few more arrangements from when we started using the room adjacent to the playroom:

Most recently the tables have been arranged like this:

In all our room arrangements we have had two different table heights – one for preschoolers and one for school-age. In some of the earlier arrangements – before I separated the childcare space from my family space – the school-age table was also my family’s dining table.

There were challenges with every arrangement because the children using these tables can be anywhere from 18 month to 12 years of age. Even when the children are similar in age their size can vary greatly. The small table is best suited for most 3-5 year olds so I have these little boosters I can use to make the seat height better for smaller and/or younger children;

Still the biggest issue has always been the school-age table. There are many school-age children that are too small for the adult sized table and they would often need to kneel on their chairs to reach – the risk of tipping chairs always caused me angst. The two different table heights made group activities difficult.

Many school-age children would prefer to sit at the preschool table when there was space available there. Also, because I usually only have school-age children for brief periods of time the school-age table was mostly just using up valuable space. Really, once I separated the childcare space from my family space there was no need for a tall table.

I started to design a plan for a room arrangement that could accommodate a multi age group at at single table height. Back in 2012 when I had a separate art area in the sunroom we used a 12 inch high table that allowed children of all ages to do crafts while sitting/kneeling on the floor.

Sitting on the floor was fine for crafts but I would need the children to be seated for meals so the new table would have to be at least toddler table height. Next I started to consider my options for the table shape. I loved that in our past arrangements the round tables had been great for collaborative activities and conversations. However, tables with straight edges were better for activities that required trays .

I searched through some childcare supply catalogues for ideas and got super excited when I saw an octagon table with adjustable height options. Seriously – what could be more perfect than a ’round’ table with EIGHT straight edges. I have eight childcare spaces. I actually even considered buying the table. I checked to see if they had it in stock, available for me to pick up – they did not, it would take 4-6 weeks for it to arrive if I wanted to order it.

Do you have any idea what I can build in 4-6 weeks?

Besides, I already had eight toddler sized table legs on the two old toddler tables – both of which I had also made many years ago. I had extra paint that matched the room. All I really needed was a 4 foot by 4 foot piece of wood that I could have the corners cut off. Shopping, cutting, four coats of paint and sealer plus assembly and the finished table was ready to use in under three days and cost $250 less. More importantly, because I made it I know I can also fix it if it gets damaged. The old tables have needed a few small touch ups over the 10+ years they have been in use.

So… Ta Da!

Now I know the new table is much smaller than our previous three table group BUT…I also used the old tables to create a separate art area on the reorganized wall where the toys and supplies are;

The art tables can fold down flat against the shelf unit if we want extra floor space. The white toddler chairs can be used at the art table – or the artists can kneel on the floor or sit on cushions/stools if they prefer. Best of all, unfinished art projects don’t have to be put away when it is time for meals. There is even some fancy under cabinet lighting.

I only needed to buy a few extra 2×6 boards, the table wood, and the light otherwise everything for this renovation was reclaimed/reused – total cost less than $75.

Coloured Paper

The basic craft supplies are always available for the children to use independently throughout the day – pencils, crayons, chalk, scissors, glue, tape, rulers, magazines and various types of paper. The children’s choice of paper is something that I find interesting.  The current school-age children go through vast amounts of plain white paper, cutting pieces and gluing/taping them together to create books, masks etc.  They seem to have no interest in the coloured paper or adding colour to their projects – unless there is paint.

The school-age children I had here for the summer preferred to use the lined paper.  They created impressive stories and art work filling every space on one paper before selecting another piece of lined paper.  They never chose plain white paper or coloured paper.

For the preschoolers paper choice is a major decision often taking more time than anything that they add to the paper.  Coloured paper has been their favourite ever since I showed them that the white pencils/crayons were not ‘broken’, but you could only see them on darker paper. If several of the preschoolers are at the table at the same time the paper choice process takes even longer since they often rethink their colour choice if the others pick a different colour.

Every time I restock the coloured paper the selection process is the same.  Pink paper is always the first choice and when all the pink paper is gone they will choose purple.  After that the decisions get more difficult – light blue, dark blue, red or black get used up next but they definitely are not the preferred colour choices.  In fact, after the pink and purple are gone they often choose plain white or lined paper over the other coloured paper.

Eventually the stack of coloured paper contains only yellow, orange, green, and brown.  The preschoolers will occasionally use these colours but they never seem pleased about it.  So, as the sad looking four year old sighed and reluctantly picked a yellow paper from the dwindling pile I asked  “Why don’t you like these colours?”  She replied “I like them but they are your favourites.”

?!?!?!

Yes, they are.  Throughout all our activities we often discuss favourite colours as well as other likes & dislikes but until she mentioned it I had never even noticed that the ‘leftover’ paper pile contained all my favourite colours.  Awww, all this time have they been leaving those papers for me?  I always thought they picked pink and purple first because they liked those colours best but now I’m wondering if they chose them because they know I don’t like pink and purple.

They’re very perceptive.

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Yard Projects

As mentioned in my previous post there have been many small yard projects I have tackled this summer.  Several years ago we put our old claw foot tub in the yard – re-purposed as a fire pit.  It was placed as a divider between the gravel area and the grass area but because of the rounded shape of the tub it didn’t really prevent the gravel from spilling over into the grass.  Originally we just had a board that sat just inside the tub to prevent access to the soot and debris but it didn’t prevent rain from soaking the fire pit.  Last year my husband made a cedar cover for the tub.

15-10-yard00It drives me crazy that he didn’t arrange the different coloured boards to create a pattern but I do love the smell of cedar so I try to focus on that instead.  The tub cover makes a great table for many of our group activities like this one;

15-10-yard01 However it doesn’t do anything to prevent the gravel from spilling over into the grass.  So, this summer I placed some cinder blocks along the cribbing beside the tub.  They line up with the edge of the cover and as an added bonus they make a great surface for chalk drawings;

15-10-yard0215-10-yard03There was another issue with the tree stumps too.  The children often like to use the stumps as tables – nothing wrong with that but it did sometimes get in the way of the children who wanted to walk on the stumps.  Some of the children also didn’t like to sit on the gravel beside their ‘table’ but had trouble finding suitable items to use for chairs.

As mentioned in my last post, this summer I rearranged the stumps to create a circular path around and over the hill.  I also had my husband cut a couple of the smaller stumps in half.  These were then put on the other side of the yard in front of the tipi along with one of the biggest stumps to create this;

15-10-yard04Since ‘the table’ is not part of the stump path dramatic play ‘meals’ don’t get in the way of active play.  Yes, sometimes the children do like to climb on these stumps too and sometimes they still use other stumps as tables but at least now they have more options and fewer disputes.

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Creative Summertime Freeplay

This has been a quiet summer.  Quiet meaning the children have needed very little direction from me.  This year’s group is very independent which has left me plenty of time for observation.

Indoors the trains have been neatly organized in the tubes instead of the block bin with the train tracks.  It was not my idea but I like it 🙂

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That is the only indoor picture that I have because we’ve been playing outside most of the time.

All the loose parts have provided endless opportunities for creativity and symbolic play.  These ‘eggs’ are neatly arranged by size;

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Of course there were many picnics and restaurants;

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The little tree cookies were used to create paths between and around the larger stumps;

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There was an ice cream shop with a wide variety of menu choices;

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A grand pony expedition – I love that these children can use action figures creatively without following a movie script;

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There was also an elaborate dramatic play activity involving the whole group.  The main characters were ‘sabre tooth grizzly birds’ and since I had trouble envisioning what they would look like I asked for a picture of one;

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This picture was made possible thanks to an accessible outdoor art area.

I also asked them to make a list of art items they’d like to have available.  There is plenty of paper so I was a little surprised by the size of the list they made;

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Even our outdoor snack time has been a creative activity;

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And finally, this little pine cone family has been waiting patiently all weekend.

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I wonder what they will be doing when the children return…

Liking the Space

It seems like I’ve been neglecting my blog.  Truth is, I’m feeling a little overextended at the moment.  Meetings, editing, writing presentations, paperwork, and other commitments have been eating up all my ‘spare’ time.

The 11 hours/day that I spend with the children has become my ‘quiet’ time.  Right now I’m supposed to be working on a slideshow presentation that I need to finish for tomorrow so I really shouldn’t be ‘wasting’ time playing around here but….

I wanted to share some of our experiences as we try out our newly renovated spaces.  There have been (mostly) positives and (a few) negatives from my perspective and the children’s too.

I haven’t really got the time to do this now so I’m just going to post a few pictures for now.  Here is a ‘magic’ tower;

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The blanket was successfully removed and replaced several times without knocking over the impressive structure hidden under it;

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In the nature area there has been a lot of interest in our new tree pieces – we now have several different sizes to choose from.  Here are some of the smaller ones that were being used to make a fence;

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The new art spaces have been popular too – for the preschoolers;

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And the school-age children too;

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Even the cats have been checking out the new spaces.  Malta has decided that the nap area divider is her property;

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However, there have been a few disputes about that.  Both cats have also claimed that the carpet under my computer chair belongs to them;

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I continually have to decide whether the paperwork is more important than disturbing the cats.  Maybe it is their way of telling me to go outside and play instead 🙂

Hopefully I’ll have time to write a ‘real’ post after things slow down a little.  Until then, I’ve got more work to do….

Fluffy Rain

One of my fellow family childcare committee members coined the term ‘fluffy rain’ in reference to the white stuff falling from the sky during our meeting last Thursday.  Maybe it was positive thinking or maybe it was just denial – none of us wanted to believe that it was snowing again at the end of April.

There was no school on Friday and although not all the children were here we still had a larger than normal group.  The ‘fluffy rain’ did not dampen anyone’s mood – outdoor play in any type of weather is still preferred over being stuck in a classroom all day.

Most of the morning there was an elaborate dramatic play activity involving an eccentric designer, an art exhibit, and various other characters.  I was assigned the role of ‘photographer’ to document the event – perfect because I was taking pictures already.

There was artwork everywhere;

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Then someone discovered the steady stream of water running out of the rain barrel overflow spout;

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Eventually we had to go back inside because it was too cold for soaking wet toddlers (my decision, not theirs).  Before that though we still had some more time to play with wet fluffy rain – on the plexiglass;

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One toddler was super excited to discover ‘flowers’;

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Hmmm, those ones might be remnants from last summer.  However, the pasture sage has been eager to get growing this year.  It has been active for a couple weeks already.

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Hopefully it won’t be deterred by a little fluffy rain – after all, it is a hardy native prairie plant.  It, like the rest of us Manitoba prairie dwellers, should be used to this by now.

Entertainment

Yesterday we spent the day at Kildonan Park.  We’ve been there before – many times – and I wrote a post about their playground here.  This time however, we didn’t spend any time at the playground  – we were otherwise entertained.

We began our outing by going for a hike. Stopping for snack along the way – cheese quesadillas, applesauce and water — plenty of water.  The scorching temperatures and high humidity meant many breaks for water and rest in the shade.

Some people had to work outdoors in the heat.  We noticed some workers on the other side of the road were preparing to take down a tree in the park.  The children were fascinated as we watched from a distance.  First they cut some notches;

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Then they brought the tractor;

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To push the tree;

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Down to the ground;

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We continued on our hike and then stopped to rest and play a little soccer;

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We continued on to our lunch time shelter and were thrilled to have more tree falling entertainment right beside our table!  First the notches again;

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We were waiting for the tractor to move closer but then we noticed the rope. This time the tree was pulled down instead of being pushed;

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When it landed it was VERY loud;

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One of the children didn’t notice – sleeping through the whole show.  After lunch we took some time to draw pictures of the flowers;

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The gardens were pretty but I prefer the ‘natural’ look the coneflowers we saw by the creek on the way back to the van;

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It was a great day at the park with plenty of entertainment.

Painted Snow

We’ve got a perfect amount of snow in the yard – enough so we can make piles and sculp and climb but not so much that we don’t have any open space left.  During our daily outdoor play time the preschoolers have packed well-defined trails through the yard.

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The school age children rarely have enough time to play outdoors and they had not been out in the yard since the snow began to accumulate.  They were amazed – they are taller now.  They don’t have to step up onto the logs (can’t find some of the logs). Sitting on the benches is a different experience too.

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Yesterday I decided to bring out some liguid watercolor.  Our previous experiences with this product – which you can read about here – were somewhat disappoining.  However, on the white snow the watercolors are vivid.

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I was expecting the children to do more ‘art’ and create pictures with the paint.  Instead, they were more focused on ‘science’ using the liquid to make ice on the slope of the little hill so it was slipperier for sliding on.  They like to use the old cookie sheets for this;

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There was some more science going on in the corner of the yard too as two young girls dug a hole in which to mix their colours in;

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Then they mixed it up to create little clumps of coloured snow which they called ‘gems’.

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And of course the children saved all their running and jumping energy for when we came back inside 🙂

Painted Pumpkin

Halloween 2012 is now history.  It was a very quiet Halloween night – we only had about on third of the trick or treaters that we normally get around here.

I will admit that Halloween is my least favourite of all the holidays but that doesn’t mean that we don’t celebrate it.  I did have most of my decorations up early this year – three weeks ago.  I also bought the pumpkins early but we didn’t do anything with them until yesterday. Part of the problem may have been that, of the 11 full or part time children that attend, the ones that are most interested in Halloween activities are not the ones who are here much.

I like to use pumpkins as a sensory activity for the children and we like to bake with them too.  We usually choose a pumpkin decorating activity that doesn’t involve carving it so we can still use the innards for food.  I found some really amazing pumpkin decorating ideas here.

However, with mostly just infants and toddlers here for the day any elaborate decorating techniques would not be developmentally appropriate.  So, instead we simply painted a pumpkin.

I found it amusing that the biggest problem I had with this activity was getting the little ones to stand up to paint.  Usually the messier the art activity the more likely they are to want to run around.  This time however  just sat, holding their paint brush, and stared at the pumkin on the table.  When I stood them up so they could reach they promptly sat down again.

Eventually they caught on and started painting the pumpkin.  The red paint did not show up well;

The blue was vibrant against the orange of the pumpkin;

We even managed to do some color mixing;

Of course by the end of the activity the pumpkin was mostly greyish brown but we were most interested in the process not the product.