Tag Archives: crafts

Spring Roundup

Spring is such a busy time for me.  As usual I’ve been collecting pictures to use in blog posts but not leaving myself enough time to actually write posts 😦

So, here is a roundup of what should have been three posts;

I made a batch of homemade glue for an art project but then realized the recipe made much more than we needed and it doesn’t keep for very long. So, I dumped it in a big bin along with paper bits from the shredder, wool scraps, glitter and paint powder.  The children enjoyed mashing it all together – no pictures of that part because it was way too messy to have a camera nearby.

Initially the mixture was extremely sticky and some of us were not impressed by the sensation of having our hands coated in the goo.  Eventually the paper absorbed enough of the glue and made the mixture easier to handle.

Later each of the children took a portion of the mixture to work with;

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Or form into mini balls and throw around the room;

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They pressed the mixture into the shape of the bowl and then we let it dry;

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It took a lot longer than anticipated – nearly a week before they were dry and ready to take home;

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Outside, now that the snow is gone, the boys have been begging for me to open the ‘summer toys’ bin. So far I have resisted – knowing there will be a big issue over who gets the one Batman figure (which may mysteriously disappear).  They’ve managed to keep themselves busy with the loose parts and eggs;

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The longer periods of outdoor time have meant some are very tired by nap time (or earlier).  One however, has been using quiet time to become a jigsaw puzzle expert. He has now completed ALL of my 100 piece puzzles several times and can finish two of them in one afternoon.

I decided maybe we should try something a little more challenging – so I brought out a 500 piece puzzle.  This part took him two days with no assistance from me;

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He did find the trees and mountains a little more difficult so I assisted with sorting some of the pieces. He is persistent and refuses to give up without finishing.  By the third week – after about 12 hours of actual work – he had done this much;

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I think that is very impressive for a four year old 🙂  I’m not the only one who has been busy.

 

Arts & Crafts

Many, many years ago I used to buy craft kits for my own children – often as Christmas gifts.  Sometimes they enjoyed creating the pictured product, sometimes they used the supplies to make something entirely different, and sometimes they did nothing.  I have also purchased the occasional craft kit for myself but I tend to use the instructions more like guidelines, changing things along the way much like the way I ‘tweak’ recipes when I am cooking.  It could be that I wanted to personalize it but probably also a little ‘don’t tell me what to do’ rebellion.

I’m not sure exactly when I went anti-craft but at some point I began to despise product crafts. Maybe it was the year I volunteered in my son’s Kindergarten class when I spent hours cutting out pieces for the children to assemble according to the prescribed pattern.  Maybe it was after I opened my childcare home and watched a steady procession of elementary school children bringing back exactly the same craft products year after year after year.

Over the past fifteen or so years I’ve rarely provided any sort of art/craft instruction and never insisted everyone had to participate.  I’ve taken a ‘loose parts’ approach to setting up the art area and the children are able to choose to use the art supplies freely throughout the  day to create whatever interests them.

I’ve watched some children create really amazing art work.  They have wonderful imaginations and problem solving skills.  If there is something missing from the art area that they think would benefit their projects they ask for it or bring it from home.  Some of these expert artists also enjoy assisting others and will lead spontaneous art classes.

I’ve also observed children who struggle with an open-ended art area.  Some don’t know how to start if there isn’t a leader showing the way.  Some are easily frustrated and give up mid project.  Some never set foot in the art area either because they are not interested or because they doubt their own ability.  There are even some for whom the ‘product’ is so important that they will send the ‘artists’ to make things for them but never attempt to create their own.

Sometimes there isn’t a lead artist in the group – there may be one or two that are very creative but they are ‘followers’.  Even though they can create imaginative artwork when working independently, if another child is present they just imitate each other.  Often there isn’t even any art, just play with the art materials – pencil swords, rolled paper trumpets, etc.  Groups like this rarely have any ‘products’ and the few they do have are exactly the same three pencil lines on a crumpled piece of paper day after day.

Some art tools, like scissors, are more like ‘weapons of mass destruction’.  Sure I think scissors skills are important but I’m not entirely certain scissors are a ‘creative’ tool that I want all preschoolers to have free independent access to.

I’ve tried to limit my ‘instruction’ to introducing new supplies – demonstrating methods and techniques – not products.  Invariably there will be at least one child who will simply copy everything I do and others who will follow along.  *sigh*  We have now created what looks like a product craft.

I think there has to be a middle ground – at least for preschoolers.  Not just ‘follow my instructions and make this’ product crafts.  Not just ‘here are some materials, play with them’ entirely child led process.   So, here are a few things we’ve done recently;

Tissue paper, paper plates & glue: ripping, crumpling, flattening, spreading, pouring, pressing and more – a lot of different ‘process’ yet the ‘products’ all looked pretty similar in the end.

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Clay, water, tools, sand, glue – several steps on/off throughout a week long experience – many differences along the way yet very similar in the end.

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Paper cones, paint, glitter, clay and sticks;

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Yes, there were a lot of new experiences, a lot of process, some instruction, a lot of imitation – trying what someone else did and liking it, and even some ‘product’.  I think the important thing was there was no ‘correction’ – no, ‘that’s not what you are supposed to be making, fix it’.  If they wanted to make something different they could – and some did – briefly – then they scrapped it and copied what the others were doing because that is what they do.  That is what they like to do – most of them – at least in this group – but if they didn’t want to that would have been OK too.

Glue

I both love and detest glue.  I love its potential as a tool for crafts – to adhere two or more items together.  However, there is a long list of annoying things about glue.

Sometimes it is too wet – damaging the paper or taking too long to dry so the children get frustrated and often give up before they successfully complete their project.  Glue is easily spilled and difficult to get it from the container to the spot you want it to be.

Sometimes it is too dry – clogged squeeze bottles, shriveled up glue sticks, glue pots containing rubberized mounds of  old glue.  I find it nearly impossible to have good glue available for the children to use independently whenever they want it.  At least 75% of all the glue I buy gets wasted – thrown out without ever getting used for crafts.

Cleaning up glue is another frustrating task.  Using water just thins it out spreading it further and further until the entire table is coated.  A dry paper towel sticks to the glue on a table more permanently than any of the craft supplies we tried to attach.  Clean-up is more time consuming than set-up and creation combined.

In an effort to find a solution to my issues with purchased glue I’ve tried several homemade glue/paste recipes.  Most have failed to provide good results – often easy to work with but the crafts simply fall apart after the glue dries.  However, recently I tried this recipe;

• 1 1/2 Cups Water
• 2 Tablespoons Light Corn Syrup
• 1 Teaspoon White Vinegar
• 1/2 Cup Cornstarch

Pour 3/4 cup of the water into a medium sized pot along with the corn syrup and vinegar. Bring this mixture to a full boil, stirring often.
While you are waiting for that mixture to boil, mix the remaining cold water and the cornstarch together. Beat well to remove all of the lumps. Slowly stir the water and cornstarch into your boiling mixture, stirring constantly. Bring this mixture to a boil and let it boil for 1 minute. Remove the pot from the heat and let cool.
Once cooled, put the glue in a covered container and wait at least a day before using.

The resulting jelly-like product was easy for even the youngest artists to scoop and spread;

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Everyone was impressed by how easy this glue was to work with;

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It is so sticky that layers upon layers of papers were quickly adhered together;

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Even when only part of the paper touched the glue gravity wasn’t strong enough to release it after it dried – and it dried quickly too;

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Stored  in a covered container, the homemade glue was still sticky and spreadable the following week but I wasn’t certain how long it would remain ‘good’ so I decided to use all the remainder in our sensory bin.  I gathered a bunch of other leftovers – shredded paper, sand, powdered paint, potpourri, etc.  The toddlers were curious and examined the dry ‘ingredients’.

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I envisioned that once the glue was added we would be able to use the mixture much like clay and form it into shapes.  However, the children were hesitant to touch it now.

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It was so very sticky that mounds of shredded paper was instantly stuck to the hand of anyone who dared to touch the glue.  It was an extreme sensory activity.  One by one the children began to mix the items together in the bin – very hesitantly – mostly just trying to bury the glue.

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It wasn’t until I added a bit of water that the children became less reluctant to participate.  Even then they didn’t really seem to like the incredible stickiness.  They were however fascinated by the potpourri – picking out the bigger pieces and peeling apart the layers.

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Not what I was expecting but very interesting to watch.  Still, the best was yet to come.  This glue, as sticky as it seems, cleans up in seconds.  I was so very impressed.  A quick rinse under running water and it is completely gone!  No sticky hands. No messy containers. No residue on the table.  Nothing.

Easy to make.  Easy to use. Easy to clean up.  Wow!

Robots

Lately the toddlers have been infatuated by robots.  Originally it was just one of the children but the others have caught on and now they incorporate robots – or at least the word ‘robot’ – in all their activities.

In one of my favourite observations the 2-year-old boys were bouncing about chanting “Ro-bot, ro-bot, ro-bot”.  They do this on and off all day, every day, indoors & out.  Sometimes the girls join in briefly but most often it is just the boys.  On this particular day the 2-year-old girl joined in as a “robot butterfly”.

As the boys bounced around chanting, the girl ‘floated’ around gently waving her arms and whispering “robot butterfly, robot ballerina butterfly”.  It was beautiful – mesmerizing – I couldn’t stop watching.  Even the boys stopped briefly and stared.  They looked at each other and then continued bouncing around the room madly waving their arms a shouting “ROBOT BUTTERFLY”.  There were no ballerinas in their description.

The robots are not limited to active play.  There are musical robots and cooking robots and animal robots too.  Almost everything they build is at some point called a robot even if it starts out as a tower or a house…

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Last week they started using the shopping baskets as robot helmets. The basket is placed upside down over someone’s head and the handle is used as a chin strap.  It is interesting because this has been done by many other children throughout my 18 years in childcare (the baskets are more than 20 years old & originally belonged to my own children).  I’ve never suggested that they could be helmets and often there is a lapse between one group of ‘robot children’ and the next so the helmet idea is not passed on as a ‘learned’ activity.

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Yesterday I gave the toddlers some foam shapes and let them design their own robots;

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These are their finished creations;

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I think there may be some robot engineers in this group of toddlers 🙂

Yard Art

Last month I brought some clay and plasticine out to the yard.  I put several pieces of each on trays around the yard.  The children explored the textures.  I showed them how to use the heat from their hands to warm the clay and make it more pliable.

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We collected various items from the yard and garden to add to the clay to make sculptures;

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Of course the process was more important than the product and everyone had their own ideas and methods;

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After the children were done with this activity the clay, plasticine, and other supplies were abandoned in the gravel area.  Only the trays were returned to the outdoor art area.  Later that week I brought some painting supplies out and placed them on the lid of the storage box – it is a nice height for the toddlers to use as a table.

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Some children prefer to try alternative methods when painting – I thought it looked much more difficult to stand on the back side of the storage box but that was her choice;

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It added a physical, gross motor, element to the art activity. Another bit of process over product – it could be described as ‘hanging’ art since her feet were not on the ground;

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Over the last few weeks the children have discovered that the clay that was abandoned in the gravel area has now hardened into ‘rocks’.  The plasticine however is still pliable – especially on warmer days.  Of course you have to find it though – there are bits and pieces of plasticine strewn throughout the 400 sq ft gravel area.

There is always excitement when someone finds a piece of plasticine amongst all the gravel.  It is even better when they can collect enough of it to create another sculpture;

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The sunlight and shadows add even more artistic opportunities.  Even though the process is our goal, some of the products are pretty amazing too;

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Best of all, this plasticine is reusable.  With a wide variety of nature items in the yard there are endless creative opportunities.  Like all the loose parts in the yard, the plasticine offers the freedom to explore, imagine, and invent.  It is all about the process.

Fall Leaves and More

There was no school on Friday and I planned to do some type of fall craft activity.  Earlier in the week the preschoolers and I had collected some leaves – this was a little difficult since it has been so wet lately so most of the leaves are mushy.  Luckily we also had a lot of grains and leaves from our garden.

I don’t particularly like store bought glue so we used glue recipe;

 Cook and stir 1/2 cup of cornstarch, 1 1/2 cups of water, 4 tablespoons of light corn syrup, and 2 teaspoons of white vinegar over medium heat until thickened.  Remove the mixture from the heat. In another dish, mix together 1/2 cup cornstarch with 1/2 cup water.  Add this to the heated mixture. Use the resulting glue immediately or store it in the refrigerator for up to two months.

This glue is nice and thick so I find that it works well for for filling gaps when you’re trying to adhere things that don’t lay flat against the paper.  The youngest in the group thought it made great playdough/hand lotion too. This activity kept them engaged for over an hour;

Later in the day we went for a long walk (no babies with us today).  The children played a game where they tried to avoid stepping on any of the leaves;

There was a mixture of dismay and excitement when we reached areas that looked like this;

The weather was cool but not cold and it was not raining however the humidity was high and it was very damp.  When we returned we had some hot cocoa to combat the chill;

It was a nice treat on a somewhat quiet fall day.

Our Week Outdoors – The End

The last day of our week outdoors started with me making the ‘trail mix macaroni salad’ – pasta, bacon, raisins, grated carrot, sunflower seeds, and salad dressing (I used ranch).

The flavour was good but I’m still not a fan of pasta salads — it is the texture of cold pasta that I don’t like.  The children all ate it but no one begged for more.

I received some gifts from the children when they arrived;

When we got outside I set up the tunnels.  There were several items I had handy just in case the children got bored – they rarely get bored outside so most of the items didn’t get used.  I wanted to get the tunnels out because we haven’t used them for a long time.  The children cheered;

I left them out all day and they were used for a variety of activities but the favorite one involved the balls – of course;

We also did some crafts — these children prefer active play so getting them interested in crafts is sometimes a challenge — messy crafts are the best.  I suggested that these might make good Father’s day gifts but left the decision up to them;

Later in the afternoon I noticed that there were pieces of bark neatly arranged in the tipi;

When I asked what the bark was for they informed me that it was ‘jail’ and they continued playing.  Some arrests were made, there was an attempted jailbreak – involving a pinecone ‘knife’ – everything ended peacefully.

So, here’s the evaluation of spending one whole week outdoors;

  • Nap time outdoors is AWESOME even (especially) in the rain.
  • Eating meals outdoors is ok occaisionally but eating every meal for a week outdoors is tiresome.
  • No one complains about being bored.  No one misses the indoor toys.
  • I discovered that I would not survive if I had to work any place that required me to wear shoes all day.
  • All the ‘little things’ I normally do in spare minutes throughout the day – loading/unloading the dishwasher, checking/responding to email, miscellaneous paperwork, prepwork and cleaning-up etc don’t get done during the day.  They add an hour or two to my workday after the children leave — I normally only work 12 hours a day, this week it was closer to 14 hours per day.
  • I miss my coffee pot.
  • I have absolutely no trouble falling asleep at night.

I highly recommend it! 🙂