Monday, May 11, 2015

Bubble Squishers

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My buddies and I all had so much fun with this activity!  I whipped up a batch of bubbles with my electric mixer.  I used a little water, and dish soap. I tried some additives to make the bubbles last longer, too, but didn't find anything particularly effective. I used about a half cup of water and a tablespoon or so of dish soap (a generous squirt should do). You can also add colouring to the foam with food colouring or liquid water colours. Then turn your mixer on high speed and beat it until it is really foamy. 

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Scoop it into some large plastic bags and close the bags up.  Then snip off a tiny little corner of the bag.  

Kids can squish and squirt the soap foam into containers and cups and just up into the air.  They really loved this activity and I've saved the plastic bags so that we can do it again and I won't have to cut holes in more bags.  (I'm going to have to figure out how to temporarily close the corners while I fill the bags.)  

We will definitely be doing this again!  I will keep trying to find something will prolong the bubbles as they do start to return back to a watery state if left for very long. Let me know if you try this fun activity & if you happen to know what will make the foam last longer.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Gnome Homes

Gnome Homes - an alternative to fairy gardens photo Gnome Homes.png

While fairy gardens seem to be all the rage, at my house we do things a little differently. I have a window box in front of my house that is mostly hidden by a shrub.  You can't see it except when you're inside the house.  It gets very little sun and no rain so it's really hard to grow things in it.

I thought it would be fun to build a fairy garden, but I didn't have any fairies.  I did have gnomes, though.  And I had a bird house and a few garden ornaments.  I mainly used what I had lying around but I did pick up some moss to make a base.  

The most complex part of this gnome home was making the little well.  I used a tin can and glued craft sticks around it.  The roof is bent cardboard from a cereal box, and each shingle was cut from the same cardboard.  I painted a little medicine cup with silver paint and put a wire handle on it.  Voila!  Well.  It was perfect for the climbing gnome to be coming out of.  (The gnomes were intended to be in planters.)

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I painted up a bird house, too, and used craft sticks to make a door and enhance a window. 

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I had a mushroom garden ornament that seemed to be the right size so it got a fresh coat of paint, too. I eventually added a pathway of little square tiles, a fence of craft sticks and little artificial flowers that I cut from stems from the dollar store.  

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I love that it's kind of a secret waiting to be discovered when they look out the window. Like a secret garden - but without the trying to keep plants alive without proper sun or water!

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Foil Painting

Foil Painting - a relaxing creative art activity for all ages photo Foil Painting Collage.png
painting on foil is a wonderfully relaxing art activity

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The other day, someone asked me if we did a lot of crafts at daycare. I cringed, just a little and told her, no, we didn't do a lot of crafts. Most of my buddies were 3 and under at the time, so traditional crafting was a little beyond them.

Instead, what I have found, and this works for buddies of all ages, is open-ended art activities. This allows every child, regardless of age or ability, to explore the materials, to choose their design and create at will.  Each child can feel successful and feel pleasure in the process of creating.  

This simple foil painting activity was an excellent example.  We did this a few years ago (with older and younger buddies) and are due to do it again.  I had prepared their foil ahead of time by taping it onto some shirt cards that had been donated.  This gave them a surface to paint on that was sturdier and less likely to crinkle or tear as they painted.

I also provided a tray of paints and some brushes, though they were free to paint with their fingers.  Paint on foil has a cool and slippery feel that some of my buddies particularly enjoyed.  Other buddies used brushes and carefully picked colours and placement on their foil.

The best part of open-ended art in a multi-age group is that the children lead the activity.  I'm not telling them what to cut, or where to paste or what to do at all. I'm not doing it for them either. It's all them.  They enjoy themselves, it's a relaxing and pleasant activity.  Some of my buddies spent a long time on this activity, while others finished more quickly and went on to other things.  

In the end, my buddies had a creation to take home that was all theirs, made by them. We'll do a craft, perhaps, another day, but not this day.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Simple Chocolate Chip Pancakes

Easy to make, chocolate chip pancakes!  A hit with kids & grandkids everywhere! photo Chocolate Chip Pancakes.png

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When the grandchildren visit, they like to have pancakes in the morning. Unfortunately for them, their grandma isn't really a morning person. I'm not likely to spring out of bed on a weekend and throw together some fancy pancake concoction that would make Martha Stewart proud. Fortunately for them, I am crazy about them and love to see them happy. Fortunately for me, that's pretty easy.

Here's my trick: I have them make the pancakes AND I use a mix.  Just add chocolate chips.  They do the measuring and the mixing and the pouring and the stirring.  All I do is fry them up. And serve. They think they're the best pancakes in the world. I think they are the easiest pancakes in the world.  And if we're feeling really fancy-schmancy, we add whipped cream and caramel or chocolate syrup.  Maybe Martha would be proud. Nah...probably not.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Drying Art Projects

Stack Trays to dry artwork. photo Tip 3 - Stacking Trays.png

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Have you ever looked with envy at those fancy art drying racks in the supply catalogues? I know I have, even though I really don't have the space for one. I've found something even better, though. If you're like me, you probably have several serving trays that you use for art activities and play dough. They can easily serve the same purpose. They're convenient, too, because it's one less piece of equipment to store and the kids can work on the same tray that their art will be kept on.  Just leave the wet paint or glue covered work on the tray and stack them as shown above.  Find an unused desk or countertop and set them aside to dry.  I love that I can throw these trays through my dishwasher to clean them and they stack and store away on the shelf when not in use. I hope this tip helps you out with your next art project!  

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Not a Mud Kitchen

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Last summer I convinced my husband to help me build one of my many, many dream projects. We had acquired a wonderful circular stainless steel sink and had held onto it for a number of years. Finally my husband built a base for it and connected it to water.

The sink was only part of the project I had in mind, though.  I had seen some wonderful mud kitchens and was so inspired.  I was hesitant to create just another mud kitchen, though... I had other ideas... I imagined more, I guess.  We already had a kitchen in one of our play houses.

This is it. It's still a work in progress, and I have more that I want to add but this is where I am now.

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I want to add at least one more row of the plastic pavers in front of the area as it can get quite muddy after a lot of water play or after a good rain.  The irish moss planted between the pavers hasn't grown as quickly as I'd hoped so I'm going to add more of it, or look for another plant to grow there.

The blue buckets are not the best for storage because they also hold water so I'm working on a better solution for those things. The biggest challenge I find in all my play areas is the rainy, wet weather.  It turns much of my grass to mud and tends to collect in and on the toys.  Late fall, winter and early spring can be really wet so it's a constant battle.

My plan now, is to create a few bins of accessories to allow the area to be used in a variety of ways.  I want a bin with science tools like beakers and test tubes, a bin of extra water accessories, and maybe one or two with dramatic play props like puppets or restaurant play accessories.  I can see a blanket being thrown over the front stand to make an awesome puppet theater!  We already have props for an ice-cream store or coffee shop, too.

Overall, I am very pleased with how this project turned out and I am ready to turn my attention to the next!  

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Coloured Salt Exploration

Coloured Salt Play - How to make coloured salt, play activity ideas photo Coloured Salt 1.png

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We have often used salt trays as a fun mark making activity.  I thought I would change it just a little and provide my buddies with coloured salt with a slightly different texture.  I took about 2 cups of salt, and added about a teaspoon of liquid watercolours and a tablespoon of flour.  The flour takes away a little of the grittiness of the salt and gives it a texture quite pleasing to touch.

Exploring Coloured Salt photo Coloured Salt 2.jpg

They were seated at the table and I gave them each a tray with the yellow salt on it.  They made some marks, but mostly they seemed intrigued with the feel of the coloured salt on their hands and they smoothed and spread it around for a long time before beginning to use their fingers to make marks. There were lots of spirals and circles on their trays.

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They were still busy with this activity when it came time for lunch, so I transferred the salt onto one of my classroom tables.  It has a nice ridge around the edge which helps to keep the mess to a minimum.  I added some new accessories.  I like containers with twist off lids because my buddies must use both hands working together to open or close them.  My paint cups are perfect for this. I added a funnel and a couple of scrapers, and a ladle and colander as well.  They were keen to try out the new accessories.

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The next day as we went out for a walk we came across workers at the park doing some maintenance work to a baseball diamond. I really believe in letting my buddies learn from the things that go on in our neighbourhood, so we asked what they were doing. One of the men explained about the tools they were using. They had tools that looked like rakes but the actual name for them was lutes. After they spread the sand around with the bobcat and the lutes, the bobcat left and brought back another tool called a float. The men attached the float to the back of the bobcat and the bobcat dragged it around in circles around the field. I couldn't help but be reminded of my buddies' circles in the salt trays.

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That afternoon, when they got up from nap, something else was waiting for them. I had removed the trays to make space and added a tractor and some other small vehicles. These things are always popular with my buddies so I wasn't suprised to see their excitement as they played with these.  I wanted to encourage them to remember what we saw at the baseball diamond and play with the new information.

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I had one more trick up my sleeves and surprised them when I added red lentils to the table the next morning.  I like the two sizes of sensory materials and being able to mix them and then separate them again.  

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I know that we are not done with this material yet, but I don't know what we'll do next.  I was thinking I might like to add an even larger material - like a larger bean, or perhaps I could transfer the activity to an outside table where I could give them a little water to see how it reacts.  Giving them some playdough at the table would be interesting, they could see how the materials would get mixed with the playdough but would not be easy to separate.  Or I might pack it away for use again sometime in the future.  What would you do next?