Friday, February 20, 2009

Art Project: Space Wash

These make beautiful, fun "washes" and this project is a great integration of discussing ideas (which also teaches brainstorming, turn taking), and getting them down on paper (a great pre-writing skill that will be used throughout life, of course)...

First, I like to do some sort of *active* or *real* activity that "gets them fired up" for whatever topic we're discussing/brainstorming.

Today, I had a big floor space puzzle. So we talked about some of the things that were on it - planets, stars, the Milky Way, etc. - you can keep it at that with toddlers, and/or put it together, discussing as you go along.

Then I told my three kiddos (2 are neighbor kiddos I babysit, ages 5 and 3) we were going to do an art project about space!

First, we sat down and talked about the things we saw in the puzzle and the things we'd be likely to see in space. As each kid offered a suggestion, I wrote it down and illustrated it with a little cartoon - I hung it up on my counter edge so they could see it as we worked.

Here's the materials we used for the Space Wash...

Crayola Oil Pastels (I think I got these at Michaels - they're like big fat waxy crayons)

Watercolor paper would be ideal, I only had white craft/construction paper.

Watercolor paints and largeish sized paintbrushes (bigger than the tiny brushes that come with the kits - like blush-brush sized would be perfect, so they can "wash" the color across the paper).

Water, of course, for the watercolor paints.

A few tbsp of salt - either regular or Kosher/Sea, doesn't matter - in a little bowl, for easy dispensing.


If you want to, read the directions first so you're familiar, and at the paint stage, do the project for them as a demonstration first. Then they'll have a good idea of what to do.

1. After kids have a good idea of things they might see in space, have them draw some of their favorites with the Oil Pastels. For planets, of course, just a big colorful circle-shape is perfect! And so on...doesn't matter if things "look" exactly right; as long as children are reflecting their thoughts on paper.

2. Use the white oil pastel yourself, and tell each kiddo you are going to draw a "secret picture" on their space picture (with their permission, of course ) and it will show up when they put the paint on. I drew stars, shooting stars, comets, etc.

3. Get out the watercolors (preparing them first, by adding a drop of water to each color, so they're ready to rock & roll) and discuss how space is really dark. Have them choose ONE preferrably dark color choice (or two - keep it simple - black, purple, navy blue, whatever) and tell them they are going to get the paintbrush really wet and dip it into the color. Have them "wash" the color over the paper with large strokes, so that the paper will get fully saturated in the paint color.

4. The waxy oil pastels should pop up against a dark paint color and the white "secret pictures" you made should be revealed!

5. While colored spots around the paper are still saturated-wet with paint, drizzle some salt over it. The salt will absorb the color, leaving white "stars" when dry. When the paper is completely dry you can brush the salt right away.

Neat, kinda sciencey, artsy and fun!

Monday, February 16, 2009

What To Do With Leftover Valentine's Candy Boxes

If you have a preschooler in the house, use those leftover V-Day candy boxes to make Valentine's Themed "Table Games". Its a good way to start any kind of structured day (if you have kids to babysit, any kind of structured learning time, homeschool older kids, that kind of thing).

In our case, I had kids to babysit, so I created these games last night, after dinner. Use your imagination, any on-hand materials (I had a VERY skimpy assortment of construction paper scraps that I used til I just couldn't use them anymore), and just keep in mind your preschooler's interests and skillset, and it's a snap to do!

Here's what I used:

Construction paper scraps
Elmer's glue
Sharpie marker
Regular markers
Valentines Boxes
The paper liner which came in our larger V-Day candy boxes that we haven't finished yet
Some on-hand "game markers" (well, I used these teeeeny tiny little manipulatives called "Pixel Blocks"). You could use bingo or "tiddlywinks" type chips, dried beans, or anything else you happen to have lying around. For color-specific games, such as one of those I created below, you'd probably want to use color-coordinating game markers of some kind (ie., color some dried lima beans with permanant markers to coordinate with your gameboard).

For color games, you could cut out coordinating color construction paper shapes and instruct your child to put his colored game pieces on the matching color on his gameboard. For the games I made out of the V-Day candy heart paper liners, I just drew medium sized circles and colored them in with regular markers (outlining with a Sharpie to make it stand out, and easier to delineate from the rest of the board). I wrote the name of the each color below it. Then I put a handful of those tiny pixel blocks in front of Charlie and suggested he find red ones to put on the red space; blue ones on the blue space, pink on the pink space, etc. etc.

For the money game, I just drew spaces of different sizes (to represent different coins and a bill) - smallest circle represented a dime, a brown circle to represent a penny, a rectangle to represent a dollar bill, etc. Then Charlie had a good time emptying his "money box" out on the table and matching up coins to coin-spaces and bills to bill-spaces.

And then you can pat yourself on the back for reducing, reusing and recycling!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Some fun things we've been up to this summer and fall...

I know its been a long time since I've been here...things got know how it is...

Here's some little snaps of some simple and easy fun things we've been doing along the way...

Those cheapie glowsticks you can find at the dollar store or Walmart are always a fun addition to cookouts, trick or treats, whenever...!

Getting our flowerbeds ready for the ensuing fall/winter...Charlie found a little tunnel of foliage that I trimmed up for him to run through.

On Election Night, we decided Sam could squeeze in some math minutes (required for school) by tallying up electoral votes as they occurred - this was so fun and exciting...Here he is at the beginning of the media coverage...

And - I didn't get pictures - but boy, I sure should have! We made chocolate covered bananas for snack yesterday. You can find the chocolate - already in chip form, ready to melt in a microwaveable bowl - in the produce area of Wallyworld (and most other grocery stores). Just pop it in the microwave and melt for a couple of minutes, and let the kids dip (pre-chilled in the freezer until firm) banana chunks into some yummy chocolate - who wouldn't like that?!?!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Sculpey Fun

Oh man - I love this stuff!
On a whim, I bought some plain white Sculpey clay for Sam to rely on as a quick boredom buster for some of these stifling hot afternoons we've been experiencing lately, and he and Summer had the biggest blast yesterday making their own "Bakugan-esque" type creatures (these little Pokemon-monstery-type guys from a TV show called "Bakugan").

They sculpted. We baked. They painted. It was an afternoon's worth of fun for all.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Weird fun field trips

Necessity is the mother of invention, and since our weekly "fun budget" is often limited, Sam and I were talking about possible inexpensive, simple, and fun "mini field trips" we could do this summer - apart from the usual local pool, library, zoo, movies, etc. - to keep things from getting too boring...

Here's what we sometimes do, and other ideas we came up with in the car today...I hope to add to this list as the summer days pass:

The pet store - just to browse - then on for limeades, smoothies or ice cream (all are nearby the pet store location for us).

The bookstore - We all get to browse for what we like, and Charlie gets to go to the train table and immediately make a poopoo...what could be better?! I'll take a mocha frappucino with that please...Thanks. :)

Farmers Market - we have a dinky little one here in our rural community, but it is cute and the veggies are fantastic. We usually pair this with a drive out to our property before or after, since they are nearby one another.

Go to a restaurant near the airport for yummy food and some airplane-watching. In our case, Luby's cafeteria has those huge windows that are situated perfectly to watch planes of all sizes arrive at Dallas/Fort Worth airport. And, hey, who can complain about a reasonably-priced smorgasbord to satisfy all tummies...?!

The Federal Bureau of Printing and Engraving (or something like that) Fort Worth branch is just a hop, skip and jump away from us - I think watching money being made might be pretty cool! We have yet to do this one...

Botanic Gardens - Fort Worth Botanic Gardens is an absolute favorite of ours!

Nature Reserves and Trails - see my post below for a recent discovery of a local nature park/trail system. Also just recently we tried out a new nature reserve, which we happen to pass every time we go to my mom's house - its fantastic fun, as long as the heat isn't too extreme.

What are your favorite "simple and interesting field trip destinations"...? Please feel free to comment!

Just WALK!

Recently we discovered a brand new, out of the way, local nature reserve with beautiful landscaped trails, as well as rough primitive paths through woods, rocks and fields...of course, with a stroller, lunchboxes, juiceboxes, sippie cups, and all the other paraphenalia it takes to go anywhere with a toddler, we could only navigate through certain portions of the rough trails.

We took Honey (Grandma) there a couple of weeks ago and here's a couple shots of our fun time...

Honey & kids

Me with kiddos


If you want to make it more "gamelike" for kids - older and younger alike - add scavenger hunt lists (or picture lists for non-readers) - do it for fun, or promise a special treat to the first person to find all the items on the list!

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Playspace Design

I've always enjoyed setting up my kids' playroom sort of like a mini preschool room.
"Blocking out" the room into different "centers" - or individual play areas - really organizes the room in a way that I find kids enjoy.

And guess what - this is scandalous...I even clean it up every day!

I don't even wanna fathom how many of you may be shaking your heads and rolling your eyes at that, but really, ask yourself, "Just how fun can playing in a total chaotic mess actually be?" My totally UNscientific observations have revealed that a chaotic mess leads to chaotic play. Organized - even sometimes *gasp* supervised - play leads to an experience they can focus and concentrate on, as well as very early mastery of turn-taking, and cleaning up (or "putting things back in their homes" as we like to call it here).

Of course, now that there's quite an age difference between the two boys (9 and 1), "Matchbox Car Center" butts right up to the TV and Gamecube Game hell - er, the "Entertainment Center". And in the "pretend bin" very realistic-looking machine guns and swords are mixed right in with the Fisher Price Lil Doctor's kit.

Just in case you are looking for ideas for your playroom, here's the "centers" I currently have zoned out in our playroom:

"magnet center" as mentioned in the below post (and no, I don't actually call them by these dorky names... - Okay...maybe when I'm babysitting and the only people around is a room full of toddlers!)

"car center" which consists of a car mat, a box of about 20 (not too many to pick up, not too few) Matchbox cars, and big spiraly garage-plaything handed down to me from my cousin's boys

"dress up/pretend" center

"music center" which consists of a keyboard on a little toddler sized table, and a gigantic rolling cart filled with musical instruments we've collected over the past ten years

and the aforementioned "entertainment center" for the tweenyboppers.

Also on shelves I have a puzzle organizer with about 6 wood-knob puzzles I scored for 14 bucks at the local kid's clothing consignment shop (we have about 10 other puzzles, which I rotate in and out of the playroom closet), and a wide assortment of blocks I'd like to continue to add to.

I keep pondering what to do with the ten tons of miscellaneous sized bouncy balls which Sam won't let me chunk, and Charlie is so fond of, but neither kid plays with currently. I wonder if I could find a good plan for a giant-sized PVC ball maze? Something the kids could easily engineer in different configurations, and send bouncy balls through? Hmmmm....

And there are still many ways in which our playroom could be enhanced (like livening it up with paint, for one, and hanging kid artwork on the walls, for two...both of which you'd think I'd have already done since I'm a painter by trade, hah!), but I've found that labeling things in clear, easy-access bins, shelves and other containers, and blocking out the room in fun mini-centers, leads to kids exploring and role-playing in a fun-to-discover environment. Also, keeping a clean, organized space motivates me more to frequently update it and switch things in and out of use and actually go in there from time to time to play with them!