Bucket filling

bucket.jpgFirstly, yes I’m still here, sorry that it’s been 6 months. I’m not good at regular blogging.

Today I’m bringing you a picture book that’s much more of an obvious moral lesson than usual.

The concept here is simple. Everyone has an invisible bucket which they carry around with them all the time. When you treat people kindly, you are filling their bucket, being unkind dips into their bucket. I like how it covers the fact that people often dip because their own buckets are empty, and they’re trying to gain happiness by taking from others, but that when you dip like that, actually you end up emptying your own bucket, you can’t fill your bucket by dipping, you fill your bucket up, by filling other people’s buckets. We got this book at Christmas, and have read it repeatedly, both children (3 and 5) understood it straight away and we have started referring to kind things as filling people’s buckets. There is a video available on youtube (check links) so you can enjoy this book even if you can’t find a physical copy.

bucketscratch

Activity 1 ( buckets)

The first and most obvious activity was that I got each child a bucket (I bought candyfloss buckets, it was cheaper than buying a bucket). They decorated them using sharpies. Though you could also glue pictures on. We have then been using these in an ongoing way, where if someone does something that fills someone else’s bucket, I write it down and place the note in their bucket. Showing that as they fill other people’s buckets, their bucket fills up. Personally, I’m not planning on rewarding them or anything, we are just using the buckets as a visual representation of how their bucket fills when they are kind to others. They are very happy at how full their buckets are getting, and I do notice them trying to be kind. You could also write uplifting words and pop these in their buckets too. If you want to make it more interesting, or have very large buckets, write on wooden blocks/lego or similar.

Activity 2 (Scratch art)

Equipment:

White card

Bright crayons or pens

Acrylic paint

Washing up liquid

Cocktail stick

This is a great craft, which is loads of fun to do, but also creates some beautiful little cards to give to people to fill their buckets.

First cut out a few shapes, we did hearts because they are nice and easy, you can even draw round a biscuit cutter to get the shape right. You can do the shapes whatever size you like, but I find biscuit size to be nice and manageable for getting them covered in colour.

Use brightly coloured pens or crayons to completely cover the shapes in rainbows of colour. Try to get kids not to just colour each heart in one solid colour. Or if they do, make some yourself, and see it as an experiment.bucket hearts.jpg

 

Mix acrylic paint with a squirt of washing up liquid, measurements don’t need to be exact, I used a little more paint than liquid (I did experiment with poster paint, it doesn’t work well).

Paint thickly over the hearts and leave to dry (some may need a second coat)

Scrape patterns using cocktail sticks (or if you’re like Jumbles, 5, just scrape as much of the paint off as you can).scratch.jpg

Give the hearts to people to make them smile. Maybe write notes on the back, or stick them on red card to make a greetings card.

Why not come up with your own ways for you and your kids to bless friends, family or neighbours. Perhaps bake some cakes and take them to neighbours? Or buy some toys and food and donate them to the food bank.

There is a second book (How full is your bucket? For Kids) about bucket filling, which can help to build on this book, by giving the story of a boy and his interactions. This is perhaps even more helpful for kids than the original book, so do have a look at that as well in the links section. However, I think that it’s useful to read the original book first to explain the concept.

Links:

Affiliate – buy “Have you filled a bucket today?” From Wordery (Free worldwide delivery)

Affiliate – Buy “How full is your bucket? For Kids” From Wordery (free worldwide delivery)

Video of “Have You filled a bucket today” being read

“How Full is your bucket? For Kids” video story

Official bucket filling website, with free resources

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I am an artist (Marta Altes)

iamanartistThis book does need to come with a word of warning, which is that the day after we first read it, Bean (3) drew all over our bedroom wall. That may have been coincidence, but the book is about a boy creating works of art using every day materials, and his house as a canvas, so I suspect it gave her ideas, and I caution you to be clear with your kids about the need for permission before they create anything into art, and perhaps keeping art supplies out of reach when you go to the toilet. Thankfully for me, her chosen medium was chalk and it wiped straight off, phew.

The book does a great job of letting kids see outside the limitations of art being pictures drawn on paper. Encouraging them to use their creativity more.

Our linked activity was sculptures using polystyrene and cocktail sticks (toothpicks). This is such a satisfying activity. The act of poking cocktail sticks into polystyrene is a great standalone activity, which we’ve enjoyed before, but I thought it might be a fun progression to try to make sculptures. Obviously, as with many of my activities, reading the book isn’t necessary, it’s just a good way to incorporate literacy into everything and encourage a love of books.

I put out polystyrene (saved from packaging), scissors, cocktail sticks and felt pens. However, you could provide other materials, tissue paper, sweet wrappers, etc, there’s no rules, the idea is to create something original. Simply poke a stick into one piece, at any angle you like, then push another piece on, either pushing down all the way, to leave the two pieces stuck together with no gap, or just pushing it partway on, to have the pieces on stalks.

Bean was actually at her Nana’s while we did this activity, so she missed out. Jumbles was a bit ill, so couldn’t go, and wanted to do some activities just with me, so I was coming up with things that didn’t take too much energy for him, but also didn’t just involve him staring at a screen all day.

polystyrene-sculpture

My original thought was that our sculptures would be abstract, e.g my model to the right. However, Jumbles wasn’t impressed with my attempt, and was much more keen on trying to make representative models. This is actually very tricky, cutting polystyrene with kids’ scissors is hard to do accurately. Jumbles tasked me with the cutting, after he’d tried for quite a while to cut the largest block in half. I stuck with cutting shapes out of the thinner sheets, and letting him decide what to do with them. Though I did make some claws to order.

We made a Pterodactyl and Yoda (hopefully you can tell which is which). We’re hoping to colour them in another day. Felt pens do work, as you can see on Frank (I tried to name the pterodactyl Terry, but Jumbles said no) though little bits of polystyrene will fly off.

polystyrene-sculptures-pterodactyl

Safety warnings:polystyrene-sculptures-yoda

  1. When pushing pieces on, try to stop children from pushing directly over where the sticks are, or they will poke their hands.
  2. The warning we have broken – Ideally, don’t have any uncovered sticks, as they’re quite sharp if a child decides to touch the sculpture. However, Jumbles decided that he had to have spikes on his pterodactyl, and I decided that the risk was worth it to allow his creativity.
  3. Tiny bits of polystyrene will ping around the room when doing this, so keep it in a room away from very small children or pets, who might eat them.

Links:

21 Picture books about art on “No time for Flashcards”
Buy I am an Artist from Wordery (Affiliate link – free worldwide postage)

Robot Rumpus (Sean Taylor & Ross Collins)

robotrumpusThis is an entirely child chosen and led activity. Jumbles is starting to get into this whole doing an activity based on a book thing, yesterday when we were at the library he chose his books and really liked this one, we had to read it twice in the library and again as soon as we got home. Then he insisted we did an activity on it, he wanted to make robots. Thankfully, making robots seemed fairly easy. Though I’m not sure I did quite the scale he had in mind, he was talking about giant robots for us to get inside, but whilst we have a lot of giant boxes, that is due to the fact that we are imminently moving and I didn’t really want to sacrifice any of them, maybe we’ll do that after we’ve moved. So for now I made him rummage through the junk modelling collection, which is great as we could really do with chucking it all in the recycling before we move.

robot (3)Anyway, for robots, boxes and tubes are perfect. I was quite pleased, Jumbles selected everything that he wanted to use, choosing yoghurt pots for feet, tubes for arms, and deciding to repurpose a creation that he’d made at preschool to become the robot’s head, I have no idea what the thing from preschool was originally, and Jumbles doesn’t seem to know either. I quite wanted to add dials using some of the lids that we’ve been collecting, but he didn’t want to. He glued the boxes together with PVA, but I wanted it to be playable with immediately, so I reinforced the joins with parcel tape. I was then hoping we could do some papier mache over the top of the whole thing and paint it. However, Jumbles said he loved it just as it was and didn’t want to do any more to it. He has named the robot Emmet (after Lego movie Emmet) and zoomed him around all evening (apparently the feet are rocket feet).

Robot making is such an easy and fun activity, even for kids like Jumbles, who aren’t that keen on craft, we did this after dinner, while Bean read books with Daddy, it took about 15 minutes, but led to a long play session with the robot. You could make mini robots, giant robots, whatever. Just remember, it doesn’t matter what the finished robot looks like, my gut instinct is to try to make crafts look realistic, but it is much more important to let your child have ownership of it. He probably had a lot more fun with his robot that if I’d made it look better, not to mention that he’d have had to wait for it to dry overnight if we’d done papier mache on it.

As to the book itself, I didn’t think it was anything remarkable, but obviously Jumbles enjoyed it, but any robot book would be fine.

Oh, also, while you’re doing this, why not try pretending to be robots, this is something we do as a family a lot, sing songs as robots, do robot walking etc. very amusing to small children.

External Links:
Borrow “Robot rumpus” from your local library
Buy “Robot Rumpus”

Home made Light box activity – “Can’t you sleep Little Bear?” or other scared of the dark book

can'tyousleepThis isn’t really the right season for a light box activity, as you need it to be pretty dark. However, Jumbles is off preschool with a sick bug for the 3rd day running, and today it’s raining, so with the curtains shut we were able to get it dark enough to use the light box effectively, and I needed something that would keep him busy, as he doesn’t feel ill at all, so is just going a bit stir crazy. The book we used was “Can’t you sleep, Little Bear” which is a nice book about being afraid of the dark. However, you could use any book on the same subject, for example “The Owl who was afraid of the dark” (for older children really, though we do listen to an audiobook of it at bedtime) or no book at all if you just want to do the activity, to be honest, this is one of those where I wanted to do the acitivity anyway and then just looked for a book to link it to. We do have another book on the subject: “I want my light on” one of the “Little Princess” books. However, sadly that book has actually made Jumbles afraid of the dark and worried that ghosts are in his room! Step 1 – Make a lightbox, or buy one, but they are very expensive:lightbox I adapted these instructions from: The Imagination Tree. – Get a plastic box with a clear flat lid, ideally one with a slight lip on the edge to stop things sliding off. I used a “Really Useful” box which I had already, these are quite expensive unfortunately. – Stick greaseproof paper to the underside of the lid (this avoided me having to piece together sheets of tracing paper). – Line the sides with foil, to direct all of the light up and out of the top. – Inside the box place a set of christmas lights, you want white ones which are continually on, happily, these are generally the really cheap ones you can buy. I found that the cable was thin enough that it fitted out under the lid, without needing to drill any holes. Making the box hardly took any time at all, and I was fortunate enough to have everything I needed in the house already. I made it about a year ago (hence the slightly battered state of the foil inside, I store all of our “light play toys” in it (we have a few, light up windmills, an old “UFO” from my student days,  flashing wristbands etc) plus our emergency blanket and some sparkly material.lightbox 002 You can see, when I set up the lightbox, I always end up having to put the UFO out too, as Jumbles sees it and asks for it. Step 2 – Visit Poundland or similar Last week I was in there and spotted a set of plastic shotglasses in different colours and a set of coloured resuable “icecubes” – little cubes of soft plastic, filled with liquid, you stick them in the freezer and use in place of ice cubes in drinks. I knew these would be great for the lightbox. I wish I’d bought more cubes though. Hopefully they’ll still be in there if I go back, though I’ve noticed people selling them on ebay for £2. Basically collect things which are transparent coloured plastic. e.g. counters, magnetic letters etc. lightbox 017I kept it simple, giving them just the shot glasses and cubes, they spent nearly an hour, making towers, creating patterns, putting cubes in shot glasses etc. I did add our magnetic letters after a bit and a few pieces of coloured cellophane, but they just got in the way and weren’t being used, so I took them away again. Challenge for adults How big a cup pyramid can you make before your toddler knocks it down? I couldn’t get past the second storey. Though I did manage to make all of the cubes into a pyramid. There is something about building on the lightbox which is quite fun for kids and adults. I was also making Tetris patterns with the cubes. External links: Pictoral instructions for making Light box Buy “Can’t you sleep little Bear?” Borrow “Can’t you sleep little Bear?”

“Oliver’s Fruit Salad” by Vivian French & Alison Bartlett (or use any fruit book, e.g. Handa’s surprise or very Hungry Caterpillar)

oliverThis is a less well known book, I’ve picked it as Jumbles really likes it, and it makes a great springboard for fruit activities. However, if you can’t get a copy, really any book about fruit could be substituted. The most obvious would be The Very Hungry Caterpillar, but I wanted some variety.

Begin by reading the story, the book is a story about a boy who keeps telling his Mum about the fruit he picked in his Grandpa’s garden when he stayed there, and how Grandpa didn’t have tinned  or packet fruit. Oliver is a picky eater, but in the end eats fruit salad. I’m not going to say this book will help your picky eaters, but it’s a helpful springboard for playing with fruit.

After reading the story, head to a somewhere that you can buy fruit. Allow your children to choose some fruit to buy.

Activity 1: fruit printing – much like potato printing, but more edible

wildthingsandoliver 045Mix up some paint. We used homemade edible paint, mainly because I figured that Bean would eat the fruit whether it had paint on or not. There are a variety of edible paint recipes. Unfortunately, my favourite involves Kool Aid, which you can’t get in this country (or  if you can it’d be crazily overpriced). Fortunately for me, my parents live in The US, so when they visit I get them to bring sachets over. If you have Kool aid or similar, then mix it with water and flour until you have a thick, vibrant paint. The reason I love this paint is it takes seconds to mix and smells and looks great, plus it is of course totally edible.

If you don’t have kool aid, simply mix flour and water with food colouring (gel colours are best for vibrant tones).

This craft is really process art, that means it’s about the process, or activity itself, not about creating a finished product to keep. These paints have no preservatives in, so I don’t know how long they would last, so wouldn’t recommend if you are planning to keep the art for months.

Cut up the harder fruits (apple, pear, pineapple) into large pieces, suitable for your childwildthingsandoliver 046 to grasp.

Depending on the age of your children, they may be able to help cut some of the fruit. Jumbles (3) cut the apples using an apple slicer. Sometimes when printing, my more artistic husband will carve intricate designs into the ends of the potatoes, carrots etc for them to print with, but today we were happy just using the whole fruits.

I tried to demonstrate how you could make flowers by using the apple slice to print petals. However, smooshing down the top of the pineapple proved to be the most popular with both children, closely followed by swirling the paint around using the fruit.

wildthingsandoliver 067Whilst they were busy painting, Daddy cut up the rest of the fruit ready for the fruit salad, ensuring that he let Jumbles slice the banana and put all of the bits into the big bowl. Then let them help dish it up and enjoy, add yoghurt if you wish. I must admit, both of mine love fruit, so I can’t comment on whether doing this will improve fruit eating levels.

External Links:
Borrow “Oliver’s Fruit Salad” from your local Library
Buy “Oliver’s Fruit Salad”

“Elmer’s Parade” by David McKee (World Book Day special)

elmerThis was one of the 2015 World Book Day books. So since a lot of people will have a copy I thought it’d be good to do some activities on it. If you don’t have a copy, any Elmer book will do for the first two activities.

Activity 1 – Elmer Suncatchers

Materials needed:
Cardboard
Pen
Shireseal (The clear sticky backed book covering stuff, I think it’s called contact paper in the US)
Tissue paper cut into small squares (I used a paper cutter to save time, but easily done with scissors if you don’t have one)
scissors

Draw an outline of Elmer (or have your other half do it for you if you’re like me and not confident in your drawing abilities) onto a piece of card, try to have it fill most of the space, but make sure you leave enough of a border for sticking the shire seal on.elmer 003

Cut out from the middle, making sure to keep the border intact, i.e. the scrap is the elephant shaped piece of card, the bit you’re keeping is the outer edge of the card with an elephant shaped hole.

Now, sticking shire seal without getting air bubbles can be tricky. However, I know some tips as I used to repair books when working in the libraries, and on our book repair training, we were taught the best way to apply shire seal. Cut a piece of shire seal the same size as your card, with the short edge lining up with the straight edge of the roll (so that when it rolls itself back up it is the short edge left showing, with the long edge rolled, sorry I’m finding that very hard to describe, look at the picture).

elmer 008Lie your elephant card down in front of you, profile way around. Peel the backing off one of the shorter edges and carefully stick it down on top of a short edge of the card. Use a ruler to slowly push the rest of the roll of shire seal down the card, it will open out and stick as you do this, note, as there is a hole in the middle of your project, it will also stick to the table, but I didn’t find this to be a problem, it will just peel off after. If your shire seal starts to bubble, try to unseal it and rejig, or you can burst bubbles with a pin, don’t worry about bubbles in the open space.

elmer 032Once your shire seal is attached to the card, turn the card over (peeling it from the table). Then give it to your child, along with a box of small tissue paper squares to stick on. Be prepared for a lot of exploration of the tissue paper, it’s a fun sensory activity by itself, the kids mainly put in on their elephants by showering it from above, rather than placing it. I also allowed them to throw it all on the floor at the end, as I didn’t see the harm in it, though I did tell them they had to help clean up too.

Once they have finished sticking the squares on elmer 035Elmer, stick it to a window or glass door for the light to shine through. Depending on how much sticking your children did, you may not actually need to use anything to stick it to the window, there may be enough gaps in the colour for enough shire seal to be poking through, that you can just press it to the window and it will stick, that’s what ours did.

 Activity 2 – Patchwork Parade

When I asked Jumbles what activity he wanted to do based on this book. He said we needed a colourful parade and had to dress up in bright colours. We went upstairs to raid the dressing up box, but didn’t actually have many things that would work, and whilst they have brightly coloured clothes, it was hard to show lots of colours at once, so I suggested we use some of my sewing stash. Jumbles loved this idea and wanted to sew some clothes for him and Bean to wear. Now I’ve done hand sewing with him before, using a plastic needle and netting type of material with holes to sew together, but he had never been allowed near the sewing machine before. I decided that he was old enough for very closely supervised operation of the machine.

So, I cut out several large squares of different colours of material for him to sew together. Then we sewed them…

Using a sewing machine with a preschooler:

1) The safety talk – I explained how the sewing machine could hurt, and pointed out the sharp needle, explaining that while Mummy had to touch it to thread the needle, he must not put his hand near it. I would only touch it when it was off. I also said that once we started, he mustn’t sew until I said go, and must stop as soon as I said stop.

2. Explaining how the machine works – with the machine still turned off, I showed him how the thread went through it. Then I placed material under the foot and showed him how turning the dial made the needle go up and down and the material move, I tried to get him to manually turn the dial, but he couldn’t quite manage it, so we did it together.

3. Operating the pedal – I decided to get him to use the pedal with his hands instead of his feet, this was for 2 reasons, firstly because his feet couldn’t reacelmer 041h the pedal from on the chair, secondly, because this way one hand at least was being kept busy and couldn’t go under the needle while the machine was on. I couldn’t get photos of him sewing as I needed to be supervising too closely, so this is a staged shot to show you how I set it up with the pedal on the desk, I was obviously closer for the sewing and blocking his other hand from being able to get near the needle, not that he tried.

I was a little nervous about how this would work, but actually it worked brilliantly, I think he really appreciated being trusted to do something so grown up. He was really sensible about it, double checking when he was meant to start, trying to stop instantly when I said stop etc. He loved experimenting with pressing the pedal harder or softer to speed up or slow down, I did find that a bit tricky as he’d suddenly shoot quickly to the end after being slow. However, I was ready with one hand guiding the material and the other poised near the off switch, which I never had to rush to use (I did use it between each square, just in case we accidentally pressed the pedal while I was getting the material in place).

We sewed a long line of squares together, I was originally thinking of a basic scarf, but then we looped it together at the end to make a sash. Now, obviously this isn’t going to last long, it’s unhemmed, so would fray, but I’m fairly impressed that a 3 year old was able to do all of the sewing himself. I’d like to encourage you to let your kids have a go, using proper tools is so much more meaningful and such a great experience for them.elmer 045

Jumbles was very proud of his sewing and was keen to show Daddy when he got home from work, oddly though, after making it, he just wanted Bean to wear it and had gone off the idea of a colourful parade.

Activity 3 – Stepping stones

elmer 047This isn’t really a proper activity, just an encouragement to remember really simple things that can be lots of fun. In the story, the animals have to cross a river on stepping stones, so set up a pretend river and some stones, we have a load of broken bits of paving slab, stones and wood in our garden, which we set up as stepping stones across our “vegetable patch” (a patch of mud, which currently has a tarpaulin over it, every year we intend to grow some vegetables, the closest we’ve got was last year, when we planted a few lettuces, which the slugs ate). If you don’t have stones, just use some pieces of card or newspaper. Have the kids cross without touching the ground between the stones. Try spreading them further apart. Even Bean enjoys this at 18 months.

External Links
Buy Elmer’s Parade
Borrow Elmer’s Parade from your local library