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)

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The Teeny Weeny Tadpole (Sheridan Cain & Jack Tickle)

987495I have been wanting to try water beads for quite a while now, but was too concerned about Bean putting them in her mouth. I have seen that other people use tapioca pearls as an edible alternative, but they are still a choking hazard. Then I saw basil seeds suggested as an alternative on Fun at home with kids and decided to try it out. The idea is that you soak them in coloured water for 5 minutes, at the end of which you have tiny brightly coloured balls.DSCN2639 However, after soaking my basil seeds, they did not look anything like they were supposed to, they were very faintly coloured, with black blobs in the middle:  they looked exactly like frog spawn, certainly not beautiful vibrant jewel-like balls as in her example. Basically,  the colour didn’t really take, I don’t know if I didn’t use enough, or if the quality wasn’t good enough (I used gel food colouring). DSCN2646For a minute I was disappointed, but then I realised I could work with that. Instead of doing a random activity, I rushed off to find a frog life cycle book, read it with the kids (ok, not true, to my shame, I didn’t have one, we had to watch it on youtube) and then pulled out the tray of “frogspawn”. The activity was a bit slow to start, neither of them wanted to get stuck in at first, but after a few minutes they started loving it. DSCN2652As we haven’t played with water beads, I can’t compare the two, but these are remarkably sticky. They clump together and stick to skin, clothes or whatever, they are quite snotlike. If you do this activity, be warned, they are impossible to remove without washing, they stick to everything. We had them all over our clothes, hair, skin, when we walked inside they got on the carpet and curtains. I expect I’ll be finding them for weeks to come.DSCN2664

We enjoyed mark making in them, sticking them to our arms, drawing with them, flicking them around, dropping big blobs of them. I did of course make it clear to them that this wasn’t really frogspawn and that you wouldn’t play with frogspawn. Jumbles was fascinated with what they were and how I’d made them, so next time I’ll get him involved in soaking them, and I think there will be a next time, it was messy and fun, best done outdoors. I think potentially these would make a great ingredient in some sort of gunk tank, Jumbles is very into the Cbeebies show “Swashbuckle” at the moment and likes the pirates going into the Ship’s mess, I might try to create our own ship’s mess using some of these seeds.

Update: I have now played with water beads (I know, you’re thinking “that was quick, she hadn’t yesterday”, I scheduled this post a week ago, then spent this week running crafts and messy play for the 5-7 year olds group at our church’s summer club, one of which was water beads) anyway, I would say basil seeds are a totally different experience, as pretty if you have better dyes, but water beads bounce and roll, whereas the seeds mainly gloop together and stick to things.

 

Links:

Youtube video of “The Teeny Weeny Tadpole” being read
Borrow “The Teeny Weeny Tadpole”
Buy “The Teeny Weeny Tadpole”
How the mini water bead activity was meant to work if you want to not have it look like frog spawn
Buy basil seeds online (you can also buy them at Asian supermarkets very cheaply)

Light box continued – “The Little Red Hen” by Paul Galdone

redhenOk, I’ll be honest here, I didn’t use a book for this one, but then I felt guilty and thought I should do and with today’s activity being about flour, The Little Red Hen sprang to mind. Then I started thinking I should probably get hold of a copy before bedtime, so I can read it to them later and remind them about the flour we played with, but the chances of finding it on this short notice seemed slim, so I did some googling and found a youtube reading of it, hooray, so maybe we’ll have some screen time later: Little Red Hen read aloud

Continuing  from the last post, as we hadDSCN2463 the lightbox out still, I decided to experiment with other things on it. I’ve done salt before, for emergent writing, but with Bean still mouthing, I wasn’t ready for her to play with salt. I thought I’d try flour, they loved it. Jumbles started writing numbers, then moved on to drawing pictures and making handprints. Bean just enjoyed patting it and, annoyingly, flourlightbox 008throwing handfuls at me. She also grabbed a pom pom from the easter posting box that we’ve had out again while ill. She pushed it around making roads. Jumbles got a bit bored, till I suggested he got some cars, then he spent ages running them around roads,flourlightbox 002 delivering flour in a truck etc This does make a mess, obviously, but on a laminate floor it cleans easily.  I’ve included a photo to show how the flour does spread, but it really wasn’t too bad. It brushed off everything quite quickly. If I’d thought about it, I could have used an extension cable to move the lightbox away from the sofas, but then I’m still feeling a bit ill after getting the sick bug the kids had, so sitting on a sofa joining in was kind of part of the plan.

I’m not sure how necessary the light box is, but it’s nice revealing light when you draw and just makes a change from having the flour just in a tray. As an experiment, I turned the light box off, big mistake, it immediately ended Jumbles’s play, turning it back on did not regain his interest.

External Links

Buy “The Little Red Hen”

Borrow “The Little Red Hen”

Listen to “The Little Red Hen” read aloud

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?”

The Easter Story (Bible)

bibleEaster fun today. Yes, I know it’s a little early, but I wanted you to have time to set your own activities up. We used “The Beginner’s Bible” p446-458 to tell the Easter story, but any child friendly bible will do. I like this one, because it has great artwork and very simple text. You could also watch a video online such as this one

The Easter story can be a little hard to teach to small children. The concept of death is either alien to them, or quite difficult. However, I like to focus on the positive of Easter, that it shows God’s amazing love for us, because His son came and died for us. Plus of course, the amazing positive, that he didn’t stay dead, he came back to life.

For activities, I used items associated with Easter, then talked about how they link to the story because they symbolise life.

Box 1 – sensory treasure hunt:easter 001

I shredded a load of tissue paper and simply put it in a box with loads of Easter tat from the pound shop: glittery eggs, bunnies, chicks etc.easter 003 Fun exploration, hide and seek game.

Box 2 – Posting:

I put loads of different types of eggs and pom poms in a box with tubes, egg boxes and straws (for blowing the pom poms around on the lid. This box has actually been going strong since last Easter. Every so often Jumbles asks to play with ieastert, it’s our favourite homemade activity. It may not look impressive, but believe me, if your kids are like mine, you will get hours of time out of this box! Though, it does create a lot of tidying up too. I have had to restock it as a lot of the eggs have been damaged over time. The poorer quality pic shows the box last year.

Box 3 – Mark Making:

I recycled the salt tray from the Noah activity, but this time I put coloured breadcrumbs (also reused from Noah) in, along with spoons, scoops and eggs to fill. I wanted the breadcrumbs as they’re colourful, if you don’t want the hassle, just pour salt or sand in instead.

easter 004

External Links:

Watch the Easter Story
Buy The Beginner’s Bible

“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

“The Very Hungry Caterpillar” by Eric Carle

veryhungryThis was my favourite book as a child, so I love enjoying it now with my own children. Jumbles loves joining in with the “pop” bit as the caterpillar comes out of the egg. They both enjoy putting their fingers in the holes and we count the fruit. It really is a classic.

There are a lot of activities you can do with this, so I’ve picked a few, which we did over the course of 2 days, but may revisit this book at a later date to do more.

Activity 1 – Fruit Kebabs:hungrycaterpillar 002

I wanted to start with real fruit, I enjoy getting the kids to explore real foods and get involved in food preparation. An activity I’d done very successfully while working in libraries was making fruit kebabs with older children. I thought that this was perfect, nice and simple, but fun, plus if we put a caterpillar face on the end of the kebab then we would make it look like a caterpillar was eating its way through the fruit.

Materials needed:
The fruit from the book (apples, pears, plums, strawberries, oranges)
Wooden skewers
Red paper
Pipecleaner
Pen

1) Prepare caterpillar faces by cutting red circles of paper or card, bending half a pipecleaner in half for antenna and taping it to the back.

2) Cut up fruit (children may be able to help depending on age) into small segments, our children did not help as we stupidly decided to do this at crank o’clock (around 5:30/6 in our house).

3) Either put all of the fruit in bowls in the middle, or, what we did, was count out ready the right number of fruits into a bowl for each child, that way, when Bean inevitably scoffed all of the strawberries before they could be threaded onto a skewer, she wasn’t spoiling it for Jumbles.

4) Give each child (or adult, we joined in too) a skewer and either try to put the fruits on in order, practising counting, or just let them try to poke the fruits on in any order.

hungrycaterpillar 0071 apple, 2 pears, 3 plums, 4 strawberries, 5 oranges

5) Attach the caterpillar face to the end of the skewer (I did this by sticking masking tape to the back, but having a kind of flap, which I then poked the skewer through, not sure this makes sense. blu tack would also work.

6) Eat your kebabs!

Activity 2 – Assault course:

For the Saturday’s food, I didn’t really want to get out real vhungrycaterpillar 018ersions of all of those different foods (chocolate cake, ice cream, swiss cheese etc) so I decided to go with something a bit different and to set up an assault course for the children to crawl through pretending to be caterpillars.

Materials needed:

10 large sheets of paper, or a roll of lining paper
Furniture or large toys that children can crawl through or under
Pens
Tape

1. Draw each of the items from the book onto thungrycaterpillar 014he sheets of paper, have the children colour them in (I am a terrible artist, but I find that even I can copy well enough to satisfy a 3 year old, and the pictures in this book have the advantage of being fairly simple) Jumbles doesn’t stick at colouring for long, and Bean started colouring things she shouldn’t – like the book, then while I was sorting that out, Jumbles drew on the wall, so I put the pens away at this point, hence the not terribly coloured nature of our pics. I think after we take the assault course down (we did it this morning as Jumbles is only at preschool in the afternoon, but he asked me to leave it up for him to have another go after preschool) we will get tissue paper and PVA glue and try to do some collaging on the pics.

2. Arrange furniture around the room in interesting ways, creating tunnels etc. Over each opening tape one of the pictures.

3. Read the “Saturday” page, and have your children crawl around the room pushing through each page to “eat” it.hungrycaterpillar 022

At the end of the assault course, I left a blanket, when Jumbles got there (Bean never completed the course, she mainly tried to pull the things down, though she did crawl through bits) I then coccooned him, which he found very funny, though I did realise that really I should have made a leaf to eat too, I just told him he had to pretend to eat a leaf before I coccooned him, but maybe you could add a leaf to yours.

Sorry, it was really hard to get a photo that shows it well, but hopefully you get the gist. You can also do timed laps of this course, if, like me, you’re trying to tire your kids out 🙂

Activity 3 – Coffee filter butterflies:

Materials Needed:
hungrycaterpillar

Disposable coffee filters
Felt tip pens
Water in a shallow container that their fingers can fit in. e.g. takeaway tub.
Pipe cleaners

I love making coffee filter art, it’s so simple, easy to do and looks most effective if children scribble, so it’s great for little ones.

1. Carefully open out a coffee filter for each child onto a protective surface as this may stain your table.hungrycaterpillar 027
Give them felt tip pens and have them scribble all over the filter, you don’t need to do neat colouring, but you also don’t want too much white space.

2. hungrycaterpillar 031Wet fingers and flick water over the filter, this will make the ink run creating lovely patterns. Don’t let them pour the water on (like Jumbles did just after this photo, as you’ll find it actually washes most of the colour off completely, and makes a big mess) a little is all you need, just make sure all of the pen has run.

3. Leave to dry

4. Scrunch up the middle and wrap a pipecleaner around as antennae et voila! One butterfly.

Also, if you need a Mothering Sunday card for this weekend, simply stick the butterfly to the front of a card. It looks very effective.

Stage and Play (commercial activity set)

hungrycaterpillar 034This was a lovely gift from my Mother in Law as she knew I was planning on doing activities for this book. It’s a strong cardboard activity set, and is a very nicely presented, easy to store set, with robust cards and a stage that they slot into. The cards fit in a tray under the stage when not in use, making it very transportable. Jumbles had fun playing with it, Bean was less interested. I gave him pipecleaners to use as pretend caterpillars, and he enjoyed poking them through the holes in the fruits etc.

Unfortunately, I do have a big criticism of the set, which is that it doesn’t have the correct number of each fruit. There are just 2 of each, Jumbles was searching for the rest of the plums etc and realising there were too many apples and was confused. I think that’s a shame, as counting is one of the obvious activities to do with this book. Also, the other foods are double sided, e.g. the chocolate cake is on the back of the swiss cheese, so you can’t set up all of the Saturday food to be viewed at the same time. Again, I thought this was a shame, I don’t know if they did it to save production costs, if that was the reason it’s a shame, as it’s a really well made set, where they haven’t scrimped on quality. It could have been done to save space on storage, but I think having the right number of items would have been worth it being a little less portable. Also, there are several different caterpillars in the set, a bending one, a curled up one etc. I would say these are less necessary than having all of the fruit. We may well make our own fruit to add to it for the next time we play.

External Links:

Borrow “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” from your library
Buy “The Very Hungry Caterpillar”
Buy Stage and Play