Friday, April 24, 2015
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
Wednesday, April 15, 2015
A tip for picky eaters
This is a tip I learned long ago and it really works. I have buddies who outgrew daycare days long ago tell me they are still eating frozen vegetables. It's my most favourite way of serving peas! The thing about frozen vegetables is that they just don't have that much flavour, the coldness kind of does a trick to our taste buds and they mostly taste just frozen. Try it!
Monday, April 13, 2015
This activity came about as a result of another activity that left me with some leftover paint. Not a whole lot, but I do hate to waste materials.
We were heading outdoors to play, so I threw the paints & some brushes into a caddy and grabbed an empty foamy soap dispenser and refilled it. I use about a tablespoon of palmolive dish detergent and then s-l-o-w-l-y fill the dispenser with warm water. If you fill it too fast it's going to foam up before you get enough water in and you'll have to empty it and start again. Don't do that! Also, err on the side of too little dish detergent because too much can clog up your dispenser and then it may be impossible to clean out and get it working again. I've ruined many dispensers that way. You can always add a little more soap if it's too liquidy. I haven't found a way to fix the dispensers I've ruined, though. (Let me know if you have a trick for that.)
I basically just turned my buddies loose with the materials without any instructions. They figured things out pretty quickly. This was a great multi-age activity too, I had children age 2 to 8 years old playing together quite happily.
One of the great things about this kind of activity is that it allows kids to be creative on their own terms. Without a lot of instructions, children are free to be creative and will often enjoy experimenting with their own artistic abilities. This is a great pre-writing activity, too, as the children make marks in the suds, with colours or just by brushing suds away in the same way we use salt trays.
I hope you'll try this one out and have some fun with it. Let me know what you think!
Sunday, April 12, 2015
Freshen Stinky Garbages
You don't need toxic chemicals to freshen up your garbages and diaper pails. When my buddies go home for the weekend I grab that garbage pail and set it out in the sun! (I don't leave the plastic bag in it, though. Empty it first. Then set it out.)
Thursday, April 9, 2015
One of the realities of living on the wet coast is... well, wetness. It rains a whole lot. I am absolutely not complaining about the rain! As I worked on this project, our other coast was still shoveling snow. However, the rain does have it's challenges.
I believe in lots of outdoor play and my buddies and I spend time outside every day. We have a covered patio that is used often because it provides shelter from the rain. You may have seen pictures of it before when I had it arranged more exclusively for the children's use. I had a change of heart and I have been working on making my home feel more homey and a little less classroomy. My buddies will have many years in a classroom setting, but precious few before they get there. I wasn't willing to lose the ability to do all the things we like to do on the patio, but I wanted it to look more welcoming. I love that it is now also be a place I could use to entertain after daycare hours.
I've always wished my patio was a little bigger, though I don't have the budget to actually extend it. I could absolutely make my patio at least seem like it was a little bigger, though. I started with a shopping trip.
My husband helped pick out some beautiful things. He's a great guy like that. See those pretty ferns in cages? His pick. They were a little pricey for me, but he wanted me to have them. His favourite are the pansies, and I always make sure that I have some of those. I also got bags of river rock, some bricks, plants and pots.
My plan was simple. I took the trellises that I had just at edge of the patio and moved them out a little over a foot. Just like that I had increased my patio size! I really had trouble getting plants to grow right next to the patio anyway, so I'm hoping that the space farther out will be better suited for any plants I put directly in the ground. In between the patio and the trellis space, I put bricks down in a pattern and then filled the space with the river rock. I brought up some of my favourite ornaments and pushed the two metal trunks that I have sitting on the patio out farther towards the trellises. I'll probably give them another coat of paint to protect them since they will be more exposed to the elements, but since they were designed to be outdoors, they should be okay.
I'm loving the new patio and we've had many rainy days where we've been able to use it much more effectively since expanding it. We've built with blocks, painted and coloured and even enjoyed drinking hot chocolate on a dreary, drizzly day. We've enjoyed our first rainy day barbeque of the season, too! What else do you think I could do to improve this space? I'd love more ideas!