Playful Parenting Tip #5 - Art as Play

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

In our Playful Parenting series, we have spent the past few weeks talking about toys in unstructured play, and the gears are going to be switched for this edition to talk about art as unstructured play.  I offer my opinion only as a parent, and not as an art educator.  Parenting my daughter has sparked my creativity and taught me lessons about how to make art a playful and free experience for my daughter.  Here are some tips to make art more playful.

-Provide the materials, but don't create an image in your mind about your child's finished product.  Allow your child to come up with his own masterpiece.  Craft kits are can be great fun for kids, but art as unstructured play is not crafting with an expected outcome.

-Work side by side with your child creating your own art, but don't expect your child's work to look anything like your piece.

-If your child becomes frustrated with the process, dialogue with them about how to work out a solution or adjust a technique.

-Display your child's artwork to show you appreciate her creativity.

-If your child is not interested in participating in the art activity, don't force it.  Try a new art technique or art materials with the next project.

-Expect it to be messy, and dress your child appropriately.  Work in an area of the home, where it easy to clean up.

-For babies and toddlers, think big.  When my daughter was younger, I would tape a large sheet of butcher paper to the floor, and she scribbled all over the paper whenever she felt like.   We created with chalk on the driveway.  We made marks with sticks in the sand and dirt.  We painted the tub with washable, soap paint.  Sometimes, she only played art for a a few minutes, but that is okay because babies and toddlers have short attention spans.

-The most important strategy for encouraging art as play is to keep art materials accessible to the child.  This is important because unstructured play is child directed, and access to art materials allows a child to create whenever she desires.  For my daughter's 4th birthday, we assembled an art corner for her, so it would be easier for to create on her own terms.

- Keep it fun and playful.

How do you encourage art as play in your home?

I couldn't end this post without mentioning the artful bloggers who have inspired me and continue to inspire me on my creative journey with Miss E.  These are truly creative individuals who understand the process of art with children.

Inspiring Children's Art Bloggers

Ivory Soap Explosion - Favorite Friday

Friday, January 27, 2012

Each Friday, I feature an activity that was inspired by another blog.  I discovered that you could make soap explode at Mom to 2 Posh Lil Divas.  I knew my daughter would love watching some crazy science happen in our microwave, and she relishes any chance to dig her hands into a mess.

Cut a bar of Ivory soap into four equal parts.

Place one piece of the soap on a microwave safe plate and cook in microwave for about 30 seconds.  Repeat step with remaining pieces.

Observe the soap change in the microwave.

Let cool for a several minutes. I advise parents to break open a couple of the larger chunks to assess if the inside of the soap has cooled.  Handle carefully while checking for hot temperatures. Sometimes the outside will be cool but the inside could still be very hot.  

I placed the soap into the bathroom sink to help contain the messy play.

Give your child plenty of time to explore the soap.

Include toys in the soapy play.

Add water, at some point, to further explore the soap.

Miss E fully immersed herself in this activity.

The Ivory Soap Explosion play was a huge success with Miss E as evidenced by the delight shown in her face.

Snowflake Lanterns - Snow and Ice Theme

Thursday, January 26, 2012

For our last snow and ice theme activity this month, we made snowflake lanterns.  When I lived in New York, I loved looking out the window on dark, snowy nights and watching the snowflakes dance past the street lights.  I wanted to capture this same feeling with a lantern.  Miss E and I each made a snowflake lantern, and each is a little different.

Miss E made her snowflake lantern using the same steps as the fall lanterns in the link.  The only other step is that she put cut, paper snowflakes on top of the glued tissue paper, and then covered the snowflakes in another layer of watered down, liquid glue.  Her lantern is the one on the right of the above picture.

The frosted luminaries I have seen all over Pinterest are stunning.  I wanted to use that same method with my lantern, but with images of snowflakes.

-glass jar (I used an old food jar)
-cut, paper snowflakes
-Mod Podge
-epsom salt
-clear glass sealer

-See this salt luminary tutorial for tips on working with jars and epsom salt.
-Cut out paper snowflakes.
-Apply layer of Mod Podge to glass jar.
-Put snowflakes on jar.  I found that it looks better not to layer the snowflakes on top of each other, but keep them separated when placing on jar.
-Apply another even layer of Mod Podge over the snowflakes and entire jar.
-Roll the jar in epsom salt.
-Allow to dry.
-Spray on glass sealer.  I didn't use this step, and it means that some of the salt trickles off the jar when I touch the lantern.

Next time, I try making these lanterns, I will make smaller snowflakes with a more intricate pattern and not layer them on top of each other.  Despite my lantern's imperfections, my daughter wanted to use it as a nightlight for sleep tonight.  I believe I did capture that feeling of peace found outside a window on a snowy night, after all.

Sensory Story Box - Katy and the Big Snow

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

For the month of January, I have been sharing snow and ice theme activities, and the book, Katie and the Big Snow, by Virginia Lee Burton is a perfect fit for our winter weather fun.  The story is about a snow plow, Katie, who saves a town by working hard to plow all the roads covered by a heavy snowstorm.  I created a sensory story box to encourage my daughter to further develop her comprehension and imagination with the story.

-plastic bin with lid
-bag of Epsom salt (If child still puts things in mouth or rubs eyes a lot, only use this under adult supervision because it is not supposed to be eaten or will burn eyes.)
-food boxes
-paper from recycling bin
-construction paper
-vehicle to be used as snow plow (I didn't find any cheap toy plows online, so I went to Target and found a truck that looks like a snow plow for $3.)
-other accessories such as figurines, cars, cups, and spoons

-Make buildings by using empty food boxes.  Stuff the box with crumpled paper from the recycling bin.  Seal the box shut with tape and cover it with construction paper.  Cut out windows and doors from construction paper.  My four year old daughter glued on all the windows and doors, and helped with some cutting. Frugal Family Fun offers crafting tips for working with cardboard.

-Discuss which type of buildings are found in a city, and write each building's name on the box.  We had a grocery store, post office, school, and hospital in our city.  We made four buildings, but you could make more depending on the interests of your children.

-I created roads by cutting strips of black construction paper and covering them in contact paper.  I found this step wasn't necessary as they got in the way of play, and my daughter mostly ignored them.

-Encourage your child to arrange the buildings inside the plastic bin.

-Bring out bag of Epsom salt for the snow.  I have seen other blogs using epsom salt for sensory play, but I can't remember the exact source.  Child creates snowstorm by pouring salt into bin.  Discuss how the city is changing with all the snow.

-Talk about how the problem of the roads being covered in snow will be solved.  Since we had read the book, my daughter immediately remembered that Katie could help plow the snow.  Your child can develop his own solutions to the problem.  Support imaginative thinking.

-At this point, your child will probably take the lead on how to play.  I designed our box to allow for open ended play.  I encourage her to develop different story lines than found in the book or just have fun manipulating the materials.

This story sensory box is a wonderful tool for preschoolers to integrate sensory play with literacy to make learning more engaging.  My daughter continues to play with the box on her own, and has created  different scenarios with the contents.

This post is linked up with The Play Academy at Nurture Store.  Hop on over and join in the fun!

Playful Parenting Tip #4 - Toy Storage

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

In December, I wrote about how unstructured play makes kids happy. Each Tuesday in January and February, I will be sharing how I encourage unstructured play in our home. This week's playful parenting tip is to organize your kids' toys to encourage unstructured play. 

For the past two Tuesdays, I have been sharing how to encourage unstructured play with toys.  Keeping a clean and orderly home with all the kids' toys can be a challenge, but by creating an organizational system for those toys, the mess can be more manageable.  An organized space can make playing easier because children can find the toys they need and could feel more relaxed.   

Our play space is located in what is supposed to be the breakfast nook in our kitchen.  I like keeping the majority of my daughter's toys in our living space because I enjoy being near my daughter's play even if I am busy in the kitchen.  There is an open rug space that allows room for unstructured play.  We have an open plan home, and her toys often migrate to the living room, and that's okay with me. At the end of the day, her toys are put back in their proper spot. 

I use Ikea storage cabinets with bins to organize her toys.  I have labeled each bin with a photograph of the contents and a written label.  I covered the label in contact paper.  Before these labels, I drew a  picture on a notecard.  Those worked well, but after two years, half of the labels had fallen off or had scribbling.  Since Miss E has been two years old, she has understood how to clean up her toys at the end of the day and return them to the proper bin.  It's not always easy to get her to clean, but she picks up most of the time.  In general, we put away toys once at the end of the day.  I don't like to interrupt her flow of play or storyline by making her pick up toys during the day.  She is permitted to use toys from many bins at the same time.

We don't keep out all of Miss E's toys at the same time.  I believe access to too many toys makes it more difficult for children to play, and it definitely makes it harder for them to clean up.  Some toys are always kept out like her toy food set and train set, but other toys like animals and books are rotated out.  We don't have a set time we rotate toys, but rotate when I feel like she could use a change or Miss E requests new toys.  Miss E chooses which toys to bring out to the playroom.  We store the excess toys in plastic bins in a closet.   

I understand that our toy organization system won't work for every family, and I have gathered a variety of toy organization ideas from other bloggers.  They each have developed a unique way to keep the toys in order.  Unstructured play doesn't mean an unstructured home because you can have lots of free play and still maintain a neat home as these bloggers have proved.   Check out their blogs to find inspiration to keep your children's space a fun and organized place to play.

Toy Organization Round Up

  Mama Smiles shows how to organize toys using shoe racks.  What a thrifty way to store toys!

Toddler Approved shares a wicker storage cabinet that would look lovely in a living room shared by both adults and kids.  She suggests tips for keeping the space neat and tidy throughout the day.  

We love to play with junk, but I have to admit it's a challenge to keep the junk contained, but Holly from Quirky Momma found a solution.  She uses tool boxes to store junk.  

Another fan of Ikea, Rockabye Butterfly, stores toys in labeled bins

Simple is definitely more in the child's bedroom organized by the Nurture Store.  Her girls play better in a tidy room with fewer toys. 

If you work with children on a professional level, check out the inspiring play therapy room at Play Dr Mom.  

Dress up clothes are a wonderful toy to encourage imaginative, unstructured play.  Dinosaurs and Octopuses created the perfect Dress Up Area for her son.  

Picklebums demonstrates how it's possible to keep toys toys organized in a small home.  She has four kids in a two bedroom house, so she knows what she's talking about.

If you want to keep your home from looking like it's been overrun by kids' stuff, check out Childhood 101's design tips for keeping a small home home serene and beautiful.

Critters and Crayons created different stations around her large play room to encourage play.  It looks like a dream room for any kid.

De Tout et de Rien believes in the power of free play, and she provides a playful and creative space with an abundance of toys, art, and sensory materials.

The Imagination Tree put together discovery boxes to encourage open ended, imaginative play.

Joy in Minutes on Monday #3

Monday, January 23, 2012

Write a Love Note to Your Child

I made this wipe off marker board to write love notes to my daughter.  I used a plastic picture frame and created a heart design with scrapbook paper to place inside the frame.  Using dry erase markers or window markers, I can write directly on the plastic frame and wipe it off to write a new message.  My daughter may, also, use it for writing me and her Papa messages.  You don't need to make a craft to write your child a loving note.  You can simply write a message with lipstick on a mirror; send a loving message on a paper napkin; or tuck one in a secret spot for your child to discover.  

This heart project will be featured along with with many more creative hearts in The Heart Project Ebook. The proceeds for The Heart Project will support The American Heart Association.  Please stop by in February for an opportunity to donate to the AHA and receive this Ebook.  

heart project at hands on : as we grow

Make Snow - Favorite Friday

Friday, January 20, 2012

Each Friday I am sharing a post from another blog that inspired me to try something new with Miss E.  This Friday's Favorite is from The Chocolate Muffin Tree.  She made snow at home and compared it to real snow.  We don't have any real snow to make comparisons, but I was instantly intrigued at the idea of making snow at home since our chances for snow are slim in Central Texas.  

All you need is a ice and a blender that grinds ice.  Fill the blender only 1/4 to 1/3 full with ice and grind until it looks like snow.  If you fill the blender too full, the process is more frustrating and slow.  I bought a bag of ice, and I used about half the bag of ice to make snow.  You can use ice from home too.  

We took the snow out in a pitcher to the backyard.  Miss E shoveled the snow out of the pitcher into a tray.  

She delighted in the nip of the cold from the snow.  

Her toy animals frolicked in the snow.   

And there was still fun to be had when the snow turned to slush. 

If you want to be a superhero for a day, surprise your kids with your amazing powers by making snow.  

Winter Obstacle Course - Snow and Ice Theme

Thursday, January 19, 2012

With temperatures this week nearing 80 degrees F, it doesn't feel like winter at all.  I can forget about hoping for snow this winter season, but we can still enjoy winter sports with a twist.  I set up a Winter Obstacle Course for active fun and play.

Transfer snow wearing mittens.  Set out two bowls, a pair of mittens, and cottons balls.  Child moves cottons balls from one bowl to the other while wearing mittens.

Go skiing.  Use empty tissue boxes as skis and long sticks as poles.  Child slides feet along floor pretending to ski.  

Travel through an ice cave.   Make a tunnel using two rows of chairs and place a white or light colored sheet over the chairs.  Child crawls through the tunnel.

Pull a sled.  Help some imaginary friends get across the snow in their sled.  Use a laundry basket with a rope for child to pull the sled.  

Climb a snowy mountain.  Pile tons of pillows on top of each other and cover with a sheet.  Allow child to climb over the pillow mound.  By far, this was my daughter's favorite part of the obstacle course.  

This activity supports gross motor skills by working on climbing, sliding, and crawling.  An obstacle course is a fantastic way to get the kids some exercise indoors.  

This Winter Obstacle Course is one of many Snow and Ice Theme activities I am featuring throughout the month of January.  Here in Central Texas, the chances for real life experience with freezing weather conditions are rare.  I want to provide my daughter with fun experiences with the cold stuff even if we miss out on building a real snow man.  I hope you come back and check out more of our chilly fun.  

This post is linked up to the Tissue Box Challenge.