Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Our Favorite Art Activities

When we are home we have a few to go art activities that we enjoy doing. But first, we always have an art cart with art supplies available at all time so they can create whenever they want! To see what's in our cart, check this post. For more activities, read on!
For regular art activities, one of our favorite supplies that I do not display in their art cart is liquid watercolor. It is not available at all times because it is very staining and therefore still a supervised activity. We use it many different ways:
- with pipettes on diffusing paper
- with pipettes on a vertical card-stock for a drip effect
- with spray bottles
- for paint resist with oil pastels
- with salt for a snow effect
- with permanent markers

DIY rubbing plates.
With a hot glue gun draw what you want on a piece of carboard then let your children rub a crayon on them! It is a very versatile activity as you can draw anything you want!

Color mixing and color matching.
You can do color mixing with tempera paint or liquid paint (use liquid watercolor paint or food coloring with pipettes).

Color matching is fun especially when it comes to different shades of the same color. Paint swatches are great for this however trying to match any color in the house will work too!

Rubber band splatter paint.
All you need for this one is paint, rubber bands paper, paintbrushes and a cookie sheet! Wrap the rubber bands around the cookie sheets, add a sheet of paper in the cookie sheet, then paint the rubber bands... pull on them... and splatter them! It is a fun process art as well, check out the full video tutorial here.

Marbling paper.
This is a messy one -but oh so fun!! First you spray shaving foam on a cookie sheet, then add liquid watercolor (or food coloring) dots all over it and then spread in the foam doing zig zags. Lay your paper on it, remove it, let is dry and wipe the foam off (very fast!) and it makes for amazing looking marble paper! In addition to being a beautiful activity it is a also a great sensory activity and my boys always end up with both hands in the foam!
My boys both went through a phase in which they wanted to glue everything they found! I prefer to use card-stock for a collage and offer them loose parts such as gems, buttons strings, googly eyes... with a glue bottle. For younger kids who cannot yet press the glue bottle hard enough I recommend giving them glue in a small bowl with a paintbrush.
Printing is also fun. You can find a very simple tutorial on my IG page here. It's also a great one to do outside.

You can also do some basic printing with wrapping bubbles!

Bleeding paper with photo paper. Place squares of bleeding paper on top of photo paper and have the kids paint with water on top of it.

Chalk on black paper for a nice contrast.
Paint resist. You can do these many ways! Here are a few:
- oil pastel and watercolor paint
- washi tape and tempera paint
- hot glue on canvas with tempera paint

Process paint.
Our favorite process paint is a mix of  paint, with glue and Epsom salt on top! It is fun and gives beautiful results!

Another good one is to take a large canvas and do a collaborative work with loose parts. First paint the canvas. Once dry add another layer. Once dry mix loose parts with glue and paint and pour on top of the canvas!

Find an unusual canvas!
Use watercolor or tempera paint and paint on shells, pine cones, sticks, leaves, anything they find outside! Use post its and stick them on the windows, use cardboard boxes to draw on, use blank books to draw in...

Our favorite Activities to do at home

A lot of us are home with our kids, and will be for a while. School here is closed for 2 weeks but I expect this to be even longer so I made a list of activities that my kids love and that keeps them busy since I still have to work while they are home.

While they are home we have decided to take it easy and we will not be bringing school into our home. Our days are very laid back with a structure that revolves around meals and Theo's nap-time (we cannot miss a meal!). We also spend a lot of time outside, upward of 3 hours a day.

When we are home here are our favorite activities:
Read, listen to music, play with Legos, cars, trains, Duplos and board games. It is also a great time to cook and bake together as a family.

Our all time favorite is playdough. You can make it yourself  with your children for more fun or you can buy some Playdoh. You will need some tools, usually a roll and some cookie cutters do the job. If you want to make it more sensorial you can add dried herbs, flowers (it is starting to feel like spring here), nature finds, essential oils for the smell...

Try out some goop! All you need is one cup of water for 1.5 cups of cornstarch! If you have never done it before, that's all you will need to entertain the kids as it  is such an interesting fluid (I personally find it very fun to play with).

For kids 3 and up you can try out some air dry clay! At first let them experience with the new texture with their hands, then add basic tools such as craft sticks for cutting and poking the clay. After that you can try to add a roll and cookie cutters and demonstrate how to build things in 3D.
Loose parts are well loved here! You can provide them with natural items and a few ideas on what to do! Since it is spring where I live we have done flowers but you can adapt it to anything you want!

My boys love building. They will build with anything they find and so I try to make the following materials available to them:
- foam blocks with sticks
- paper or cardboard with tape, scissors and markers to draw on
- pipe cleaners with sticks

Also if you haven't tried it yet a large piece of paper stuck on the wall with a drawing that they place stickers on will keep them busy for a long time!
Anything with baking soda and white vinegar is a blast! I like to have them sprinkle baking soda first then with a pipette add white vinegar. I use the pipette vs just pouring on top so that it lasts longer.

And since it is spring, it is a good time for 2 classic science experiments:
- grow a seed in a jar and observe it every day
- place white flowers in colored water and watch  them  change color
The good thing is that even with the lock-down, if you have a yard you are still allowed to be outside. The easiest outside activities we will to do outside are:
- a small mud kitchen
- water bins. It is getting warmer and water bins with some pouring tools, ice, wood toys, Duplos... are always fun!
- sand bin with tools
- color nature hunt
- gardening

For art ideas, click here!

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Gross Motor Activities

"Without adequate gross motor strength, coordination, and control, it becomes very difficult to master fine motor skills, such as buttoning a shirt, cutting with scissors, and taking off shoes"
~ Angela Hanscom (Balanced and Barefoot, 2016)

Gross motor abilities are crucial for our children. From birth it is ideal to give them freedom of movement such as putting them on a flat surface so they can move their legs, arms and head to take in their surroundings. Also no need for restricting devices, such as swings or bumbos or jumpers; babies will be happy to be on the floor on their back or in your arms.

As they grow and start moving, there are popular items such as the Pikler triangle or the Woble Board; however these 2 often do not physically fit in homes nor in household budget! So if you are like me and cannot (or do not want) to buy a Pikler triangle or Wobble board, what can you do to encourage gross motor movement?
I'm going to start with the center image: nature. By Maria Montessori, nature is the original prepared environment. It has everything a child needs to develop his gross motor abilities: natural slopes, rocks to climb and throw, uneven terrain...

But what else can you use?
Laundry basket: with books it becomes a push walker for a pre walker (original idea by Jasmine @3mm.montessori), as they grow the children can carry their own basket with laundry to and from the washing machine and they can place the clothes into the washing machine as well. This is where practical life meets gross motor!
Stairs or stepstool: this is the original pikler triangle. Just "spot" them while they do it so you can catch them if they fall.
Gardening: it involves moving dirt, moving water, digging holes. And is a great learning and sensory experiment! It can be anything from a large garden to just a little container.
Box, bag or bucket: with toys, groceries or water in it.
Tunnel: this is great for crawling children and also older kids who will have to crawl through as it strengthens their wrists. If you don't have a tunnel just use pillows on chairs or a towel on a chair and that's the perfect tunnel for a child!
Pillows and sofa: pillows for carrying, making tunnels, obstacle courses or walking on. Sofa for climbing! Stairs don't have the same top as a pikler triangle but sofas do! • Balance bike: this is the one thing I recommend buying. Replace the tricycle or the bike with training wheels by a balance bike.
Balls: ideally you want an assortment of materials, textures and sizes. They will love running after the balls, throwing them and carrying them.
Playground: this one has it all and most are free 😊

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Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Art and Building Space for a 6-year-old Second-Plane Child

My oldest son, Alex, is now 6 and entering the second-plane of development. At this age he does not have any Montessori jobs out at home (the ones you typically see on Instagram and blogs with the cute trays and baskets). And to tell the truth they do not interest him anymore, which is normal for a second plane child. He is in his third year of primary at a Montessori school that we love and at home he plays with his legos, magnatiles and loves drawing and creating. I always say he is my builder. We also do not rotate his toys anymore as he has had clear favorites for a while now.

He also has a little art and building space in his bedroom where he can create and draw away from his two younger brothers. His space is a little Montessori and a little Reggio inspired, and very personalized to his current interests. Here is a quick tour!
The space has an IKEA desk and a chair, an art cart for art and wood supplies, a pegboard, a folder with different type of paper resources and stickers and, let's not forget a trash can.
On the wall, left of his desk, he has a pegboard we bought at Lowe's. On it he has the following tools:

  • Loose parts for gluing
  • Book rings for making books
  • Scissors, tape, and string
  • A compass; when I bought this all he could do who circles everywhere for days!
  • Crayons, glue and good markers that only he is allowed to use

On his table he has a little light, an alarm clock, a ruler, and a mannequin. Alex has just started using the mannequin to draw and has been changing its positions and drawn them. Here the mannequin is in a running position!

On the wall he has a paper file that holds different types of paper that encourage paper creations and writing. From top to bottom:

        • Colored paper
        • Scrap-booking paper (from my old unused, pre-kids, stack)
        • White paper
        • Letters and numbers stickers
        • Blank notebooks
        • Note cards and envelopes
        • Finished books
        • Finished artwork
        • Finished artwork from school

Here is his art cart. It is the same that we have in the playroom and it definitely works great here too!
The top shelf has:

  • Wood beads and steel wires
  • Letter stamps and a stamp pad
  • Loose wood parts and corks

The middle shelf is his wood building shelf. It has an assortment of wood pieces that are leftovers from his dad's construction projects. He also has pencils, a straight edge, nails, glue, and a hammer.
The bottom shelf is where all his constructions go and below are a few of his favorite creations: a boat, a laptop and a wood beads structure.

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Montessori Shelves at 15-month

Theo is now 15 months and he still has his shelves next to his bed. It has been working great for him and has not disturbed his sleep. He has really enjoyed having his own work that his big brothers cannot play with. We spend about 1 hour every morning working there and we read a few books there when he wakes up from his nap. The rest of the time is spent doing a lot of gross motor activities, he loves being chased, playing ball, climbing and going outside (although it's a bit cold right now we still do our best to be outside once or twice a day).
I have been rotating the items on the shelves fairly often when I notice he loses interest in one of the items. At 15 months old, here is what is on his shelves and why:

Pompoms posting
This is his current favorite. It is a great fine motor work. I made it for him when I observed his interest in putting little things in holes. Because of the small pompoms that always end up in his mouth this work is on top of his shelf where he cannot grab it independently; therefore this work is supervised at all time (he asks for it when he wants it though!)

Open/Close work
This is his next favorite. Any box he finds he will try to open or close it. These are mostly easy one for him. The 2 cardboard boxes open and close easily. The white box has a hinge however it is still a bit hard to open so I will help him. The pink one just lifts open and he loves it. The herb container wasn't here originally however he opened the full container after finding it in the pantry while I was cooking and poured the herbs everywhere, so I figured he was ready for an easy screw top, I cleaned the container and added it to his shelves!

He still loves banging on this drum (similar drum here)! That being said, he has now figured how to put it around his neck and walk around with it while banging on it! It's the cutest thing ever! But it is now a supervised toy because of the strap around his neck.

Simple Puzzles
These 2 simple puzzles came in a set of 4 shapes. This is a great hand eye coordination work. He mastered the large circle one he worked on previously and is now working on the small circle and the square. The circle is pretty easy for him but the square requires more work. Once he has mastered the square I will be replacing it by the triangle.

Object permanence box
This is the permanence box with the drawer in. Previously I had it placed in a tray with no drawers but he mastered that pretty quick and started ignoring it so I placed the drawer back in. At this point it is a bit too hard for him, as the sequence is a bit too hard but he is trying and we will keep working on it!

Sensory blocks
We got these sensory blocks a long time ago. They come with 4 colors and each colors has 3 different bead sizes. Right now he likes shaking them, and I have observed him listening carefully to the different sounds they make. Also he likes to knock them down if big brothers or I build a tower.

Basket of Animals
I always like to have a basket of animals for my little ones. The current animals are: horse and foaldog and cow, these are all animals he has seen. We use this more for language and I describe each animals, call them by their name and make animal sounds. He has shown a strong interest in horses (probably due to the fact that I make it run and neigh!) and that is why there are now 2 horses in the basket.

Transfer work
The last transfer work I made for him was used as a dumping work! Since he really loved the Christmas ribbons, I changed the transfer work a bit and used the ribbons in it. He will now do a few with guidance and then... he happily dumps them all out of the basket! But there is now clear improvement.

Ring stacker with one ring on each stake
This is the counting and color ring stacker however at this point we are only using it for hand eye coordination and fine motor skills. I only have one ring out for each stake so it is
 easier for him and he enjoys taking them all off and putting them back on. As he grows I will start using it as a color matching work.

Texture Tablets
These are homemade (see my Instagram post for how I built them) and he loves them. He will take them all out of the bag one by one and explore the textures and different colors.

Magnetic tablet
He loved pens, pencils, markers, paintbrushes... and mark making! However he tends to run around the house with them and draw on walls and floors (we are working on redirecting). So for now in his room he has this little tablet for mark making. I don't think he enjoys it as much as a real pen but until he understands where he can draw or not, it will have to do!

He loves holding my wallet at the grocery store and helping me get my credit card in and out but gets really sad when it is time to put it away. So I found an unused wallet and added old cards to it and large coin from the coin box that we are not using yet. He enjoys exploring it and getting everything in and out of the wallet.

I placed 2 little cars with 2 men in a little pouch (I do not zip it as he cannot open it yet) and he uses them for a mix of hand eye coordination (putting the men in the car) and rolling the cars around. At this point he doesn't seem very interested in the anymore though, so I will likely swap them out soon.
He has a few books on top of his shelves. They are placed close enough to the edge that he can grab the on his own and, although he has a bookshelf in his room, these are the books he likes to read when he wakes up from nap. If you notice there is also a mom book in there that I like to read while he works. The little drawing on top was made by Alex for Theo and it is high up so Theo does not crumble it again!

Playsilk (or any blanket!)
We have the Enchanted Playsilk and it is stunning! It hangs on the side of his shelf from a 3M hook. His favorite game with it right now is to play peek-a-boo. He puts it on his head and removes it on his own and laugh so hard!

In addition to the work on his shelf he has some toys in the living room, mixed in with the big guys toys:
- the Galt pop-up toy (always a huge favorite!)
- a basket of balls for throwing back and forth
music instruments (enough for all 3 of them to form a band!)
And he loves playing with his brothers' cars and the kitchen cabinets he has access too.

These are the works we have that are out for him however we also spend a lot of time outside in the backyard or the park. He is very much into gross motor work, walking forward and backward (?!!), running and, especially, climbing!

If you want to see how he is currently using the works, check out my latest IGTV video.

For more, see Theo's shelves at 1-year-old and see 
Theo taking care of his first practical life tasks at home.

Our Favorite Art Activities

When we are home we have a few to go art activities that we enjoy doing. But first, we always have an art cart with art supplies availabl...