Friday, October 26, 2012

Simple Autumn Collage Art

now coverI picked up some small foam leaves from Michael's last year on clearance after Halloween. The other night when the witching hour struck and I had James engaged with his autumn treasure basket, I pulled them out for Meg. I set her up with the leaves, white glue with a tap and glue cap (I love this gadget!), plain paper, and autumn-colored crayons. She didn't have any instructions, and she didn't need them, because she went right to work.

I couldn't resist giving it a try when she invited me over.

She's been playing with these materials for a week now, and autumn trees and leaf collages now cover our fridge and front door. Open-ended, festive, simple art. Just the sort we like.


Thursday, October 25, 2012

Autumn Treasure Basket

I put together a simple autumn treasure basket for my son (age 11 months) from some things I had laying around the house. The basket, wooden spoon, and wicker bowl were pieces from his first heuristic basket. The faux leaves and gourds were purchased from the Dollar Tree and originally used as tablescape for my sister's wedding shower.

I tossed this basket together one Sunday evening while we were trying to get dinner on the table, and the kids were getting antsy. I was surprised what a hit it was with both the baby and my 3 year old. James was very serious in his exploration. First picking up each gourd and leaf and testing it in his mouth, then exploring it visually and with his fingers.

My daughter couldn't resist the fun. She filled the wicker bowl up with leaves and threw them into the air repeatedly while we sang "Leaves Are Falling."*

I've left the basket on our entry credenza, next to our nature display and basket of autumn books, and the kids have played with it multiple times each day since.

*Leaves Are Falling
Leaves are falling all around
On the housetops, on the ground
Leaves are falling on my nose
On my head and hands and toes


Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Joy of the Earth Invitations

We participate in a home preschool co-op with a couple of neighbors. It's very casual and completely non-academic. Twice a week we rotate homes and offer activities with a loose playful theme. This past month our theme was "Joy of the Earth." Here are a few highlights from my week hosting. On my days, we focused on introducing plant and animal life.

I held as much of the lesson as possible outdoors. I prefer this in general, and especially so with this month's theme.

Tent Center

Blocks, barn, and animals

Blanket Center - mammal/bird/insect/sea life puzzles

Sensory Table - Potting soil, faux flowers, shovels. The children chose to incorporate the hose into their play here, and not only planted the faux flowers, but cared for their "garden" afterward.

Art Center - Making seed collages

Ice cube tray with different seeds. I also provided the empty seed packets, so we could discuss which seeds grow into which plants.

My daughter's finished collage.

Welcome Activity - salt dough nature sculptures

Balls of salt dough for each child and baskets of rocks, pine needles, leaves, seed pods, etc.

I'll have to make a separate post on the children's different processes using the materials. They were really into this project.

Snack Center - Inspired by this post at Pre-School Play, I offer a self-serve and self-cleanup snack area. At snacktime, one child sets the table and another passes out the snacks. Afterward, each child takes their plate, cup, and utensils to a wash tub of water and scrubs them clean using their flannel napkins. They then set them in the dish drainer. I bought the wash tub and dish drainer from Dollar Tree. They're significantly smaller than most I've found, which is just perfect for the kids.

Some other activities my group did (my camera battery died before I could get pictures of all our fun):
  • field trip to a local farm
  • walk to a neighbor's garden
  • made birdseed feeders like these
  • painted with nature like this
  • made contact paper nature collages like these
  • made applesauce

Songs we sang:
5 Little Speckled Frogs and 5 Little Ducks with our felt board pieces

Books we read:
A Tree is Nice
The Snowy Day
The Very Hungry Caterpillar (We have a giant version of this book with a plush caterpillar, and the kids loved it.)
Red Leaf, Yellow Leaf


Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Painting Miniature Pumpkins

When we were waiting for our tall painted pumpkins to dry the other day, Meg set her sights on a little white pumpkin we'd also picked up from the store. She told me it was Baby James' pumpkin, and she needed to paint it for him too.

I set up a palette of fluorescent tempera paint for her, and she used brushes to add some color to that blank pumpkin canvas.

Here it is nearly finished:

She went on to paint the bottom and add a layer of diamond dust to the whole pumpkin.


Monday, October 8, 2012

"Tall Painting" with Pumpkins

We first heard about "tall painting" from Teacher Tom's blog here. Go ahead and check it out, I'll wait.

I've been wanting to try this for some time, and when we picked up some Halloween pumpkins the other day, I decided they'd be a great medium for the process. My daughter (3) wasn't interested in waiting for me to fill cups with acrylic paint (I chose acrylic over tempera as it's thicker), and she dove right in, squirting the paint right on top of the pumpkin, one color at a time. We used some old craft paint I had on hand, and she was welcome to use as much as she liked, because it was becoming too gummy for me to use.

When she was done painting, she applied a liberal coat of blue and green glitter.

Didn't it turn out beautifully? It took about a day and a half to dry completely, and it sure does brighten up our front porch!


Sunday, October 7, 2012

Handmade Peek-a-boo Toy Storage Bags

I store most of my kids' toys on open bookshelves in their playroom and playroom closet. Many of the toys don't come in containers that are functional for storage after purchase, and I'm a big believer in visible open storage to encourage kids to choose and help themselves to their own toys. I use a lot of baskets and plastic buckets from Dollar Tree, but there are some toys that don't fit perfectly in them. So when I came home a few weeks ago with yet another stack of cute flannel yardages after a trip to JoAnn's, I actually had in mind a practical use for it, rather than just filing it away on my overflowing fabric shelves.

I used the darling flannel to make up a number of sacks in different sizes for toy storage.

They all have a vinyl window on the front and back to make it easier for the kids to find their toys. I simply cut out rectangles from the fabric with pinking shears before sewing up the bags and sewed a piece of vinyl to the wrong side of the opening. I didn't bother being perfectly neat. Just got the job done.

The larger bags have ribbon drawstrings, and the smallest bags close with Velcro.

These bags currently hold Peek-a-Blocks, plastic ball pit balls, Color Wonder materials, musical instruments, puzzle pieces, dead pens and popsicle sticks (my 11 month old's current favorite toy), and painted wooden cut-outs. It's so easy to rotate out toys to maintain freshness or as their ages/interests change. With Christmas coming up, I guess I'm going to need to make up a whole new batch. Oh, darn. ;)