Monday, February 8, 2016

Valentine Playdough

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I love Valentine's Day.  Not because of the candy (but I do love candy!), but because of all the fun things you can do with kids.  There are no shortage of props you can purchase for inexpensive that can enhance any activity.  The dollar store is full of fun items to craft with, add to playdough, or use to create a fun sensory bin.  Valentine activities can be used all month long and is a wonderful way to teach kids about the heart shape and the colors red, pink, and purple (and how you mix those colors).  
Playdough is quite popular in our house.  My youngest (of 3) benefits from 13 year of collecting supplies, cookie cutters, and various tools which she can enjoy with her playdough.  I always have some on hand or am ready to make it, trying different recipes along the way.  

This beautiful, rose colored playdough is a no-cook recipe from The Imagination Tree.  I added some red food coloring (less for pink, more for red), glitter, and rose oil for a complete sensory experience.

As an invitation to play, I put out the playdough, some red faux diamonds, silk roses, foam heart picks, and heart DecoPics (cupcake decoration) . Most of this stuff I purchased at the dollar store.  There were no instructions, no "you must create this..."; just a table full of tools to explore.

When you provide an open play experience, you never know what your child will create.  It's all up to them.

  1. Your favorite Playdough
  2. Various Valentine type/inspired items such as flowers, gems, cupcake decorations, floral decorations, etc  
Don't forget to leave a comment about your experience.  And feel free to share your pictures on my Facebook page!

Friday, February 5, 2016

Simple Scribble Valentines

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Like many moms, I have an addiction to Pintrest.  And like many moms, I pin what I like, but hardly get around to completing the project.  This is especially true when it comes to holidays.  For instance, have you seen all the adorable Valentines you can make?  Robots from juice boxes, printable Minecraft and Lego Valentines; just about every kind of creative Valentine you can imagine.  One problem I've come across, besides the time issue, is the amount of these creative Valentines one must create to distribute to a class.  I don't know about you, but the average class ratio in California for young school age children, and often preschool too, is 24.  Printables are not the issue here.  It's the adorable Robots and such that are not only time consuming, but can be costly when you account for so many children.  I can spend $5 at Target for a box of the old school paper Valentines, or go to the Dollar store and spend less.  Many parents, even the stay-at-home kind, don't have the energy or time to put in such an effort for such a large class.

That's why Scribble Valentines are perfect, especially for the preschool aged or young school-aged child.  They are incredibly easy,  take very little time to create, and can be upgraded with a treat.  Perfect for busy parents!

I first came across a similar idea on What We Do All Day while searching for last minute Valentine's Day ideas.  You want to start by rolling out some plain white Easel Paper.  It's the kind of paper that comes on a roll so it can be as long as you need it.  I covered my coffee table to make it easier for my son to work.  Then....SCRIBBLE!  You can let your child do it alone, or join them in the fun.  Either way, make sure you cover the chosen amount of paper with scribbles.  We used all different colors but that part is up to you.

Once the paper is covered, you want to fold it for faster cutting.  

Make a heart template for the size you want from construction paper or cardboard (an old cereal box is good).  Then trace the amount of Valentines you desire, fitting them as close together as possible.  After that, cut them out.

Once you have them cut, your child (or you) can write their names wherever you choose.  We did the back because we added...


You don't have to add a treat, but if you choose, you can include pretty much anything.  Chocolate Hearts would be delicious and fun.

  1. Easel Paper Roll (so many uses!)
  2. Crayola Crayons (because really, Crayola is the best and I refuse to use any other.  They did not pay me to say that; it's simply the truth)
  3. Scissors
  4. Lollipops, Chocolate candies, Conversation Hearts, or  Mini Nerds Candy (optional)
I hope you enjoy creating these Valentines as much as we did.  Please leave a comment and feel free to share your pictures on my Messy Kids Facebook Page.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Process Art for Groundhog Day

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Most kids like the idea of Groundhog idea; the idea that an animal can predict the coming of spring.  It's fun to think about and fun to "celebrate" at home or at school.  But when you search Pintrest for "Groundhog Day Activities" or "Groundhog Day Crafts" you find a lot of printables and fairly difficult craft projects that simply aren't appropriate for toddlers and young preschoolers.  I do love this Negative Art project from Tippy Toe Crafts, which is shadow-like, but still not process art.

Volunteering at The Duck Pond has many advantages.  One is being the large amount of arts and craft supplies the founder has collected over the years.  Being the artsy one in the group, I get to design the "make & take" projects used each week.  Working on February's projects, Groundhog Day stumped me.  We don't use printables at The Duck Pond and I'm trying to move our art towards more process and less craft, which is far more stimulating to the average 2 year old.  So I ventured into our supply room and pondered colors and materials that could represent Groundhog Day.  A simple yarn collage was the result.

I gave my daughter some supplies: various earthy shades of yarn, a piece of paper, and some glue.  My daughter, being a typical toddler, loves glue, and was immediately excited at the prospect of using more (she'd already done the weekly project earlier, which took a lot of glue).  She squeezed glue all over the paper and set out to piling the yarn on top of the glue.  I showed her that unless there is more glue, the piles of yarn won't stick.  She understood and spread things out a bit.

The beauty of this project is in it's simplicity.  Even young toddlers can explore the yarn and glue to create whatever they want.  If you are nervous about the amount of glue your child might use, then squirt some on the paper and allow your little one to add the yarn.  But I encourage you to let them do as much as possible, because that's the point of process art; it's not about the finished product, it's about exploring the materials and creating what the child desires.  Try to step back and give them the freedom to use their imaginations.

  1. Yarn (earthy tones if you want the Groundhog Day theme). Cut yarn into various lengths. 
  2. Half sheet of Construction Paper
  3. School Glue
Enjoy watching your child and feel free to share their finished projects on my Facebook Page.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Easy Snowball Sensory Table

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A little over a year ago I moved from San Diego to the San Francisco Bay area.  It's been a big adjustment for me and the kids.  My son had to change schools (then change again when he entered a special education class at the beginning of the school year), we can no longer have a "beach day" in January because the water up here is freezing, and of course we all had to make new friends.  Boy, did I win the jackpot with that!  I've met some terrific moms since I moved which has kept me and my children active around town.  

Once of the places we visit regularly is The Duck Pond, a non-profit indoor play space in south San Jose.  Because it's non-profit, they relay on volunteers to help out during the 2 hour session they are open each day.  One of my friends was a regular volunteer and she talked me into it as well, along with another good friend.  Now we are all there at least once a week helping in various forms to keep the place running.  Over the year I've been there, it's been noticed that my talents lie with the craft projects and the occasional sensory activity.  I am extremely limited in these areas; no paint or super messy sensory items (rice, flour, sand, etc) of any kind, simply because the parents are required to be involved and many aren't.  Too much for us volunteers to have to clean up.  So, it's become a challenge for me, in a good way (keeps those gray cells working hard).   

Digging through supplies last week I came across cotton balls and styrofoam balls and the snowball sensory table was born!

Most of us, even The Duck Pond, have inexpensive water tables laying around for warmer weather.  Well, dig it out because it's not just for water!  Water tables have many uses, that I hope to explore over the coming months.  

For this table I kept it simple: cotton balls, styrofoam balls, cups, and some pretend ice cream scoops we had in our "snack shop" pretend play area.  That's it!  

When I put the table out, I had the cotton and styrofoam balls mixed together. The children quickly separated the two (sorting=math).   

Then we had all kinds of scooping going on.  Kids were scooping styrofoam balls, kids were scooping cotton balls.  Some were pretending it was snow, some pretended it was ice cream.  The smallest children enjoyed throwing the cotton balls into the air.  It was a frenzy of exploration and the parents were loving it!  

This is a perfect indoor activity for winter and rainy days.  The clean up is easy and I'm sure you have at least cotton balls and kids cups around your house to get this table going today.  Don't have a water table?  Try using a large plastic storage bin or if you want a smaller scale, use a plastic 6-Quart Storage Box (shoe box sized).

I hope this activity will keep your kids sane during indoor weather.  Let me know how you liked it by leaving a comment or share your photos over on my Facebook page.  

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Frozen Winter Sensory Bin

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Once upon a time I made a winter sensory bin for my son and our playgroup.  It included colored rice, epson salt, and snowflake confetti.  He had a lot of fun playing in it with friends and on his own.  When we moved on to another season, I stored the sensory material to be used at a later time.  Well, it's roughly 4 years later and my youngest is 3 and loves to make a mess.  Lucky for her, I came across my stash of sensory materials and pulled out the winter bag.  

Preschools often use large sand tables for sensory materials, rotating them throughout the year.  Of course many of us have sand and water tables being stored for warmer weather, but why wait when you can use it for all sorts of play, not just sand and water.  But if you want to do a sensory bin that is easily storable, table or floor friendly, and on the smaller side, shoe box sized storage bins are inexpensive online and at Target, roughly $2.00 a piece.  

The nice thing about this sensory bin is you can keep it simple with just the rice and epson salt and add in small cups or scoops, or you can add toys like Arctic animals or 
Frozen toy figures. My daughter received some Frozen characters for her birthday so it seemed like a natural fit.  I threw in some winter type animals too.

The toys were quickly disregarded as my daughter is a feeler; she was more interested and the texture and flow of the sensory material then the imagination side of the bin.

She quickly made a game of finding the snowflakes and sorting them out next to her.

Make your own Frozen winter themed sensory bin with these materials:
Be creative and have fun!   Don't forget to share your pictures with me on Facebook!



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