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Nature activities for children: Rocks!

14 Jul

Recently I was watching a group of children playing in some slow flowing rapids. Some were sitting on the rocks watching as the water tumbled over the rocks, others were skimming little stones across the water and a few were gathering rocks and using them to create homes for animals.

As I watched I noticed that they were engrossed in this world of make believe and I started thinking how I used to play when I was younger. If I was outside I didn’t need entertaining or lots of commercial toys. I was happy gathering sticks and stones, making fairy houses and playing with my friends.

I started looking closely at the tiny stones in this river.   Some were smooth, others slightly jagged and some were varied in colour.

I played around with the rocks and created some different ideas with them. As I pottered around with the objects I was thinking that this activity would lend itself to enhancing  fine motor development.

Counting 1-5!

Nature Ant! I found some sticks that were segmented, so they worked perfectly for the legs! As you can see I used a thick white wood glue to attach the various pieces.

Inspired by Andy Goldsworthy!

Math measuring!

Lady in a jeweled dress!

I thought about how I would incorporate these ideas into the classroom. I could  discuss with the children  the different stones, their colours, similarities, differences, shape and texture. We could talk about the photographs and why rocks are smooth and how nature fashions them through the constant flow of the water.  Photographs of   the area were the stones had been found would help children have a point of reference. Changing the photos from A4 to A3 allows the photos to be displayed in a corner of the classroom. I would then add the stones,  bark, sticks, twigs and black card for children to come and choose items to create a naturescape. A gallery walk would be a great way for children to view other children’s ideas and share their own creations.

Best Blogs!

9 Jul

I was thinking today about the amazing blogs I follow. There are some truly talented people out there in Blog world! So incredibly gifted and the best part is that they share their ideas with everyone!

1.I have been following Crayons and Milk and really if I just put up the photos of her amazing creations they speak for themselves! http://crayonsandmilk.wordpress.com/

                                                      

2. Counting Coconuts is another blog I love. I appreciate the great ideas on this blog and as I am about to embark on a full time Kindergarten (maternity leave) job I am looking forward to implementing some of the activities

http://countingcoconuts.blogspot.com.au/2012/06/summer-sensory-tub-brave.html

                                                             

3. My Small potatoes is amazing  I am in awe of the author’s talent! http://mysmallpotatoes.com/

                                                            

4. The Artful Parent is a great  place to stop for resources and ideas! http://www.artfulparent.com/

                  

5. No time for flashcards is seriously huge!      http://www.notimeforflashcards.com/

                                         

6. Sun Hats and Wellie boots is simply delightful http://www.sunhatsandwellieboots.com/p/christmas.html

The name is so inviting!

                                                                                                                    

Children’s activities nut shells!

7 Jul

I was looking at Red Ted’s Art blog  http://www.redtedart.com/2011/12/03/kids-crafts-traditional-walnut-babies/ and I found these wonderful walnut babies so I made some of my own, as you do!

And then I started searching around for some more nutshell art! I found all of these at The Crafty Crow http://www.thecraftycrow.net/2011/11/walnut-crafts-for-kids.html

Domestic Candy had some great ideas http://domesticcandy.blogspot.com.au/2010/11/wallnussboote.html

Flossie Teacake had some adorable ideas! http://flossieteacakes.blogspot.com.au/2010/08/three-ways-with-walnuts.html

The Magic onions had a lovely idea http://themagiconions.blogspot.com.au/2009/11/make-thanksgiving-walnut-candle.html

These creations are truly amazing! http://miniatures.about.com/od/makeminiaturefurniture/ss/Make-A-Miniature-Reading-Chair-From-Walnut-Shells.htm

                     

I love all of these ideas! I find when I start looking at these amazing ideas, some creativity is sparked inside of me and off I go, to the market, buy some shells and start imagining!

My creation!

I started with some pipe cleaners and a wooden bead with a hole in it. I created a little stick figure man and glued and threaded the bead for a ‘head’.

I then glued the walnut ‘hat’ on the bead and cut some clothes for my construction man!

With the pants I wrapped the felt around the legs and hot glued them together at the back (after much burning of hot glue on my fingers!). I then cut the top and threaded the man through the hole (if I had any brains at all I would have done that BEFORE I put the hat on!). I glued the excess material with a pleat and more hot glue!

This activity is definitely one an adult should do but the children could  make the clothes!

Stick activities

18 Jun

I was thinking about when I was young and how sticks held a great fascination for me! They were cheap, they were everywhere and there was always some game you could play with them! I love the way schools are moving back to nature in their outdoor settings  and creating places for children to develop their imagination. I  remember using sticks for wands and I remember being with my mum and dropping them over a bridge and running to the other side to see where the water took the sticks and whose stick was the fastest! I thought I would dabble again and see if I could rediscover that fascination and in doing so create some easy stick activities for children!

Here are some of my creations!

1. A nature picture frame ( I was watching a video of an early childhood centre in Sweden and this was on the wall!)  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ecinNaR32Qs

2. Gum nut person!

Take 2 sticks (I used olive branch sticks).

Then form a star by wrapping with natural coloured wool.

Start with a new piece of wool and wind around each of the 4 sticks.

As you wind wrap the wool around the individual sticks to form the arms and legs.

Wedge a gum nut into the space between the arms. And there you have it a gum nut person!

3. My favourite:  a dragonfly. I have to admit, as the sticks were quite springy I used a little tape to keep them together.

I made the 2 sets of wings and then attached them to the body by winding the wool over and over. The more I wound the wool the more the body seem to take shape!

A little staging!

Nature and recycling activities for kids

6 Jun

I was thinking the other day how handy it is when you come across websites and blogs that list all the cool things you can do with found  objects and resources!The Artful Parent created such a  post. The post was ’39 ways to learn and play with play dough’. It was an  excellent post as the author had collected a range of people’s ideas and put them all in one spot.

http://www.artfulparent.com/2012/02/39-ideas-for-playing-with-playdough.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+TheArtfulParent+%28The+Artful+Parent%29

I thought I would put together all things to do with nature. I don’t know about you but I have found most children just love the outdoors and all things to do with nature. I have also noticed children appear to be more absorbed with the outdoors and seem to have an endless interest in their world.

1.  I shall make a start with Andy Goldsworthy! His work is  amazing , child friendly and inspiring!

http://www.ucblueash.edu/artcomm/web/w2005_2006/maria_Goldsworthy/TEST/index.html

I am not sure why I started this post so late in the evening I guess I was  so inspired by the ideas that are around! I will be back very soon!

Andy Goldsworthy books are available here http://www.fishpond.com.au/advanced_search_result.php?rid=829857281&keywords=andy%20Goldsworthy. I have seen teachers use these books as part of a nature table display, with the addition of rocks, feathers, sticks, stones and other found objects The children  had the opportunity to  pour over the book and chat  to their friends about the designs. I have seen teachers lay out black paper on tables for  children to create their own designs. Photographs of these unique designs are then displayed above the nature table. I have to say I find this kind of art powerful as it is unique to every child, it visually displays children’s creativity and  it celebrates children’s ideas BUT best of all for children,  in a dominated world of ‘getting things right’,  it has no constraints! It is free!

2. This is a must have book for all nature and recycling loving teachers and children!

I purchased this book online from The Book Depository and it introduces and encourages children  to explore different ways  you can use and reuse found objects. The authors of the book take you on their journey with children as they rediscover the delights of creating unique art from simple, everyday things!

3. Another wonderful book is this one!

Here is a review of this important work.

Last Child in the Woods is the first book to bring together a new and growing body of research indicating that direct exposure to nature is essential for healthy childhood development and for the physical and emotional health of children and adults. More than just raising an alarm, Louv offers practical solutions and simple ways to heal the broken bond—and many are right in our own backyard. As one scientist puts it, we can now assume that just as children need good nutrition and adequate sleep, they may very well need contact with nature.

4. This is another idea that caught my eye! Discovery bottles: The four seasons from Sunhats and Wellie boots  http://www.sunhatsandwellieboots.com/2011/10/discovery-bottles-four-seasons.html

I have started my autumn bottle as it is autumn and I am moving onto the winter bottle. I have collected seed pods, beautiful coloured leaves, some with a little green on to show the changes in the seasons. Much to my adult son’s horror I collect them wherever I go! My son begs me to warn him when I about to pick up some random object and put it in my bag, so that he can walk a few paces ahead of me! Lovely! I am not sure if I want to use macaroni and rice as fillers as there is so much debate about using food in this way, given so many people go hungry every day? What do you think?

5. I shared in a recent post ideas for using paint swatches from hardware stores. Well I am off to load some photos of a group of Year 3’s I had today as a relief teacher. I gave them each a little pile of swatches and I said, ” what do you think you could make with these?” I stood back and they created the most amazing creations! They didn’t want to stop

                    

                       

             

6.  Shells are wonderful objects and are great for exploration and discovery! I love this blog http://mayamade.blogspot.com.au/2010/09/simple-shell-activities-with-children.html.

I don’t know about you but if I see a basket of shells or stones I am immediately drawn to them! I want to pick them up, touch them and turn them around in my hand!

Shell and stone people and insects are fun too!

7. Leaves are just marvelous, they lend themselves to wonderful discovery and creative ideas.  Here is an idea from http://www.atozkidsstuff.com/leaves.html

Sensory Table

Leaf Table
Give each child a paper bag and take the children for a walk. Have the children collect leaves in their paper bags. After returning to your room place all the leaves in the sand/water table. Add berry baskets (some children will tear up the leaves and place in the baskets for a play salad! This also will make your room smell wonderful!

Autumn Leaves

What you will need

Tarpaulin, room divider fences, bags of leaves

Section off a corner of your play area with fence dividers. Staple a tarp up for the dividers along the floor to create a space to contain the leaves. Then fill that corner with lots of leaves. Give children play rakes and baskets and let them play and explore! They can sort, roll in them, throw them up to catch them! How wonderful!

String leaves from the ceiling to create a feeling of being under a tree!

Leaves are great for leaf rubbing prints. I found that when I laminated the leaves I was able to preserve them forever and also when we used them for the printing, the lamination sharpened the lines on the leaves. It is of course better for children to handle the leaves and feel them, but if you want great prints then this is  a good way to get an excellent outcome! The beauty of the lamination process is that the leaf stays still under the paper!

Pressing into playdough to create a sensory print! http://artfulparent.typepad.com/artfulparent/2008/04/flower-prints-in-sculpey-and-in-playdough.html

8. Over the last 10 years or so I have come to love wooden toys more and more! I guess it is that whole nature aspect that draws me to simple and crafted toys! This blog shows a set of story cubes http://www.redtedart.com/2010/11/05/how-to-make-story-cubes-beautiful-memories/ Lots of fun and easy to make. The beauty of them is that you can tailor make them to your children’s interests!

9. This has to be one of my all time favorite websites  http://madebyjoel.com/ The author of the website is a ‘stay at home’ dad and he just simply blows me away with his simple yet astonishing ideas and creativity! He has produced a book and he is so generous he puts his work up for anyone to download and use! A saint as well as highly creative! He has been on Martha Stewart’s television program and he is the sweetest guy!

This is his version of a doll’s house! How superb!

Some lovely scrap material people!

And a gorgeous bird design child pillow, I want it!

I can tell you how generous he is, I downloaded his mini paris artwork and I sat for hours hand painting all of the pieces with watercolours, I then laminated it and put a comment on his post. He wrote back and said he loved the idea and asked if I would send a photo!

Typo has a Paris pencil box so I keep it stored in there. It is a great mini travel toy and one that can be used for a child in a class that needs a bit of quiet on a cushion!

Recycled paper craft with kids (updated)

22 Apr

I was walking through a hardware store the other day and I find I  am always drawn to the paint section. Not because I want to paint my house, but because the colour swatches are so appealing! I was thinking that, children in the early years, learn red and yellow make orange and blue and yellow make green and so on, but as I looked at all the beautiful shades of colour I started thinking that it would be good to expose young children to different possibilities of colours. I was thinking I can’t just take one of every colour because that would look a lot like stealing and there is no way I could convince someone that I was painting my house with all the colours of the rainbow!
So I asked the staff if they had any swatches that they had finished with or if there were any discontinued lines. They said sure and they gave me a stack of cards. I was delighted! The reuse of materials and resources is so important and what better way to show children how they can at a young age contribute to looking after their world.
I thought I would list all the ways to reuse colour cards and in doing so expose children to the wonderful shades and hues of the colour spectrum! I saw this particular activity in the Country Living magazine. http://www.countryliving.com/crafts/projects/green-crafts-0309?src=nl&mag=clg&list=nl_ccr_cft_non_041812_green-crafts&kw=ist#slide-1.

1. Paint swatch organizers

Repurpose hardware-store color cards in seconds flat: Simply stack two same-size cards atop each other, right sides facing out, and stitch together along the bottoms and sides with contrasting thread (we opted for red). Then use flathead tacks to attach your brilliant little pocket organizers to a bulletin board, and fill them with pencils, papers, and more.

As a family we are in the throws of a wedding at the end of this week, so my plan is to add some ideas every day, so please bear with me! I am finding that I am very weepy, delighted for my son and his fiancee but sad because we will miss him! So I shall go off and take some photos and return soon!

2. Mosaic letter tiling!

3. Flowers


4. Game board



The more I ‘played ‘ with this idea the more I liked it! An adult could cut the strips for children to use. I like the way this activity is open ended, no two game boards would look the same and it encourages creativity.

5.  Flash cards


I enjoyed putting this idea together as the quality of the cards are excellent and there are such a range of colours children can use to make their very own personalized flash cards. I feel it is an excellent literacy opportunity for practicing writing. You could use any catalogue, as long as each child had two of the same magazines. You could use toy catalogues, home and hardware magazines the ideas are endless!

6. Math patterning

7. Family mobile

8. Yes/No cards

These cards are great as you can hand them out to the children at mat time after you have read a story or for a quiz and they can decide which card is the correct answer!

9. Mini Art work frames

10. Ed Emberley birds

I love Ed Emberley’s art for children http://www.edemberley.com/pages/main.aspx

11. Frames for work samples

I like this idea for a number of reasons!

1. Each frame is  individual to each child.

2. It is a great opportunity to practice cutting skills

3. When the frame is laminated it can be used over and over to use as a display in the classroom with different pieces of work

4. It can be used as an assessment tool to follow the progress of children’s fine motor development and progression through the stages of their drawing capabilities.

5. You could also use this activity  to encourage patterning.

12. Very simple paper tole

With this activity it gives children an opportunity to see a different dimension, you could say from a 2D view to a 3D view. I used the smallest square from the paint swatches to create  a ‘raised ‘ picture. (these could be prepared for children before hand as they are quite fiddly!

13. Skyscraper art! With this activity the children could first start with the roller painting wash over the background of their picture and then cut the ‘skyscrapers into any configuration of ‘buildings’ that they liked! I must admit in my haste to put this photo up the paper was not quite dry! I like the movement of the foreground, I might investigate this process on another blog!

14. Story cards This activity gives children the opportunity to make up their own story and develop skills in sequencing a story line (beginning, middle and end). For younger children they could write a number on the back of the card to help them remember the sequence or for fun children could use the cards for stories and simply make up new ones every time!

I recently found this wonderful blog. A young mum living in London with a young child. She has added new meaning to the alphabet with her zany ideas!

Check this out http://www.makedoandfriend.com/2012/03/tactile-letters-part-two.html  You could definitely use the paint swatches for this activity. I love it!

 

14. Update 6th August

I found this neat idea and had to add it for you to enjoy!http://www.secondstorywindow.net/home/2012/07/index.html

Recycled paper flowers

16 Feb

Here I am back again! I am constantly inspired by people who take something simple and recreate it into something amazing. Take the lady from Craftberry bush http://craftberrybush.blogspot.com.au/2010/11/paper-romance.html. So amazing what she does with paper. So… I felt inspired, I went off and found my yellow pages from 2010. You ask why do I still have them, well, I keep thinking there must be something else this paper can be used for? I recently hurt my hip and the physio arranged some interesting exercises for me involving stepping up and down on a small step to strengthen my hip muscles. What…. you say, has this got to do with recycled paper flowers? Good question! As I stepped up and down I was thinking about how you could use this paper again in a creative way! This is what I came up with!
1. One page from the yellow pages phone book (circa 2010!)

2. The easy paper folding process (seen in many paper folding activities)
Fold paper in half.

3. And half again.

4. Fold again, but this time the paper will not meet at the edges, this is ok!

5. Fold paper again.

6. Now cut little scallops at the top. I was thinking you could use pinking shears and there are also children’s sets of scissors with interesting shapes on the blades.

7. Now the paper will look like this:

8. Continue to make smaller and smaller folded paper circles, using contrasting colours. Add contrasting coloured buttons.


9. You could use magazines, newspaper and junk mail to create different colours and designs.
I was thinking children from about mid year in prep and onwards would be able to create these flowers. I think they would make a great display on a bulletin board!
I believe, as a newly trained teacher, it is so important to continue the good work parents do in the home in highlighting the need to recycle and instill in children the need to care for our world. The more I see projects that use recycled products the more I believe that rather than recycling being a ‘theme’ it needs to be a constant thought in the way teachers plan their projects and lessons.I am sure many teachers keep this at the forefront of their minds as they plan. This concept I observed in my last practicum at a school in my local area. The teachers thought about each project with an eye to how they could re-use resources to create new projects.
10. Happy recycling!
P.S. One more thing! This website has the most innovative recycling projects I have seen. Have a look http://www.countryliving.com/crafts/projects/green-crafts-0309#slide-6
P.S.S.
Here are some flowers that I made with catalogues from the mail box and one from a large shopping store starting with the letter M!