Happy New Year to everyone!!!!
Today I taught an awesome Creativity Workshop inspired by one of my favorite winter stories: Bear Snores On by Karma Wilson. This is a great book and was a stunning debut on her part. I am always interested in an author's first book!
Bear Snores On
by Karma Wilson
My two students today have had Creativity Workshops with me before, so they both knew that I always have a story to read them. They also knew that we always make a recipe! So the first thing they asked me was, what are we going to cook today? I told them that the recipe was inspired by the story and that they should listen carefully to the book to try to guess what it was. One sister promptly grabbed a notebook and a Sharpie and proceeded to make a list of all the foods mentioned, as I read them the book.
In case you aren't familiar with this book, that list was popcorn, tea, honey nuts, and stew.
Well, their eyes lit up when Badger showed up with his honey nuts, but the recipe I had picked was actually tea. So, we made tea! I was already going to make myself some Ginger-Turmeric Herbal Tea since I started this New Year with a sinus infection and that's one of the suggested natural remedies. It's good for any kind of inflammation, in fact.
So this morning when I was thinking "I need to make myself some Ginger-Turmeric Herbal Tea" and also thinking "I need to find a recipe for the girls to make today which is also gluten-free and dairy-free," I suddenly realized that we could just all work together to make the tea. They had a good time measuring the spices, grating the ginger, and sqeeezing the lemon. We also added plenty of honey, naturally.
While the tea was steeping, we started our big art project for the day, also a great fit for this lovely story. I had some 8 x 10 inch canvases that we had gotten as a present, and so we made Easy Birch Trees. Thank you Angela Anderson for this amazing art activity!
This is a little time consuming but it turns out great. You do need to buy a canvas for each child but besides that you probably have most of the materials on hand. It requires a canvas, several different widths of painters or masking tape in different colors, acrylic paint (white, metallic gold or silver, black, and two bright colors which are next to each other in the color wheel), paintbrushes, cotton swabs, a small jar lid, a paint palette, an old credit card, a paper bowl or plate, a jar of rinse water, and newspaper.
Here was how mine turned out. I am so thrilled! This is one activity where you definitely want to do the art project alongside the children, so that you can demonstrate step-by-step. You'll also need to have a plan for what they're going to do in between the steps, while the paint is drying.
First step is to lay down different sizes of painters and masking tape -- LARGEST WIDTH gets put on FIRST -- to be the tree trunks. I had three sizes of tape and that was plenty. I had a very wide cream colored tape, a medium width green tape, and a narrow cream colored tape. Even having them be two wildly different widths, the two creams ended up being confusing for my students when it came time to take them off. So if at all possible, I highly recommend using three different colors.
So you put down a line or two of your big fat tape, a line or two of your medium tape, a line of two of your narrowest tape... whatever design you want but no purely horizontal lines because these are tree trunks, remember? I had a child ask me that. It's perfectly OK and in fact preferable to have them cross each other in a few places. Make the masking tape longer than your canvas and stick the ends to the back side of your canvas. You'll need this when it's time to take the tape off. Smooth the tape down firmly, making sure it's really adhering to the canvas, for best results. You're making a masking tape resist.
Now paint the background with two different colors of acrylic paint, blending them where they meet. Just paint right over the tape. I use old egg cartons and ice cube trays for my paint palettes. I found it easiest to paint the bottom color, rinse my brush clean, paint the top color, NOT rinse my brush, put the brush into both colors, and then paint the middle blended area.
While this was drying, the girls ate their snack. Then they started on individual projects. One fed the rabbit some kale and an apple core, and brushed him. Then she played with our new Cuboro Marble Maze!
And then she painted with water on the chalkboard (big kids like this too!) and made cornstarch and lotion play dough (just add two cups of cornstarch to that 8 oz bottle of Bath & Bodyworks lotion which you don't really like). Yes, these are all Pinterest links. I love Pinterest and it's a great place to find fun ideas for toddler sensory play (more on this later). I'm addicted!!!
Meanwhile, the other sister started her potholder weaving. She was thrilled with my new big bag of pastel potholder loops. And when she tired of that, she painted a card for her parents using the watercolor paints she brought with her and my very last Watercolor Card and Envelope. I will definitely need to buy more of these. I love them and we use them all the time! They are a handy material to bring out when kids want to paint, or use watercolor pencils, but they want do to something a little different.
I stopped them mid-way to add the snow to our birch tree paintings. I simply mixed some white and some metallic gold paint together and we used cotton swabs to dab a few snowflake dots on. I skipped the tiny jar lid step but in retrospect I think I would definitely do it. It does add another dimension to the snow. And this is a good use for the lid to the vanilla extract which you just used up in holiday baking. (I really should learn to save everything.)
When the snowflakes were dry, we carefully took off the thinnest color of masking tape. Use the paper plate and black paint and old credit card to scrape the birch bark texture on the tree. Then repeat with the medium sized masking tape strip, and then again with the fattest color of tape.
If you want to do this with a classroom, you'll definitely want to save old used-up gift cards.
They were still happily scraping birch bark when it was time to go home. It's an unusual technique but very fun once you get used to it. I recommend some practice on the newspaper to make sure there isn't too much black paint on the credit card. Also, find a photo on the newspaper and practice laying the edge of the card along it and pulling the card inward. At first the girls were dotting their birch trees like long thin polka dots. It's a pulling motion, not a pouncing one.
I really enjoy watching older children also enjoy Zac's collection of Sensory Play Activities. This weekend he and I have had a blast doing some new things. First, I set up the Pinto Bean Pouring Bin with dried pinto beans (you can buy enormous bags of dried pinto beans at Walmart), a funnel, scoops and measuring cups, some wooden spoons, and a little melamine bowl.
I also made him a bin of shaving cream and some more of those frozen colored ice cubes, inspired by another Pinterest pin. For this activity, I set him in the bathtub (no water in it) and took off all his clothes except his diaper. I put the shaving cream and ice cubes in a groovy vintage aluminum 9 x 13 baking pan. He immediately began to spread handfuls of shaving cream all over the walls of the tub, then scrubbed it with a washcloth. He barely noticed the ice cubes. After a while I took off the diaper and filled the tub with warm water and he happily "washed" the walls of the tub some more. Then I drained the water and put in fresh warm water and gave him a bath. By the time we were done, he was squeaky clean and so was the tub! Shaving cream actually does a surprisingly good job as a cleanser! :-)
This weekend I also made my little guy some containers of jell-o to play with (Edible Sensory Play Balls are beautiful but I don't have the correct molds to make them). So we went with mixing bowls, ramekins, and pie pans full of lemon, strawberry, and blackberry fusion gelatin!
This isn't hard to set up. You just need to be a little organized in advance. I turned all the shapes, colors, and flavors of jell-o out into his trusty aluminum pan and gave him a few spoons. I thought it would occupy him for a long long time! Actually, it was about five minutes. I got a lot more time out of the shaving cream! So you just never know.
Of course, once you have the jell-o in a dish, you can just cover it and save it for another day. Just pop in the fridge.
The last idea I tried was the Button Excavating. Just a reminder that sensory play isn't independent play (mentholated shaving cream can't go in eyes, buttons can't go in mouths) and a responsible older party needs to be monitoring these activities at all times! But I thought it was a great idea, so I swapped the shells out of Zac's Beach Bin and added buttons to the existing cornmeal plus some sieves. You just can't get any easier than that!