Let them Grow: Engaging Toddlers in Creative Play Blog by Candice Chouinard.

LET THEM GROW: APPLE LOVE

After a trip to Pine Hill Orchard and taste testing several kinds of apples, strolling the quaint hills and admiring the artwork, my kids were obsessed with apples. It just so happen to be Apple Week at the daycare. I was on a mission to make apples even more exciting this year and so were the teachers at the daycare!We vowed to focus more activities on sensory play and that meant more messy fun. We can up with these go-to fall apple activities that are easy, engaging and beautiful!

Apple Prints

Every fall this is one of our favorite activities. Making apple prints are not only beautiful but for the industrious toddlers, it’s fun work.  I have found this to be the easiest way to make prints:

  • Cut apples in half so that they are flat and even (these make the best prints).
  • Stick a fork in the peel side of the apple to give your toddler something to hold while printing.
  • Use small amounts of paint. Too much paint distorts the prints.
  • Encourage a firm bang of the apple onto the paper. Dip and press. Toddlers love industrious work, so this becomes the fun part.

Apple Relief Prints and Free Paint

This is a simple activity that makes any group of children happy to make art! Using big cut outs of apples lightly taped on the underside to a large piece of paper, offer large amounts of paint in red, yellow and orange for kids to smear about. This creates a cacophony of colors. Add glitter or red sand if your feeling it. Before the paint dries, remove the apple cut-out to make a beautiful relief painting.

Apple Crisp

I have this amazing teacher, Becca! She is the resident baker at LSH and has become a master at toddler baking. Making anything edible with 9 toddlers is nearly impossible – that’s not the goal. Play is the goal – and Becca has perfected the process. I will share the secrets:The real secret is we don’t eat the ones they make. The exploration of ingredients is the real activity!

Ingredients:

  • Cut apples
  • Dash Cinnamon
  • White sugar
  • Tablespoon of flour

Process:

  • Offer each child a tray to work in
  • Offer each child their own ingredients
  • Offer each child their own spoon

Let the kids mix all these together, munch, and play away. Offer measuring cups to fill and sip, spoons to mix with, and even a small baking tin to fill.Be aware: too much cinnamon or dry ingredients that can be inhaled can be dangerous for small children, so just use a dash and keep an eye on them as they play. In a separate bowl… make some crisp to bake!Enjoy fall in the Valley!


Compost to Good Use

Spring in western MA!  Now is a time where I always like to move toward more nature-based art.  Using natural object as a medium allows us to make the connection between the land and art.  I have many favorite nature-based art projects, but my all time favorite is vegetable stamping. It’s an engaging and simple activity for even the youngest artist to participate in. All children love doing this activity, most will even eat vegetables during it! This idea is simple; use vegetables to create beautiful prints that will be worth saving and worth doing again.  

To help make this activity affordable, I like to use vegetables scraps for stamping. No need to waste a  fresh foods on this project. Instead use overripe vegetables and legumes.  Ask friends if they have any soft onion or potatoes, bruised apples or dried lemons. To make stamping fun, it’s nice to have a lot of options. You can use any food to stamp but here is a list of ones that makes great prints.

  • Apples
  • Lemons
  • Limes
  • Nectarines
  • Plums
  • Oranges
  • Romaine lettuce ends
  • Onions
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Broccoli florets

Offer you child an array of vegetables to use as stamp along with stamp pads in a variety of colors.  After allowing young toddlers to explore (and even taste) their veggies, show them how to stamp and press on the paper.

Children will explore all parts of the veggies and fruits. Let them. This is the fun part. They will take apart the onion, dissect the orange, peel off the peels… a great sensory adventure! It will be memorable to them, as they learn from this hands on experiment. Help your child identify the seeds, skin, and flesh of the fruits. Try making prints of all the parts; make it a learning experience for all the senses. The end product is beautiful in so many ways.

[Photo credits: (cc) Jimmie]

Compost to Good Use

Spring in western MA!  Now is a time where I always like to move toward more nature-based art.  Using natural object as a medium allows us to make the connection between the land and art.  I have many favorite nature-based art projects, but my all time favorite is vegetable stamping. It’s an engaging and simple activity for even the youngest artist to participate in. All children love doing this activity, most will even eat vegetables during it! This idea is simple; use vegetables to create beautiful prints that will be worth saving and worth doing again.  

To help make this activity affordable, I like to use vegetables scraps for stamping. No need to waste a  fresh foods on this project. Instead use overripe vegetables and legumes.  Ask friends if they have any soft onion or potatoes, bruised apples or dried lemons. To make stamping fun, it’s nice to have a lot of options. You can use any food to stamp but here is a list of ones that makes great prints.

  • Apples
  • Lemons
  • Limes
  • Nectarines
  • Plums
  • Oranges
  • Romaine lettuce ends
  • Onions
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Broccoli florets

Offer you child an array of vegetables to use as stamp along with stamp pads in a variety of colors.  After allowing young toddlers to explore (and even taste) their veggies, show them how to stamp and press on the paper.

Children will explore all parts of the veggies and fruits. Let them. This is the fun part. They will take apart the onion, dissect the orange, peel off the peels… a great sensory adventure! It will be memorable to them, as they learn from this hands on experiment. Help your child identify the seeds, skin, and flesh of the fruits. Try making prints of all the parts; make it a learning experience for all the senses. The end product is beautiful in so many ways.

[Photo credits: (cc) Jimmie]

LET THEM GROW: SETTING UP THE TODDLER WHO WANTS TO GET TO WORK!

Let Them Grow by Candice Chouinard

The Industrious Toddler

I have found that young toddlers thrive on exploring the world around them. Finding new ways to create and explore can mean the difference between a boring day and a day filled with the emergence of new skills. Lately with the snow over the babes heads, finding new ways to master skills such as cutting, grasping, gluing, sorting and creating has taking up the bulk of our art time.

Toddlers love repetition, as you may have noticed. They love the predictability of repeated motions, motions that will soon be a mastered skill. They thrive in a child-centered environment. A place where all the tools on the table are for them to explore, there is no one telling them “please don’t touch” instead all the supplies are screaming “touch me” and “ figure me out.”

The industrious art projects that can help you through this winter are just as much educational as they are fun. Help your toddler master fine motors skills such as scissors, tweezers, knives, forks, spoons by giving them the opportunity to uses such tools on a toddler friendly forum! 

Whole Punches and Glue

Whole punches can get expensive, I buy them when they are on sale at the craft store and have many on hand now. The children love the process of whole punching shapes and designs out of magazine paper. Using a light weight paper will allow for easier punching and eventually your toddler will be able to use the punches on her own. Have a container on hand for your little busy bee to move the punched shapes into. After you have a bunch-a-punches, you can glue them or find other creative uses for them, however it is the process of punching that is the project here.

Tearing and cutting paper

Tearing paper is a favorite past time of mine. By selecting different weights, colors and sizes of paper, you can make tearing and cutting interesting for even older toddlers and preschoolers. I enjoy collecting a huge array of interesting papers, magazine clippings, nature photos, images of people etc.,. and allowing the children to choose what papers they would like to cut or tear. Mastering scissors is a huge feat. This fine motor skills it takes to operate these complex tools is no joke. Toddler will need an adult to help orientate the scissors a few times before they can hold them properly. They will need a little help practicing opening and closing the blades before they can start to cut. Once they get it, encourage them to cut out shapes, faces or everything (green, big, orange). Beginning to sort is a great cognitive task, they won’t even realize that they are learning.

Cutting Dough

Using scissors to cut dough is also a lot of fun. When working with dough, offer your child a bunch of utensils to choose from. I prefer offering actual tools such as dull scissors, knives, forks, pizza cutters and so on. Using dough as a learning tool is a fun way to pass some time and have fun together.

Filling bean pots with tweezers

Using tweezers is a hard task for anyone. I purchased giant plastic toddler tweezers that seem to be a good fit for around 15 months-4 years old. Tweezers are an excellent fine motor tool that can require a lot of attention to detail. By offering things that are easy to pick up like pom-poms or packing peanuts, your child can feel success right away with tweezers. As soon as you feel they have mastered the bigger lighter objects, begin introducing smaller more difficult objects like beans. Beans are a tough challenge, so be on hand to offer support if your child becomes frustrated. To make this activity more interesting, offer a container with a lid that your child can transfer the objects to and from. You can mix this up by offering different sized spoons and forks for the bean transfer.

Stamping and Rolling

This is by far my favorite toddler industrious activity. Children love stamping. There are millions of stamps to choose from. At any school supply site, you can find stamps with handles that the children love. However, any kind of stamp is fun. Making your own stamps from found objects is also a fun activity. By using fruits, paper towel rolls, caps, blocks and just about anything, you can make stamping a engaging art project. A helpful hint for toddler stamping is buying toddler stamp pads, the bigger the ink pad, the better. Other than that, let them go. Stamping is a great art activity that children of almost any age can do by themselves. We like to save the stamped paper to create cards, or gift-wrap later on. Rolling tamps are another great toddler activity.

Any activity where a toddler can explore sensory and fine motor skills is a win -win. It is fun as for the adult to watch and even more fun for the toddler to create.

LET THEM GROW: SETTING UP THE TODDLER WHO WANTS TO GET TO WORK!

Let Them Grow by Candice Chouinard
https://hilltownfamilies.org/category/candice-chouinard/?v=7516fd43adaa

The Industrious Toddler

I have found that young toddlers thrive on exploring the world around them. Finding new ways to create and explore can mean the difference between a boring day and a day filled with the emergence of new skills. Lately with the snow over the babes heads, finding new ways to master skills such as cutting, grasping, gluing, sorting and creating has taking up the bulk of our art time.

Toddlers love repetition, as you may have noticed. They love the predictability of repeated motions, motions that will soon be a mastered skill. They thrive in a child-centered environment. A place where all the tools on the table are for them to explore, there is no one telling them “please don’t touch” instead all the supplies are screaming “touch me” and “ figure me out.”

The industrious art projects that can help you through this winter are just as much educational as they are fun. Help your toddler master fine motors skills such as scissors, tweezers, knives, forks, spoons by giving them the opportunity to uses such tools on a toddler friendly forum! 

Whole Punches and Glue

Whole punches can get expensive, I buy them when they are on sale at the craft store and have many on hand now. The children love the process of whole punching shapes and designs out of magazine paper. Using a light weight paper will allow for easier punching and eventually your toddler will be able to use the punches on her own. Have a container on hand for your little busy bee to move the punched shapes into. After you have a bunch-a-punches, you can glue them or find other creative uses for them, however it is the process of punching that is the project here.

Tearing and cutting paper

Tearing paper is a favorite past time of mine. By selecting different weights, colors and sizes of paper, you can make tearing and cutting interesting for even older toddlers and preschoolers. I enjoy collecting a huge array of interesting papers, magazine clippings, nature photos, images of people etc.,. and allowing the children to choose what papers they would like to cut or tear. Mastering scissors is a huge feat. This fine motor skills it takes to operate these complex tools is no joke. Toddler will need an adult to help orientate the scissors a few times before they can hold them properly. They will need a little help practicing opening and closing the blades before they can start to cut. Once they get it, encourage them to cut out shapes, faces or everything (green, big, orange). Beginning to sort is a great cognitive task, they won’t even realize that they are learning.

Cutting Dough

Using scissors to cut dough is also a lot of fun. When working with dough, offer your child a bunch of utensils to choose from. I prefer offering actual tools such as dull scissors, knives, forks, pizza cutters and so on. Using dough as a learning tool is a fun way to pass some time and have fun together.

Filling bean pots with tweezers

Using tweezers is a hard task for anyone. I purchased giant plastic toddler tweezers that seem to be a good fit for around 15 months-4 years old. Tweezers are an excellent fine motor tool that can require a lot of attention to detail. By offering things that are easy to pick up like pom-poms or packing peanuts, your child can feel success right away with tweezers. As soon as you feel they have mastered the bigger lighter objects, begin introducing smaller more difficult objects like beans. Beans are a tough challenge, so be on hand to offer support if your child becomes frustrated. To make this activity more interesting, offer a container with a lid that your child can transfer the objects to and from. You can mix this up by offering different sized spoons and forks for the bean transfer.

Stamping and Rolling

This is by far my favorite toddler industrious activity. Children love stamping. There are millions of stamps to choose from. At any school supply site, you can find stamps with handles that the children love. However, any kind of stamp is fun. Making your own stamps from found objects is also a fun activity. By using fruits, paper towel rolls, caps, blocks and just about anything, you can make stamping a engaging art project. A helpful hint for toddler stamping is buying toddler stamp pads, the bigger the ink pad, the better. Other than that, let them go. Stamping is a great art activity that children of almost any age can do by themselves. We like to save the stamped paper to create cards, or gift-wrap later on. Rolling tamps are another great toddler activity.

Any activity where a toddler can explore sensory and fine motor skills is a win -win. It is fun as for the adult to watch and even more fun for the toddler to create.

Fun Gardening Activities for Little Hands!

Garden starts like tomatoes, pea shoots and other delicate plants are not something a toddler can easily handle without destroying. However, there are some really great garden prep activities that even the littlest of the little ones can help with. Watering, raking, and weeding may be the obvious places to start, but here are a few more fun early spring garden prep activities for the younger green thumbs.

Stockings & Soap

Stuffing Ivory soap into panty hose is a great deer deterrent and actually a lot more fun than it sounds! Let your toddler open the bars of soap and stuff them into the stockings. Hang the stockings around your garden or in fruit trees to prevent deer from nibbling.

Spreading Straw

Mulching is very helpful to the garden and straw is fun to play with. Get a few bales of straw and let you kids use them to climb on and enjoy… then destroy, ie. make mulch!

Worms, worms, worms!

Collecting and finding worms is a toddler favorite! I love this, too. Exploring the dirt seems to be an innate desire for children — so let them explore. If you want to add a few worms for them to find, you can order red wrigglers and fill the garden or you can just get a container of night crawlers or worms at most convenience stores.

Planting Pea Seeds

Pea are just big enough for little fingers. With young children, I like to use spike pods instead of loose soil. The pods can’t be dumped and allow aggressive little fingers to shove seeds deep down inside. Let you toddler plant the pea seed in the pods or directly in the ground and water.

Gardening doesn’t have to be a huge overwhelming experience. It can be as little as herbs in a window. Just the experience of growing and knowing where food comes from is a blessing! If you don’t have space, find your local garden like Abundance Farm and Grow Food Northampton and volunteer! That’s a great way to spend time in the soil with your Little’s!


LET THEM GROW: PLANTING AND WATER STATIONS FOR TODDLERS

Let Them Grow by Candice Chouinard
https://hilltownfamilies.org/category/candice-chouinard/?v=7516fd43adaa

Next Stop: Planting Station

Spring is here and its time finally to start that garden. 
Toddlers love to play in the dirt, but are not always the most gentle with seedling and plant. This is a great learning opportunity, a time to teach your young children about the delicate parts of nature. Demonstrate to them how a stick is easy to snap; however, a seedling can break with just a gust of wind. At dinner time make the connection between food you serve and how it is grown and harvested.

Let your toddler explore the magic of the life cycle of plants by creating a planting station for them. Use an existing sand/water table or a child size picnic table to create an area just for them.  Here is what you will need… 

Planting Station

  • Two trays, shallow containers or shoeboxes
  • Organic potting soil
  • Shovels (spoon, rake, scoops,)
  • Hand washing bucket and watering jar
  • Child friendly shovel
  • Large “seeds” (walnuts, peas, beans, popcorn, garlic cloves)
  • Apron
  • Child friendly craft scissors

Prepare an area with organic potting soil, a shovel and the seeds. Have everything accessible as you would for yourself when beginning a garden. Allow your child to fully explore the rich dirt, using terms like, moist, composted, healthy, and alive to describe the soil… the growing medium of life! Give them several tools to explore the soil, supplying them with scoops and a spoon as a shovel. Children love to move dirt, so include a second tray along side the first to transfer dirt to and plant the “seeds.”

Annual seeds (peppers, tomatoes, lettuce, beets) are very hard for small hands to manipulate. Use larger seeds that are manageable and can be seen in the soil. Depending on your child’s age avoid a choking hazards. Popcorn kernals and walnuts can be fun for older toddlers. Use things like pea or bean seeds, large nuts, stone fruit pits, garlic cloves or found objects. Incorporate dried leaves, little twigs and other compostable material left over from last spring. Use this time to explain growing and non-growing parts of the plants. Teach them which part of a plant will flower and how this plant will need to be cared for to grow.  Older toddlers love scissors. This is a great opportunity to let them have test their cutting skills. Give them plenty of materials and allow them to trim with their own child friendly craft scissors.

Watering Station

To make a toddler friendly outdoor hand-washing and water station, fill a small bucket with water and secure it down or be prepared to refill it over and over. Let your child water their seeds. Include a small container with holes in the bottom, or a small watering can. Place the water station a few feet away from the planting station to allow them to have to walk back and forth to transfer the water. This not only poses a challenge, but also helps instill the understanding that water is not always readily and easily accessible. Keep the bucket clean to avoid bacterial growth and have a towel handy to dry hands, (you may want to secure this too and include a small rag in the bucket).

Be prepared that your child (even with the hand-washing) will be covered in mud and soaking wet by the end of this activity. As you can imagine, this activity will be messy. The soil will be in the water bucket in no time and the seeds will be planted in unknown locations. Messy is great and kids are washable! I love messy. Messy is what messy does. It teaches, entertains and encourages. This activity will turn from soil and seeds to mud and seeds, but your child will have the opportunity to do that, to cause that- and what toddler doesn’t love mud pies?

LET THEM GROW: DIRT PLAY

Let Them Grow by Candice Chouinard
https://hilltownfamilies.org/category/candice-chouinard/?v=7516fd43adaa

Dirt is Some Thing

Spring has arrived here in Western MA, which means we can now move our creative play outdoors! Toddlers can make the best of anything… especially dirt! Children love playing with dirt. It is soft and malleable; cool and versatile. Children can make anything with dirt! Just recently I was served a dirt grill cheese and a side of fries. As the adults, we have to be willing to provide the dirt and the place to play. We have to be willing to see the benefits behind the mess.  

Creating a Planting Station

I have mentioned in my previous post, Planting and Water Stations for Toddlers a planting station is a simple way to allow for dirt play throughout the spring and summer. Made for dirt play, all you need might include:

  • Soil
  • Spoons, scoops, and shovels
  • Planter pots (Egg cartons work great)
  • Seeds
  • Access to water

Planting microscopic seeds is tough for small hands, so I like to use bigger seeds that grow fast. Wheat Grass is fun, the seeds are large, and you can’t over or under plant them.

Using recycled or store bought containers teach your toddler or preschooler about the life cycle of plants. Starting with seeds, soil, and water. Add the sunshine and the plant grows.

To make things more interesting you can add things to your planting station:

  • Spray bottle
  • Tweezers (to pick up seeds)
  • Pots and Pans
  • Cooking utensils

Eggshell Planting and Sensory Play

Another fun dirt play and planting activity include using eggshells. Adding eggshells is a great way to give the soil vital nutrients and a crunchy sensory experience. If your child is old enough not to crush them all, you can use the shells as a planter for the wheat grass. This makes a beautiful and eco-friendly vessel for your plants. You can move the grass with the shell to outdoors or into a larger container.

Playing in the dirt is a joy at any age. Fostering a love of gardening will help sprout a true love of nature and with this, there is hope that the gifts mother nature bring will not go unappreciated or undervalued. Before you know it, your preschooler will be starting a garden of her own!

LET THEM GROW: MAKE CAMPING WITH TODDLERS EASIER WITH THESE TIPS

Let Them Grow by Candice Chouinard
https://hilltownfamilies.org/category/candice-chouinard/?v=7516fd43adaa

Camping with Toddlers

We, meaning my partner, our almost three year old, and our eight month old, are on a camping adventure. This year to make our vacation easier and more enjoyable with the baby, we ditched the tents for cabins at our Berkshire getaway. Savoy State Forest and Mohawk Trail State Forest are spots places with cabins in the Hilltown. So, when I say “get away,” I mean it!

There is nothing but the lake the trees and the cabins. This are no playgrounds, camp stores, popsicle stands, or hordes of other children. It is just the four of us, surrounded by the crisp morning air, the ripples on the water, squirrels, and a camp fire.

This is what I love about camping. Checking out from the day to day and enjoying my kids and my partner, one on one. While there are no distractions, full-day or multi-day outings can be stressful adventures with toddlers if you are not prepared, relaxed, and ready for the adventure! I love these types of outings and find a sense of pride when I actually have a moment to sit back and watch the kids play engaged and happy without constantly tending to them. What’s my secret? Here are my secret tips for camping with toddler:

  • Set the limits: From the moment you arrive, map out the area in which your child is allowed to explore. Set the boundaries with a visual marker. Be sure to give your child space with ample nature-based play opportunities, and explain the dangers of fire! I find it useful to bring a small play tent just for the kids and set it up in “their” camping spot. We have gone so far as to make a fake fire ring and let the kids use their imagination to light it up and roast the perfect marshmallow.
  • Pack less: Less is more. We have kids, so we are innately apt to take everything under the roof with us to the camping spot. I refrain from taking the things we don’t absolutely need. My travel toys are: chalk, bubbles, a book, and a flashlight. I also try to have the kids clothes organized in sets. Shirt, underwear, shorts, and socks equals one set. Digging for the missing sock in the dark is never fun. The sets can be in individual baggies, or tied together with string. I had a cousin once tell me that there is no bad weather just bad gear. I believe that more than ever now. Be sure to pack rain gear so that your toddler isn’t stuck sitting around inside instead of taking a walk in the rain. I love the Tuffo Muddy Buddy Rain Suit for the kids.
  • Organize more: We make all your meals simple and prepackage what we can. We prepare stews that are made in advance and frozen. We go so far to vacuum seal our meals so all we have to do is warm it up. We also wrap bake potatoes, cauliflower, and grilled cheese in tin foil so we just have to toss them on the fire. Cooking and collecting wood were great activities when we didn’t have kids. Now our time is better spent with each other and less time preparing and cleaning. Give each child one cup, one plate, and one spork. Keeping it simple.

Play with what you got! My go to camping activities are:

  • Papermaking: Use toilet papers and water! Make a sludge of the two, allowing your child smoosh it all together. Flatten the wet paper into a shape and use found flowers, leaves, bark, small seeds, and sticks to decorate. This is a great sensory experience. It is also a fun activity that can take your toddler on a excursion through the woods to find the special things to set inside the paper. Set it in the sun to dry.
  • Chalk Objects: I love bringing chalk wherever we go. Chalk is easily washable and is beautiful on rough objects like wood, trees, rocks, and pine cones. You can help younger children get engaged by coloring objects and hiding them to find. Older children can find objects to color and decorate them and hide them for others to find.
  • Fairy houses and miniature tepees are a magical way to make a fairy camp. Using three sticks and a piece of birch bark, the houses really come to life. You can help your child start the camp for their imaginary friends with a crib made from an acorn, a table made from a rock, and a moss carpet. Let the fairies have a fire too!

Encouraging nature-based play is an amazing way to trigger our children’s inner love of what is naturally around us. It gives children the opportunity to engage with the world around them without batteries and computer screens. Let your child get dirty an wet and wondered through the woods that surround them!


LET THEM GROW: ART ABANDONMENT SUPPORTS ACTS OF KINDNESS THROUGH CREATIVE-FREE PLAY

Let Them Grow by Candice Chouinard
https://hilltownfamilies.org/category/candice-chouinard/?v=7516fd43adaa

Abandoned Art

Recently my brother got into painting rocks and leaving them for strangers to find. Art abandonment he calls it. I hadn’t heard of it, but now that I have, I thought this is a perfect way for a toddler to spread love, gain empathy and become more generous.  Not to mention a great way to brighten up the landscapes around town.

Toddlers have very little sense that they do not own the world; that every does NOT belong to them. Preschoolers are relinquishing this concept, but it’s never too early to start giving.  The concept is simple; paint rocks and leave them in areas where you know members of your child’s community can find them.  You can attach a little note or write on the back:

  • “You found free art, share it”
  • “Love is colorful”
  • “Generosity is learned”
  • “Share”
  • “Spread art, spread joy”

Or just put them out there as is. My brother chooses the dot pointillism approach. This is a great technique for the older toddler or preschooler to learn. By adding a single-color at a time in the form of a single dot can help a child experience art with extreme intention. They can focus on one color or a series of colors.

One child will group like colors together and others may create an image from multiple colors.  Some may choose to paint the rocks a solid color and that’s fine. You don’t have to restrict your child into a particular technique, instead encourage them to be as creative as they would like. Offer several different colors of paint and a bunch of different shape and size of rocks.

Using tempera paint which is non-toxic will work fine on its own, but will wash away in the elements.  You can prevent this and make the rocks permanent if you follow up (away from children) after the paint dries with spray enamel.

Children love hiding the rocks and waiting to see if they will be found, who wouldn’t? But more beautiful is sharing art. Create something to only give it away is a heavy concept.  Creating art is a deeply personal experience and a wonderful way to share some joy in your community.

LET THEM GROW: MESSY PROCESS OF CREATING ART BRINGS CREATIVE FREE PLAY

Let Them Grow by Candice Chouinard

The Convenience of Crazy

Paint brushes

Bringing a bit of order to creative free play.

Well, I am officially a mother now. Not just a care provider from 8-5, I am a Mama. I can’t send my daughter home after I have cleaned up and waved goodbye to all the other children. She stays – always. 

I have historically been enthusiastic advocate for the arts and as my Bio states: “I revel in hands on messy projects.” But now, I see why some parents avoid it. The ‘messies’ are not convenient. Messy projects do not fit neatly into the nightly routine, the bath, the story and bedtime. It throws a big greasy wrench into the nice white mix of the night and clunks around in there distracting you. It distracts us from the dishes, the laundry and that book that you have really wanted to start. So how do we as parents, balance those projects with the rest of our lives? 

Art projects with infants, toddler and preschoolers are not convenient. We all know this. They are not the clean little thumbnails of happy children finger painting on Pinterest. However, they are a significant part of early childhood education, they are the lifeline to artistic expression and abstract thinking. They give children and outlet, a way to see the world through color and creative thought. Besides, they are fun and they don’t have to as intimidating, messy or as inconvenient as they appear.

Tips for Convenient Mess

Set the rules:

For yourself and your child, set rules on where art happens, how we treat our tools, and where everything goes, are just a few guidelines to set up. By storing art supplies in the same area and retaining the same supplies regularly, it will help keep the organization under control. Children even at the age of two are capable of understanding the rules and gaining ownership and respect over supplies. However, it is often the adults that veer off the path and make exceptions. There should be no exceptions to the art area rules. Supplies are to be treated with respect and care. By sticking to your own rules, arTh will eventually be less and less inconvenient and more and more fun!

Set up before you start:

Having the art area “set up” before you child sits down each time will really minimize the process and mess. Set out the supplies you are allotting for that project. Have the table lined with paper, the smock laid out and a wet face cloth for intermittent clean up. Set up the project before your child sits at the table and then explain it. Discuss each time with your child, the project, the process and the timeline. A good way to communicate with a toddler is in three simple steps:

  1. We are using play dough
  2. You can uses all of these supplies
  3. We will clean up the dough when we are done

Keep to the project you have set up. Avoid taking out more supplies in order to keep it manageable. Once your child is engaged, you can work on dinner or sit down and enjoy the fun!

Self-serve arts are toddler friendly arts:

By having art supplies accessible in your child’s own “art area” they can access them with little help. The supplies that are available regularly should be those that require little or no clean up. They should also not be an overwhelming quantity, but just enough for your child to work with. Supplies like dough, scrap paper, stickers, colored pencils and crayons are always great to leave out. However, you do not need two hundred crayons, just one of each color. Same with the pencils and stickers. Less is more.

Younger children love to color found objects. Egg carton pieces, chunks of cardboard or other recyclable are also fun to add in the self-service area. Label each supply bin clearly with pictures and have your child be sure to put them away properly each and each use.

Know your child. Don’t give them markers if all they do is bite the tip off. Find age appropriate supplies. Use Crayola Color Wonder products if you are worried about markers everywhere, or Crayola My First Stamps for your 18 month old. You can have supplies in the art bins that require supervision such as stamps, glue, and paints that are only used when you are around. These activities may take longer to set and clean up, so these are not the supplies you want freely accessible.

Clean up before it’s over:

Make cleanup a part of the project that your child cleans up each and every time. If you let them leave the supplies out even once, they will continue to avoid clean up like the plague. Give your child a five -minute warning, or have them give you a warning when they are almost finished. From there, be sure to have the containers for clean up there and ready to be loaded. If it is a messy project like paints, begin washing the brushes before you child is fully finished. Work around them while they are occupied. If it is really messy, start filling the tub! Your child is capable of cleaning up as much as they are of making the mess; it just takes practice.

Soon arts and crafts could be a significant part of your evening routine, it could even replace the iPad.

[Photo credit: (cc) Karin Dalziel]

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Candice Chouinard has worked with youth of all ages and backgrounds, creating and implementing programming for children. She revels in hands-on, long-term, messy projects that are both fun and educational. Candice comes from a background in creative writing, as well as, child development and psychology. She owns and operates a daycare in Northampton, MA.