Easy and Important Kids Activity: Sensory Play

Sensory table.

Some preschoolers don’t mind getting their hands sticky, gluey, and dirty, while others pull their hands back when introduced to unfamiliar textures. Example: glueing feathers to outlined hands to create turkeys. Observation: some kids spread their fingers to be outlined and some have to be prodded. Most kids didn’t mind sticking feathers to a gluey surface, but others will only touch the surface lightly and then hold up fingers in a way that says, “I don’t liking this feeling.”

Despite the different tolerance levels, all the kids love playing in the water table. They enjoyed the floating pumpkin pieces and, similarly, the water-table-as-a-giant-sensory-bin is a hit! It’s filled with pinecones, colorful blocks, gear-like connecting pieces, and measuring cups and shovels. I can’t wait to create different texture combinations using pasta, snow, ice, and assorted found objects.

According to Amanda Morin for verywellfamily, “Sensory play has an important role in development.” She also says,

Playing with different types of textures, tastes, and objects help your child build new ways of talking about the world. Suddenly, the tree is more than a tree, it’s a sapling with smooth bark, or it’s a pine tree with rough bark and a sharp pine scent. Water isn’t just wet, it can be rough (waves), slippery with bubbles, or cold and translucent when frozen. Fine motor skills are those that require the ability to use and coordinate small muscle groups and are important for writing, shoe-tying, buttoning, and zipping, among other things. Sensory play often involves using and building fine motor skills by exploring things using pinching, pouring, and lacing movements.

Happy hands-on learning–always!

Post Halloween Easy Kids Activity, Pumpkin Pieces Float

Halloween may be over, but the pumpkins still have a purpose. Before you throw away your jack-o-lantern, here’s an idea–cut it up into pieces. One of the directors at my preschool suggested this easy, fun and educational kids activity, and the kiddos loved it.

My co-teacher and I cut up our classes’ pumpkins and placed the pieces in a water table. Don’t have a water table? A big plastic bin, large sink or even a bathtub will work.

Our two-year olds had a blast scooping, filling, pouring and experimenting. The blog Miss Ashlee’s Class suggests ways to enhance the activity. Older kids could discuss the parts of a pumpkin, hypothesize whether they think the pieces will float or not, learn about density, and record observations.

Happy hands-on learning–always!

Easy Kids Craft: Shaving Cream Snowmen

Shaving cream/glue snowmen made by a Three’s class.

SNOW FUN!

Creating snowmen or other snowy scenes using a shaving cream/glue combo is snow fun because it engages several senses. The kids smell the shaving cream, listen to the can, feel the texture, and see the color. What ratio of shaving cream to glue to use? According to KiwiCo Corner, “Mix one part shaving cream with one part glue. The mixture ends up thick and goopy–and dries up puffy, like snow!” The “snow paint” can be applied with paintbrushes, sponges, spoons or hands. (Two year-olds like to use their hands. LOL!)

As recommended by a Three’s teacher, I outlined snowmen, glopped “snow paint” onto the snowmen sections, and handed out spoons. Each child picked buttons and a construction paper hat, scarf, eyes, and carrot nose. Fun!

Next multi-media and textured project: Winter scenes of green, felt trees on black construction paper, snow made with both silver glitter and Q-tips dotted white paint. Winter spirit!

Ceramics: Two-Year Tea Set

Teaset glazed in nutmeg and slate.
I had no idea that a tea set project would take two years!

Wheel throwing a tea set was a challenging project for many reasons. Who knew that centering and opening a ball of clay that could fit in the palm of your hands would be so hard?! In my attempt to create tea cups, it looks weeks to get six, relatively similar sizes. Some were too thin and some were too lopsided–so many throw-aways!

Then there was the teapot itself. This proved so challenging that almost all of us students needed hands-on help from our instructor (Shout out to Beatrice!) She patiently taught us how to form a vessel and spout, a lid and, much harder than it looks, a handle.

After the tea cups and tea pot were made, what about a tray? My first attempt cracked in the kiln, and that’s where the project stalled. I didn’t want to glaze the pieces until I’d made them all so, discouraged, I put the them away. I waited and waited until I was ready to hand-build another tray. Two years later, this summer, I did.

The tea pot set saga is a metaphor for my writing, though working through the disappointments and successes of pottery feels completely different. In Ceramics, I’m more interested in the process than the product. When working on a manuscript, I enjoy the process, but have a specific goal in mind–to bring my characters and stories to life.

Whereas, the clay ignites my imagination…my imagination ignites the stories.

Hon, happy creating and imagining and working and persevering.

Raku Extruded Bowls

Pieces glow orange when they’ve been Raku fired to about 1,700-1,800 degrees F.

One of my favorite things is to Raku fire with my teacher and potter extraordinaire Peter Syak. In a (small, masked and socially distanced) ceramic class this summer, Peter introduced the extruder, which is like a giant Play-Doh machine, but for clay.

I made seven bowls: three small ones without feet and four large ones with feet. My carving needs a ton of practice, but I like how some of the pieces came out.

Though Raku pottery is generally not food-safe, it’s safe with “dry” food such as candy, nuts, and pretzels.

The Copper Blue Luster glaze is beautiful, and I always like the crackles that show up when using Clear Glaze.

Happy creating, hon!

 

Easy Kids Activity: Pumpkin Carving

Lucy and I at Wyoming Presbyterian Church’s Pumpkin Patch.

It may seem obvious to say pumpkin carving is an easy and fun kids activity, but if you teach preschool (ahem, my wonderful new job), you might think pumpkins, knives, and carving don’t mix with ten super wiggly, touch-everything, curious two year-olds! What does work? Carving open a pumpkin and letting them feel and scoop out what’s inside.

Eight children reached right in, touching and exploring. (“Mushy, gushy!”) The textures were new to them–which showed on their faces–but they dug out the wet, stringy pulp and seeds anyway. Fun!

Two kids wanted nothing to do with this strange mess and backed away from the pumpkin. Funny!

Later in the week, my co-teacher managed to make use of time when the kids were sitting still. She carved shapes into a face. What a great way to learn!

At home, we carved pumpkins, also. It was a first for my daughter’s boyfriend from California. Hands on all around!

Red Hot Raku (Raku Workhop Part 1)

Hake and regular paintbrushes.
Hake and regular paintbrushes.

Clay Maven

You know how I love to “play with clay“?  This summer I learned something new.  I learned Raku!

I just finished a wonderful workshop given by master ceramicist, Peter Syak.  He instructed more and less experienced (umm, that would be me) students how to create vases, plates, boxes and sculptures, and how to fire them in a raku kiln.

According to Wikipedia, Raku originated in Japan and is “thick-walled, rough, lead-glazed earthenware.” Raku means “enjoyment, comfort and ease.”  The workshop was definitely enjoyable, but as for comfort, I smelled like a smokestack at the end of the day.  As for ease, I’m not so sure.  If it weren’t for Peter’s engineering-background and careful attention to detail and safety, we might have glowed orange like our pots after baking in 1800 degrees Fahrenheit!

Over four weeks, we hand-built with raku clay and painted with glaze.  Peter bisque-fired our greenware.

I couldn’t wait to take part in a raku firing.  Hon, hope you enjoy the pictures as much as I enjoyed the process!

Outdoor kiln.
Outdoor kiln.

A propane tank feeds gas into the kiln.  Our pieces are already inside, baking as the Pyrometer tells us when the temperature has reached about 1600 degrees F.

Fire bricks support the kiln lid and our work.
Fire bricks support the kiln lid and our work.

Low temperature.
Low temperature.

Extremely hot!
Extremely hot!

 

 

 

 

 

Hor air vent on top of kiln.
Hor air vent on top of kiln.

Maxine and Peter (carefully) remove the kiln lid.
Maxine and Peter (carefully) remove the kiln lid.

Our pieces glow orange.
Our pieces glow orange.

Red Hot Raku!