Saturday, 26 March 2011

Spray Painting

Warm Spring weather and we can finally get into the garden to do some big painting. You may find that painting on a small scale can be frustrating for young children (especially boys), but big painting is almost universally popular. It does get VERY messy, but is great fun.

This is a two- stage version and was a bit of an experiment. We used watered-down poster paint (watery powder-paint would also work) in plant spray bottles and started off by hanging the paper up on the washing line and spraying onto the paper. This created a nice dripping effect but wasn't so good for spraying the stencils. The next day we put it on the ground and finished off the stencils. It eventually turned into feet painting, so the final product didn't survive but it was great while it lasted!

NB: Rules about only spraying on the paper obviously need to be set before you start...

You will need:
  • A roll of paper (wallpaper would be ideal)
  • Poster paint
  • Plant-spray bottles
  • Newspaper/plastic sheet
  • Card for stencils
  • Scissors
  • Masking tape

  • Mix poster paint with water in a plant-spray bottle so that the mixture will spray easily through the squirter.
  • If you are using one, hang up the paper on a washing line.
  • Put newspaper or plastic sheeting underneath the paper.
  • Cut put simple shapes from card and discard the middle, leaving a stencil. Save them for when you lay the paper on the ground. Tape these to the paper.

  • Show your child how to spray the paint on the paper (emphasising that the paint must only go on the paper...).
  • Get them to experiment with spraying at different heights and watching the paint drip down.
  • Let them have fun spraying different colours and experimenting with colour-mixing.
  • Leave the painting to dry.
  • The next day, lay the painting on the ground and stick the stencils onto places where you have some gaps.
  • Have lots of fun spray-painting the stencils.
  • Leave to dry.
  • Peel off the stencils and discuss how the shapes appear when you take away the card.
Or you could...
  • Use sponges to make the stencils instead of sprays.
  • Get your child to do the paint mixing in the bottles and see if they can mix up purple, green and orange (older children).
  • Go back to the painting again and stick pieces of shiny paper and glitter to make a vibrant mural.

Monday, 21 March 2011



It's quite nice to beautify pictures by going back and adding to them. We did some printing and a few days later went back and used oil pastels, glitter and sequins to give the pictures some more colour. The trick is to know when to stop - overkill will end up with a muddy picture. The main part of this activity was the printing - potatoes and lemons provided the printing implements, along with some wooden blocks wound with string.

You will need:
  • Poster paint
  • Paper plates or polystyrene trays
  • Sugar paper
  • Wooden blocks
  • String
  • Oil pastels or crayons
  • Pour different coloured poster paints onto separate paper plates (or polystyrene trays).
  • Cut potatoes in half and carefully gouge out some bits to make dots or cut with a sharp knife to make lines. You can be as creative as time will allow here (as usual, I did mine on the hoof but if I had been a bit more organised I might have made some pretty patterns).
  • Cut lemons in half.
  • Wind some string around a wooden block (you can use a cleaning sponge) to make a pattern.

  • Show your child how to put paint on the potato printers and then print onto the paper. Encourage them to print a few times so the pattern you have cut out becomes clear.
  • Let them experiment with different colours and patterns.
  • Move onto the lemon printers. Get your child to look carefully at the pattern in the cut out lemon and then at the print.
  • Use the wooden blocks wound with string to print more patterns. Mix up the printing.
  • Allow to dry.
  • Return to the pictures another day to add more prints, glitter, collage, oil pastel markings.

Or you could...
  • Print with sponges, string, polystyrene cut into shapes.
  • Print with glue then sprinkle with glitter or coloured sand.
  • Cut up the prints and stick onto card for perfect family birthday cards.

Friday, 18 March 2011



With Spring most definitely in the air, it is time to get hands dirty and (finally) plant some seeds. We have started with Nasturtiums and small Sunflowers because they apparently germinate well. We'll see...
This one gets very messy, but it's great fun and feels like one of those magical first moments...

You will need:
  • Seeds - Nasturtiums, Sunflowers etc
  • Pots - plant pots, yoghurt pots, cream pots, soup pots...
  • Skewer (if not using a plant pot)
  • Compost - Seed is best but All-purpose should also work.
  • Tray
  • Water spray


  • Skewer holes in the bottom of your pots (3 or 4).
  • Put the compost in the tray and encourage your child to play around with it: feeling it, sprinkling it, mixing it about, smelling it.
  • Introduce the water spray and practise spraying onto the soil to make it moist. Again, mix it about, squidge with hands, spoon it into other containers and back again. This part can go on for quite a while...
  • Have a close look at the seeds together. Encourage your child to hold and feel them. Practise picking them up very carefully with finger and thumb. It is amazing how the usually clumsy toddler will focus on these tiny, gnarled seeds.
  • Fill your first pot with moist compost and make a hole in the top, about 1.5cm (depending what seeds you are planting - read the packet instructions).
  • Get your child to drop one seed into the hole. Wish for the seed to grow... and then cover it with a small amount of compost.
  • Repeat with the rest of your pots.
  • Put pots into a tray and cover the tray with newspaper. This will keep them moist and dark - necessary conditions for germination.
  • Put the tray into a cupboard (or somewhere safe and away from toddler hands) and check every day for signs of growth.

Monday, 14 March 2011

Colour Boxes

For a rainy day, this is a quick, easy (educational!) activity with relatively no mess involoved...Colour boxes help your child to learn their colours by sorting things into the right box. They require a little bit of preparation from you, but can be kept as a stand-by activity for the odd 10 minutes when you need to keep them occupied.

You will need:
  • Boxes of a similar size and shape (shoe-boxes would be ideal).
  • Coloured card in blue, red, yellow and green.
  • Glue
  • Scissors
  • Household items in red, blue, yellow and green: Anything will do as long as it will fit in the box but you could use ribbon, pieces of lego, crayons, bits of material, coloured cutlery, coloured straws etc etc...

  • Draw around the top of your boxes on the coloured paper.
  • Cut out the shape and glue on the top of the lid (you could also make one to go inside the bottom of the box).
  • Collect things to put in the boxes.
  • Make colour-word labels for each of the boxes and add to the things to put inside.
  • Show your child how to sort the things into the right boxes, examining each object and giving them the vocabulary to start to name the colours.
  • Ask your child to hunt for other things that could go into the boxes.
  • Tip everything out and start again!
Or you could...

Rather than making coloured card lids for the boxes, your child could paint them.
Make boxes for every colour of the rainbow.
Ask your child to put the things into colour order (which colours are similar?).
Play 'eye-spy' with colours instead of letters (I spy with my little eye, something the colour of...).

Monday, 7 March 2011


I don't know of a child that doesn't love making these - something about the colours and the fact that they are potentially edible! I have made them with classes of 5 year olds and 10 year olds and it translates really well into a toddler activity. Obviously, you have to do a bit more of the work, but the effect is great and they can get really into the decorating part (especially if glitter is around...).

You will need:
  • Felt squares (different colours)
  • Scraps of felt or material
  • Glitter
  • PVA glue
  • Large lolly-sticks (available from craft shops and widely on the internet)
  • Stapler
  • Stuffing

  • Draw around the top of a bowl onto your felt squares and cut out the circles. You want an even number as each lollipop uses two circles.
  • Cut out scraps of felt to be stuck onto the circles.
  • Arrange scraps of felt, glitter and sequins in front of your child along with some PVA glue.
  • Demonstrate how to stick the decorations onto the circles. You will need a lot of glue in order to hold the decorations in place.
  • Give your child time to experiment with the different decorations.
  • Leave to dry.
  • Staple together two circles leaving a space in which to put the stuffing and the lolly-stick.
  • Stuff the pouch and then put in the lolly-stick. Staple the remaining gaps.


Or you could...
  • With older children, get them to decorate the circles with sewing and embroidery. If they are competent, they could even sew the felt circles together at the end.
  • Try making different 'confectionery' - ice-creams, sweets, cakes. It is amazing what you can do with some felt and a stapler!
  • I am a creature of habit and tend to always use felt (because it is so easy and versatile) but any other material would work fine, although you may have to use pinking shears to avoid fraying.