Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Pretty Whitsun Doves

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Whitsun is often celebrated during the second May Bank Holiday, although it is apparently supposed to be the seventh Sunday after Easter (which would make it June 11th this year). Anyway, for us, it was the weekend. According to 'Festivals, Family and Food' by Judy Large and Diana Carey (Hawthorn Press) - my child-rearing bible - Whitsun is all about the white of Spring: May blossom in the trees, daisies, cow parsley. You should make macaroons and tie white ribbons in your childrens' hair... But if that all just seems like a step too far, you could opt for these pretty white doves. This activity is taken and adapted from this amazing (if a little old-fashioned) book.

NB: This is really an activity for older children, but toddlers will enjoy sticking the glitter on the bodies of the birds.


You will need:
  • White card/stiff white paper
  • Glitter
  • Silver stars
  • PVA glue
  • Scissors
  • Glue Stick
  • White tissue or wrapping paper
  • White cotton

Preparation:
  • Draw a bird shape on a piece of white card, fold it in half and cut out so that you have two of the same shape. Repeat a couple of times.
  • Pierce the double cut-out in the middle and cut out a thin strip for the wings (see picture).

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Activity
  • Turn the cut-outs out beak-to-beak. This is so they will fit together exactly when you have decorated them.
  • With your child, put PVA glue on the cut-outs and stick on silver glitter and stars (or whatever you want) to decorate the body of the birds.
  • When dry, stick the birds back together.
  • Cut out a fairly large rectangle of tissue or wrapping paper (the longer the long side, the wider the wings will be).

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  • Show your child how to fold the paper into a concertina (this is not for a toddler, but older children should be able to do it once shown).
  • Push the end of the folded paper through the hole in the body.
  • Spread out the wings, so the inside ends of the concertina meet in the middle to make a fan shape.
  • Stick the two ends together using a glue stick.
  • Using a needle and thread, pierce the head of the bird and then the tail and tie the ends of the cotton at both points.
  • Make a loop in the middle of the thread (above the head) and knot.
  • Hang your birds in a tree or outside a window and let the glitter and stars catch the Spring sun...

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Or you could...
  • Adapt these birds for Christmas decorations by using lots of different coloured papers and glitters.
  • Make smaller birds and hang them from wire to make a mobile.

Thursday, 26 May 2011

Dressing-up game... (with a life-size cut-out)

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This is great fun on a number of levels. Kids seem to love being drawn around and made into a different person. When I was teaching, I used it with children to make Egyptian Mummies, Vikings, Tudor Kings and Queens. As this was for a toddler, a simple boy was enough, but the possibilities are endless! It is a great tool for learning 'getting dressed' vocabulary and also parts of the body (I was quite surprised that the eyes were put on the chest at first...). You can make endless outfits for your person (as long as you have somewhere to store them) and, of course, they can change sex by altering hair/dress.

You will need:
  • Big paper - wallpaper is ideal.
  • Marker
  • Paint
  • Extra paper and card
  • Glue
  • Crayons/Oil pastels
  • Crepe paper/tissue paper for hair
  • Blu-tac

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  • Lay out your big paper and get your child to lie down on top. Make sure their arms and legs are slightly open so you can draw around them.
  • Carefully draw around the child with a marker. Don't worry about being too accurate - you just need a basic outline as you'll be filling in the details later.
  • Look at the outline with your child. See if they can name the parts of the body that are obvious - arms, legs, head, face. Can they point to the hands? Feet? Etc.
  • Cut out the outline and stick onto a window (if possible) with blu-tac. This will make it easier to draw around the outline of the body when you come to making the clothes.
  • Hold up another piece of paper to the head and trace it so you can draw on the shape of the hair. Cut out the hair shape and stick it onto a piece of card. Get your child to tear up bits of crepe/tissue paper for hair and stick them on.
  • Cut out the hair shape again.
  • Repeat this process to make clothes. We made a coat, socks, shoes and shorts this time but you could really do anything. We painted the clothes, left to dry , then backed them onto card and cut them out again. This is so you have stiff pieces rather than floppy paper that is not so easy for the child to manipulate and will last 5 minutes.
  • Don't forget to make the features of the face.
  • It is quite nice to leave the game to the next day so that you separate the two.


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  • Put blu-tac on the back of each piece and stick them next to your cut-out. We did it on the window but it would just as easily be done on the wall.
  • Talk about where each thing might go, starting with the face and moving onto the clothes.
  • Talk about what else you could make to put on the body.
  • Once you have done this, you can make a game out of it. Put the names of things into a bag and take it in turns to draw them out and put the right clothes/body part onto the right place.


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Or you could...
  • Make it seasonal by making clothes for different weathers (raincoats, hats and scarves, swimming costume etc)
  • Make a spinner with pictures of each item instead of drawing the names out of a bag.
  • Create a family by drawing around other members of the family/teddy bears etc.
  • Make the 'clothes' out of material to give them more authenticity.

Saturday, 21 May 2011

Potions

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Natural dyes are easy to make and can be used for dying material, eggs, paper or just for playing around with. We made ours into potions and, eventually, mud pies. Kids will enjoy mixing them up to make witchy brews. (If you have an older child and have read 'The BFG', you can make 'Frobscottle' out of the potions...). This is a great outdoors activity, but could just as easily be done inside if the weather is bad.
One word of warning... don't keep the potions in bottles for too long - you will end up with fetid flower water and a very nasty stink...

You will need:
  • Brightly coloured petals from flowers - we used peony petals.
  • Grass/leaves/herbs
  • Onions
  • Boiling water
  • Large bowl
  • Sieve
  • Jars or bottles to store the dye

Activity:

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Petal Potion
  • Put the petals into a bowl.
  • Pour boiling water over the top (obviously you need to explain the dangers to your child and keep it well away from them).
  • Leave for a couple of hours, returning every half hour or so to look and discuss what is happening to the petals. You will be able to see the petals losing their colour.

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  • Once you are happy that the petals are completely drained of colour, pour the mixture into a sieve with another bowl underneath (your child could do this very carefully).
  • Look at the colour of the water in the bowl and at the petals left in the sieve. This is a good discussion point.

Grass Potion
Repeat the process above, but this time grind up the grass, leaves, herbs (whatever you are using) with the end of a rolling pin in the bowl before you pour on the water.

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Onion Potion
Take the skins off some onions - about 3 or 4 - and repeat the process above. You may want to use less water this time as the yellow/orange colour you end up with is more subtle than the other two.

Set your child off with the potions to pour, mix, sprinkle, drip, whisk etc. As you have gone to so much effort, try and get them to use them sparingly (especially when mixing with earth to make mud!).

Or you could...
  • Try anything with a naturally strong colour in the same way and see what you come up with.
  • Get an older child to 'bottle' their potions and design labels for the bottles.

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Grubbing

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We spend a lot of time doing what we call 'grubbing around'. A pretty self-explanatory term, it usually involves sticks, earth/mud, water, leaves, grass, stones, shells etc. Sometimes it involves looking at creatures, sometimes just making a big mud patch. It is basically what children do when left to their own devices outside - you are just giving them a bit of help. So much can be learnt about the way nature works and this time of year is so abundant that it lends itself perfectly to grubbing.

No specific activities, but here are some ideas...

  • Pour water on a piece of earth to make a mud patch. Put dumper trucks etc around for a makeshift building site.
  • Turn over stones and collect creatures (snails, worms, ladybirds, woodlouse, caterpillars, slugs etc) in a tray of earth and leaves. Observe with magnifying glasses.
  • Make potions in a bowl of water (or even better, for a more permanent feature, an old sink -- we found this one at the local dump). Put out a selection of old household implements: wooden spoons, a sieve, a whisk, measuring jugs/things to pour. Stir in earth, sprinkle leaves, grass and herbs, whisk up the potion and put into bottles.

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  • Mud pies/cakes/cupcakes etc ... need I say more?
  • Look at the difference between dry stones and stones in water. How does their colour change?
  • Make dams and walls with collected stones and sticks.
  • Miniature gardens: Collect small stones, twigs, leaves, grass, blossom and arrange in a tray of earth to make a miniature garden. Older children will love this and you can get really creative with water features...
  • Magic wands: Collect piece of ivy and long grasses and attach to the end of a stick to make a magic wand. Add strips of tissue paper for colour.

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We will come back to all of these things in more detail, but in the meantime, happy grubbing!