Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Exploring Sound with Balloons

One thing guaranteed to fill half an hour with giggles for a three year old is a balloon. My son’s favourite thing to do at the moment is to (have me) blow a balloon up, hold it without a knot and then let it fly around the room. He loves trying to catch it, following every movement with his eyes, and he loves the sound it makes. Taking this cue, I decided to spend some time with him exploring all the different sounds a balloon can make.

The wonderful thing about sounds and balloons is the wide variety. There are loud and soft sounds which encourage both belly laughs and quiet patience. It is fun to try to imitate the sounds. This is great for developing speech and giving young children confidence in their voice.

After letting a full balloon fly around the room a few times, I needed a rest from blowing it up. So we made some sounds with a deflated balloon. We made it snap by stretching it and letting go of one side near the floor. Then we made it go "boing" very quietly as we stretched and loosened it quickly.

Stretching the Balloon

Once the balloon is blown up, listening to the air escape is hilarious. We heard the classic raspberry as it flew around the room and made a screech when we pulled the end open.

Screeeeeeeech! (My son took this picture - very proud) 

The full balloon makes a very satisfying "doof" and "boom" when hit on objects around the room. My son enjoyed hitting things he usually can’t, including my head! It was very satisfying for him. Scraping a finger over the surface of the balloon gave an odd scraping noise. He called it "binga-binga"!

Making More Noise on the Balloon

Copying the sounds was fun - slow at first but he soon got the hang of it. Maybe he’ll be more inclined to make an effort when his little brother is giving some noise competition!

I’m sure there are more sounds to be made with balloons. I’d love to read about them in the comments, let me know what you hear.

Balloon on Balcony

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Making Cork Boats with Colourful Shape Sails

A friend gave me a big bag of corks. The most obvious thing to do was play around in a big tub of water. We watched them float. We laughed at them pop up through the surface when we pushed them under. We blew them over the surface and had cork boat races.

Then we talked about how they looked like little boats and how we could make them look more like boats. "Let's make some sails" was the joyous suggestion.

So we chose six shapes.

Colourful Shapes

We picked six corks and found some cocktail sticks.

Corks and Cocktail Sticks

And we watched them float, tip and capsize.

Circle Sail on Cork Boat

Triangle Sail on Cork Boat

Heart Sail on Cork Boat

Then we made a giant sail which, to my surprise, worked!

Huge Pink Sail

And then the corks were under attack!

Trying to Cut a Cork with Plastic Scissors

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Painting on Paper Towels and an Opportunity for Mama to Practice Allowing the Toddler to Create his Own Art!

I love using different materials for painting. Kitchen paper towels are great for mixing colours and watching it spread over the patterns. So one lovely warm afternoon, I thought it would be fun to paint on the balcony. We headed out with kitchen roll, watered down paint, some brushes and a few other items to play with. I was looking forward to watching some abstract art develop, but the art was not what I had expected.

Our Equipment

Paint Mixed with Water
For a change of angle, I hung the paper squares from a piece of string tied between two chairs. Glass jars held the paint and we had extra pots around for mixing. 

Hanging Paper Towels

I was pleased with the arrangement and looking forward to seeing what B would do and the art he would produce.

He loved the colours in glass pots and having more pots to pour into. I had also put a large bucket of water outside so he made more and more and more (mess!).




He went on and on and on. Pouring, splashing, mixing all the paints into different tubs. But what about the paper? My wonderful hanging arrangement was being ignored! I really wanted him to try splashing the paint onto the paper, or flicking it, or dripping it, anything.

More mixing

More colours
However, he was having so much fun, I didn’t want to interrupt him. I hate to break his concentration.

Concentrating on pouring carefully

After a while I splashed a little paint on the paper myself. "Look at this," I said. He said, “hmm” and carried on with what he was doing. So I left him to it. The cars got involved as usual. And everything ended up in the bucket at some point. 

Paper Towels Empty of Art
Mixed Colours on the Floor
So even though it wasn’t the painting activity I had envisioned, he enjoyed a long afternoon playing with water and created some interesting patterns on the floor. I was disappointed that he didn't share my enthusiasm about the hanging paper, but he did:
  • Mix colours over and over to discover more colours
  • Pour liquid carefully, and sometimes not so carefully, into different pots
  • Step over and around things as he moved around the area
  • Explore the fundamentals of volume as he tipped paint from one pot to another

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Making a Play Park with Play Dough

We love going to the play park and have already spent many sunny days playing on swings and slides and climbing over climbing frames this summer. So I wasn’t really surprised when our play dough became a play park one rainy afternoon. I was inspired by Puttisworld to try some construction with cocktail sticks and play dough. I was hoping to talk about squares and triangles, but imagination took hold and we ended up with a mini play park.

This is our recipe for play dough:
2 cups flour
½ cup salt
2 tbsp oil
1 ½ cup boiling water
Squeeze of lemon juice
Generous splash of red food colouring

I adapted this from one I found on The Imagination Tree where you can find many recipes and wonderful ideas for play dough play.

So, we started with this:
Pink Play Dough and Cocktail Sticks
And ended up with swings:

Play Dough Swings

A slide:

Play Dough Slide

Balancing bars:

Play Dough Balancing Bars

And an interesting climbing frame:

Play Dough Climbing Frame

Actually, I did most of the design work and B made interesting shapes with the dough (the climbing frame is all his) but we had a great conversation while working with the play dough and I hope I sparked his creativity for the possibilities of play dough.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

More Painting with Cars

Our first painting with cars activity was a brilliant success. B added more and more paint to the masterpiece each time we came back to it and discovered new ways to move the cars, the paint and himself. It was also a great way to explore colours. Just before we washed the plasic canvas, we went a little crazy with the paint.

On this day, he chose red and green paint. As we sat down with our equipment - paint, cars and plasic sheet - I asked spontaneously: would you like to sqeeze the paint bottle? Well, of course yes. Normally I do that part, but I thought it would be a nice change for him and I was right.

The Big Squeeze of Paint

It was lovely to see him so focussed on getting paint out, and I was so busy taking photos, that I forgot to say stop! 

We ended up with a huge blob of red paint which he drowned his cars in.

Car completely covered in paint

Some wonderful tracks made by cars

Often, he doesn’t like to get too messy, but once all his cars were drenched, and his hands covered, and after he slipped and we laughed so much, he didn’t seem to mind. 

The big blue bus always gets a look in

A terrible accident? Only with a bottle of paint

And then it was time for a slide

The clean up was a family effort. We carried all paint covered items, including a messy toddler, outside to be cleaned off with hot soapy water. And so the fun continued. It took a while, but soon everything was clean enough, and B dry enough to come inside to hunt for
footprints and dots of red paint on the floor. With a wet wipe in hand he managed to remove most of it. (Aren’t  wet wipes fantastic for this sort of thing?) The activity took up the whole morning and we were more than ready for a long midday rest.

B had a wonderful time painting with his favourite toys and built on the skills he had started when we first did this activity. I hope that he was able to connect his ideas and stories as we didn't clean his 'canvas' between sessions.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Matching and Measuring with Toy Vehicles

I’m always on the hunt for activities involving vehicles. Although I love watching my son drive them around while making up stories, I like to encourage other play too. He has enjoyed matching things for a while now, and has recently become very interested in ‘bigger’ and ‘smaller‘, so when I found a matching and sizing game with circles on one of my favourite sites: Irresistible Ideas for play based learning. I couldn’t wait to give it a go and then try to involve his cars.

First he helped me choose an assortment of vehicles of different sizes. This took a while as we talked about how to measure them and how many we needed to fit onto a piece of A3 paper. After sorting, measuring and arranging we ended up with 13 vehicles.

The Chosen Cars

Then he watched as I drew around them. He enjoyed this as asking for us to draw around things has been a favourite of his for a long time. Thirteen vehicles on one piece of paper was a thing of wonder for him.

After drawing around all the vehicles

I drew with pencil first but then went over it with pen to create a good photo. I did find that I lost some of the detail that the pencil picked up though, so I would definitely draw in pencil next time.

Then I left everything out for him to play with when he wished. I wanted him to have a go straight away, but he was too busy driving the ‘car bus’ (a huge truck he uses to transport cars) as some of the cars had broken down and needed a lift to the mechanic! He did do it eventually, I just had to be patient:

All in place
We had lots of fun with this activity and I can imagine doing it again with other objects. He enjoyed the original circle idea, so we will try other shapes too. Themes would be fun too, like food or painting equipment. Even if we collected random object from around the house or park, I think we would benefit greatly from this simple matching game.