Category Archives: imagination

Upcycle Your Kids Old Toys or Shoes into Planters

Last week I was invited by Goodwill to visit Sumner, to see how small businesses there are upcycling thrift store purchases into desirable and unique household goods and clothing. I’d never been to Sumner before and was surprised to find a pretty little High Street full of independent shops selling art, antiques and other unique and interesting finds. I will definitely return, especially since it is the Rhubarb Pie Capital.

We started at Goodwill and my upcycling advisor Juli from Junkers Nest, helped me choose interesting items that could be turned into planters. The great thing about buying from Goodwill is that all the store profits go to helping career path job training for the unemployed and disadvantaged.

Goodwill Puyallup Treasure Hunting 01

I wanted to choose something that would appeal to my kids or would be cool decor for a preschool so we went for the toy section.  Old toy cars, toy animals with a hole cut in them or small dolls houses would all make great planters. It would also be a great way to save the environment from the multitude of plastic toys thrown away every year.

I plumped for a Halloween theme and chose a Monster High coffin. I also chose a pair of baby shoes. Sadly, I threw out all my baby shoes when I moved to the US (including the ones featured in my logo), if only I hadn’t, I could have turned them into something like this.

 

shoe planter

At Blue the Goodwill Boutique, I found this little table and chairs and an old tea set at Junkers Nest.

small table and chairs

My intention, once the rainy season is over, is to plant in the little cups and put it out in the garden. For now the girls have commandeered it for their American girl dolls.

We spent the day gaining inspiration for upcycling goods from Inta Vintage . By the end my mind was racing with ideas of how to upcycle some of my old furniture.

At VanLierop Garden Market the ladies worked their magic to turn our items into planters.

VanLierop Garden 05

The kids helped me make some extra embellishments and here is the finished article displayed (a little early) ready for Hallowe’en.

coffin planter made from toy

Inspired by some of the other bloggers projects, on our thrift shopping trip to buy birthday presents for their dad, the girls looked for items to turn into planters

We chose a pot and my daughter painted it with her own design.

upcycled planter

I’m looking forward to many more trips with the girls as we find fun items to upcycle for family and teacher gifts.

Disclaimer: This is a sponsored post, sponsored by Goodwill WA.

pinterest upcycling toys and shoes

 

 

 

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Reflections on the Wonder of Learning Exibition (Reggio Children):What role does technology play in Reggio schools?

It is 13 years since I last visited the Reggio exhibition. Education and childhood have evolved dramatically in that time. I was interested to see how the schools of Reggio Emilia have adapted to meet the interests and fascinations of this new generation.

The projects and learning I observed 13 years ago embraced the physical world. Investigations were made through exploring physical objects and environments, through discussion and experimentation, using art, photography, written and spoken word.  The documentation of more recent projects followed a similar pattern, except for one key difference. The schools of Reggio Emilio are now embracing technology as a tool for learning and artistic expression.  This is not a piecemeal attempt to use technology to teach concepts, but rather a way of using new ways of investigating and deepening knowledge and curiosity, that were not possible before. They have fully embraced it as one of the hundred languages.

Take for example, investigations that occurred during the building of the Malaguzzi centre. The children were taken into the space. They ran and danced around the pillars, making patterns of movement. They were then invited to design their own pillars.  Once the designs were completed, they were projected onto a large screen containing an image of the Malaguzzi centre. The children saw,  that in the image of the Malaguzzi centre, some of the pillars looked smaller than the others. “Were they smaller?” they asked, “or did they just appear that way?” The children’s pillars all looked the same size when they were added to the image, so they used Photoshop to shrink some of the images and make a realistic picture. I have often seen images of how the Reggio schools use projectors to aid learning but the addition of computer technology added a whole new angle to the learning.

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In another project, the children were fascinated by the sound their feet made on the metal stairs.  They decided to give the gift of sound to the stairs. To achieve this, they tested ways to make different sounds by changing shoes and using a variety of movements.  The sounds were then recorded.

The children decided how they might be able to annotate the individual sounds and used the symbols to create a sequenced map of sound. The children drew a picture of the steps and scanned it into the computer.  Using music software, they added individual sounds to each stair to create their desired sequence.

I love the way these projects can take an idea further than they ever could before. In the past the discussion and investigation would have been similar, representation in art would also have been used, but it would not have been possible to make a working model.

Many educators would uphold the Reggio approach as an example of why technology isn’t necessary in early education. Yet, when it is used as one of the hundred languages, it enriches the learning experience without reducing creativity, curiosity or discussion.

It makes me feel sad that schools are often encouraged and expected to use technology more in the classroom, but I rarely see it used in a creative or enriching way.  I mostly see teachers using screens to impart knowledge or show examples.  I have never seen teachers use music software to investigate the science of sound, use photoshop to create art projects or see it in any way as a tool for the children. It has certainly made me contemplate how we might ‘play’ with technology at home too.

The Wonders of Learning is in Boston until November 2018. Then it will move to Maddison WI.

 

Play With Shadow Puppets with Black Forest Theater Presents Dinosaurs (Book Review).

Black Forest Theater Presents Dinosaurs is a book set with everything a child will need to investigate shadow puppets.

The set, hand crafted by Montana Toy Company, includes

  • A theatre backdrop
  • An interactive storybook about dinosaurs
  • An Led light that stands up
  • 5 dinosaur shadow puppets with removable sticks
  • A protective cover.

The backdrop is sturdy and stands up well. We set it up and assembled the shadow puppets and the light.

Black forest theater

 

The children had to figure out for themselves the best position for the light and puppets to enable the shadows to reflect onto the backdrop.  I feel that a page of instructions may have been helpful although there is also a part of me that liked them having to work it out for themselves. Perhaps a little section in the book about the science of shadows would be good?

shadow puppets montana toy company

 

The puppets are made of sturdy black card and the sticks have Velcro attachments so you can change the position if desired.  I can see these being popular in a pre-school especially as a prop for an overhead projector.  I would introduce the materials using the rhyming book and then let the children create their own stories.

My children enjoyed inventing their own story with the puppets.

Black Forest Theater – Dinosaurs retails for $29.99

Disclaimer: No payment was received for writing this review, we received a product for review purposes.

 

How to Make Jim Henson Inspired Hand Puppets

Following our visit to the Jim Henson exhibition and the girls fascination with puppet play, they wanted to try making hand puppets.

When they were younger we watched this inspirational video from the 1960’s, where Jim Henson talks about making muppets.

We made a few puppets from old tights with foam pieces for the mouth. The girls didn’t like the foam mouths as it restricted their fingers.

This time, they are a little older and have their own ideas (always better than mine) for making puppets.

The first puppet was made with a sock.  We used a sock from an aeroplane wash kit. They followed the steps on the video and I helped them with ideas.

How to make a Sock Puppet

  1. Cut an oval of cardboard and fold it.

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2. Place the cardboard inside the sock and secure with an elastic band to make a mouth.

making a sock puppet

3. Add eyes. We used adhesive Velcro strips to join on our eyes and nose.

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4. Add a nose. We used a pompom.

making a sock puppet

5. Add hair.  Use wool, string or fur. This was also joined on with Velcro but you could also stitch it on.

how to make a sock puppet

Step 6: Add a tongue. We made a paper tongue and glued it on but you could also use felt or fabric.

how to make a sock puppet

My daughter named her Izzy. I think she is an amazing addition to our puppet collection.

Here she is in action.

How to Make a Puppet from an Envelope

The Jim Henson video also inspired them to make a puppet from an envelope.

1.  Fold the envelope into a beak shape and decorate it.

puppet making

2. Glue the envelope head onto a sock. We used double sided pads used for sticking pictures to the wall.

how to make a hand puppet

3. Wrap material around the sock .

How to make a puppet

4.  If desired add clothes and make hands using sticks and cardboard. American Girl doll, or build a bear clothes work well.

how to make a puppet

They decided this one should be called Pierre.

Here is Pierre in action.

Young Puppeteers: Puppet Play Inspired by the Jim Henson Exhibition at MoPop

My love for Jim Henson’s creations isn’t a secret. As most children of the 70’s and 80’s, I grew up watching Sesame Street, The Muppets and Fraggle Rock. I love the Muppet Movies new and old, I cried buckets when I watched the documentary ‘Being Elmo’ and my greatest ambition is to sing on Sesame Street some day.

My love affair with puppets began when I was nine years old and bought Snoopy and Charlie Brown marionettes with my Christmas money.  I joined the Pelham puppets club, who would send me magazines with short play scripts in them. My granddad made me a wooden puppet theatre with a hand painted back drop and curtains you could open and close.  I would perform the plays with my friends and remember making costumes for my puppets and performing a show about a witch for my Brownie pack.

Being an early years teacher, gives me the perfect excuse to continue buying puppets as an adult. I love the way young children respond to puppets and they are invaluable props for my parent and toddler music groups.  My girls have inherited most of my collection and added some of their own.

I have been looking forward to the Jim Henson exhibition at MoPop since the summer.  We decided to save our visit until the winter when the wet weather often drives us indoors. The Jim Henson Imagination Unlimited exhibition continues until 25th February, so there is still chance to visit.

The first part of the exhibition explains Jim Henson’s early career. Jim Henson started out by manipulating his puppets to sing along to  music tracks. At the exhibition, you can choose a puppet, and a track and record the puppets miming along to the music.  The girls were totally captivated and loved watching themselves on the screen. It was difficult to drag them away.

The other sections feature Jim Henson most famous creations.  The journey begins with Sesame Street.  I was very exited to see Ernie and Bert, Grover and the Count.

The girls learned about the generic  blue puppet used in Sesame Street to create multiple characters. The puppet is blank and features are stuck onto the face to change its appearance,  according to the requirements of the script.  The girls played at creating different characters.  We have a similar puppet at home, made by playskool. The girls have made additional features from felt with Velcro attached.

My favourite part of the Muppets section, was a fascinating video explaining how Miss Piggy and Kermit were able to ride bicycles in one of the muppet movies.

The girls loved showing off their theatrical poses and seeing their favourite character, Beaker.

The final section showed exhibits from The Dark Crystal, Labyrinth and Fraggle Rock.

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Outside of the exhibition was a muppet stage set up with miniature instruments. You choose your puppet, a piece of muppet music and create your own puppet show. The girls thought this was wonderful and they were surprisingly good at it.

This inspired them to make a puppet show at home. They often make puppet shows on the stairs, peeking over the bannister. This time, we made a screen from our photo backdrop.  The girls went to town customising it and spent the next few days writing a muppet show, full of jokes, magic, music and dancing.

My favourite was four puppets singing along to the Pentatonix sugar plum fairy.

The song features Kermit, the wotnot, and one of our favourite puppets, a Melissa and Doug ballerina named Peh .The girls called her Peh because when she dances her hair falls in her face, so to get it out of her eyes, she tosses her head, saying, ‘peh’.

We have a few recent additions to our collection.

Melissa and Doug chef

Melissa and Doug cowboy and his cow.

A giraffe

And a cute cat.

We’re now adding even more to our collection, as I’ve discovered Goodwill online is great place to find unusual puppets at great prices. I’m a little bit hooked. I recently won an amazing Jim Henson puppet ( more on that to come soon).

I love how the puppets have inspired them to create stories, costumes and props. They have also become interested in how puppets are made, what makes a particularly good puppet and how to be a ventriloquist. I’ll share some of their home made puppets in a future post.

Disclaimer: this post contains Amazon affiliate links. If you purchase products via these links, I receive a small compensation.

Why Ice is the Perfect Loose Part

Why ice is the perfect loose part

My children are fascinated by ice. I’ve added loose parts to ice before, but never considered that ice could in itself be a loose part.

When the cold weather comes, the first thing my kids do is to check if their water table has frozen and any other containers they have left around the garden.

ice
the cauldron has loads of ice in, not like yesterday. How can we break it?

The next thing they like to do is to go to the storm pond near their friends house to see if it has frozen.

Last year it froze solid for the first time. The kids loved throwing sticks to try to break it and even ice skated on it.

ice skating on the pond

When the ice wasn’t solid enough to walk on, it was just as fascinating.

The children broke off the surface, ice sheets very carefully and had competitions to see who could break the largest piece.

carrying a sheet of ice

My youngest insisted on carrying pieces home, even though her fingers were numb and left them on the doorstep to see how long they would remain frozen.

When the pieces broke, they used them to make these pictures.

Ice is a perfect loose part. It

  • Encourages expoloration
  • Is a full sensory experience
  • Can be any shape or size
  • Can be easily found
  • Presents challenges as it changes form.
  • The children can help create it in different shapes and forms
  • And is fascinatingly beautiful
Ice
I broke this piece – look at all the lovely patterns.

If you don’t live in a cold climate you could make your own in moulds in the freezer or place a few bags of ice outside and see how the children explore.

 

ice on bare feet

child looking at ice
This piece looks like a magnifier. I can look through it – see.

 

Do Hallowe’en Celebrations Encourage Greed? Send a Different Message with Goodwill.

 

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There are many things I love about Hallowe’en, but it can easily be perceived as a festival that encourages children to be greedy. It certainly seemed that way to me when I first moved here.

  • How many goodies can they collect?
  • Who gives the biggest and best treats?
  • Who has the most elaborate costume?

It doesn’t have to be that way. Hallowe’en can be a perfect opportunity to encourage children to reuse, recycle and support their community. A number of initiatives persuade children to trade in  excess candy and if we help children make their own costumes, they can utilise objects that might otherwise be thrown away. One thing I hadn’t considered until now is that donating and shopping at Goodwill thrift stores could help my kids be more socially responsible this Hallowe’en.

Last week I was invited, with a group of fellow Seattle bloggers, to visit the Milgard Work Opportunity Centre in Tacoma,  a job training centre funded by Goodwill.  When I donate or buy from Goodwill, I am glad to be reducing landfill and helping a good cause but I’ve never really looked into where the money actually goes.

Goodwill thrift store profits and donations, fuel programs that help people with limited income, disabilities and disadvantages to overcome barriers to education and employment. There was a lot to take in at our visit, the facility was inspirational and the staff and young people were unreservedly passionate about the facility. The model reminded me of Children’s Centres in the UK – a one stop shop with multi-agencies under one roof but for young adults rather than families. A place to go for training, support and education.

Youth Build
Learning construction skills at the Youth Build Program

Some of the facilities available at the Milgard Work Opportunity Centre are:

  • A job resource room
  • Barista training
  • A culinary school (they served us a really delicious, high quality lunch)
  • Financial advice
  • Youth build (learning the construction trade whilst working towards the GED)
  • Drop in Math support
  • GED program
  • Warehouse and Logistics Training
  • Computer and Office Skills Training

The following graphic explains the centre’s  community impact.

The People served by Goodwill

The second part of our visit was to the Goodwill  Hallowe’en Thrift Store in Spanaway – the largest such store in the country.  It was a treasure trove of costumes and accessories.

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I rarely buy new costumes. Part of the thrill of dressing up for Hallowe’en is deciding on a costume and using materials from Goodwill, Buy Nothing Groups or things we have at home, to create something unique. Rushing to buy the an expensive, ready-made costume feels like cheating to me.

Some of my favourite costumes over the years, have been made from simple materials. This girl in my daughter’s class  was a vending machine-made from a cardboard box.

vending machine costume

Every year my daughter’s school dance in the Thrill the World Event in Redmond Town Centre. The zombie costumes are great fun to make and each year they decide on a theme. Last year we put together this Hamilton inspired zombie from a dress somebody donated.

hamilton zombie

My younger daughter is joining in this year and wants to be a zombie fairy.  I found some great items at the Goodwill Costume Store which I will share with you soon. We have a family trip to Goodwill scheduled this week. My youngest wants to make a bat costume and  I’m hoping the others will  find inspiration for their costumes. I’ll share the fruits of our labours soon.

I know it can be tempting to simply run out and buy a ready-made costume but consider these great reasons for creating your own.

  • Recycling old costumes and clothes helps reduce landfill
  • Your costume will be truly unique
  • Encourages creative thinking
  • Encourages working together and problem solving
  • Learn skills
  • Encourages sharing as you request materials from friends and community.
  • Reduces costs
  • Encourages forward planning and design
  • It is a great family activity
  • It raises money for worthy causes.

 

 

Why not donate last years costumes at a local thrift store/ charity shop or organise a costume swap to encourage your kids to recycle and help those less fortunate?