Category Archives: early education & play

A Step by Step Guide to Making Ice Ornaments

It isn’t often we get a cold spell long enough to make ice ornaments, but with freezing temperatures set to last, we made a few batches to hang on our bushes. They look really beautiful, but also provide lots of opportunity to learn about ice, freezing and melting. A few years ago we made some and shared our learning story, as we watched them melt and freeze.

How to Make an Ice Ornament

You will need

  • Baking trays
  • Ribbon or string
  • Food colouring (optional)

Step 1.

valentine ice ornaments

Choose a baking /cup cake tray and fill each hole with cold water.

Step 2

Add a drop of food colouring – mix or leave to mix itself which can leave a marbled effect.

Step 3

ice ornaments

Snip pieces of ribbon or string and submerge one end in the water, making sure the other end is free. You could loop the string but I prefer to leave it as it makes it easier to tie to larger branches. I usually do this part outside to avoid spilling when you move them to freeze.

Step 4

Leave outside overnight to freeze (or put the tray in your freezer).

Step 5

ice ornaments

Hang on a bush or tree. If there is snow on the ground the food colouring will drip onto the snow as they melt. If there are prolonged freezing temperatures the ornaments will melt slightly and form icicles as they re-freeze.

I wasn’t sure how easily the hearts come out of the tins but they came out without any trouble. If they need a little help, bring them inside for a few minutes or run some warm water on the base of the tin. Alternatively, you could use a silicone mould.

The second batch also included owls and bears. We made half of the owls clear, to see how they would look without colour, but kept the colour in the bears, because my daughter thought they would look like gummy bears.

Picture Books to Add to Your Valentine’s Day Collection.

Do you share Valentine themed books with your class or kids at home? Some of the old favourites like Guess how much I Love You are great, but it’s always good to refresh your collection with new titles.

Have I Ever Told You by Shani Kin would make a perfect Valentine’s gift for a younger child. My children read it and said ‘ this is really lovely’. The book is full of the important messages a parent should share with their child;  messages of love, acceptance, tolerance and joy. I can imagine snuggling with my girls, reading the book together and talking about the messages within. Each message end with the phrase, ‘Have I ever told you that?’. Some of the messages are recognizable as things we say to our children, and some may be things we ought to say, but sometimes forget.

book for valentines day

The illustrations by Anna Horvath, are built around hands; multiracial hands, hands doing things, holding things and helping each other. Intertwined with the hands are objects and thoughts to represent each thing the parent tells their child. There is something strikingly beautiful about this; love expressed through hands as they create, bond, help, heal and touch. Holding and touching hands is perhaps the most sincere and secure expression of love there is.

If Have I Ever Told You were read in a classroom, it could inspire a Valentine themed writing project. The children could choose someone they love – a parent, sibling, friend or grandparent, and write something they want to tell them, ending with, ‘have I ever told you that?’ You could scribe for pre-writers and they could draw a picture or write it inside a hand print. Advanced writers could make a small book following the theme. Asking the children why they think hands were used in the illustrations, would also spark an interesting discussion.

Have I ever Told You would make a perfect Valentine’s gift.

Love Big by Kat Kronenberg follows a different theme, one of kindness and community.  In Love Big, Baboon watches the other animals being mean to one another and teaches them that through smiles, kindness, sharing and listening, we can build a happy community. 

I liked the message of the book and think it would be a good starting point for talking about classroom community.  I feel like it would be more effective if it were simplified, as in places it was a little wordy, especially in the parts where Baboon shares his message, which seem a little complex for small children. The book has a nice structure as it moves through a scenario where the animals behave in an unfriendly way and then are taught that they can be happier if they behave differently.  I personally disliked the repetitive Whoosh! Wham! In a flash of light before the phrases ‘We can be kind’, ‘We can share’, ‘We can listen’ and ‘We can care’  as they felt unnecessary and showy, but that is simply a personal preference. In some places, it felt like it was trying to do too much, for example it includes a song to the tune of twinkle, twinkle little star which felt a little out of place to me.

The illustrations by David Miles are bright, bold and cheerful. As the animals learn their lessons, the illustrations are placed in small vignettes and this makes a nice contrast with the bright, full page illustrations in the other parts of the book.

In the back of the book there are ideas for classroom activities to explore the books themes further and additional activities, fact sheets and videos can be found on Katkronenberg.com.

Disclaimer – this post contains Amazon affiliate links.


Book Review for Multicultural Book Day: Farmer Falgu goes to the Kumbh Mela

Multicultural book day was the brainchild of reading and play advocates Valarie Budayr and Mia Wenjen, to share awareness of multicultural books and to get more of them in libraries, homes and schools. As an advisor, I was often asked to suggest multicultural books for schools and it was difficult to find quality books about diverse cultures. A key part of the initiative is to send out books for review to build a huge database of multicultural books with reviews. The website also includes lots of free resources for teachers with booklists, activities and posters.

The book I received is Farmer Falgu Goes to the Kumbh Mela by Chitra Soundar and Kanika Nair. 

multicultural picture books

This is the 3rd book in the Farmer Falgu series. Farmer Falgu, visits Allahabad for the Kumbh Mela festival and has a list of things he wants to see and do. Along the way he helps people, but each time he misses the events he hoped to see. Farmer Falgu. though disappointed, shrugs it off with the repeated phrase ‘maybe next time’. In the end, a turn of fate leads him to experience all of the things on his list and he has an ‘unbelievable ‘ time.

The Hindu festival of Kumbh Mela wasn’t familiar to me or my children so we really enjoyed reading about it. It feels very authentic, as if you are looking into the heart of another culture, rather than a superficial book about a festival. The book follows a clear structure and has repetitive phrases that will appeal to young readers, making it a perfect introduction to this lesser known festival. The illustrations are full of vibrant colours and bold designs and I love the simple way the illustrator shows facial expression and character.

multicultural picture book

A description of the origins of Kumbh Mela can be found at the back of the book. This could be a springboard to further research on the festival. Sometimes, I feel picture books are overlooked as a springboard for learning with older elementary children. This book could spark a wonderful project for older children too.

Suggested activities

  • Find the story of Kumbh Mela in Hindu mythology. Read it, act it out, draw pictures. Read other Hindu Myths – older children could write their own story in the style of a Hindu myth.
  • Find Allahabad on a map. Research what Allahabad looks like. Find the other locations of Kumbh Mela on a map.
  • Watch videos of the Kumbh Mela celebrations. Talk about celebrations in their own culture that may be similar.
  • Taste and/or make jalebis and lassis.
  • Think about the video and the book – why did farmer Falgu stop to help people? What happens in crowded places? Have you ever been lost? What did it feel like? What should we do when we are lost? This could also be the basis of a story.
  • Role play area – a train and role play a crowded train journey, a festival stand selling jalebis.

The 4th book in the Farmer Falgu series, Farmer Falgu goes Kite Flying, is available in April.

Wintery Art Project to Teach Value

Value in artist’s terms is the darkness or lightness of a colour It gives objects form on the page or in simple terms for young children, it makes a flat shape look 3D.

The goal of this art project for 2nd grade, was to show them how to shade a circle to make it look like a sphere. Since winter is upon us and the class have been reading a lot of books about snow, I chose a snowball.

Introduction

chalk pastel value

I showed an example drawing and asked them how I had made the circle stand out. They talked about the way I had placed it into the mittens and how I had shaded it. I explained that the darkest shading shoukd be opposite the light source and would gradually get lighter. If they left a spot without shading, it would show how the light was shining on it.

Step 1

Draw around your hand with fingers closed and thumb extended. Decorate using patterns and cut out.

Step 2

Draw the sun using shades of yellow, red and orange chalk pastel. Draw different coloured circles and blend to make a sun. Choose a round sun, a semi-circle or draw it in the corner of the paper.

Step 3

Place the mittens on the centre of the paper and place the snowball under the thumbs. Follow your finger in a diaganol line from the sun to the circle and shade the outer edge where your finger meets in a dark shade of blue. Continue, getting lighter with each layer and stop after four shades have been used.

Step 4

Blend with finger and cut out.

Step 5.

Glue the mittens and snowball onto the paper and add snowflakes.

The example used a chalk pastel background but I used blue paper for the class to make the snowflakes stand out more.

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Art Project: Fused Glass Snowmen

fused glass snowman

We are very lucky to have the luxury of a kiln in our school, allowing us to complete clay and fused glass projects.

I wanted to make a gift for the children to take home at the end of term. As a multicultural school, some of the children don’t celebrate Christmas, so I chose a winter themed art lesson about snowmen.

Small groups of children worked on the fused glass snowmen while the rest of the class made pastel snowman drawings.

I pre-cut the white glass into 2 x 3 rectangles and cut black glass rods to make eyes and buttons.

fused glass snowman

Each child put their white piece on a paper plate labelled with their name and added pieces of scrap glass to create their snowman.  They were then sprayed with hairspray to stop them moving around when I took them to the kiln.

When placing them in the kiln, I labelled them with a sticky note and took a photograph so I would know whose was whose when they came out. I removed the sticky notes before firing.

fused glass snowman

When they came out, we added a hook (stuck on with E6000 glue) and a ribbon for hanging.

fused glass snowman

Make Your Own Costume Party

With a birthday just before Hallowe’en, a make your own costume party was the perfect choice for my daughter’s 10th birthday.  The idea was that the kids would make a costume and take it home to use for Hallowe’en.

Materials to Collect

We collected materials from thrift stores, dollar stores and our local buy nothing group to inspire their imagination. Shopping was part of the fun. We chose items costing under $10, that could be customised to make a costume of their own design.

 

Suggested Items

  • Drapes, sheets and lengths of material
  • Tulle
  • Feather boas
  • Headbands and hats
  • Glasses, gloves, masks and jewellery
  • Plain shirts, leggings or shorts.
  • Any low-cost ready made costumes to customise
  • ribbons and bows
  • elastic
  • Velcro

Inspiration from Goodwill costume experts

Earlier that week I had attended a Goodwill Hallowe’en event and was able to use the advice of their costume experts as inspiration. Did you know that every Goodwill store has a costume expert?  (I didn’t). This is really useful to know, since I only ever buy costumes in thrift stores, putting together a costume is part of the fun but sometimes a bit of guidance would be helpful.

The costume experts helped us create a costume. I found a princess dress that I could also use for an 80’s prom night I’m going to with friends and at only $9.99 it was a bargain. Some of the costume ideas were really creative, I especially love the Mad Hatter ( I think the black tulle skirt she wore made it to our party and was used to form part of a sea monster costume).Goodwill costumes

For me these costumes look so much better than an expensive, ready put together one. Goodwill collect up items for their Hallowe’en costumes all year round, to put on display in October, so you will find all kinds of interesting goodies to make a unique and creative costume. There is even a dedicated Halloween Store in Tacoma. Halloween, generates the largest seasonal funding for Goodwill’s mission to provide career, job training and services to the unemployed. By shopping at Goodwill you’ll save yourself money, come home with a unique costume and support local people into employment. 

 

Design and Make Hats

The party started by designing hats made from paper grocery bags. Paper grocery bags are the perfect size to fit an average sized head.  Most of the materials came from donations, the dollar store or thrift stores.

Materials 

  • Paper grocery bags
  • Tissue paper
  • Glue and hot glue gun for bigger items
  • Ribbon
  • Fake flowers and leaves
  • Stickers and sequins
  • Tulle
  • Jewels
  • Pom-poms

making hats from paper grocery bags

How to Make a Hat

  1. Remove the handles
  2. Roll the sides of the bag from the open end.
  3. Push in the corners to make an interesting shape.
  4. Decorate with coloured paper
  5. Add decorations to create a unique hat.

The hats were judged at the end of the party and prizes awarded for the best design.

 

Make a Costume

To make the costume making challenging and fun, we chose categories. The children picked a category from a hat and set to work making a costume to fit their category. The most imaginative costume would win a prize. The categories were

  • animals
  • mythical creatures
  • magic
  • under the sea
  • monsters
  • be wild
  • make me laugh
  • a world of colour
  • book characters
  • heroes and villains

They could use any of the materials provided including elastic, velcro or ribbon to fasten things together.

items for make your own costume party

They all had really clear ideas of what they wanted to be and when they couldn’t find what they needed, improvised with what was available.  Rolls of coloured tulle came in useful as they used it to wrap their legs or arms. For a Winnie the Pooh costume, a yellow shirt was used to cover part of her legs and the rest were wrapped with yellow tulle. She added some ears and a honey pot made from paper.

 

 

Dressing up and creating their own costumes was such fun. I think it would be a good group task too. You could allocate each group a category and they could dress one person in the group. They all got to take their costumes home at the end of the party.

The creations were judged on how well they had interpreted their category and how imaginative the costume was.  We had a bat, a sea monster, a werewolf, a zombie pirate, a unicorn, Rapunzel, a fairy, Winnie the Pooh and a flash of colour.

If you want more inspiration for making your own costumes, check out these great resources from goodwill.

Costume Look Book

Video Tutorials

Pinterest Costume Ideas

 

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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

 

 

 

How to Make a Pine Cone Zinnia Wreath

pine cone zinnia wreath

At this time of year, my lawn is littered with pine cones.  After collecting a huge bag full of pine cones, I browsed Pinterest to get ideas for something to make with them. I kept being drawn to crafts using the base of pine cones to create zinnias.  The kids loved them too, especially the beautiful bright colours.

I set to work painting the pine cones with acrylic paint.  The girls loved mixing up different colour combinations. In fact, the bright pink and turquoise/teal colour my youngest daughter mixed, were my favourite by far. I love that this was a project that we could do together as a family but that also turned out so beautifully.

You will need

 

Step 1

painted pine cone

Paint the bottom of a pine cone with acrylic paint and continue to paint to around half way up the cone. Most colours will only require one layer but some lighter colours may need two.

Step 2

pine cone zinnias

When they are dry, paint the centre in yellow or a contrasting colour of your choice.

Step 3

pine cone zinnia wreath step 3

Arrange the pinecones on the wreath.  Push the top, unpainted half of the pine cone through the wreath and secure with hot glue or florist wire. If you want to stick pine cones on top of the greenery, you will need to saw off the top part of the pine cone to make it lie flat.

Step 4

adding greenery to pine cone zinnia wreath

Weave the greenery through the wreath or stick on leaves with hot glue. If you use a repurposed wreath as I did you may be able to use the greenery already attached.

pine cone zinnia wreath

I have had so many great comments about the finished wreath and it was so easy to make.

If you like this post add this image to Pinterest

How to make a pine cone zinnia wreath

 

 

The Steves: Picture Book Review

If you are a fan of  ‘I am Bat‘  you will love Morag Hood’s new book, The Steves.  Written and illustrated in the same quirky but simple style, it captures perfectly young children’s competitive nature and their drive to be bigger and better than friends and siblings. I can almost hear the words flowing from my daughters’ mouths.

Kids will laugh out loud at the insults they throw at one another and the wonderfully, comical illustrations. I love the way Morag Hood captures emotion in her illustrations.  Simple, beautiful and funny – a perfect package. I have no doubt the Steves will become a classic favourite for young children.

The Steve’s is available on Sept 4th 2018.

Try These Ideas for Summer Fun with Bubbles

We have had fun with bubble painting in previous summers, but usually use straws. To try something a little different, we made bubble blowers using plastic bottles and netting.

How to make a bubble blower

  1. Cut the bottom off a plastic bottle
  2. Tape on mesh or netting,
  3. We used 3 different types to investigate how the bubbles would differ.
  •            Christmas tree netting with large holes
  •            Netting from a bag of oranges
  •            Tulle
  •           We made 3 with tulle, 1 layer,  2 layers and 3 layers

 

For the paint, we mixed bubble mixture with a table-spoon of powder paint.

We tested the blowers to see which one we liked the best.

  • The Christmas netting made three or 4 large bubbles.
  • The orange netting made lots of clear bubbles
  • The tulle made a foamy snake of bubbles and the more layers there were, the better the effect.

 

 

 

The best paint effects were made if we blew the bubbles away as soon as they hit the paper, otherwise they melted into a splodge and you couldn’t see the bubble shape.

We made another discovery. A plastic straw makes a perfect bubble wand.

 

I wonder what else we will discover about bubbles over the summer?

IdeaS for  Summer Bubble fun (1)