Where there is a will there is a way

Friday, February 15, 2013

Great ideas for activities to do with kids - building concentration and unleashing creativity

1. Make bread dough they can make creatures out of - which they can eat after.

Number One on my list because this is my kids (and their friends) favourite thing to do at our house.  It's actually really simple to make basic bread dough.  Here is my no-measuring method.  As long as you have some of all the ingredients below - and enough flour, you can't really go wrong:

First, get about 3 cups of warm water in a mixing bowl.  Then, sprinkle yeast (any kind) over the top of the surface.  Sprinkle some sugar to feed the yeast.  After a minute or so, it will start to foam up.  (You don't have to wait, but you can.)  Then, add a sploosh of oil (optional, but this added fat will make it more of a treat, and also decrease stickiness).  Add a large pinch of salt.  Don't stress about doing it perfectly - as long it all the elements are there, you will have dough.

At this point you have the brew to make the dough.  Mix it with a wooden spoon (or any spoon you have), then start pouring flour in, slowly.  It will at first make a sticky soup.  At the point where it becomes hard to stir, get your clean hands in, stir and mix around with your hands, adding more until it's - just barely - no longer sticky, or only just.  Try to get it to cleave all together as one mass.   

The kids may or may not be waiting on you.  You can do this ahead of time and place a dish cloth over it so it will rise up - but you can also whip this up on the spur of the moment and give them a chunk to play with.  It will still have the same educational and creative value!  (And it will still taste fine.)  After all their playing, and the time it sits in a greased pan, it will have risen enough.

Anyways, make sure when you give the kids their handful of dough that you keep the surface on the table in front of them sprinkled with flour as they won't be able to deal with very sticky dough.  You can keep a bowl or cup on the table for sprinkling the dough or table as needed.

Ideas for making things - start them making balls or sausages.  Cookie cutters and child sized rolling pins to use.  If they aren't afraid to make things, just let them go, but their experience will be much improved by you participating and showing them how to make things.  After they are rolling, you can let them go.

You can use pinto beans to make great eyes - but limit their use of them - they are hard and not really edible.

It's important to set a greased pie pan or baking pan beside them for them to place their finished, focused creations into as it gives them a sense of accomplishment when they can see what they've made.

Have the oven heating up to 160 degrees C (or 360 F).  Even little kids can brush butter and sprinkle sugar over top their finished creatures.

Troy made me laugh as I was filming her and Luke for my blog, she just started hosting her own video tutorial on how to make a dough critter.  I didn't stop her - their video is below.


2. Make things out of junk or scrap materials.  ie houses, cars, animals, whatever they want to build.

 Josh (above) loved making armour and and a sword for his clay creature out of a bottlecap, wire, cloth, a toothpick, bit's he'd found.  The monkey guy also has a drum set made out of bottlecaps.

It may look scrappy to us - but their imaginations are firing away. Get a glue gun - wire, pliers, use a drill to make holes in plastic things, or just sew things together with a big needle (even cardboard).  Double sided tape, card, old interesting objects you come across - save them in some designated area (if you can mentally handle the chaos).  Real order can come out of the right amount of chaos.  Too much and you are a hoarder.  Too little, and you are a fusspot.  Get the right balance for craft activities as you go!

I still remember the endless possibilities I imagined when I found a neat object.

It's so cool to hear their ideas come out.

3. Make your own toy out of clay 


Craft stores sell a type of clay that hardens when you cook it in the oven ("Sculpey" in NZ, "Fimo" in North America).  Sculpey even sellsglow-in-the-dark modelling clay!  A bit expensive- around $7 for one block from Spotlight ($5 if you're a member) - but worth it for a special gift, as plasticine which stays squishy forever quickly gets ruined.  I did have Troy practice on squishy plasticine first -

The dog in the photo below has glued on felt eyes as the eyes Troy made didn't stand out.  Always fix screw-ups in a positive way - it teaches the kids that lesson.  We named him "Snifter" - as apparently he likes sniffing rear ends.  The horse I helped Troy with in your hand on the left we named  "Spirit".  He glows green-white brightly in the dark.

3. Take them to the library 

They need fuel to fire their imaginations.  They won't have anything in their heads, ideas of what to make, without stories.

I remember when my mother first introduced us kids to the library - and all the worlds that were in there to be found.  She just took us there and let us choose whatever we wanted, but also at times introducing us to great books.

Let the kids choose anything they are interested in.  My mother would occasionally show me something she had heard of that was supposed to be good - famously, to me, C. S. Lewis's Narnia series.  This series ended up being one of my ultimate favourite.

This is not a small idea - this idea is essential.

4. Make a creature or animal out of paper mache, then paint it.

The polka dots on the dinosaur bank on the right (named "Polkadot") were all drawn by Georgie (7) and painted by her.  Then Troy painted the green back ridges for Georgie, and added glitter. I was able to tie it all together for her by filling in around the polka dots neatly, painting with a bright sample of wall paint.  
For the dinosaur bank  on the left ("Tiger"), I admit I took over and painted it after Troy (7) got frustrated with marking the stripes.  But she gave lots of input.  I mixed red acrylic paint in to the blue-green colour I was using to shade the belly and feet.  

This project will definitely need your help.  But there is lots for the kids to do themselves (like ripping up paper - and helping with paper mache - and painting).  In the paper mache "piggy banks" above (they have slots cut in their tops, and corks under their bellies) the kids have helped paper mache them with strips of newspaper dipped in PVA glue (white glue) and water.  The base was a balloon, with toilet paper roll feet cut in halves.  The neck is rolled and scrunched paper.  Some wire was needed to provide structure and support to the long neck and long tail.  For more details on how we did it, click here.

We got this idea from a book based on the kids TV program called Art Attack by Neil Buchanan (ISBN 9781405307451).  These dinosaur banks were called "beastly banks".


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