Thursday, August 9, 2012

At the beginning of the summer I had cooked up a few fantastic ideas for investigating with water, tubes, pipes, crates and a wheelbarrow but the kids keep flocking to the outdoor easels, paint and bubbles instead. For the toddlers our outdoor painting projects have been a smock free, diaper only,  sensory free for all. The big kids have even gotten in on the body paint action by covering their faces and arms in paint too; when they finish experimenting they all hop in the kiddie pool with a little squirt of dish soap to wash it all away. It’s hard to tell whether they like making the mess or cleaning it up more. All the kids - big and small cant seem to get over the fact that they can paint on EVERYTHING, then they can get bubbly water on EVERYTHING because we just hose it off when we we’re done. 

This is the first time we have moved our art activities outside on such a grand scale and I am loving it. The mornings breeze by because the kids are happily creating and they can be as messy and loud as they want. Best of all our easels and outdoor art shelves are completely constructed from salvaged materials that the children helped clean and construct. 

I got the inspiration for these easels from some of the daycare magazines I drool over regularly. We have had these signs in the garage forever and I knew I wanted to do something daycareish with them but couldn’t imagine what it would be. One day I took the plastic piece out of the sign and stared at it for about an hour until I came up with at least five brilliant ideas but I will save the other four for another day.

If you should be lucky enough to come across some of these old signs this is how my awesome husband built ours:
Step 1: Remove the plastic advertising pieces and measure them
Step 2: Cut some Plexiglass from old storm doors, (buying it new is pricey) 
Step 3: Drill holes according to the ones existing in the frame, 
Step 4: Screw it all together
Step 5: stand the easel up  
Step 6: collect 6 adorable children, you are now ready for some serious fun.

Unfortunately one of the easels cracked when I tried to pound it into the ground, I discovered that it was easier to “pre drill” the hole by pounding a stake in the ground where the legs will go then push the easel into place. 
(An alternative idea is positioning the easel at the edge of a garden with soft soil, this also makes a great background for photos of painty kids.) 

Overturned milk crates or buckets from some bushes we put in last year make great “tables” for setting up paint supplies. The little ones also like to stand on these to change perspective while painting. I imagine climbing up on those crates to create a masterpiece at the top of the easel is pretty empowering!

Set up and clean up are a snap with our outdoor “teacher shelves” where I keep a small collection of art supplies. I happened to notice a set of metal shelves on the side of the road so I cleaned them up and propped them under the overhang of the garage. Right now I am experimenting to see if things will keep out there but so far it’s looking good. I put the things that shouldn’t get wet in a tote and store paint in hand soap pumps. It’s SO much easier to have a simple collection of art supplies and soap outside. 

I have a feeling we will continue our outdoor painting once all the kiddies come back in the fall.

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