Thursday, April 25, 2013

Building a Chandelier

I love working on light projects with the kids so I decided to scout out the displays at Somerset Mall last weekend with my daughter in search of ideas. While we were out I came across a really cool bamboo light fixture with Christmas lights wrapped in the center of a circular bamboo tube. It was thinking it would make a great base for a weaving project so I snapped a picture of the marvelous thing even though my daughter ridiculed me mercilessly for it. Over the weekend I thought about how we could use Christmas lights to make a chandelier of our own. 

This is what we came up with using some of the things we had kicking around our room.  

Materials: Clear Tube (from Lowes), Christmas Lights, Ribbon, Packing Tape, Scotch Tape, Tubes (from Arts N Scraps), shower curtain rings, and lots of imagination!  

Our set up looked like this:

I wanted the kids to come up with the design so I explained that a chandelier is a fancy light that hangs from the ceiling. Then I gave them a little time to look at the acrylic tube stuffed with Christmas lights and offered them materials to experiment in their own way. 

The kids got to work with the scotch tape, scissors and ribbon. For those of you who have never turned a room full of two year olds loose on scotch tape and scissors you are in for a treat! Scotch tape was hanging from every surface and fingers were tangled up everywhere.

There are lots of problems to solve, lots of ideas on how to get the sticky tape free from everything it got caught up on and lots of opportunities to practice patience! Over all they did really well. The children took turns helping each other, studying each other’s ideas and experimenting on their own. 

As they worked, everyone had a different strategy for getting things to stick on the acrylic tube. Some wrapped ribbon around the tube many times only to have it all unravel and fall to the floor, others tried to stick ribbon to the tube only to discover that they had misplaced the tape or that the tape had no stick left to it because they had repositioned it too many times.

There were a lot of failures and some successes but all of the work belonged to the children. 

Somewhere along the way Will remembered a project we had done a while back where we used tape to pick up glitter and paper scrapes. He used that method with wide strips of tape and created long strips of tubes that he had carefully collected and positioned closely together. The rest of the children collaborated with him to fill his strip and started strips of their own. 

When it was finished we all stepped back to admire their handy work. Doesn’t it look beautiful? 

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Handprint Tissue Paper Trees

We made these super simple handprint trees to celebrate spring!

First we traced our hands and cut them out....

Then we collected lots of green tissue paper from our cutting station and glued it on.

Some of the children decided to add flowers from our handy flower hole punch, that hole punch is a great way to work our hand and arm muscles!

When we finished them, we added a pretty green frame to make the colors pop.

Happy Spring!

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Happy Spring!

We have been SO busy exploring all the changes outside this week! Every year with the season change and all the added light in the day the kids get a little tweaky and we all have a serious need to be outside as much as possible. 

On monday we spent most of the morning out hunting for signs of spring. We found lots of flowers popping their little heads out of the ground basking in the sun. I’m no gardening guru but we were able to spot a few of the familiar flowers of the season: daffodils, hyacinth and petunias. We searched for worms, stomped in puddles and took a peek in the composter to see how our plants were breaking down so we can feed garden when it’s time.

On Tuesday got our glow on by constructing this cool ping pong game. It was the perfect way to spend a rainy day. We even figured out how to add bumpers to the table so that we didn’t have to spend as much time chasing the ball around the room!

On Wednesday we discovered a rainbow as we were coming inside, the children knew that somehow the rainbow was created with light so we looked for the source. We discovered the light was coming from the peep hole in the door which sparked a conversation about how glass and light can create a rainbow. The children conducted their own investigations using magnifying glasses to cast orbs of light and create rainbows with light. 

The children also practiced getting their pincher grasp down while writing on the light table. Some decided to write letters, others traced shapes under the glass or worked on own drawings. While they worked I explained how holding a marker close to the tip in the triangle grasp makes it easier to control. After my demonstration the children paid close attention to their grip and fixed it or asked for help when they forgot how to hold the markers properly.

On Thursday we painted outside at this little outdoor paint station. We used binder clips to attach paper to the fence and collected stones to hold our papers on the table so they wouldn’t blow away. We also made footprint butterflies in celebration of spring and discussed the virtues of eating spinach and berries to keep our bodies strong. Best of all they thought the smoothies were a special treat so they all begged for more spinach! 

Friday, April 12, 2013

Exploring Reflective and Translucent Materials Part One

We’ve recently acquired a huge lot of scrapbook paper and in it I found some really cool reflective card stock and velum paper for the kids to explore. As I was playing with it and thinking of how to introduce the materials to the children, I discovered that the reflective surface of the card stock bounces light onto the velum in an interesting way so that it casts some really cool light patterns on paper. I was thinking the kids might want to use these materials to create some structures.

As I worked one of the children noticed my little experiment and asked if she could play with the paper too. Then everyone wanted some reflective paper so I invited all the kids to come over and see what I was doing. I demonstrated how they could catch light, bounce it off the reflective surface and cast pools of light on the wall. Then we discussed how the bouncing light is different from casting shadows but both require movement and light.

Pretty soon they were experimenting with pieces of reflective card stock in different ways. They chose various sizes and shapes to see how each one bounced light. We experimented by changing the level of the light in the room to see how the ambient light affected the intensity reflections cast on the walls. As they worked the children discovered that larger pieces of card stock were easier to capture and move light. We also noticed that the bounced light was easier to see when half of the room was darkened and that the shape of the light was effected by the size of the reflective surface.

After our work I decided to extend their thinking about reflective and translucent materials by setting up this provocation:


Metal lids, Plastic lids, Reflective paper, Translucent paper, Iridescent paper Wax paper, Flash lights, Scotch tape, Scissors

The idea of translucent and reflective surfaces is not entirely new to the children as we have explored these concepts many times before, however its been a while and the concepts were a little foggy for some. As a refresher I demonstrated the words “translucent” and “reflective” by using a flashlight and translucent / reflective objects.

During our breakfast discussion we used the flashlights to determine which objects were translucent and which objects were reflective. Later the children sorted items in both categories according to their properties. As they worked they used flashlights to shine on the surface of their choosing, if the light beam penetrated the surface it was deemed translucent and if the light beam bounced off the surface it was reflective. 

Some of the things the children discovered in their play:

Carmen was really interested in the way the tinfoil held its shape. She collected a huge quantity of it after all the kids left and wrapped it around several things on the table then shined her flashlight on the sculptures. As she worked she peeked in the holes of her wrapped objects then shined her light in the holes to see how they looked.

Yoli seemed to be interested in the way light and color bounced around on the iridescent cellophane as she crumpled it in her hands. Most of her exploring was done using only the ambient light in the room. She and the other girls got to work making a collage of iridescent cellophane and scotch tape on the reflective card stock.  

Will experimented by covering his flash light beam with wax paper and colored plastic. He was also really fascinated by the reflective surface inside my studio lights. His questions sparked an in depth conversation that brought all of the boys out of the building area to investigate. We opened up the studio lights and talked about how the reflective surface around the bulb bounces light and the cover of the soft box softens it.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Playing with Packing Peanuts

A while back we worked on this foam project with hammers, wooden beads and tiny colored rods. The kids had such a great time constructing and deconstructing it that I wanted to revisit foam sculptures another day. After the kids explored the materials for a week or so, we hung up the foam with the pieces that remained stuck in its surface to serve as an abstract art piece in the building area. 

Then we did about a thousand other projects while we waited for inspiration to strike again.  

As luck would have it my neighbor Roselyn saved us a huge stash of packing peanuts, and delivered them right to our front porch just before spring break. After the kids came back we got a second great gift; a big bin of really cool scrapbook paper from my friend Colleen. Our storage space is limited so I wanted to come up with some way to use large quantities of both items fairly quickly. Meanwhile I kept moving this annoying little surplus supply of toothpicks around the room because I hadn’t quite found a home for it then I remembered how much the kids liked stabbing things in foam so we got to work seeing what the kiddies could come up with using all three things. Then I tossed in some bamboo skewers just because they were taking up space too.

The introduction for this project was pretty simple I demonstrated how we could use toothpicks to attach paper to our already existing foam sculpture, I was thinking they might want to continue building “a town” as an extension of something they were working on in the building area.  

I asked the kids what they knew about toothpicks and bamboo skewers.

Sam said “They are pokey and if you don’t be careful you will hurt yourself.”

Enough said. Without further instruction I turned them loose on the project. The kids were pretty careful with all the “pokey” stuff, they only needed a reminder or two not to get the sticks too close to their faces when they became so absorbed in their work that they weren’t paying attention to where their body was in relation to the skewers. 

Sam made a boat with pedals.

Addie and Logan made trees.

Carmen practiced poking a lot of toothpicks in foam and paper, she seemed fascinated by the process.

Will made a “forest” of bamboo skewer trees.

At some point in their work the kids discovered that packing peanuts are super fun to throw around the room. 

Ms. Geraldine did not agree with them but in the interest of avoiding the role of fun governor I simply reminded them that it would be their responsibility to pick it all up. Those magic words ended the building part of our foam exploration and started a rollicking game of EXCAVATOR....

Apparently the only rules to the game of excavator are:

  1. The participants must throw ALL of the packing peanuts as far and as high as they can go by making their arms in the shape of an excavator bucket. 

  1. Everyone must scream really loud and run really fast despite several warnings of impending death or maiming by the fun governor.

  1. Once you are finished playing “EXCAVATOR” you must wander off and pretend you weren’t playing that game so that you aren’t responsible for cleaning up any of the mess.

Needless to say I am not cool with cleaning up little people’s messes so we had to revise rule number three.

3.) Find a fun and interesting way to clean up the packing peanuts so Ms. Geraldine’s head doesn’t spin off of her shoulders. 

Turns out that was an awesome rule change because everyone enjoyed at least an extra half hour scooping packing peanuts up into dump trucks and using various items to create makeshift “garbage trucks”. Once most of foam was cleaned up I decided to reward their efforts by giving them the blow dryer to experiment with the last few peanuts.

It was a blast!

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Fine motor fun

The kiddies are back from spring break and I whipped up these little guys in a matter of minutes for some fine motor fun. All you need to make a fun little fine motor friend of your own are some small beads, goggly eyes, pipe cleaners, mustaches / mouths and some recycled plant containers.


Push two pipe cleaners through the bottom of the pot so that they are form an X inside the bottom of the container then secure it with tape.

Flip the pot upside down and attach googly eyes and a mouth or a mustache to make a face. (I used a glue gun for the eyes and the mouths were left over foam stickers from Valentine’s day.)

Place a small cup full of beads and your fine motor friend in a rimmed tray to catch any fallen beads then let your little go to town!

The kids worked at this for quite some time. They took turns filling the pipe cleaners up with beads then pulling them all off again and watching them scatter on the tray.