Archives for the month of: September, 2011

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Ingredients: Any old shelf or plank of wood, white paint to prime, tester pots of paint / acyrlics, paintbrushes

The Big Sell: Let’s make a totem-pole painting of our favourite place!

Strategy:        OK, I did this over the summer with my eldest who is already a confident creator, so some children may need to build up to this. We went to visit the Open Houses event (see if they have something similar in your area http://www.openhouses.org.uk) and were inspired to have a go ourselves. Strapped for cash, I trawled the loft and found an old shelf and tester paint pots. On the first evening I divided and painted the shelf in thirds in three horizontal stripes (light blue for the sky, yellow for the beach, dark blue for the sea). The next day I presented the idea to the eldest and we sketched out images on the background (his drawings were much better than mine!). That evening I painted in his images, left them to dry and then finished off round the edges with a black marker and a final coat of varnish.

The Verdict: Eldest son was very impressed when presented with the professionalism of the final artwork. It’s an idea I’ve been using with him since he was small whereby he starts an image and I finish it. I think you can strike a delicate balance here – it’s not about improving but enhancing the original creation. When he was much younger (age 2 – 3) and still at the stages of joyfully creating splashes of paint I would sometimes keep his artwork and, when dry, turn a splodge into an aeroplane, face etc… and show him the wonderful images I had seen in his artwork. This led into discussions (on his level) about the subjective nature of art and how everyone sees different things in a painting (I’ll follow this up in a future blog about abstract art and how children can find this much more accessible than you’d expect). This was the start of the ‘dialogue’ which now accompanies our collaborative artwork together. You can tailor the extent to which you intervene to each child – my son tends to get bored after the initial sketching stage (as in this activity) and is happy to let me ‘colour it in’, another child may request more control of the whole process.

The totem pole landscape now lives proudly in our dining room!

Catchphrase: “Wow, did you do that?!” (visitors comments)

Left wanting more?

  • Add some heavy-duty garden furniture varnish and you can plant your artwork in a flower bed or screw to a garden fence.
  • Discussions about artistic cultural references can accompany this process. Look for other totem pole / Native American art on the web, or discuss the difference between a landscape and portrait.

Ingredients: Paper and pens / or a computer and printer, one talkative child

The Big Sell:  Write me the silliest nonsense poem you can think of…

Strategy:        At a certain age children love to practice rhyming sounds (for eldest son it was between 3 and 5 years). He would idly recite nonsense rhyming words to himself whilst playing. I tapped into this and told him I would touch-type EXACTLY what he chose to put in a poem (note, I think it’s important not to make any of your own suggestions unless the child asks for it. If it is theirs word for word, they can sample the early delight of complete editorial control!)

The Verdict: The resulting poem was typed, printed and displayed proudly on the wall. When (adult) friends came round they would notice it and recite it aloud much to eldest son’s delight who felt it had become a famous work of art. If your child is slightly older it can also help with teaching them phonics by showing how to spell out the sounds they have chosen. In our home we will always have a special place in our heart for “Snow Monster, plo monster, elemeny toe monster” and the following 5 verses!

Catchphrase: “Read me my poem again, Mummy!”

Left wanting more?

  • An obvious reference is to read your child some Spike Milligan to show them how fantastic surreal poetry can be
  • Other good poetry books for young children are ‘The Booktime Book of Fantastic First Poems’, edited by June Crebbin, published by Puffin, and the rhyming story ‘Never use a knife and fork’ by Neil Goddard, published by Macmillan books (loved equally by our 2 and 6 year old because it actually recommends you are naughty with your food!).

Ingredients: Sand box (I just use a large plastic tub with lid on the patio, so no need for a proper sand tray, get play sand cheap from Wilkinsons or B&Q), various treasure items including shells, plastic dinosaur bones, costume jewellery, plastic coins, etc…, paintbrushes (large and small), spade, sieve

The Big Sell:  Let’s be archaeologists and discover hidden treasure!!!

Strategy:        Tell the kids to close their eyes, you hide the toys at different depth levels, then teach them how to use the sieve / paintbrush to gently discover the treasure

The Verdict: Both ages loved it, youngest (18 months) found the toys on the top and played for fifteen mins before getting distracted. Eldest (5) dug deeper, then developed their own idea to create a treasure map and bury that too for younger one (and me) to discover – the game lasted over an hour. They both ended up in full pirate dressing up! It’s become a popular game to revisit since, requiring no set up on my part as they have the idea now and will find their own props to bury.

Catchphrase: “What else can we find to bury Mummy!?!”

Left wanting more?

  • Look at BBC website for a computer game that allows you to be a Viking archaeologist at this link: http://www.bbc.co.uk/schools/primaryhistory/vikings
  • Whilst on the subject of pirates, the book Pirate Pete by Nick Sharratt, published by Walker Books Ltd is great for younger and older kids. I took it camping once and the youngest (age 16 months) sat in the travel cot and played with it for OVER AN HOUR whilst we snoozed! Incredible!

Hello world!

I am a mum of two young boys (2 and 6 years) and also work part time as a Freelance Youth Arts Worker. Writing a blog is the last thing I thought I could, would, ever do … so why?

I have been battling for some time with the strong desire to continue this act of creation that is motherhood. One last time. The third child, standing in the corner of the room, waiting to be brought into being. A question mark.

I have considered it deeply and know now it is not ‘the Johnson’s effect’- I have no desire to swell again or sweat the birthing pain, to wear the right maternity clothes or push the trendy buggy – so this is not hysteria from the fetishized image all around me. I’m past that.

This is seeing how each child builds us stronger, makes us wiser, embellishes and surprises us. It is the gift of knowing a new person. And how mothering that unique individual requires flexibility, compassion and patience; the development of profound and heartfelt connections to the world in nurturing our act of creation – the family. And I don’t want to have restricted my world only to my particular two marvels.

But I know it is a self-defeating argument and with each child the elastic frays…  And I’m realising I could choose to see myself as an addict, because I know this urge has always been there and will never pass. It is a feeling I will have to learn to live with. I do not want to bury it, but be mindful of it. So I have chosen to see this as who I am, but as greater than the sum of my womb.

It could be how I spill into all aspects of my life; how I connect to my community. More than creating children, it could be creating meaning so I don’t make a life half-lived, sunk into an insular dolls house but weave a web that is bigger and richer than I could have imagined.

So I’ve decided to start this conversation with the world about the thing I am most passionate about – imaginative creative play with children. I’ve spent the last six years riding the ‘play rollercoaster’ with two very different sons, and now have a wealth of experiences that could keep me chatting for hours at coffee mornings. But it’s also a subject on which none of us can ever become an expert, because it’s always changing and always new.

I know that some adults find it hard to fall back into childhood play – it can make us feel self-conscious, bored or even too over-involved (how many times have we proudly completed a lego construction we didn’t want the kids to knock over!!) Also, with 101 other things to do it can be very easy to let CBeebies take control for an hour or two…

And that’s all fine, as long as it’s balanced with a healthy dose of high quality play time, in which we don’t construct our child’s game for them, or leave them to wreak havoc with a new pack of felt-tips, but actually engage in a dialogue. A process in which we all learn something new about ourselves, feel proud of our achievements, or laugh over our shared mistakes. And I believe just 15 minutes of this kind of play each day can transform our relationships with our children – my own experience shows this kind of play grows an emotional intelligence that helps to deal with sibling squabbles, playground bullies or any growing pain – that respects the child’s individuality whilst asking them to be the best they can be. Such is the power of the rich imagination, transferable to any situation life throws at you.

I hope my blog will grow as my children do in age, to move from the toddler years, through after school activities, eventually to how we could use art to negotiate the teen years… I’ve got all that to come!!

The blog will consist of a brief description of a new game or arts activity, with an honest review (hopefully straight from the babe’s mouths!) Hit or flop, all will be shared. The idea is to mainly utilise toys you are likely to have around the house and combine them in new interesting ways, supplementing with the minimal expense of odd arts / crafts resources (with the best prices I’ve found in local shops). I’ll also recommend good books, toys, etc.. helping you form your own resource library at home.

In turn, I hope you will provide your own reviews – did your kids love or hate this activity? Did they subvert it into something new? Did they suggest a better idea than ours?!

So here goes …

Artspip x

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