Sunday, February 27, 2011

Just Another Canvas??? (Homemade Chalkboard Paint Recipe too!)

Allan and I had an interesting conversation with Dane today. We happened to come across some pretty cool "cave drawings" on our wooden radiator cover.  The cover is not finished. I think it is the only one in the house that managed not to get a coat of paint yet. (It's the one in our bedroom... No one ever really sees that room but us, and we only sleep in there..... )  This is probably the 3rd time we've found art work in places that wouldn't necessarily be considered "proper canvases."  Dane is now 8, He insists that the drawings are from when he was about 6.  I love his creativity and the fact that he LOVES to paint/draw/create.  It is a tough balance with being strict about "canvases" and continuing to encourage him to express and explore.  Our house isn't "normal" by any means.... We use the walls as canvases all the time, which makes it a little bit more difficult for Dane to understand where it is appropriate to express himself.

Here is a section of our kitchen, a collage gone crazy... The walls are filled with images from magazines. Click here to learn more.

Dane's room has giant trains on the wall. I admit I never finished all of them, but one wall has 3 trains that I painted for him when we first moved in.

We have small decals all over the house- dinosaurs in the dinosaur room, butterflies in the butterfly room, sea creatures in the entry way... .We even had numbers and corresponding amounts of sea creatures on our stairs before we installed the new cubbies that covered that art work up. (We do have plans to redo that theme on the other wall near the stairs soon....)

So, with all of these giant canvases... It makes perfect sense that Dane is looking for bigger canvases like walls and doors.  Today, we decided  that it is time that he has his own wall to decorate, to draw, paint, you name it. I'll keep you posted as he progresses. I'm sure like most things around here it will continually be a work in progress. He wants us to give it a good coat of white paint to get him started.

I love to give all of the children in our care as much opportunity as possible to express themselves through creative means, with few limits and a wide array of "canvases." I've been wanting to create more chalk boards around the house (inside and out) for drawing and writing. I felt very limited by the color selection available for chalkboard paint, and a bit limited by the cost of the paint as well. That is, until recently when another blogger was kind enough to share the secret of chalkboard paint! Did you know that you can add unsanded tile grout to ANY paint to make it chalk board paint!!!!! How cool is that???(Click here for the ratio/recipe) Seriously, THANK YOU!   I tackled one of the backs of our shelves this weekend as a test run.

I can't wait to have the children help test out our new canvases! (Inside and Out!!! Stay tuned for an update on our outdoor area.... This paint is going to be fabulous outside too!)

This post was linked up to:
PreK + K Sharing

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Our February Sprouts

If you've been following along, you'll know that we started to sprout a few seeds about a week and a half ago. In Upper Michigan, starting seeds indoors is almost a necessity considering that the outdoor growing season is so short. You can see the start of our project here.  We have been taking photos daily to document our observations. (You can see our full photo stream on Facebook.)

After about 9 days of sprouting in the plastic bags in the window, our peas and beans were ready to be moved to dirt.

The children did a great job planting the sprouts in our fiber pots.

We have been watering them daily with our spray bottles.

The children have been carefully observing the changes and growth of the seedlings.

We have also been testing another experiment with some seeds. We planted a bean seed in each of these test tubes: water, sand, and soil.
(This photos if from day seven of the experiment. We take a photo with a number each day so that we will have a record of the changes.)

We've also been pretending to be tiny little seeds...... 

First, we are all bunched up like a little seed.

Then our legs reach out, down into the ground just like roots.

Our arms reach straight up into the air like stems....  and then....

Out pop our arms just like the leaves!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Fabulous Floam!

If you haven't notice, I tend to get excited about messy things. Most often, the messier, the better. This is not, by far, the messiest thing we have tried.... but for those of you who thought our "slime off" was a mess.... don't tell me that I didn't warn you....

While I was looking for great recipes to test in our "Slime Off," I ran across this recipe for floam. If you have never played with floam, it is a neat sculpting/sensory/all around fun/messy thing to play with. Prior to this experience, I had only played with store bought floam. It is made from polystyrene beads and a slimy substance.

Please, please, please don't go out and buy any styrofoam beads to make this. Styrofoam is not good for the environment, so please reuse some that you have or can find. The children enjoyed the grating of the styrofoam the best anyway!!!

We used a plastic cheese grater and some styrofoam packaging I saved because I figured that we could find "something" to do with it. Styrofoam is very clingy! We used a little bit of water in a spray bottle to help keep the static down. However, the beads did tend to stick to everyone and everything!

Some of the children spent hours grating the styrofoam. They found out that if they blow on it or clap their hands in it.... "it makes a snowstorm!!!"

Perhaps our next sensory table will be filled with grated styrofoam :).

The recipe calls for a solution of water and coloring. We opted to use the coloring we made from "The Markers That Don't Work" instead of food coloring. Each baggie started with 1/4 cup of the colored solution (each child chose their own color).

Then they scooped 1/4 cup of school glue into the bag. (You could have them squeeze it out of a bottle to measure into the cup, but we buy our glue by the gallon so I had them scoop it out of a dish instead of refilling the glue bottles all day :).

Now, our zipper bags looked like this. We had to squish them to mix it up.

After the solution was blended well, we added 1 1/3 cups of styrofoam beads. I had a 1/3 cup measuring cup in the bowl, so the children counted 4 of them to complete the task.

Somehow, in all of the craziness and mess.... I missed a couple of photos in the sequence. After the scooping of styrofoam, you need to mix them in well.

Then, in another container, (We used an empty crystal light container that was marked with a permanent marker to show 1/2 cup), add 1/2 cup of warm water and 2 tsp of Borax. Mix this solution well.

When both solutions have been mixed well, add the Borax solution to the zippered baggie.

Then, mix well. Be careful to mix it thoroughly, but not too rough or the bag could pop or you could break the zipper seal and end up with parts of the solution all over. You can either warn your little munchkins or learn this via trial and error like we did.......

Unlike when you make slime with Borax, you want to make sure that you continue to mix the solutions for your floam. At first, it may seem like you will have a lot of fluid left over. If you take the time to mix them, you will get much better consistency in your floam.

After you are done mixing it in the bag- take it out and play!

This is one of those projects that tends to "follow" you wherever you go. The styrofoam beads stuck to all of us! We found traces of them in the play room... in our coats, etc. It's a good thing we have a Shop Vac!

What probably made it worse.... is that we were in the middle of "floaming" when I realized that some of our friends were going to get picked up in about 1/2 an hour and we had talked about getting back outside! The floam took much longer than expected.... so we just dropped everything.... left the mess and went out to play! When we came back inside, the children who were staying longer finished up with the floam. Sometimes.... you just have to drop everything and not worry about the mess to continue to have fun. The mess wasn't really going anywhere (okay... it did a little because we carried some of it with us.... ), and we were able to get most of it cleaned up when we came back in. Like a lot of fun messy things... we'll be seeing small traces of this for months!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

What Would You Do With It? Wednesday - Plastic Laundry Detergent Bottles

Welcome to this week's edition of What Would You Do With It? Wednesday. This week we are looking at liquid laundry detergent bottles!

We have been collecting these bottles for a very long time and have accumulated all sorts of different shapes and colors. There are 2 major projects we do with these bottles every year.

First, we make them into butterflies! Our outdoor art gallery/rock garden always gets a few butterflies for our walking neighbors and community members to enjoy! I have an earlier post listed here with all of the details. Of course, they can be decorated in a variety of different ways.

The second project that requires some detergent bottles is our annual totem pole. The totem is primarily made from metal coffee cans. However, we use laundry detergent bottles for the accents - like making elephant ears or eagles wings.

There are a couple of other projects out there I found that I would love to try. (They've been on the to do list for awhile.....)

The first one is a bird feeder that I found here.

The second are these great animal heads that were featured in Family Fun Magazine:

I'm still looking to find some great inspiration on how to use Crystal Light Containers. If you have a great idea, please pop on over to last week's challenge and link up!

Abbie from over at Greening Sam & Avery came up with this very nifty idea on how to use the containers to make a rain gauge!

On to this week's link up! Plastic Laundry Detergent Containers- It's your turn!

Do you have a great idea or post that you can share using Laundry Detergent Containers? If so, please join in linking up!

Here are the rules:

1) The post MUST use Plastic Laundry Detergent Containers (or a similar sized plastic container)

2) The post MUST be family friendly.

There are no other requirements. If you would like, I would love if you linked back to his linky party, but it is not required. I would hope that you will investigate the links shared and visit some of the other blogs, but I'm not imposing any "blog hop/linky" rules. Please, if you do find great ideas and photos... Give credit where credit is due :).

If you have been featured and feel inclined, my featured button is available to grab from the sidebar.

Next week, I will feature my favorite link up and I'll be posting about Pizza Boxes! Hopefully, I'll be on time!

Monday, February 21, 2011

The Great "Slime Off"

So, like most people, when I find something I like, I tend to stick with it. A great example of this is our "gloop" aka "slime" recipe. We have a great recipe, the children love it, it is fun and easy to make and we use it all the time. I have been told that I NEED to try another recipe even if it is just for the dramatic effect of making it and seeing the instant change when the chemical reaction happens. So, today.... we decided to have a slime off....

Today's contestants are:

Blue Gloop. You can actually make this in any color you would like. We made our slimes in different colors for easy identification. You can find the recipe for this here. This is our tried and true, we use it every time recipe.

In the other corner is "GAK" or "Slime" made with Borax. The recipe is all over the web. We followed the tutorial here. For this option, we decided to use green food coloring (with a drop of yellow to make it extra bright).

(Did you notice we used crystal light containers to hold our ingredients. I made them into measuring cups by drawing lines with permanent markers on them.)

We gave the children plenty of time to play with each type. Then we tried a couple of tests.

The first test was a pull test: What happens when you try to pull it apart?

We found that the green slime was very easy to pull into pieces.

The blue slime took much more effort and muscle to pull apart, it likes to stretch.

Then we tried a roll test (deemed to be the "snake" test by the children ): What happens when you roll your hands over the top of it? Can you make a long snake?

The blue slime seemed to roll forever, getting thinner and thinner with each roll..

The green slime didn't pass the snake test.... It actually broke into more tiny pieces each time you rolled your hands over it.

The children will continue to explore these two recipes. Perhaps our working knowledge of the green slime is too new.... and we need a little bit more practice with it? It sure is fun to break into pieces and recollect.

Most of the children have said that so far, they like the blue slime better, but they like the color of the green one best. We will keep playing and experimenting.

I shared this post at ABC & 123
abc button

Now... if you thought that was fun, jump ahead a couple of days to Thursday... where we made our own floam!
Do you have a great slime recipe that we can add to our slime off??? If you do, PLEASE link it up below! I have also been collecting new play dough recipes, so we will be testing some of those out in the near future as well!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Friday Fun Fort Day

A couple of weeks ago, Dane decided that every Friday would be fort day. Lately, every day has been "Friday" The children have been highly engaged in building and creating forts of all kinds...

This week's warm weather melted the snow enough to make it sticky and fun to form. It was perfect for using our "brick makers" to build a fort outside!

The unusually warm weather allowed us to stay outside for quite sometime, but also prompted a fresh set of clothes when we did come in! Melting Snow = Water!

Of course, we couldn't come inside until we were happy with the progress of our fort.

I anticipate that the children will continue to work on this project as the weather permits. However today we are expecting "FLASH FREEZING" which could put a damper on building for some time, but at least we were able to form our structure in plenty of time for dropping temperatures to firm it up for us!

When "fort day" was declared, we first opted to cover the entire playroom with flat sheets making tunnels and rooms through the first floor of the house. (Unfortunately, I was having way too much fun that I forgot to grab the camera before we cleaned it all up!)

This week's forts have been make primarily with our new "blocks." They aren't blocks, exactly, but that is what we have deemed them to be. They are mini-crates. We have about 70 of them. They were a bonus when I opted to buy locker sized crates for our cubbies and to help with some of the toy storage. Each locker sized crate came with 2 mini crates inside. I had all kinds of ideas on how to use them for storage, but Dane and the rest of the children had other ideas......

The crates have been used to make toy steps too!

Apparently, my storage ideas and re-organization can wait, as we now have a great new set of blocks!

Here is what our new cubby bins look like:

Did I mention that I'm a sucker for deal? These locker totes were on clearance for $1 each (for the 3 pc set!) So, I bought enough to make a cubby wall for some toy storage too:

Here's to lots of Fun "Every day is Friday" Forts!

My friend died

 I learned a hell of a lot from Dan Hodgins.  He was mentor, a friend, and a "bone shaker" for many of us in the field of Early Ch...