Sponge Painting

It’s a very simple and cheap activity. All you need are:
* Sponges (make sure they’re not the kind with soap already soaked in them)
* Cookie cutters (or anything that can be used as a stencil)
* Marker
* Scissors
* Paint and paper

Having an entire box of cookie cutters, I had my choice of shapes. I choose a few, traced them onto the sponge, and then cut them out. The cutting was significantly more difficult than I anticipated, so I would personally recommend staying away from shapes that are more complex. Once the sponges were cut we were ready for our art project.

At 1 1/2 years old, stamping is a concept my son only partially appreciates. He thought it was neat, and even discovered that it worked better if he brushed the paint onto the stamp rather than dipping it on to the plate.

Mostly he enjoyed smudging the sponges around the paper, creating his typical blend of color across the page. The end result was not unlike his other paintings, except that you might find a recognizable shape such as a star or elephant somewhere on the paper.

That’s not what matters though. The important thing is that he got to explore a new way of doing a familiar activity. It allowed him to experiment, and once the sponges are rinsed out and dried we now have new materials to add to his art supplies.

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The Color Box Game

Most parents will tell you that one of the most favored toys in the history of childhood is a cardboard box. You can purchase the most flashy expensive toy on the market, and the box will hands down be the highlight of a child’s experience.

Lucky for us we purchase many of our groceries from Amazon’s subscribe and save store, which is really great in that it makes life significantly easier (and cheaper). I say we’re lucky because we have a toddler in the house, and it leaves us with an…Amazon…of cardboard boxes in the garage. In the back of my mind I’m always considering how I could use our ever growing collection of cardboard, and I’m well aware there are plenty of activities that can utilize those boxes. Everything from forts to pretend vehicles of various sorts, they are certainly the easiest way of keeping my son entertained.

With our latest delivery of Amazon groceries coming in yesterday, I’ve revisited the possibility of using the boxes for a new activity. I’ve also been thinking of new ways to encourage color recognition, as he’s starting to show some understanding in that subject.

And that’s why we now have the color box game in our house.

Cardboard boxes. Practice with color recognition. Gross motor activity. Spacial awareness. It’s a really great game that we spent a full hour playing today (and then another fifteen minutes after nap time).

The set up is pretty simple. To make the die, take a small box and wrap it in white paper (I used the reverse side of wrapping paper). On each side of the die use a marker to make a large colorful dot, with the name of that color written above it.

Find 1 large box for each color. Offering a variety of different shapes and sizes creates a more interesting challenge. Cut off the top flaps of each boxes, and tape down construction paper to the floor of the boxes. Arrange the boxes so that they are all standing beside one another.

The game is simple. Have the child roll the die, and climb into the box matching whatever color it lands on!

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Snow Painting

Snow happens about one time a year around these parts, and it rarely lasts beyond a day. This year we had a bit of odd weather patterns which brought us one day of pure ice followed by an evening snow fall (which will probably be gone by tomorrow morning). Coming from Chicago I had to get used to the lack of snow, which is the one thing I miss the most about my Midwestern roots. Come December I start getting a small tug in my heart when I think of the things my son is missing from my own childhood experiences.

So I have to take advantage of what I can get, even if it’s just pure ice that only looks like snow. We woke up this morning, had our breakfast, and immediately bundled up in our winter gear. Before stepping outside I paused just long enough to gather what was needed to make our ice excursion into an art project.

And that is how snow painting became a thing around here.

This time around I only used one color. It was a spur of the moment decision, so I didn’t have much time to prepare more colors. It only took about 1 minute to throw together. I filled the bottle with water, dropped a decent amount of food coloring in it, and outside we went!

At first we were distracted by the thick layer of ice that covered the entire driveway, especially since our driveway is on a hill. After a number of rounds of sliding down the ice on our bottoms, we then made beautiful art on the snow/ice covered porch. I had to demonstrate a couple of times, but once little man decided to give it a try he thought it was the best thing ever. There were lots of adorable giggles.

Snow Paint

What You Need:
Water
Food coloring
Water bottle

What To Do:
Mix water and food coloring in a bottle, and squirt it on to the snow to make art!

Clean Mud

Snow days (or if you’re from around here, they’re more like “ice days”) can be fun, but once outside time is over you’re left asking “what now?”. Being trapped in the house can mean a bad case of cabin fever. Throw a toddler into the mix, and you have a situation on your hands.

Needless to say, I had to think of something quick and easy to whip together. We played blocks, trains, cars, read books, colored, and we still found ourselves bored. On top of this, it was getting to be “that hour”.

You know, the one that hits between 3-4 PM where it’s too early for dinner, but the kiddo has just about had it for the day? Yeah.

Much to my relief we had all the ingredients needed to make “clean mud”, and we were able to get through the pre-dinner meltdown hours meltdown free. Even the preparation is an activity in and of itself. We were able to watch the ivory soap experiment (heating it in the microwave), and unraveling the toilet paper was quite exciting.  At first he was a bit unsure of what to make of the actual “mud”, but after a few pokes and probes he quickly realized what fun this could be. It was a parenting win.

Clean Mud
Ingredients
2 bars of ivory soap
1 roll of toilet paper
2 cups warm water

Directions
Heat the ivory soap in the microwave for 1 minute (one bar at a time). If you’ve never put ivory soap in the microwave before, be sure to watch it puff up! In a large bowl, mix the heated soap and water together.

Unravel the toilet paper from the roll, and place it in a container (don’t worry, you will have less mud than the mountain of toilet paper looks like). Carefully pour the water/soap mixture into the pile of toilet paper a little at a time. Knead it all together in between pours. Once everything is well mixed, it’s time to play (as if preparing this stuff wasn’t enough play already)!

Fizz Painting

Anyone who knows me will tell you that I am a die hard fan of vinegar and baking soda. Between the cool science experiments and the fact that it’s a non-toxic way to clean just about everything, who doesn’t love baking soda and vinegar? It’s a treasure in the land of motherhood.

Which brings us to the very simple art activity of fizz painting.

It requires ingredients that you would usually have laying around the house, so chances are you can make a last minute activity out of this when your children are going bonkers for something to do. As he normally does when I present something new to him, my boy spent the first few minutes simply observing with curiosity as I showed him what to do. The moment he decided to give it a try, however, he was enthralled.

Of course, the activity didn’t end when all the colors were used up. Oh no, not with this little man. The fun continued when he ran to his sensory/art supply shelves and pulled out some fun things to play with, including sponges, paper, and paint brushes. This quickly turned into a full on art project. I know, sometimes that’s a headache to deal with, but it’s also the type of initiative I (personally) like to encourage.

So, although I expected this to be an easy-clean up project , I feel it was even more successful than originally anticipated since he chose to let his creativity loose.

Fizz Painting

What You Need:
Baking soda
Vinegar
Food coloring
Plastic bowls or something to hold the colors in
A 9X13 casserole dish
Eye Droppers

Directions:
Spread a layer of baking soda in the casserole dish.

In each bowl or container, mix food coloring with vinegar.

Use the eye droppers to drop the vinegar into the baking soda, and watch it fizz! For added fun, use the mushy mixture to paint!

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Homemade Scented Play Dough

Homemade play dough is the thing to do these days. I sometimes wonder how much profit Hosbro has lost as Pintrest and mommy-blogs pick up in popularity, spreading the millions of play dough recipes out there.

I’m not against regular store bought play dough. I don’t believe it’s harmful, or that buying it proves someone loves their child less. In fact, I’m most certain that one of these days we’ll have a few store-bought play dough supplies strung around this house.

The creative side of me, however, wins over this time around.  I finally had a chance to try out something I’ve been wanting to do…scented play dough.

I know, I know. Using koolaid powder isn’t everyone’s idea of a good children’s activity. I’ve had a number of crunchy friends shake their head over this. Oh well. We had fun, and as far as I can tell my kid hasn’t grown any weird mutations from playing with such non-organic junk. In fact, I don’t think he ate any of it at all.

If you’re not afraid of koolaid exposure, try this one out. I did find that the colors were not all what I expected. I forgot that the green packets actually turn pinkish once mixed with water. Next time I’ll just mix the yellow and blue (I really wanted the green one). I also will end up skipping some of the pinks since there was an abundance of that, and rather than the regular cherry flavor I’ll give “dark cherry” a try next time. I’m hoping for a deeper red.

I was really happy to see how much fun this stuff brought, and I even had the chance to get some chores done while it had my little guy distracted. For extra fun I threw in spoons, cups, colorful feathers, and popsicle sticks. Next time we play with it (because I did store it for another time) I’ll add in cookie cutters.

Scented Play dough

Ingredients 
(each recipe is for one color,which equals to about 1 regular container of play dough, maybe a little more)
1 cup flour
1/2 cup salt
1 envelope koolaid mix
2 tsp cream tartar
1 cup water
1 tbs oil

Directions:
Mix flour, salt, koolaid powder, and cream of tartar in a sauce pan. Stir in water and oil. Heat over medium heat, stirring regularly.

Dough will begin to form a clump in the middle of the pan (about 5 minutes). Once desired texture is formed, take the pot off of heat and let dough cool.1424478855.png

Sensory Paint Brushes

My little dude loves painting. Just a couple months ago there seemed to be a sudden artistic spark in him, and now he can’t get enough art time. Being the Reggio Emilia fan that I am, my response to this was to prepare an artistic space just for him right in the unused nook area of the kitchen (with a perfect window to bring in natural light). We snagged a This End Up table my husband used as a child (perfect for his size, yet something he can grow into), strung a piece of rope along the wall of the counter with some clothes pins attached in order to display his artwork, and most importantly we bought a cheap $20 Walmart bookcase to hold his art and sensory supplies. The idea is to keep everything at his level, giving him the freedom to make his own choices and to take hold of his creativity.

The paints are what he most often goes after…of course.

While I love watching him develop his independence, I sometimes like to influence his choices. Today was one of the days I stepped in to change things up.

With it being yet another snow day, I figured we could go all out on the mess making. However, rather than using his normal paintbrushes I decided to take the opportunity to make his art time into sensory play as well. I took his normal collection of supplies and put them out of sight, and instead replaced them with “brushes” I created using scraps of things from around the house.

It was a simple set up, and his interest was certainly peaked. He focused a lot more on experimenting with the different textures I provided, and spent quite awhile playing with the various designs they made.

As all art sessions go, the brushes were eventually abandoned to the favorable use of fingers.

Messy time was most definitely a success.

Alternative Sensory Paintbrushes
Look around the house for various objects and textures you could use in place of paintbrushes. Clothing pins can clip on to most objects, making them easy to grasp. To make things extra interesting, look for items that can be used as stamps as well.

Ideas Include:
Ribbon
Cotton balls
Aluminum foil
Pieces of foam
Pipe cleaners
String
Q-tips
Feathers
A cap from an old cooking spray container (for stamping)
Toilet paper rolls (for stamping)
The wheels of toy cars
Pine cones
Popsicle sticks
Tissue paper

Get creative! Do a quick search around your house to find ideas. The best places to look will probably be the kitchen and bathroom!1424804917.png