Dyed Sugar Cubes

My son has crazy good dexterity, and his hand eye coordination has a tendency to amaze me. Not even 2 years old  and he can pull the outlet covers out of the sockets (which he doesn’t do much of, thank G-d), and build intricate towers out of his blocks with crazy balancing techniques. I truly enjoy watching him at work when he’s playing a fine motor or manipulative game, and I often wonder if this is going to be a factor in the hobbies and career he will choose someday.

But that’s getting ahead of myself. For now, he’s just a boy exploring the world.

Wanting to find a new fine motor activity,  I decided to let him experiment with eye droppers, colored water, and something to absorb the liquid…which ended up being sugar cubes.

I set out cups filled with water, and added a few drops of food coloring to each of the cups. The sugar cubes were placed on a paper plate in front of my son (who, surprisingly, did not try to eat them), and I gave him the eye droppers.

Having never seen eye droppers before, he had to spend a few minutes learning how to use them. I showed him what to do and eventually he was comfortable with it after a little trial and error. Once he got the hang of it his concentration was hooked to dying the cubes.

For older kids this might be a great science experiment when learning about absorption. For now, it was just a fun way to play with colorful liquid.

And then we did a bonus activity…We pulled out a light box.

Now, our light box is actually something my grandfather built for me when I was a kid so that I could trace stuff while crafting. At the moment I use it for activities like this. Being the extremely handy person that he is, it is a super sturdy and well buil2878756t design that I could not replicate.

There are other ways to get your hands on a light box that doesn’t require the blessing of a handy dandy family member though. You can buy something, such as an unnecessarily fancy and expensive piece. Or a children’s light box that is on the smaller and cheaper end (or something in between). Chances are you will actually have far better luck looking for a light box that was meant for artists. They are much cheaper and more often than not better quality. Just be aware that some boxes do get hot enough to burn.

There is also the option of creating your own, with less skill necessary than what my grandpa used. Pintrest is filled with ideas such as these.

Typically a good light box could work in a well lit room (our box is certainly bright enough), but to make it extra cool we retreated into our laundry room (which can be completely dark with the door shut). Wanting to protect my box from sugary gunk, I put a piece of parchment paper over the surface. Considering just how bright the light is, it also helped to filter the light and protect little eyes.

The sugar cubes looked very neat with the light shining through them, and we were definitely intrigued for a good while. Kiddo spent a lot of time lining them up in various formations, and designing intricate tower structures. That was also an excellent fine motor activity!

It was a  fun experience with an easy clean up, and I felt good incorporating a new fine motor challenge (working the droppers), as well as new ways to play with colors. It’s definitely something I would do again, and I’m sure my son will be very excited when he sees me pulling out the droppers and food coloring!

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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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