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.


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

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)!

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:
Cotton balls
Aluminum foil
Pieces of foam
Pipe cleaners
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

Mud Painting

Spring is finally here! I can now throw open the windows, and start thinking about the plants I want to put in my garden! Most importantly we can go outside for activities that include something other than freezing! No more stir-crazy insanity!

Which brings me to today’s activity. With it being just after the time change my son’s sleep schedule is all kinds of a mess. Not wanting another night like the one I had last night, I took a deep breath and skipped his nap for the day. As 3PM came around, I could sense that he needed major distraction. Meltdown mode was on it’s way.

So we went outside.

There is nothing like a barefooted toddler running around a grassy lawn without pants (which he has refused to wear today on more than one occasion). It was absolutely adorable. The one thing th2878756at was missing, however, was MUD!

I mean, come on, what’s the point of childhood without some nice clean mud to play in? So I found a small bucket, dug up some dirt (or in our case clay, which is what this area is made out of), and added water. While we were at it, I decided to make this into an art project.

Seeing that the weeds have slowly begun their invasion in the front lawn, we first took the time to pick some dandelions (along with other colorful weeds I don’t know the names of). This in and of itself was an activity that he adored. Once I had a good handful, we went to the back deck and started making our “mud art”. I simply handed him flowers, paintbrushes, and paper.

He dug right in!

The distraction was a success. At first he was concentrated on the painting, and even used the dandelions as brushes at one point. He also discovered that they can “color” yellow when you rub them on the page).

After a while, he eventually found the joy of simply splashing around in the bucket. The weeds went in, as well as his bare hands. It was pure childhood.

Needless to say we came inside with happy moods, and his activity choices after our dirty adventure have been low key and quiet. I’m anticipating fits of exhaustion eventually, but for now I bought some time. Most importantly, however, we had fresh air, sunshine, and natural fun.

Flour Fun

I was yet again in need of a simple activity that would distract my son while I cooked dinner. Something that was easy to throw together, not necessarily a breeze to clean up (I just wanted to distract him while I cooked), and not something I had to hover over.

Well, we were in the kitchen weren’t we? Surely there was something I could dig up. A bag of flour ended up being  just what I needed. I sprinkled some onto the table of his high chair, added a bit of water for texture, and then turned back to making dinner. The room was filled with laughter, and I was satisfied with being able to get through the task at hand. Sure, the mess in the end wasn’t the easiest to clean up, but I personally thought it was worth it. Sometimes these things in life are all about surviving the moment. In that moment I needed to get dinner done and my son needed some stimulation. Eventually there was another moment where I needed to clean up the flour, but that was after I was able to sit down to my much needed dinner.

You may want to wait on this activity until you know for sure how your child reacts to wheat!