Sunday, February 23, 2014

An Invitation To Play With Flowers

Our invitation to play today was this:

That's it! I had some flowers in a vase in our entry (I LOVE fresh flowers and you will often find them around my house) that were starting to wilt and wither so I plucked them and put the pieces in a divided tray. Busy sat down at the table and immediately asked if we could make sun catchers! I grabbed the 
contact paper
and blue tape
and let her get to work. Everything looked so inviting and spring-like, that I even asked her if I could join in :) After an "of course!" I taped down some contact paper of my own and started to create.

After we were finished with our sun catchers we hung them in the dining room window above Busy's fairy garden. The light that comes through these windows (when the sun actually decides to shine this winter) is beautiful! I will have to add another picture when the sun is coming through ;)

I would really love some suggestions for different sun catchers! My kids love making them and I am looking for some variations. If you have some ideas, please leave a comment and we will try them! 

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Painting with Textures (again)

A few weeks ago I posted about painting with texture and since then I have noticed that the kids have been using the language from that activity quite frequently! Busy will point out that the white glue we are using is slimy or smooth like plain paint, and Beansie has noticed that the mud Busy collected was "bumpy like the paint we used 'yesterday'." (everyday before today is yesterday ;) So today we took the texture painting idea and dug a little deeper. I turned to The Imagination Tree for some great ideas! 

What You Need:

  • bowls for textures
  • divided paint tray (or bowls) 
  • paper
  • paint
  • paint brushes (optional)
  • sugar, flour, oats, dirt, bread crumbs and white glue (and/or any other materials you can add to paint to achieve different and interesting textures)

What To Do:
  1. Put the flour, sugar etc. in the bowls and the paint in the tray. 
  2. Talk about the texture of the plain paint. 
  3. Then one by one let them add as much or as little sugar, glue, etc. as they want to each paint color. (Busy put the oats in the red paint, sugar in orange, bread crumbs in yellow, dirt in pink, glue in blue, and flour in green.
  4. Per Busy's request, I labeled 6 different pieces of paper with what was put in the paint.
  5. Paint using brushed, hands and fingers and have fun! 
  6. As they are painting (and let's be honest, I was painting too!) discuss the new textures of the paint. 
  7. Let it all dry then hang to admire :)

Busy spooned the sugar into the orange paint
and mixed it until it became "gritty"

She said the bread crumbs in the paint felt 
"like a sponge"

She remembered using the oats in our first
installment of texture painting and said it
was "still bumpy"

The dirt she added she thought "was sandy"

She thought the glue in the paint was the
prettiest when she swirled it saying it was
"shiny" and "wettish" 

She painted the flour paint with her hands
and said "it feels like pancake batter"

When we do this activity with brother, Busy said she wants to mix colors. When I asked her why she didn't do that this time, she said "I need to keep the colors separate for the first time because I don't know what to expect. Once I know what they look like, I will put them all together." I love the way her brain works!! 

The dried paint was pretty cool to investigate as well. The dirt paint dried like sand paper and would be really great to use in rubbings. You could paint a picture or message with the dirt paint then once dry, put another paper on top and use a crayon to rub over the picture. 

The sugar filled orange paint was my favorite. Once dry, the paint appears wet still! It's shiny and glistens and has a really quite interesting. 

Get creative with this activity! Other things you could add to the paint are 
crushed cereal

And if you haven't been to The Imagination Tree, GO! Her blog is fantastic!! And make sure you follow her on Pinterest as well. 

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Loose Parts - Stones

Since my last post about our glass beads invitation to play Busy and the Beans have been going back to the beads multiple times a day! They love trying to stack them, knocking them together and on different surfaces comparing the sounds, making patterns on the light table and filling up various containers. There are endless possibilities! So with my thinking cap on I decided to pull together some other loose parts for open ended play.

So this weekend I dumped out a couple of vases full of river stones and put them in one of the new baskets. When the kids came down to explore some more with the beads, they found the stones along with a long mirror (from our closet) and got to work...

While Beansie was content sticking with the
glass beads while Busy got her turn with the
stones first.

Busy started with the river stones on the mirror
Then they came up with the idea to mix the
parts. They noticed that some were transparent
and others were opaque and that they were all
smooth :)

Loose parts in the environment are meant to empower our creativity. To learn more about loose parts read this at Let the Children Play. She posts about the theory of loose parts, gives some examples of loose parts materials and lists reasons why play spaces should include loose parts. It's fascinating! 

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Glass Beads

Busy and the Beans are loving the recent invitations to play that we have been coming up with. They love the open ended aspect of what the invitation is and their creativity really shines :) Our invitation to play this morning was with glass beads and an ice tray.

After playing with the beads in the ice tray for about 20 minutes, Busy asked if they could take them to the light table to build things. After a quick lesson on how to transport the beads in the basket (both hands with walking feet) they were engaged for another 20 minutes making patterns, pictures, shapes and piles using the new glass beads. 

This light table was my dad's when he used to read his slides or x-rays at home. My grandfather made a wooden table for the light box part of it and my mom just recently gave it to us to use! Before now, we were using this light box that we made using a clear storage box and an LED camping light. I have also seen them using white Christmas light strands. 


Wednesday, February 5, 2014


This past week Busy has shown a real interest in snakes! We went to the zoo this past weekend (during a rare not frozen day) and she spent quite a while with the snakes. She even somehow talked us into getting her a stuffed snake in the gift shop (named Snakey). So naturally, took her new found interest and ran with it. Monday was a snow day which was a perfect time to start our new learning topic: snakes!

I printed off some snake facts for kids and we sat down to talk about what we read. Did you know that snakes don't have eyelids?!

Then I made a big letter S on paper and they brainstormed different words that started with the letter S like snake.

  • slither
  • slime
  • Saturday
  • Santa
  • sister 
  • and star are some of the words Busy came up with
Then she suggested that I make the top of the S look like a snake's head :)

After making our sound board list, we started making snakes using various materials. 
Then he decided to cut out snakes.
Beansie began making a pipe cleaner
beaded snake (bonus:great fine motor practice)

Busy used Snakey as a model to make her paper snake.
We used the computer to look up some pictures of different kinds of snakes. Some or their favorites were coral snakes, milk snakes, rattle snakes and pythons. The green one is a garden snake. The brown one is made from a paper towel tube and is a rattle snake. The red, black and yellow one is a coral snake. And the cute little beaded one is Beansie's "baby nake." 
I love this!

Then after they finished all of the snakes, we put it all up on the display wall in the kitchen. (The display wall is where we hang learning work from home and school. We move things to the playroom wall once new learning goes up. I have glorious ideas for this wall later!)

Tuesday afternoon it snowed and iced (again). After baths and before bed I put glow sticks in the snow/ice and had the kids go to the dining room window to look outside. All the lights were out and it looked really cool! Busy said "LOOK! IT'S A GLOW SNAKE!!!" (unintentional on my part) They got bundled up and went out to unbury and rebury the snake :)

Today (yet another snow day) we make another snake…a bubble snake!

What You Need:

  • dish soap
  • shallow dish
  • plastic water bottle
  • sock
  • rubber band or duct tape
  • scissors

What To Do:
  1. cut the bottom of the bottle off and put the sock on (like you put it on your foot)
  2. use the tape or band to secure the sock
  3. mix the soap and water
  4. dip the sock end of the water bottle into the soapy solution and blow into the bottle from the mouth piece

As we were doing our snake activities we kept talking about what we had learned about snakes. I noticed that Busy kept comparing snakes to people so we took it a step farther with a Venn Diagram :)

An Invitation To Play with Infants

Keep in mind that an invitation to play is pretty open-ended. Your child should be free to play with the materials set out as he/she wants.

Invitation to Play: Winter

In my classroom this month we have been experimenting with various Invitations To Play. A couple of weeks ago, I set up an invitation to play: winter with my kids and decided to give it a try with the infants in my class! We put the contact paper on the door and set out a small basket with cotton balls, laminated snowman parts and foam snowflakes. The children were immediately drawn to the cotton balls, and where some of our kids usually put everything in their mouths, the clothespins I attached to the cotton balls seemed to help keep the mouthing to a minimum. We have provided a bunch of contact paper activities prior to this invitation, so they were all familiar with what it was, however, it is usually on the ground so hanging it vertically was something new. This is what happened…
The fuzzy carpet was set out to keep it
cozy (and our floor is quite cold)
cotton balls, laminated (with contact paper)
snowman parts and foam snowflakes.

Some kids tried removing the snowman parts, which provided
some fine motor practice. 

Our friends dabbed the cotton balls on the
contact paper making a neat sound.  
Invitation to Play: Colored Spaghetti

  This invitation requires a bit of preparation.

What to Do

  1. Cook the spaghetti, drain and rinse. 
  2. Put some of the cooked noodles in glass bowls and add food coloring. I used the gel kind.
  3. Mix it around and let it sit for a minute or two then rinse in a strainer. 
  4. I then put the noodles in a Zip Lock baggie in the fridge until I took them to school the next day. 
We put the colored spaghetti in the baby pool and let the kids crawl in (or in the case of the non crawlers, put them in). 

Invitation to Play: Balls

This one is exactly what it looks like. We put balls in a big basket and the kids crawled in the basket with the balls, threw the balls, and transported the balls. We have also done this one with the balls in the baby pool and I have seen others put them in a pack and play! The possibilities with this one are endless. You can purchase these balls here

Invitation to Play: Paint on Mirrors

What to Do

  1. Set out a mirror for the child to explore.
  2. Put a drop or line of paint on each mirror.

Each of our friends started out with just
a finger in the paint.

Then they began using their hands.

And some of our most art-loving friends really
got creative!! This one eventually pushed
the mirror away and started painting on the table :)
 Invitation to Play: Paper

We recently attended a professional development conference on how environment impacts learning and as teachers we were given an invitation to play with paper. Our table eventually ended up wrapping all of our paper up in a "package" and I took it downstairs to the Infant Toddler area for our friends to enjoy! You don't have to provide this much paper, but the idea was to have an abundance!
That's the beans under the water fall of paper

Invitation to Play: Painting a Mural

This started out as a blank piece of white paper with lines of paint. The kids entered the room and started moving the paint around by walking, crawling and finger painting! This one was really cool to watch!

Remember that an invitation to play is an open ended activity and that there is no right or wrong way to do it. As with every activity we do at home and at school, my kids are taught how to use the materials properly so that the play is meaningful and fun for everyone :)