Sunday, December 13, 2009

Weaving stories

Click on above image to enlarge and print directions for
making the loom. (If I figure out how to make the
images sharper, I'll switch this!)

Here's a fun weaving project for a group of kids of various ages that is much more about process than product. Make a simple loom with a top and bottom pole, board or branch, and string it with sturdy string or twine. Children take turns weaving strands of various materials through the warp strings. Collect strips of fabric, paper, lace ribbon reeds, stalks, newspaper, long feathers, or other things that might appeal to them.

•Ask children to think of something about themselves they might want to share with the group. Then they can choose a strand that represents their "story": blue for the ocean where they like to swim, brown for their pet hampster, flowers like Grandma's house where they go for vacation and so forth. Some kids might want to be more literal, and write words on a strip of paper.
• Begin a group story. In turn, children choose a strand as they add to the ongoing tale, weaving their words together. Example: A little purple dragon goes on a for the hill he climbs......lace for the princess he so on. Then see if they can retell the whole story using the strands as visual clues. This might inspire writing projects, too.
• The weaving shown here was done by children at a Unitarian Universalist church in Maine. They first made a list of things that were important to them, and then chose strands to weave.
Contributions ranged from the earth, friends, and books, to pizza!
Your ideas are most welcomed!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Shake, shake, shake!

When we have Shape Capers parties, one of the craft projects kids enjoy making are tube shakers. Cap off one end of toilet paper tubes with paper discs and tape, add a spoonful of dried beans or corn, cap off the other end, and decorate the tube. Then shake, shake, shake!
After I made the dough for the previous post, I had an empty salt box. I thought it would be fun to make shakers with different "fillings" that kids could guess by their sound. I cut a window in the box, covered it with a piece of plastic cut from a cup I found in our recycling box (any clear plastic container will work. Tape it on firmly.), and then cut a "peep hole" when I covered the tube with paper. I cut up the cover of last year's seed catalog to get the fancy flowers.
Add just a handful of ingredients so they can't be seen through the window unless it's tipped.
You could even make a flap over the window. Oatmeal boxes would work very nicely for this project, too.
Possible fillings:
Beans, rice, pasta, corn, jingle bells, gravel, seashells....see what else you can find!

Top Photo: Richard Kimball Photography

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Dough, a dear, or a turtle, or a.....

A friend's child told me about play dough they made at preschool using old coffee grounds, so I looked for recipes online. There are hundreds of sites with recipes and ideas. My little preschool pal pressed shells into a blob of this stuff, and when it dried it looked like a rock with fossils. Very cool.
Clay and dough are wonderful for kids to manipulate, roll, squeeze, pound and shape, even if they don't eventually make something with it. But some kids enjoy having a product, too--especially when it can be presented to someone they love.
So.......I decided to make up a batch of this fragrant dough and see what it would do.

Here's an easy project for kids that results in a pretty nifty gift idea. Form a hunk of dough into a rock shape and press a votive candle into the center. Wiggle it around a bit, and pat the "rock" into place. Now take out the votive and let the piece dry, or hurry it up a little in the oven (see recipe and instructions below).
When the piece is hard, put the votive back into the hollow. When piled with other stones, it looks like the real thing! And you can give yourself extra credit for recycling, too: the coffee grounds.

I also had to make a turtle, of course. My book SCOOT! has a repeating line: "Six silent turtle sit still as stones." So here's a little guy who looks like a stone!

COFFEE DOUGH (or try other variations--there's one with cornmeal I'd like to try)

1 cup used coffee grounds, cooled
1 cup flour
1/2 cup salt

Mix together, then add water a little at a time to desired consistency. If it's too wet, add more flour. Knead together to form the dough. Wrap in waxed paper and refrigerate awhile before using.

I was eager to see the result, so I put my little experiments in a 250 F oven for 30 minutes, then turned them over and baked for another 15 minutes. They were not quite hard, but I'll let them air dry now.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Deck the Halls

Remember paper chains? There's something about the repetitive motion of this simple project that is calming and satisfying. It's also a great fine motor activity for little fingers that can result in an impressively
l - o - n - g chain of success.

This is the time of year when we seem to get even more paper in the mailbox than usual---fliers, catalogs, mailers, etc.
Take the cover weight ones, along with other bright colored paper you can fish out of your paper recycling box, and cut them into strips. If you are lucky enough to have a paper cutter, great. I'm an xacto knife and straight-edge fan. In either case, do this while the little ones are sleeping so that their fingers will be far away. If you're a scissor person, they can help.

Make the first loop. Then the kids can follow a simple mantra: poke through, glue, press. Glue sticks, paste, or a dab of white glue will do the trick. Coated papers take an extra pressing.

And paper chains aren't just for the holidays. Recycle birthday wrapping paper into strips to festoon the next birthday party.