Saturday, June 22, 2013

Anti-Crafting: Crafts That Don’t Use Paper, Scissors, Glue, or Tape: Graham Cracker Robots

If there’s one thing I learned having preschool-aged children is that just about every activity ends in a product. 

Don’t get me wrong—I love doing crafts of all sorts.  And Pinterest has really fun ones.  But I think I’m…over-
crafted at this point. 

Not only do I not know what to do with the finished product (I feel guilty getting rid of them when they turn out so cute), but my kids don’t really care about it either—they just enjoyed the process.  So why not focus on the process?

Lately, I’ve been trying to do more activities that don’t use traditional craft supplies, not even reused items such as toilet paper tubes, craft sticks, etc. 

Many of our projects have now been food related.  We make things out of yummy things, and then eat them.  This is good for three reasons: 1) the kids still are doing fun “crafts,” 2) they end up eating something they normally might not because they were distracted making the product, and 3) there’s no worrying about where to hang it or how to sneak it into the recycling bin—the kids munch it right up.

My four-year old's robot.
So, here is Project #1:

Graham Cracker Robots
  • graham crackers, broken into squares and the smaller rectangles
  • “glue”—we used cream cheese and sunflower butter, but you can also use peanut butter or frosting
  • small foods, such as small circular crackers, raisins, cut grapes, various kinds of cereals, chocolate chips, sunflower seeds

I got inspired to create robots after my kids and I read the book Randy Riley’s Really Big Hit by Chris Van Dusen.  My kids seemed interested in robots, so I thought they’d have fun making their own.  Instead of getting out paper, though, I showed them how we could use graham crackers to make a 2D robot.  I then gave them knives (they sell toddler knives, but my kids like my decorative appetizer knives which also are dull) and a muffin tray of fun things to attach as buttons and gadgets.  They used the cream cheese and sunflower butter as glue.

My kids had fun with this and ate all of their supplies—there was really little clean up with this.  It also was a good chance to talk about shapes with my little one, as well as give him practice in fine-motor skills. 

Stay tuned for other Anti-Craft Projects.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Scavenger Hunt Walks—Making the Most of Nature

Stop to smell the flowers.
My kids and I love going for walks around the neighborhood.  To me, it’s the perfect chance to teach them about their environment.

When we first started to look for items, we made a list of things we hoped to see and hear, such as a cat, a dog, things that are red, different kinds of wheels, and a panda bear (
my two-year-old’s suggestion). 

Since then, we’ve added natural things to look for:

If we find pinecones: Where is the pine tree? 

If we find helicopter seeds: Where is the maple tree?  (These seeds are fun to raise up over your head and drop, watching them propel back to the ground.)

Pointing out a maple tree.
If we see acorns: Where is the oak tree?  Are there any squirrels around?

If we hear birds: Do you know what kind they are?  I bring my smartphone with me—a great app with bird calls (at least for an iPhone) is BirdCaller.  Can you see the birds?  Be sure to check out my bird crafts, too: Bird Crafts

If we see ants: Is there an anthill nearby?  How many ants are there?

If we see yellow, blue, or purple flowers: Are there any bees in the flowers?  (Don’t get too close!)  Bees are attracted to these colors more than to others.

Do we see anything flying: What do we see?  Airplanes, birds, fluffy seeds?

If you walk after there’s been a storm: Are there any changes since the storm?  Puddles, large branches, bunches of leaves/seeds on the ground?  How about worms in the grass?

If we see an interesting-colored tree, bush, or flower: What would you call that color?  What other objects does that color resemble?

Look at the bark on different trees: How does it feel?

Can you find any leaves with munches in them?  Are there any creatures around that could have caused those munches?  (Remind them of The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle.)

Although wheels aren’t found in nature, we still like to look for them.  If we see anything with wheels: How many are there on the object?  How many different objects can we find with wheels (think wagons, bikes, garbage cans, cars, flatbeds, wheelbarrows—it’s surprising how many my kids can find.)

It’s also fun to collect things.  We sometimes bring a reclosable plastic bag with us on our walk to collect various nature objects, such a cool-looking leaves, acorns, sticks, and pinecones.  When we get back, we empty the bag, and the kids sort the items into piles, make a face with them, trade objects, etc.  What’s nice about doing this is that, once you’re done, you can just dump the items back outside and reuse the bag for next time.

Once you start pointing things out, it’s amazing all that your kids will notice.  Note: we're still waiting to see a polar bear..