Wet chalk drawings

This is great as an outdoor activity if you have paved paths or a patio in the garden, but can also be done indoors on tiled floors, walls or even on paper. All you need to do is throw some chalk sticks into water – the chunkier the better, and we use washed out yogurt pots.

The wet chalk draws much more silkily than if it is dry making it a completely different art process, and it is easily washed away after. Outside the clean up should be minimal to non-existent, and even inside (assuming there aren’t any major water spills in inconvenient places) it’s straightforward to wipe up. Another great thing about this activity when it’s done on the ground or walls is that it provides such a huge art space, encouraging crossing the midline and spatial awareness.

My two started out using a fairly conventional drawing style which progressed first to block colouring tiles and then to experimenting with their hands and feet.

Perler beads with boys

Perler, or ironing beads are good for fine motor skills, hand-eye coordination, focus and concentration. Let the kids make up their own patterns or use preset ones as a guide.

A couple of weeks ago Elly had fun dismantling some perler/ironing bead creations at a friend’s house… oops.

We’ve since seen them at the supermarket and in a couple of other places and Zeph was asking to try them. I wasn’t quite sure – he’s only four, would he manage or just get frustrated? Was it just something he wanted because he’d seen but wouldn’t care about anyway? We’d have to keep them out of Elly’s way both before, during and after or it would be disasterous…

Zeph remembered, so I ordered some for him online: he chose the flower pattern and was very excited about opening his box during nap time the day it arrived. I gave him some scissors and left him to it: that bought me a good 20 or 30 minutes to make lunch while he negotiated the sticky tape on the packaging, cut open the packet and made an initial exploration of the contents. The only intervention I ventured was to pass him a messy tray to spill the beads onto. (Though I did bite my tongue a bit to keep from mentioning the possibility of them spilling EVERYWHERE).

And after lunch we settled down together with it. I helped pick out beads and did one or two with him as he got started, but he intuitively grasped the idea by himself anyway. I did keep hold of the pattern for him under the pegs so it didn’t move around and by the end I’d probably contributed around two petals worth of beads, but he did most of it himself, preferring to use his fingers rather then the tweezers.

Finally we ran the iron over it together… I left it a bit long as it was a first for me: the beads ended up a bit more melted together than I think they ought to be, but he was pretty pleased with it and himself I think.

Spreading colour cloth dyeing

Got any old baby muslins lying around? Old towels, sheets or t-shirts? Here’s an idea for one more use you can put them to while entertaining the kids at the same time. What’s more, this can be a great opportunity to learn and to practice motor skills.

Simply mix up some food colours to use as dye and apply them to damp fabrics. Damp paper works too.


This is pretty straightforward and pretty self-contained so the mess is minimal. You could of course use fabric dye on your fabrics. But food colouring is probably easier to come by in most mum’s cupboards, and it’s more child friendly.

We used washed out glitter glue tubes with a drop of food colouring and topped up with water. Make sure to give it a good shake to mix it thoroughly. You could also mix your colours in pots and use pipettes to apply them. My son has enjoyed this method from age 3, but of course it will be different with different kids. Another idea would be using a small mist-spray bottle. Whatever you use, it’s a good chance to practice fine-motor skills and hand-eye coordination.

Put your cloth or paper on a messy tray or in a shallow box and add some water. It should be damp, but not too wet. Then squeeze on your colours and watch them spread. Zeph loved this! He thought it was amazing the way it happened. He tried big squeezes and little dots. He tried it where there was a lot of liquid and where it was quite dry. He put colours onto colours. We actually made up tubes of the primary and secondary colours from our red, blue and yellow food colouring and talked about how to make orange, green and purple as we did it, but you could easily make the whole thing a colour mixing activity by only using primary colours and mixing them on the fabric.

Once you’re done, hang or spread your fabrics to dry away from anything you don’t want food colouring on. We did this very much as process art – enjoying the doing, experimenting and not worrying about the results or the appearance of what we made – but the paper versions could easily make cards, or backgrounds for future projects.


Quiz a four year old

I’ve seen this on Facebook, and thought it might be fun.

No coaching them, just ask and write the response down:

  • What is your name? Zephy.
  • How old are you? 5 (his correct Korean age, though his western age is 4)
  • When is your birthday? This many (holds up 10 fingers). Its going to be a looong time. A very long time. 10 more days.
  • How old is mummy? This many. Holds up 6 fingers. Let me look how big you are mummy. How tall are you?
  • What is your favourite colour? Red. And orange.
  • What is your favourite food? Spagehtti. No. Noodles.
  • Who is your best friend? Ujin.
  • What is your favourite song? Um. Tars. Guitars. Maybe violinins.
  • What is your favourite animal? *Gasps* I know. Tigers. Lions. Lions are my favourite.
  • What makes you happy? Cheese. Smiles. Kisses and smiles.
  • Where is your favourite place to go? Suncheon Garden.
  • What do you want to be when you grow up? Um. Probably a diver. Who can dive into water.
  • What is mummy’s favourite thing to do? I dont know. Play? Cook? I think it’s cooking.
  • What is your favourite toy? Umm… trains.
  • What is mummy’s job? Take care. Of people.
  • Where do you like to go on holiday? What’s holiday. When you go to work?

I’d love to hear any cute answers you get if you do this.

Alphabet matching

I don’t do too many thing like this (see why here), but when my son is showing an interest in letters, we use activities like this.

I made a really simple (and imperfect) set of lowercase alphabet cards – I have yet to make the uppercase set – he gets to set them out on the floor in front of the fridge, and match the cards to his magnetic set of letters. A second set of cards or any other letter toys would work just as well. As we progress we will make a game of matching the lowercase to the uppercase letter.

When we first started this (and if he wants to do this but is getting frustrated or fidgety with it) I would give him just 5 or 6 cards and magnets at a time, so that he’s not overwhelmed with it all. We also sometimes do it by colour: he gets a set of cards and I tell him they are all the blue magnet letters, so he has some guide for where to look.

We say the phonetic sound of the letter that we are finding and matching, and sometimes we think up words that start with that sound. Today Z. wanted to find all the starting sounds for his vehicle magnets, so he laid out the boat on ‘b’, the train on ‘t’ etc.

Another thing that I’ve found useful, is drawing a pencil line at the bottom of the letter. This helps my son to look at it the right way up. It also shows him where the letter is formed on writing lines: it shows that letters like ‘f’ extend below the line, and the arrow points down to the bottom of the letter. I should note, this isn’t something I’ve found on an educational site or anything, it’s an approach that I like because if he’s curious we can talk it through, if he’s not, fine. As we move on to letter writing, which we don’t do yet (except ‘x’s – he loves to draw x marks the spot on treasure maps!), it grounds him in some awareness of it, at least that’s the idea.