Painting is a frequently asked for activity in my house, but can turn into a 5 minute activity with a 20 minute clean up: the favourite part for my boys is squeezing paint out of the bottles and mixing it together; after that they can lose interest pretty quickly.
Recently we tried making prints with balloons and cotton buds.
The first thing they both instinctively did was try to paint on the balloon by dipping the cotton bud into the paint. I showed them that they could also dip the balloon straight in and splodge it onto paper. Zeph’s splodges quickly turned into one big swirled splodge and then he tried making patterns on the painty plate using his cotton buds. Elly made some splodge and then tried to pop his balloon. Meanwhile I made some pretty patterns.
My boys, especially my 4.5 year old, like taking stuff apart. Maybe ‘like to destroy stuff’ is a more accurate description. It doesn’t really matter what it is: if they can pull, rip, crush, knock down and generally decompose something into it’s various parts, they are happy. And more than that, they are igniting and satisfying their curiosity, they are exploring, learning and developing skills.
So when I have things that can be taken apart, I like to take advantage.
They are both allowed to use real screwdrivers, wrenches, hammers and the like, and have taken them to various items: a toy truck which got thoroughly smashed into pieces over the course of about an hour and a half; a toy keyboard that was given us and broke shortly after.
And most recently a broken fire engine toy and a very old laptop that prior to recycling got unscrewed, pulled apart with physical force, and generally disintegrated. Zeph kept going back to the laptop over the course of several days and spent hours on it in total.
Got any old stuff? Your kids might just love finding out what they can do with it and what bits of it they can take off!
Draw faces on some balloons and let the kids loose with any old make-up you have lying around. Face paint should work too.
Given that I don’t wear make-up on a day to day basis (ok, or ever unless it’s a wedding or something – it’s too much like work), my kids have no idea what to do with it. But they had lots of fun smearing it over the balloons all the same.
It got a bit messy, but it wasn’t too hard to wipe up from the table and wash off the boys.
I had a good mama moment last week, where instead of leaving Zeph to play while I tidied the kitchen, I asked him what he would like to do while I was busy. I mean, he would have played happily enough – his ability and desire to play independently has come on in leaps and bounds since he turned four in January – but still, I felt like it was just the sort of thing one ought to do from time to time when one is doing this mum business well.
First I asked if he’d like the play dough out while I washed up after lunch… but I got that response ^^.
Super messy painting it is. Did he want to paint in the kitchen at the table where I was, or did he want to go by himself to paint in the conservatory? Outside by himself.
So we got out the paints and papers (actually opened up cereal boxes that I’d been saving for him to paint on) and off he went. After a while he called to me: Mum, come and see what I’ve done for you!
And, after finishing the dish I was on and drying my hands, off I went to see (like a good mama again). He’d painted me a cake, with candles, and cherries, and some juice. He called me back three or four times, showing me the pictures he was painting for me. Sharing all the thought and love that had gone into each one. Thoughts and love I might have so easily missed if I had prioritised finishing in the kitchen over going to see what he wanted to show me. And afterwards I went to sit with him, watching, without taking my phone or any other distractions.
Because the quiet moments together are precious.
We did this as a follow on activity a couple of days after trying out a bubbling mud kitchen. It was just as messy, but less structured.
I simply took the mud we’d already used and added a bunch of construction toys and cars for a child-led, messy, sensory play.Elly went back to filling his pots and had a little drive of a car, but distracted by Zeph taking a toilet break, he pretty quickly decided that a bath was the more interesting option.
Zeph meanwhile spent a good long time filling his trucks, creating roads and tracks for the cars to drive on and simulating earthquakes and mudslides to trap them.
This is a gloriously messy, strictly outdoors activity that I saw a version of on The Keepsake Co….Except we don’t have an outdoors and I really wanted to try it. So I threw down a plastic sheet and did it on the verandah – we have a wash-down floor out there which helps with clean-up.
Mud (I used a big plant pot full)
Baking soda (I used around 175g… I have no idea exactly what different proportions would do without experimenting, but we produced some fair bubbling)
Vinegar in squeezy/spray bottles
Optional, ideas of things to decorate the baking with:
Paint powder or crushed chalk
This was premeditated, believe it or not, so I had Zeph and Elly crush chalk for it a couple of days beforehand: we put our chalk sticks in a ziploc bag and bashed it with a rolling pin and a mallet. That went down very well.
For the mud kitchen itself we got out various kitchen utensils, pots, pans and baking tins and started out with the mud mixed with baking soda.Once they’d prepared a few cakes and pancakes and waffles I got out the crushed chalk and some flowers for decorating with.Next they took the vinegar in squeezy bottles and made their creations bubble!Finally, once we filled, refilled and ran out of vinegar, they dumpedthe mud out and played with it a bit more.And then I dumped them both in the bath, locking the verandah door behind us and closing my eyes to the mess for a day (okay, 2) so that we could use it again for this mud construction and race track activity.
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.