Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Simple Project: Rainbow Bird Mobile

We are in full Spring mode here, even if the weather isn't quite as warm as I'd like.  One of the things I've been working on in spare moments is this rainbow bird mobile.  Easy, cheap and cheerful!

I ordered the polystyrene birds from Yellow Moon with the intention of just quickly painting them and hanging them in the front window.

However, as you can see, the paint didn't cover very well so I had to adjust my methods.

I dug out some tissue paper and glue and shredded two variations of each colour.  Then I just glued the paper over and let it dry.

Once it was fully dry I added small hook and eye screws to each of the birds (except the purple one which only has an eye on the top of the bird).

I used a small piece of string to hang the first one and then just connected the others using the hook and eye screws.  I've got some left over birds I plan to set out for the kids to do their own mobiles - great process art for them and a finished 'project' for showcasing around the house!  

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Montessori: Posting Eggs

One of the little girls I look after is mad for posting in any form.  I put this Easter themed activity together with her in mind, but added numbers to the eggs as a way to introduce written numbers 10-20 to E.  He is still working with the wooden sandpaper numbers I made a couple of weeks ago, but is beginning to verbally count beyond 10.  

I started off by cutting a slot in the top of an empty peanut butter jar.  Ta da!

I printed the numbers on Easter coloured cardstock, cut and glued it to some squares of cardboard I had already.  I used Montessori Script just to keep it consistent with the numbers the children are already using.

When the cards were dry I cut them into egg shapes by hand, ensuring that none of them were too big to fit through the slot in the jar lid.

I added some shredded paper 'grass' into the jar to make a nest and placed the eggs into a small wooden bowl.  Added to a small basket and presto!  Posting eggs!  

This has been far more popular than I anticipated.  The 4 year-old I mind keeps getting it off the shelf and enjoys telling me all the numbers.  As he has mastered his numbers already I didn't expect this activity to have much appeal for him.  M, the little girl this was created for spent nearly an hour yesterday working with this.  In addition to the posting, she loves twisting the lid on and off to get the eggs out.  Handing me the eggs was also good fun.  Best of all, the whole lot can be recycled once we're done with it and I don't have anything to store!  Hurrah!

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Sensory Bin / Discovery Box: Birds

I am a HUGE fan of the sensory bin / discovery box and always have one out for the kids.  I do change them every 4-6 weeks or so, depending on interest and season.  This week I've put one together around a bird theme as the birds have all come out and are chirping away in my back garden (unfortunately it won't be long before my cat starts leaving them as 'presents' for us, upcoming talks about the circle of life me thinks).

I've included lots of different sensory elements: the lentils for pouring and sound, smooth cool rocks, both wooden and feather birds, feathers and wool for building nests, different size eggs and egg cups.  I've also included a pond / bird bath area where I've re-purposed the glitter bag from my squishy bag table

The lentils were meant to be of the green variety, but my on-line order keeps getting delayed and the kids were badgering me about when they were getting their new sensory box.  So I've put aside my adult ideals of aesthetics and just used the yellow lentils I had already.  The kids don't mind and, let's be honest, it is all going to end up on the floor anyway!

With each box I try to change up the utensils and containers included to facilitate different types of play.  For the Bird Box I've included the utensils below.  The little 'melon baller' type scoop came from a little bug specimen kit I bought from Homebase.  They are really cheap and one has already needed gluing, but the kids  LOVE them.  If anyone knows where I can get better quality ones please share!

As an extra treat I've included a secret element to this box.  When I introduce this box I will initiate a conversation about birds: bird homes, birds fly, water birds, bird babies and nest building, and bird food.  Where do birds look for food?  What do they eat?  Where do we find bugs?  Oh!  Under rocks you say?  Well let's have a look!
Oh yes, gummy worms and chocolate covered raisin 'bugs' hiding in crushed cookie 'dirt' for them to dig for and pick up with their tweezer 'bird beaks'.  Taste!*

After the novelty of the sensory bin wears off a bit I'll add some other bits to extend the play.  I am working on some clothes pin birds to clip onto nests.  You may also have noticed that there are no trees in this box - we'll be hunting for suitable trees together in some woods behind my house next week.  I'll also be looking for some suitable branches to cut into tree blocks, but that's another post.

*I am not insane enough to leave this out - this bit of the box is for limited supervised use.  After meals.  I don't want sugar-crazed kids running around my house with tweezers.  Just sayin'.  


We've gotten hours of play out of this Bird Sensory Bin.  The 'mellon baller' grabber toy is a favourite by far.

Also of note - the 'dirt' box was not as popular as I expected.  I don't think the kids really understood what it represented.  E did enjoy getting his hands in it and eating it, of course.  However, on a walk over the weekend we found some real bugs under a log and he tried to pick one up and eat it.  I still think the 'dirt' box is a fun idea, but probably with older kids who aren't so literal!

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Toy Review: Grimm's Spiel und Holz Extra Large Wooden Stacking Rainbow

I love this rainbow stacker from Grimm's.  No, really.  It makes my heart sing and I intend to own it for the rest of my days.  Ostensibly I bought it for the children and I do let them play with it.  This is one of the very few toys we own that doesn't get rotated off the shelves.  Sometimes I do move it around just to rekindle interest though.

The Rainbow Stacker from Grimm's Spiel und Holz Design is a truly beautiful toy.  Handmade from sustainably forested woods (mostly Alder according to their website), their toys are finished with water-based dyes.  The colours are bright, the dyes are even and the wood is light enough for children to use safely, but robust enough to withstand actual play. DO NOT let your kids stand on the pieces though, they are not designed to be weight-bearing and will crack and break (so I've been told).  If this does happen you can order replacement parts off their website.  Grimm's is a well known producer of Waldorf (or Steiner) inspired toys and has an excellent reputation for making beautiful, functional, open ended toys.  There isn't much more you can ask for really.

The rainbow gets regular use in our house.  At the moment E mostly makes a tunnel or bridges for his cars and trains.  Other children who visit have used the arches as animal shelters, sorted them according to colour, stacked and just generally arranged the pieces.  When E was younger he loved rolling balls and cars back and forth through the tunnel with any willing adult.  Because the toy is so open ended I expect it to be used for years and years, particularly as the boys' construction play becomes more advanced.

The Grimm's Stacking Rainbow comes in 3 sizes - small, large and extra large and costs from roughly £15 to £50 (or $20 to $80).  We went all-in for the extra large which has 12 pieces and I have no regrets.  This is a toy I'll pass on to my grandchildren (after I die - I'm keeping it for myself until then).

Thursday, 1 March 2012

Simple Children's Sofa from an Ikea Bedside Table

So I've been on the search for a suitable child-sized sofa for a while now.  Everything I've come across is too big, too bland, too childish or too expensive.  I was recently browsing IKEA Hackers and inspiration struck.  Here's the result!

I started with the RAST bedside table from Ikea for the bargain price of £8.99.  I wanted to have some storage underneath so made sure to drill the new holes for the seat high enough to fit a couple of baskets underneath.

Once the seat was fitted I toyed with the back support until I was happy with the angle, made a couple of marks and then guesstimated where to drill the holes.  Not hugely precise, but I've got a pretty good eye for these sorts of things.

The finished sofa frame.  Complete with pen.
What I don't seem to have a good eye for is when my child is drawing on sofas with pens whilst I am building them. Clearly not one of my best parenting moments as despite being less than 6 inches from him I had no idea what he was doing.

I filled the pre-drilled holes with coloured wood filler (I chose a colour that was too dark, so shows quite clearly). When it was dry I sanded the excess off and applied a coat of Danish Oil in the Jacobean Dark Oak with a lint-free cloth.  In hindsight I should have used a small wood dowel to fill the holes and stained over them.  A bit of wood filler would still have been needed, but the finish would have been much nicer.

For the cushions I opted for easy.  I bought two Lusy Blom cushions (£4.99 each) also from Ikea and simply cut one end of each cushion and took the stuffing out.  When they were empty I measured and cut the excess fabric off, stitched the ends and put roughly half the stuffing back in.  I made small throw cushions from the fabric remnants.

The end result was less than £20 and fits two small bums comfortably.  I love it.  More importantly, so do the kids!