Eternal Spring Flowers

Looking for  a fun, easy yet effective spring craft… I stumbled upon se7en’s cardboard spring flowers.

They were so simply and we had such fun making them.

We simply had to outline on cardboard with a permanent market, paint in the spaces,

Cut them out and stick a kebab stick on the back.

And voila we had a beautiful bunch of happy flowers!

Embracing Story Writing

As a writer and literacy lover I can’t help believing it’s fundamental for my children to be able to express themselves excellently though the written word. For the last 6 years we have used Sonlight as our homeschool curriculum and have loved their way of encouraging children to write and express themselves.

I was however thinking the other day how often a child will say they went to the “beach or park” and then launch into a story about what occurred there but never actually stop to create the scene. I really wanted to have a visual way to encourage the children to think more about the setting and use expressive words to describe it.

So here was the simple plan – an art lesson…. Each child was given an A4 page and using bright crayons they has to draw their favourite place. The trick being that they could add scenery but no people or animals – as those were characters not scenery. Some got this right others not but it was a great first try. We then laminated these pages. Once this was done I pulled out some stickers I had bought. They could each choose about 4 stickers to be the characters in their story. They could then move the stickers around to help them create the story.

This part became so exciting that we forgot all about spending a good amount of time describing the setting but I was so pleased with the stories they created that on another day we’ll do the activity again and spend time describing the scenery BEFORE I give out the stickers.

These pages have been used again and again at home to play with. They have even been taken on car trips. Think this is one idea I’m going to ensure I remember to do again soon!

 

Lego Club

This last term our boys attended Lego Club! Awesome is all I can say!

One thing we have learned from Lego club is that Lego is not just for boys and they do not just build cars and houses!They have been exposed to numerous technology skills and entirely new ways of thinking. From building lego puppets, to pullies, to cars, box mazes and box walls, straw towers and jelly-bean catapults we have stood in awe of this most amazing curriculum.

Lego Club is not only about the design process but in the words of one of our boys “Learning to get on with each other and working together … that’s what Lego is all about.”

Their teacher’s enthusiasm and passion for her subject as well as the stunning activities are so contagious that one finds the adults even wanting to stay!

 

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Creativity Feeds Off Life Experience

One of the most frustrating experiences, as an educator is when you are trying to encourage creativity and imagination and the children are simply not engaging with you. The first few times one goes home and relooks at the lesson plan. Was it too boring? Was it above their heads? Did I expect too much of them?

However when one stops and reworks the lesson, going through it step by step, scrutinising why the creativity simply did not flow one realises that the failure did not lie in the lesson planning but rather within the child’s life experience.

More times than not a child will be asked to describe something interesting that happened to them recently and their response is, “I did go to the mall.” On further prompting and questioning they may add, “We did eat there.” One can keep digging and ask them to explain what they heard, tasted, saw and such and so try to make more of the experience. However most have been there so often for so many weekends doing the same thing over and over that they cannot in fact remember anything very specific as it all merges into the rest of their weekend memories.

A teacher is able to take items to a classroom and ask a child to feel them and write about it or the class may visit a farm and record the experience. However this is very limiting and a child cannot rely on someone always providing a structured, scheduled experience from which they will gain their creativity juices.

As parents it is our responsibility to ensure that our children are exposed to a vast array of situations, places, people and experiences. As they interact with a variety of age groups and visit many places the child is absorbing and processing vast amounts of information. They are experiencing physically and emotionally all sorts of new feelings with which they are now able to connect their creativity.

Our time with our children is so precious and short that we need to specifically choose to partake in activities that will not only form lasting memories but ones that will ignite a passion and fire within their souls. As passion that will overflow into their creativity.

It is obviously much easier to spend our spare time with our children at the mall or letting the children play computer games all weekend. The reality however is that parenting is not easy and often we need to make a conscious choice to choose to do something we may not naturally be inclined to do. However when we choose to stomp through a forest on a rainy day or go catch tadpoles, take a trip to the old age home, play a soccer game in the back yard we are not only keeping our children busy but we are reaching their hearts. This is fundamental, not only in the building of our relationship with them but to connect their emotions and hearts to a world beyond themselves and their needs. As our children reach out and engage with the world, other places and other people they form emotional connections that light the creative spark within. Suddenly they find they do have an opinion, they do have story to tell and they want to contribute to the world of creativity.

So let’s all take up the challenge and ensure that at least once a week our children are made aware of something around them that causes them to question, makes them wonder, thrills them to the core or simply engages their senses in a new and invigorating way. In so doing we are priming our children to create.

 

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Encouraging Creativity at Home

Chalk

I’ll never forget the day when my first born was about 2 years old and he grabbed some wet red chalk that we had been using on paper and headed for the chalk board. The words,”Don’t you dare write on the chalk board with that chalk!” flew out my mouth. As they did so I couldn’t help but notice the obserdity at what I was saying. The reasoning was that wet, red chalk is a mission to clean up BUT he was exploring and discovering and learning and here I was qualified remedial teacher and all standing in his way.

8 years later I daily make it my aim to make our home as “free” as possible. Don’t get me wrong we have very clear boundaries but when it comes to creativity, exploring and learning our rules are simple – “No one is to get hurt (this includes any verbal nastiness, nothing gets broken and you clean up your mess.” Wow these new boundaries freed me as Mom and my kids to be kids they were revolutionary!

However we do still try to create other circumstances which encourage creativity and here are a few easy ideas that you can simply slip into your daily life.

  • Make up stories together. As you drive along and see an old lady and her dog. Who are they? Where are they going? What secrets do they have?
  • As you walk along create new and weird animals and plants.
  • At bedtime create new lands filled with wonderful creatures and characters. We used to live in a place called Albert Falls that had a huge dam. Lord Dad created a whole world for our knights around the Giant Chicken of Albert Falls. They have so many adventures and character ranging from the chicken to a toe called Joe!  It’s all crazy, silly but the boys are learning to create stories and think beyond their daily reality.Create an imaginary play area while the children are asleep. So when they wake they find the dining room table has been transformed by a blanket slung over it, and it filled with pillows and books into a mysterious hide out.
  • Let children be creative with their food. For snack time you can give them pieces of fruit and toothpicks and see what creatures they can make with them. Or use a sieve to spread icing sugar on a table and let them use their fingers to “draw” in it.
  • Provide them with a variety of instruments – even if they are homemade – and let them explore with sound.
  • Let them mix different things such as mud, pasta and flour together. Take some time to make some gloop – this is such fun that my 14yr old even wants to stay home from school to play with it.
  • Don’t always tell or explain things, let them figure things out for themselves.
  • Give them different bath toys – some that sink and some that float, add food colouring to their bath water – but only a little as it can give them a rash. If you feeling very brave and don’t mind scrubbing it clean as it may stain let them draw in the bath with chalk.
  • Make gifts, wrapping paper and cards rather than relying on purchased ones.
  • Plan outings and events together.
  • Let them arrange flowers to set on the table.

The lists are endless so the best thing to remember is to try and step back – give them space to think and explore and discover for themselves and this is the essence of creativity being sparked in their minds. The only real limitation being us providing our children with the freedom and time to create.

 

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Creativity – the Heart of Humanity

Creativity is a natural extension of our enthusiasm” by Earl Nightingale

Whether we wish to acknowledge it or not, the heart of humanity is the ability and desire to create. People are born to reproduce and create what is within their hearts. If the heart is filled with joy or pain, fear or anticipation it’s through the ability to create that one is able to express what lies deep within in such a way that the world outside is able to share it with us too.

From the toddler who squishes some play dough into a rough bird’s nest to the next Van Gough every human carries within them the need to be creative. So often as parents we spend our time, money and effort directing our children to their academic studies and sports that we leave little room for them to develop their creative being. Subjects such as art, music, drama and dance are viewed as luxuries, frivolous add-ones. When in fact these are the core of ones being and if a child is able to develop the skill in a creative area they will often be able to focus more on their academic work as they have a way to  pour out what is bottled up within them.

Somewhere along the line we began to rank and rate creativity. It became boxed and structured stating that only certain forms and methods were the correct means of creativity. We do therefore all tend to shun and pull away from creative forms that we are not fully proficient in. “Oh, I can’t sing,” or “don’t ask me to draw,” are comments that we hear more frequently from adults than we do a 5 year old. Why have we become so hampered? We are much more capable than a pre-schooler and yet we are inhibited by an irrational fear of not being able to create well enough. But well enough for who? Unless we are performing to an audience who has paid a great deal to see a master performer, we are all pretty much on the same ground. We are simply creating for the joy of the creation not necessarily to compare the final product with that of an expert.

Without the freedom, the time and confidence to create we are building a nation upon the fallacy that creativity is of no value and that a strong nation is built upon
the mind and physical strength alone.  However it’s not the functional policies and documents or the number of battles won that build a nation, instead it’s the creative, passion within humanity. It’s the poets writing to encourage young men to a battle, the journalist at the scene creating the image of horror or exuberance within the mind of the reader, it’s the cartoonist capturing a pivotal moment, the solo violinist that holds a single note at the perfect moment, the activist’s voice of passion drawing the people together, the protestors placards, the child’s sandcastles upon the beach and granny’s chocolate cookies that build a nation

Throughout history moments in time have been remembered and captured with a pen, a shout, songs, the paintbrush, musical chords, a photograph or legendary tales handed down word of mouth to generation after generation.

There is no doubt about it, creativity pumps within our blood and beats within our hearts. The question does however remain what are we doing to foster this need of creativity within the life of not only our children but within our lives too?

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Love is a Verb

Parenting and education is not all about “doing the right thing” and “getting our discipline just right,” often it’s simply about enjoying each other’s company and creating forever memories. We can tell our children we love them. We can demonstrate that we love them. But nothing speaks as loud as simply living out love with them and this often occurs by simply having fun together.

With Valentine’s Day popping its head around the corner we are presented with so many creative and exciting ways to celebrate real love with our children. Over the generations Valentine’s Day has become an exclusively romantic celebration, when in fact it provides the ideal opportunity for us to celebrate real love and demonstrate that love to our children.

Spend some time thinking through your day on 14 February and what little moments you can snatch up to woo and love your children. Some suggestions may be to decorate the breakfast table with hearts and flowers the night before and then get up that little bit earlier and pop some scones in the oven for breakfast (or buy some yummy muffins.) Candles go really far to create a special ambiance that even our children will appreciate. Have little paper hearts upon the table with each person’s name on them. During the day every family member needs to write something they love about that person on their heart so that they can be distributed at dinner time. With younger children you may want to build up to the day so that Valentine’s Day provides us with no only opportunities to love our own family but to let our children demonstrate love for others.

Children often feel that the world is all about them. Yes, they are aware of others and that they need to care for them but it’s seldom that we provide opportunities for them to do this and grow in their love for others. Valentine’s Day provides the perfect opportunity to do just that. You may not be able to do anything on Valentine’s Day owing to work and school commitments but there is always the weekend. A few ideas would be to make cards to drop off at an old age home, take a cake to an orphanage, make cupcakes and cards and drop them off with librarians, police officers or firemen. A child could make special cards for their teachers and friends. they know what it is all about. You can make crowns for them to wear with hearts upon them and laminate place mats onto which they have stuck hearts or drawn a picture of the family having a fun time together.  If the morning is a rush there is still the evening in which to do something special together. You may want to have a special meal or as a family choose someone that you feel needs to “be loved” to share dinner with you. Simply spend some time doing something fun and different together. Have a picnic supper in the garden, play a family game together,  go for a walk, pop secret notes into each other’s lunch boxes or place beside each of your children’s beds a single rose with a handwritten love note. The ideas are endless. Yes, they do all take time but that’s part of loving one another – the fact that we take time to do it.

By simply taking a few moments out of our busy schedules to make a day special or different for our families we are speaking volumes. We often forget that concepts such as “love” are actually verbs and that our children can only truly learn about them by seeing them in action.

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Gloop Galore

This last week as part of our pre-school fun we made Gloop. A fantastic preschool (and big brother, teenage sister and mommy activity too)

Now gloop is an interesting substance and activity in that it can be used as a science activity or to explain concepts or it can be made just for fun!

To make gloop you mix cornflour / cornsatrch / mazina together then add some water to it. Now there is no exact amount to add but you want it to become like a dense milkshake. It basically seems runny on top but as you scoop it it thickens. We wanted to add colour to our and we found that the best way was to first add the colour to the water rather than to the cornflour itself.

We then gave each child their own bowl of gloop and some “tools” such as plastic knives, spoons, teaset cups and bowls.

I must say that I think this is the first time, ever, that our 3 little people have sat around a table together and not said a word for about 3 minutes! They tipped, scooped, dug, prodded, squeezed and explored.

Yes, it does make a mess but w efound that if we left it to dry completely most of it could be scraped up like chalk and stored for another day and what was left behind wiped off quite well.

 

Besides keeping everyone busy for a while, gloop is great for fine muscle development, colour mixing, science concepts, and great for building vocabulary.

So happy glooping!

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Homemade Gifts, Wrapping and Tags

It’s one thing wanting to give gifts but another being able to afford it. It’s our heart to teach our children to give, however with five of them this can often be hard as it all adds up so quickly! For this reason for Christmas and birthdays we make our own wrapping paper, cards / tags and when possible gifts.

Wrapping Paper

This Christmas was made very simple wrapping paper in that we simply hauled out some large pieces of brown paper we had, handed the kids some paint and brushes and set them to work – hint don’t use poster or powder paint as this tends to rub off and make a HUGE mess. I was very surprised how some children painted paterns, others random smudges and others detailed pictures.

Eventually Maiden #3 figured out that one could fill a spoon with paint and flick it across the page. This was a huge hit with every one and I was very grateful that we were wearing painting clothes and that we were in the art room so blue paint on the wall wasn’t too much of a problem 🙂

By the end of an hour we had enough paper for all our gifts and so many different wrappings to wrap with.

And then before we all run away it is SO important for everyone to learn that cleaning up is part of the “fun.”

Gift Tags

We made the most simple gift tags this year. I simply cut white card into small squares with fancey scissors. The children then stamped yellow stars in the middle.

Once the stars were dry we added some gold glitter to their centers.

You can then use them as they are or stick them to a coloured back ground.

 

For gifts we made gingerbread biscuits, calendars and stress balls. All were so appreciated and enjoyed by their recipients and so easy on the pocket too!

Stress Balls

This year for Christmas gifts I allowed each child to choose one idea that they could then make for everyone they wanted to give gifts to. Knight #4 chose the wonderful idea, that we found on the se7en website, to make stress balls.

These were so easy and fun to make and everyone loved them.

It started by us making some playdough.

We then cut the tops off some ballons, filled one with play dough and then pulled 2 more over this one to create a sealed ball.

Hint we found it better to cut off the whole neck as it pulled better like that. We also tried cutting holes in the top ball so the underlayer was more see visable. This didn’t work as well as planned as the playdough crept out some. I think next time we’ll leave the holes or add a forth layer with holes in it.

He then took great care to use our home made wrapping paper and tags to wrap everything himself. What a proud Mommy I am 🙂
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