Paused for thought

Paused for thought

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Fun creations

In and amongst the madness of "Project House" I lost my regular notebook and when I was in a rush (as always) for a meeting I scooped up an old one instead. Flicking through to find a fresh page I stumbled across a brainstorm of ideas I had mulled over when I was looking to make a little pocket money alongside my role as a stay at home parent. One of these centred on creating craft kits for children to be used on rainy days or during the school holidays. A gap in the market, I had thought, especially if I could cost them at a low price and help busy parents to find a little more time by preparing the kits for them. I put that idea to one side, as it turns out this busy parent didn't have time with 3 under 5 to have more than the thought to set something up. I did have some good ideas though that I have used with my own children, and these have helped to sharpen my mind when thinking of the impending 7 week summer holiday that is nearly upon us. I'd like to think that these ideas might be of some use to others so I have noted our family favourites below for your delectation.

Before I launch into a list of little ideas that you can grow and create with your own children, let me tell you our very simple 'rules' of play when it comes to undertaking these activities in our family:

1. Follow the leader! My children always lead these activities and I allow them to have freedom of expression. If they want to copy or create together, that's great, if they want to take the idea and throw it as far away from my original thought as possible, that's wonderful too!

2. Adapt to your child. Of my two older boys I have a 'thinker' and a 'doer' when it comes to learning styles and I try to adapt things a little to satisfy, engage and enthuse them both.

3. Prepare a range. From quick and simple to more complex, I try to prepare at least two craft activities ahead or at least get one fully prepared and the other very quickly to hand so that I can be flexible to changes of mind and different interests.

So, on to our favourite creative ideas:

1. Bug hotels. 
My boys adore making these, and I am confident that all of ours are fully booked. It's definitely a very enjoyable way to pass the time in our house. Find a shady spot for them in your garden with some privacy (under a bush or by a shady wall is ideal) and I'm certain yours will be full too.

2. Plants. 
We always love a planting session. Quick and easy and it's lovely to revisit the plants regularly to see them growing. Wild flowers (for the bees) and tomatoes (for us) are especially popular in our house, as are growing bean plants in a jam jar (place a dampened piece of kitchen towel around the inside of the jar and slide the bean in-between the two to watch it sprout).

These can be as simple or complex as you like. Stickers, paint, pens, you name it, the idea can probably be worked onto a bookmark. We have used pressed wild flowers on occasion and fixed them to cardboard with double sided sticky tape, or sometimes we get the wax crayons and paint out to make simple but fun patterns.

4. Clock. 
Quartz clock movements are readily (and cheaply) available on the Internet. Paper plates work well as the clock face and are easy to decorate, or we recently used two circles of card and covered them with wrapping paper. A perfect example of following the lead from my eldest son. They're fun and educational too, win win!

5. Marbled painting. 
This can take a little more preparation but is fun and interesting. My favourite 'recipe': ziplock bag; packaging tape to seal; glitter; frame (made from cardboard); water soluble paint mixed with baby oil 1:1. Squidge and squash. Voila! A lovely piece of artwork to add to your collection and display with pride.

6. Scrapbooks. 
The ideas of things to make with scrapbooks seem virtually endless. Use them to create a story, with visual aids or words depending on the child. Or stick special momentoes from days out in them. Perhaps you could start a journal with older children. You could have a page a day, a page a week, or a page a month. Maybe favourite pictures could call a scrapbook their home, or it could be fashioned into a user guide of the galaxy (another idea from my eldest). Or a photo album! The list goes on and again we have fun with them here.

7. Clay modelling
Air dry modelling clay is easily accessible and so much fun. We have made pots, appliances (a particular favourite of our eldest), dinosaurs, cars and much more. The possibilities are endless and most clay takes around 24 to 48 hours to dry out which gives you a chance to revisit it a day or two later and paint it or add some glitter, stickers or whatever catches the eye of your little one.

8. Scarecrows
A personal favourite of mine! Get hold of some old dolls clothes or newborn baby outfits, stuff with hay, poke a bamboo pole through the top and out of the bottom and you have your very own garden scarecrow, great for adding fun and colour to borders or pots all year round. Top off with a head made from a muslin tied around the top of the bamboo pole and filled with hay, some sticker or pen eyes and your little one has a garden friend.

9. The recycle challenge
I get a great deal of enjoyment seeing what this activity brings. Get together a pile of clean dry recycling, for example boxes, plastic bottles, foil, pots, paper. Ask your little ones to make something. We've had sandwich shops, vehicles, castles, puppet theatres, dens and more. Once you're done, if you don't want to keep the creations, your children will love to help sort the recycling back into appropriate piles ready to go in your kerbside collection or on a tip run.

10. Baking
No creations list would be complete without something edible on it! Our favourite recipe is for rock cakes. Simple and easy to make, plus you can add to it with alternative dried fruit or, for an extra special treat, some pieces of dark chocolate. In fact rock cakes were such a standard rainy afternoon activity after our second son was born that when the arrival of our third son was imminent our eldest son said he couldn't arrive yet, we hadn't made any rock cakes!

Whatever creative activity you decide upon the next time rain descends or you have a day at home with spare time to fill, I hope that you have fun and that our top ten may provide some inspiration. I'm sure they will all feature during our summer break at some stage!

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