Thursday, February 20, 2014

The Little Bean Toddler Arts and Crafts Workshop - Winter Round-up

Back in the fall, I started running a little arts and crafts workshop for toddlers in our home day care. I knew the boy and I would start getting pretty antsy come winter, and although he has an awesome group of buddies, I wanted him to start interacting with some new people. Looking around at commitments and prices for the kiddie programs in the area left me feeling pretty bummed. $15 for an hour of open gym time? Or $35 for an art class once a week? I just couldn't justify it, especially since I knew we could plan something fun for ourselves with just a little time and money. 
I asked around, then made up a schedule and posted it to my Facebook page. Over the past few months our group has grown to include 18 mamas and their toddlers who pop in for classes. It's been so much fun, and my favorite part is watching all of them get to know each other. 

I try to use our favorite books as inspiration for our projects, so I thought I would share some of the things we have worked on so far this winter. We have had record breaking snowfall this year, so with all of the snow days, everyone is feeling a bit like caged animals. If you and your littles fall into that category as well, these are some fun activities for you to try out the next time you find yourselves deliriously house-bound.

The Snowy Day

One of my favorite winter themed picture books is The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats. It's a classic, and it perfectly captures the fun and exploration of a small boy out playing with snow. The colors are bold and bright, and the story is a great length for toddlers from one year on up. 

Peter watches his footprints in the snow, makes tracks with a stick, watches some older boys have a snow ball fight, and  tries to keep one in his pocket. I figured a perfect project would be to make some of our own white playdough and set out different tools for the kids to explore with their "snow." They had a great time making little snow men and rolling out the dough and drawing tracks or stamping objects into it.

Ingredients for Perfect, Long Lasting Playdough:
1 cup water
1 cup all purpose flour
1 Tbls. vegetable oil
1/2 cup salt
1 Tbls cream of tartar

In a pot over medium heat, stir water, oil, salt, and cream of tartat until warmed through. Remove from heat and stir in flour util combined. Turn out the mixture onto a board or countertop and knead until smooth. Store in an airtight container or ziploc bag for up to six months! If you find your dough dries out at all, try adding a teaspoon of water and kneading it again until it is soft.

Tools for creative play:
- a paper plate
- a ball of dough
- a small rolling pin (actually they are cylindrical wooden blocks!)
- a pine cone
- a craft stick
- small cookie cutters


Another incredible winter picture book is Ice by Arthur Geisert. It isn't a great read aloud book, because, guess what? It has no words. It's pictures tell the story of Geisert's familiar crew of pigs on a new adventure. They find an iceberg, and have to figure out how to carve it up and transport it. They make all kinds of crazy machines, and your little one could probably look through this book for an hour discovering all of the little details. We couldn't exactly carve ice with a bunch of 2 year olds, but I figured some ice painting would certainly be manageable!

Tools for creative play:
- An ice cube tray
- water
- food coloring
- craft sticks
- water color paper

Fill your ice cube tray with water and add drops of food coloring to each one. Obviously the more food coloring you add, the bolder your colors will be. Snip craft sticks in half and put one into each space in the tray. These will serve as handles. Let paint cubes freeze overnight.

I set out a sheet of watercolor paper for each kiddo on top of a big plastic table cloth and let them go at it. This is a fun activity for talking about hot versus cold, melting and freezing, and color blending. The kids made a huge mess, and created some very cool effects with their paints!

Snuggle Puppy

OK, so this one was a Valentine's Day themed story and project, but it doesn't have to be! Snuggle Puppy by Sandra Boynton is one of the first board books I ever read to Jude, and one I buy for every friend who has a new baby. There is also an adorable audio version of the story, sung by Eric Stoltz, that we like to listen to along with the book. Since it's February, we did love themed crafts to imitate the imagery and bold colors of this sweet little book. 

Bleeding art tissue paper is one of my favorite kiddie craft supplies. Unlike regular tissue paper, it is heavily pigmented and meant to get wet, so that the colors will bleed onto paper. We have done several projects with this paper and this time we paired it with pastels to create a resist.

Tools for creative play:
- Bleeding art tissue paper
- Heavy cardstock or watercolor paper
- Pastels or crayons

First we let the littles scribble a design on their watercolor paper (or the mamas drew something). It is important to use a heavy hand with the pastels or crayons here, because you want it to resist the water later! Then they spread pieces of bleeding tissue over the designs. It can help to use a bit of glue from a glue stick (nothing permanent!)  to keep the tissue bits in place, especially with a group of energetic kids! Once the image is covered, they used paintbrushes, cotton balls, and cotton swabs to bruch water over the surface of the tissue. Once dried, the tissue falls away leaving a watercolor effect behind, and the crayon image shows through.

Next up is one of our other favorite books, Perfect Square by Michael Hall, a collage art book that is so simple, but a fantastic invitation to create collage art in a small space. Class is tomorrow, so I will post some photos and share the steps for that project soon!

Do you have a favorite picture book that inspires you to create with your toddler? If so, please share it in the comments so I can look into it!

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