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Nature Play & Nature Study with Young Children August 8, 2009

naturesplaygroundSince I posted Getting Outside in Hot Weather, I’ve been enjoying this focus on outdoor play and casual nature study with my little ones.  We LOVED “Nature’s Playground: Activities, Crafts, and Games to Encourage Children to Get Outdoors”, which I found at our library!  The book has so many gorgeous and inspiring pictures of children having fun outside:  climbing tress, hiking, playing in the mud, catching bugs, building natural forts, lying in tall grass.  The pictures alone launched my 4 1/2-year-old on a verbal monologue about the grand hiking trip she will do someday.  Since then, she and daddy have visited a local forest for her first hike. 

Besides pictures, the book has a ton of ideas for neat ways to play outside with nature.  We took a jaunt down to our almost-dry pond bed to wade through the mud (I really just watched that part).  We’ve caught more bugs, frogs, and spiders than ever before.  Most of the activity ideas are really ideal for the 6+ crowd.  I plan on holding off on purchasing the book for a few years, for that reason. 

Besides enjoying “Nature’s Playground”, I’ve found a few more ways to enjoy the outdoors with my kids.  I purchased a spiral bound, blank notebook for our “nature journal.”  Last week we visited the botanical gardens armed with a few ink pads and our journal.  Aria and Liam both enjoyed stamping various leafs and blossoms to our pages.  I wrote the common species name under each print.  Now that’s one way I can actually learnmushrooms plants – just 6 or so at a time.  We left with inky hands, as I’m sure you guessed.  I plan to add pressed flowers to our book soon, and to let it continue to evolve, adding whatever nature-oriented observations or mediums seem right.

Since my children are young, the idea is not to cram their heads full of information, but to nurture a sense of wonder and curiosity about nature.  To that effect, we aren’t running around reading lots of children’s non-fiction for our homeschooling “science”.  Instead, we have a Waldorf-inspired nature story as my daughter’s focus story every few weeks, we play creatively outside and – hopefully – I share my genuine interest and knowledge about nature in ways that are spontaneous and real. 

Trouble is, I’m not all that knowledgeable about nature.  In fact, I’m probably more interested in nature study now than I have ever been before. To equip myself, I’ve purchased a series of pocket field guides for familiar trees, wildflowers, insects, butterflies, etc.  I discovered a great series published by Audubon that’s geared towards children.  frogsThat’s just what I need!  (I checked out many complete field guides from the library on wildflowers and felt like I was reading a foreign language).  On Amazon, many of these guides are available used for pennies, plus shipping.  Here’s the National Audubon Society Pocket Guide to Familiar Reptiles and Amphibians, as an example.  Every spread has a full, page-sized picture and a simple description with all the key details that you’d actually want to know.  My whole family (even dad) has enjoyed paging through these!  Just this weekend, we discovered a Red Velvet Ant, Tiger Swallowtail Butterfly, Northern Tooth Musrhoom and Wolf Spider.  Good times!


Creating an Art Studio for a Young Child – Part 5 July 14, 2009

Filed under: Children (3-6 years) — Rachel @ 3:28 pm
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Part 5: Organization

art basket on the tableLast night, while my husband assembled our new Ikea art table and storage bookcase, I scrambled to make sense of our growing stash of supplies.  For the last week, the kids have been painting and gluing whenever they find a spare moment .  I can’t wait to share their excitement over the new set up, with all the glorious room and accessible shelves.  Here’s how I organized our supplies!

At the Table

I placed a large basket at the table for supplies they are likely to use everyday (like scissors and crayons) and supplies I’d like to encourage them to use (like modeling beeswax and paper scraps), which might get lots among the wonders on the art shelf.  I expect to rotate some of the speciality supplies in this table basket.  It’s a fun way to keep things fresh.  Otherwise, I kept the table wide-open.  I wondered if I will actually make an effort to continually wipe it clean of crayons marks, or if I’ll be happier to let it take on a scribbly, no-bother allure.

The Lower Shelves

The lowest, most accessible shelves host our collection of collage materials, paint brushes, wacky scissors, glue and etc.  I stored these supplies in open tins, open baskets or Ikea’s Burken jars.  These jars have a push on/off lid, so they’re easy enough for my 2-year-old son to handle.  Baby food jars come in handy too, for storing very small supplies like googly eyes.  I also repurposed some containers – so get creative!  Use neutral-colored containers so the shelf looks organized, rather than overwhelming.  Simple colors and glass jars also help the child to see the supplies… not your containers!  Be sure that your child can actually see everything, without removing lids.

kid's art supplies organizationBy the way, that basket of paper shreds in the lower right hand corner is not my idea.  My daughter periodically cuts up paper and insists we keep it around.  Sometimes the paper scraps become rain or snow (just imagine that mess!).  I have hopes that Liam (my younger child) will decide to cut and paste that pile to his liking!  Otherwise, it just seems to grow…

In the Middle

Just within my Liam’s reach are the middle shelves.  I bought an extra shelf so that I could create a paper storage area.  It’s the perfect home for construction paper, copy paper and our huge stack of quality coloring paper higher up.  I add my drawings to the construction paper pile so that they can be reused as project materials.  The basket at right is our coloring basket with Stockmar stick crayons, our crayon sharpener and crayon shavings (which we save for craftings).  I’m hoping my 2-year-old will choose to leave that basket be, so as to protect Aria’s 16 piece stick crayons from getting broken.  Liam’s block crayons are in the basket on the table.  There was also a spot for a frame of one of our favorite fairy postcards.  I’ll have to see that it doesn’t get mistaken for an art supply!

Higher Upstoring art paper for kids

Here I’m storing several baskets of paint and a basket with supplies that Aria will use, just out of Liam’s reach.  Then I have some mommy-only access shelves with our Stockmar watercolor painting basket, some ceramic watercolor painting dishes, tissue paper, etc.  At the very top, I bought three large Ikea Branas baskets to store extra supplies out of sight.  The rest of these baskets were happily given to me by my mother when she discovered my lofty art studio plans.  I made use of everything she gave me, because you cannot have enough baskets!

I’d like to Add…

Now that the project is finished, I have discovered a few more things that would improve our set up.  We really could use another bookcase to shelf our supplies.  I know that our stash is going to grow in the next year, and the shelf is already stocked!  I’m going to ask my husband to build a shallow shelf that hooks to the underside of our table on one side.  This will allow us to store large items like our coloring pads, wooden watercolor boards, over-sized painting paper, etc.

Our double-sided easel is wonderful!  It’s so sturdy and well made.  In fact, I think we may have to start offering those at soon!  Having a paper roll on only one side doesn’t make much sense, though, when I’ll have two children painting at one time.  I’d like to add another paper roll set up, and buy some extra paper rolls.  The quality of paper in that roll is very, very nice!

And, at Aria’s request, I plan to add an art line on the wall at her level.  She’s like to hang her art herself, and it would be handy as a self-serve place for paintings to dry.  We can always use more space to display art!

And that’s a wrap! It’s been a blast creating this space for my family.  young child's art studio tableI hope you can garner some helpful tips for making your own artistic space for your child.  If you’re looking for ideas of playful, open-ended art projects you can do with your child, definitely see one of my favorite new blogs The Artful Parent.  Her blog is quite inspiring!  Here is a list of fun activities she’s still working on bringing to life.


Creating an Art Studio for a Young Child – Part 4 July 10, 2009

Filed under: Children (3-6 years) — Rachel @ 8:50 am
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Part 3: Stocking up on the Best Supplies… Continued!

Now that you’ve got your basics, here are some ideas your child can grow into.  When it comes to all these options, the best art supplies are the ones that fit your child’s personality, fine motor skills and your ability to cope with the mess!

More Great Art Supplies for Preschoolers & Up

  1. Watercolor Paints:  Now you’re in for a treat!  Wet watercoloring is a method of painting that’s classic to the Waldorf tradition.  It involves painting on a wet piece of heavyweight paper, laid flat on a painting board.  The colors come alive, dancing on the page and effortlessly creating beautiful new hues.  Simply purchase red, blue and yellow to bring the entire rainbow to your child in living color.  We use Stockmar’s watercolors, which are made in Germany and used by Waldorf schools around the world.  Palumba has a set of the primaries for $21 that should last for about a year, if you paint weekly.  For a better value, buy the larger bottles!  Wide, flat brushes are ideal – but try what you already have.  Use that large painting paper I recommended in the basic supplies. 
  2. Painting Boards:  For wet watercolor, you need a board on which to spread out your paper without any bumps.  Usually, you’ll take this board to your water source and then transport it to the table.  When painting is over, the paintings must dry on the board without being disturbed.  I love a natural wooden board – it’s a beautiful background for your child’s work.  Palumba makes an ideal hardwood board for $15 (medium, 15×21″).  We also use our board as a portable mini work surface for play dough, gluing, etc.
  3. Paint jars:  Ok, this one is a luxury.  You can store and use your mixed watercolors in baby food jars.  Or… you can purchase a paint jar holder that prevents tipping for $17.  A 3-jar holder is all you’ll really want.  The wooden base means that an errant elbow doesn’t send all that precious paint across the room.  We found ours at Palumba.
  4. Colored PencilsYou don’t know what you’re missing until you use a nicecolored pencil.  Washable, erasable pencils generally apply poorly.  When your little one is no longer writing on the walls, buy a set of 12 Lyra Ferby colored pencils.  They have a chunky, triangular shape that’s pretty unbreakable.  And, as you know, that triangular shape encourages a proper pencil grip, which will be essential for writing well later on.  Palumba has the best price at $15 a set.  While you’re at it, get the Lyra beeswax crayon sharpener.  It works for these pencils and your Stockmar beeswax crayons too.
  5. Glitter Glue:  The only thing more exciting than access to glue is access to glitter glue!  Here’s a way to fulfill their craving for sparkle without the absolute mess that using real glitter involves.  (And more power to you if you give them glitter too).  glitter glueAvailable at mass-markers or Discount School Supply at $9 for this six pack.
  6. Collage Ingredients:  Feathers, shells, pom poms, ribbon, pipe cleaners, goggly eyes, and the list could go on and on.  There’s no end to the possibilities when you give your child a diverse assortment of materials.  Most of these can be snapped up for a few dollars at Discount School Supply.  Try to limit yourself!
  7. Recyclables:   Alright, these are free!  Start saving toilet role inserts, paper towel roles, egg cartons, interesting boxes, smooth-edged cans, etc in a nice basket on your art shelf.  These items make perfect bases for those collage projects.  Can you see a robot in your future?

More Great Art Supplies for Older 4’s & Up

  1. Fun-edge scissors:  Now that he finishes a project with a bit more intent, surprise him with some new cuts.  You can find these at your favorite mass-retailer, or online at Discount School Supply where a pack of 12 different edges is just $12.
  2. Modeling BeeswaxWhen your child starts feeling “too old” for play dough, it’s a great time to introduce this modeling medium.  It’s sold in hard sheets that look like oversize pieces of gum.  You warm it in your hands (or in a bowl of warm water) and the beeswax becomes very pliable.  It’s good work on those fine motor skills for your child to work with resistant beeswax.  When she’s done, the beeswax will cool in the shape she has made and can sit out indefinitely.  To use again – just warm and repeat.  It NEVER dries out!  12 sticks for $20 at the Wooden Wagon.
  3. Pastels or Oil Crayons:  A nice addition to your child’s resources is a simple set of soft pastels.  These do tend to break, so don’t invest in an expensive set yet. 
  4. Funky Paint Brushes:  She’s ready to experiment with texture and shape.  Combine tempera paint with a set of funky brushes for a whole new look at painting. wackyWe have this $8 set of “Wacky” tools from Discount School Supply, and it’s quite fun!

Lots of fun stuff!  Next time I’ll share tips on organizing all this fun in a way that’s engaging, easy-to-access, and nice-looking too!


Creating an Art Studio for a Young Child – Part 3 July 9, 2009

Filed under: Children (3-6 years) — Rachel @ 6:27 pm
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Part 3: Stocking up on the Best Supplies

So this is where it starts getting really fun!  Last night, after the kids went to bed, I unpacked a new box of craft supplies  from Discount School Supply.  Colorful feathers, sparkly pom poms, sea shells, funky paintbrushes, oh my!  I was forced to hide the loot so that we’d be able to get out the door this morning!  Our home studio is going from stocked to super-stocked.  (Note: We are homeschooling, so I have a totally credible excuse for going a little overboard, right?). 

Whatever you buy, make sure it’s high-quality.   Better a small assortment of smooth, vibrant crayons than a huge box of Crayolas.  Your child will appreciate the difference, and you’ll enjoy the results!  Cheap nylon paint brushes waste paint (they hold paint) and don’t apply as nice.  Lightweight paper results in disappointing paintings and drawing with cheap colored pencils is plain frustrating!  When in doubt, avoid everything Crayola.  Don’t plan on finding your supplies at your favorite mass-marketer.  It takes more legwork, but if you buy quality supplies they last longer, work better and add up to more fun!  As any artist will attest, it takes the right tools.

Now, this is not to say that everything has to be expensive.  www.DiscountSchoolSupply is an excellent source for savings and they have free shipping too!  There are items on which to splurge and items on which to save.  If you’re a do-it-yourself kinda person, checkout www.ChubbyPencilStudio (dedicated to eco-friendly supplies),  www.AToyGarden (great prices & service, poor organization), www.Palumba (great prices and best painting supplies), www.ImagineChildhood(sturdy furniture and unique items) and www.theWoodenWagon (excellent assortment!).  Or, save yourself some time and browse through these lists!

Basic Art Supplies for Toddlers & Up

  1. Crayons:  Beeswax Crayons from Stockmar.  You’ve got to start with these!  They apply beautifully and smell like honey!  A small pack of 8 sticks or 8 blocks will do at this age.  Learn why block crayons are best for babies and toddlers here. Your 4+ child will enjoy more colors if you can afford it.  If not, she can make every color of the rainbow with those 8 blocks, since they can be blended (ex. blue with a little green over it makes teal).   At the Wooden Wagon:  8 Stick Crayons $12.50, 8 Block Crayons $12.50, 16 Stick Crayons $24. 
  2. Blank Paper:  You don’t need coloring books.  They don’t even help!  Coloring on blank paper invites true creativity and doesn’t hem your child in with lines.  Use regular printer copy paper for everyday, if you’re going to give your child free access.  If you’re going to parcel it out a bit or want some paper that won’t show-through when you color on both sides of the sheet, buy heavier paper.  100 sheets of heavy, 160# paper is just $24 at AToyGarden.  paintAnd at 9.75″ by 12.75″, it’s just the right size for coloring.  This is what we use at home for our weekly “coloring time.” 
  3. Tempera Paint:  Tempera paint has a texture kids enjoy, and is not as messy or as pricey as watercolor.  You can fingerpaint with tempera, if you like, so don’t bother buying special “finger paint.”  Crayola paint looks awful when it dries – cracked and flat.  Plus, it smells strongly of fumes.  I just bought Colorations Simply Washable Tempera Paint, which comes highly recommended.  It’s not as fumy as Crayola, and the prices are great at Discount School Supply – a pack of 11 liter bottles is just $18.60! 
  4. Paint Brushes:  At this age, you’ll need one paint brush per paint color being used.  Make it a natural bristle brush.  The cheapest brushes fall apart and may not apply as nicely.  But, don’t get a really nice brush (like those $11-15 brushes) for a 2 or 3 year old.  brushWhen your child pulverizes the brush with his painting gusto, you may feel a bit sick to your stomach.  It doesn’t matter if you choose a round or flat brush – your toddler won’t notice.  You can buy brushes at your local craft store, where you can touch to ensure you’re buying a quality brush.  I like to shop online, so I bought a set of 24 Wooden Chubby Brushes for $19 at Discount School Supply.  It’s more brushes than I needed, but the quality is excellent for the price, and they fit perfectly in our paint pots.  Another good choice is the variety set shown here, which retails for just $11.  These brushes will be suitable for watercolor too. 
  5. Paint Pots:  I resisted getting these.  Probably because I hate plastic.  But, they’re genius!  paint cupsEach plastic pot has a non-spill lid that stays on while you’re child paints, plus a second lid that seals for storage.  No more washing out paint pots, waisting paint and time.  If you prep the pots, your child could self-serve paint too, if you’re that brave.  This set is only $6.50 at Discount School Supply.  The color-coding makes it easy for little ones to dip their brush in the right pot, without mixing colors.  Also available in white.
  6. Large Painting Paper:  Kids love big paper.  You can use a roll of paper which attaches to your easel or sits on the tabletop ($18 from Imagine Childhood).  Try to find a roll of thick paper, or the paintings aren’t going to be very nice for keeping.  Also buy some large, heavyweight paper (usually considered watercolor paper).  Larger is always better, because you can cut it in half when it suits you.  A pack of 25 premium, 24 x 17.5 sheets is available at Palumba for $8.  I use our paintings on heavy paper to make cards and backgrounds for new projects.
  7. Smock & Splat Mat:  These are good investments for your sanity.  Do NOT buy vinyl, which released toxic fumes into the air.  Choose from safe, wipeable options from www.MimitheSardine or even use something made of cloth.  A tablecloth you don’t want makes a find mat – just throw it into the wash from timeto time.  We have cloth apron-smocks, because they’re cute hanging in our art room.
  8. Easel:  An easel seems like a luxury for a young child, but I’m sold on the concept.  When my two-year-old paints on a table, he gets paint all over his arms and stomach.  If he uses our tabletop easel, the paint is just on his hands.  In addition, an artist will tell you that painting on a vertical surface provides a better perspective of work-in-progress.  Choose a double-sided easel, preferably with paper attachment and adjustable height.  Ours is a sturdy, plastic-free design from Imagine Childhood for $102.  
  9. Play dough:  Kids get a lot out of working with play dough.  It’s three-dimensional and very tactile.  If crumbly, dry-out Crayola play dough just doesn’t do it for you, try Eco-Dough!  The texture is very smooth!  Colors are great.  It’s dyed with natural dyes (which are healthier if ingested).  And…. if it drys out just add olive oil to bring it back!  18 oz (including 5 colors) is $20 at www.ecokidsusa.  At Mama K’s etsy shop, you can buy 20 oz (including 5 colors) for $20 – but her all-natural dough is also scented with essential oils: lavender, bergamot, sweet orange, lemongrass, and geranium.  There are also countless online recipes for making your own dough!
  10. Glue:  Here’s something you can pick up from Target.  Good old Elmer’s glue always does the trick.  You can also experiment with stick glues, but most dry out before you have a chance to use half. 
  11. Scissors:  Last, but not least, add some child-safe scissors to the mix.  Just look for something with the razor enclosed in plastic, so there is not sharp point.  Your child will joyfully cut and paste for hours on end.  Here’s a good way to put junk mail to use!

Whew!  My list for your 3-4 year old will have to post tomorrow!  But, your time is well-spent getting set with these supplies.  They’re the backbone of your Artist Nook or Dedicated Studio and will be used for years to come!


Creating an Art Studio for a Young Child – Part 2 July 8, 2009

Filed under: Children (3-6 years) — Rachel @ 7:02 pm
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Part 2:  Clear Expectations for You & Your Child

Your Expectations

What are your motives behind creating this space for your child?  Do you have dreams that he will become the next Picasso?  Do you imagine she will entertain herself for hours on end, and leave the place as spic and span as she found it?  Do you have defined expectations for the type, quantity or quality of “suitable” work? 

As parents we have many hopes and dreams for our children.  We want to teach them to do their best work, to put things back where they were found and to follow through with what they start.  Good.  But what part of that do we want to bring to our expectations for the art studio?  Art is messy.  Art is about personal expression, more than producing a product that serves others.  Art is free. 

In my opinion, a child’s art studio is about freedom and accessibility.  I start with that premise and then bring in my other values in ways that won’t undermine that central one.  But, that’s just me.  You need to think about your expectations and goals.  If cleanliness and organization are of utmost important, limit the supplies to a very manageable amount and rotate them out to mix things up.  Invest in a splat mat for the floor and a wipe-able workspace so you can teach your child how to clean up when he is done, rather than getting all worked up when he’s still in process.  Mimi the Sardine’s splashmats are one of the few that are vinyl-free, so they don’t emit toxic fumes.  You can make painting much less messy by getting paint cups that minimize spills and paint mixing.  If you want to encourage “best work” you may want to limit the number of pages of paper your child has access to on any given day. 

Basically, think through what it is about “art time” that tends to bug you.  Maybe you hate getting it all out and putting it away…  Having it out all the time where your child can access it herself may be just the solution!  You can make this work by doing some of your own creative thinking, and getting a clear idea of what you expect from your child.

Your Child’s Expectations

Now, what about your child?  My art studio may be about freedom and accessibility, but it’s not a free-for-all.  As I set up the table, I say “This is the place, your very own place, for you to do all of your creative work!”  When I bring in new supplies, I show her “Look, we can fit all of the feathers in this pretty jar.  They won’t fly away when we keep them in hear.”  You’ll want to organize your art space (we’ll talk about that later) and then, very clearly, with words and actions share some expectations with your child about how it is to be maintained.  “These shelves have all of the fun supplies that you can use any day.  Up here, on this shelf, are the supplies that you should ask for me to take down.” 

Here are some expectations I share with my 4-year-old:

  • Always wear your smock when painting.
  • Ask for help with higher-up supplies.
  • Never use someone’s work or property for your artwork without asking.
  • When you leave the art studio all supplies must be tidied – markers must be capped, paints must be shut, brushes must be brought to the sink, and other materials must be returned to their homes (baskets, jars, etc).
  • You can leave your work-in-progress out, but the supplies themselves must be tidied.
  • Use our clean-up supplies to wipe up paint, glue, markers, or crayons from the workspace and floor.  Ask for help if things aren’t cleaning up well. 

One final word.  You also want to share with your child a positive, excited attitude about creating art.  After all, this is about exploring new things, making something unique, and developing his creativity – not primarily about following rules.  You want him to expect fun!  You can foster a positive atmosphere by spending time with your child in the art studio, from time to time.  Watch his art come to life.  Make some alongside him.  Appreciate his art by displaying it creatively.  Show him it matters!  Surprise him with new mediums or tools from time to time.  Celebrate when he takes risks, whether or not the product turned out just right.  Remember – it’s about the process!


Creating an Art Studio for a Young Child – Part 1 July 7, 2009

Filed under: Children (3-6 years) — Rachel @ 7:57 pm
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Part 1:  Why Art is Important & Planning Your Space

Why art?  As my husband said last night, “It’s hard to be creative if you haven’t had any practice.”  If you feel it is important to nurture creative and imaginative thinking, do art with your child and create a space where he or she can make something new “all by myself.”  This type of freedom fosters self-esteem, a willingness to explore, to take risks and to try new things.  (Plus, it can happily engage a child for quite some time!).  These are the seeds of problem-solving and expressive writing that we all hope to see come to life in later school years.  As a bonus, working with various mediums develops fine motor skills that will come in handy when your child learns to write.

inspiration from the Artful Parent

Do you have a place in your home for your child to create?  Can she access her crayons?  Do you have to go to all sorts of trouble to set out supplies everytime he feels like gluing and cutting?  There is a better way.

You know your child best – what she can handle properly.  You know your limits – what level of “mess” you can tolerate.  But realize that a thoughtfully created art space may actually simplify your life.  How?  By making art enticing for your child and easy on you.  The keys are Careful Planning, Clear Expectations, Quality Supplies & Kid-Friendly Organization.

Planning Your Space

To get started, think about an area in your house for storing supplies and creating art.  Your child must have a table.  A large table at a child’s height is ideal, but your own kitchen table covered with a wipeable cloth will do.  If you can have a dedicated table it will minimize prep and clean-up time considerably, while allowing you to relax about dings and paint.  Even a small dedicated table is better than sharing the kitchen table.  Think of this as your child’s future desk.  (You were going to give him a desk, right?)  The table could be in his room, in the corner of your kitchen, office or living room.  But, find a space for that table and a solid little chair.

Next, think storage.  It needs to be located as close to that table as possible.  Carting paint from room to room is a recipe for accidents.  If creative materials such as pipe cleaners, goggly eyes, feathers, etc aren’t even in the room where your child is working, how likely is she to think to use them?  If you’re the one toting the supplies, facilitating your child’s art can become a burden.  Do you have a shelf – that’s perfect!  You can place everyday items within your child’s reach and those items you’ll want to parcel out higher up.  On a shelf, everything is visible, inviting your child to start something new or add an unexpected touch to her current project.  Drawers could work, though they make creative materials less visible.  Need to conserve space?  Use several large baskets to corral groups of supplies and stash them as close as you can.   

Sample Plans

The Dedicated Studio:  You want to make art a part of your everyday life.  Carve out some space in your most “creative” room for your child’s table.  I love Ikea’s Vika series for modern, affordable tables. They’re available in some nice, generous sizes.  Choose the Vika Oleby leg at just under 18″ to bring the table down to a child’s height. For the ideal set-up, add a floor-to-ceiling adjustable bookshelf and place that right beside the table. Ikea comes through again with the Billy Bookcase series. My favorite will store all your supplies for $90.

The Art Nook:  You’d like to keep things compact, affordable and under control!  This Ikea table set  (pictured right) is ideal for a very young child or a small space. Bonus – it comes with two chairs for just $40!  Fasten a low shelf to the wall just above the table to place supplies he’s using today in order to save room on the table for his work. Store supplies in a few baskets on high wall shelves above the table or even stored under the table. The Leksvik wall shelf (or anything similar) has hooks that could come in really handy. Hang baskets from the hooks filled with crayons, pencils, glue, scizzors and what not. Or, for a really affordable solution, just use these $4 Kroken caddies along with the coordinating $4 rail to place supplies at your child’s level, but just above that small workspace.


Getting Outside in Hot Weather June 23, 2009

Filed under: Family Culture — Rachel @ 5:27 pm
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_MG_5808Ever since the first day of June, it’s been near and above 90 degrees, hereabout, and humid too.  The warm summer weather came as a bit of a shock to us, driving us inside. 

I think it’s important that children play outside everyday.  We get outside throughout the day on Wednesday, when I’m hanging laundry, and every Friday morning, when our friends come over for playgroup.  (On other weekdays, my children are with grandma, while I work).  So, it’s not that we’re not getting outside… it’s the quality and duration of our outside play that is lacking.  A quick jaunt on the playground, a half-hearted bike ride, maybe a tad of tree-climbing when friends are over, and that’s it.  Where is the exploration?  Who’s pretending?  Is anyone noticing the flowers, bugs, clouds, birds? 

I’m sure they’re noticing, even when I’m not noticing that they’re noticing (and that’s a lot of noticing).  But, I think there’s a lot more there for us to see.  We live far-off the road and surrounded by forest, so it’s a pretty safe and exciting environment.   The trick is, they really desire mom to adventure alongside them.  And, at 2 and 4.5, I suppose that’s pretty reasonable.  How to reconnect with my inner child and inspire them to go beyond the playground and bike path to the natural world beyond? 

After browsing through some blogs, I landed on a book at Amazon, “Nature’s Playground: Activities, Crafts, and Games to Encourage Children to Get Outdoors.”  I hope it has some activities that will inspire me to lead some adventures.  It definitely has some beautiful pictures of children playing in nature that I hope may give my oldest some new ideas.  Fortunately, it’s available at my library.  I’ve requested it, and I’ll report back with a review.