Monday, 30 March 2009

Paint it Black

and crayon it too...

Today is the first day of Striker art. In Young at Art (see yesterday for details) Striker has a programme for introducing art which has a certain logic behind it. I'm not fully signed up to it so am doing it in my own way but her observations about introducing colours and in particular offering choices of colours make a lot of sense. Her basic argument is that if you give a lot of colours the toddler will spend so much time choosing or picking them up that there will be less time for creativity. I've seen this myself when Isaac's had the whole pot of crayons or all the pens. He'll spend most of his time playing with the materials and less time putting them on paper. I don't think is necessarily a bad thing as it can be as much to play with a box of crayons as it is to play with food. But for a while we're going to try the one colour approach. And as Striker suggests black and white is a good contrast so a good place to start and as all scribbling is a precursor to writing which is most often found in black and white it's another good reason to start with black on white.

It's tempting to go straight in with pens as they make a bold mark on the page and you get an easy line (or dot or scribble) with little effort but Striker is keen that crayons are used as they give different results depending on the strength of the stroke. As you can see here there are some thick dark lines where he was really pounding the crayon onto the paper. It's not exactly rocket science but it's one of those things that seems so obvious when it's mentioned but I hadn't thought about before.

I love the black paint. Isaac really enjoyed doing it and started dabbing the brush to make the feathered splodges which is something I hadn't seen him do before. The bold black looks almost Japanese to my adult eye but as Striker says putting any label on children's art encloses it and takes some of the spirit out of so until he's old enough to draw representations of things himself I'll refrain from naming them as what I see. 

And on a proud mummy moment - we were reading a book this afternoon and I said, what's that? He said, "dats a bird."
It's the first time I've heard him say bird (he usually signs bird and makes a noise) and his string of more than two words. 
Of course he hasn't done it again. 

Sunday, 29 March 2009

A Chicken Goes into a Library...

But first... some crayons. 

I'd put the crayons away as Isaac seemed to be more interested in eating them than drawing with them but I've been reading the Susan Striker book, Young at Art (of which more in a minute) and see that the eating stage is part of normal development and exploration so I thought I'd get them out again. 

It was a great success and Isaac didn't eat any of them. He drew for 20 minutes or more and then only stopped as he got distracted by me making coffee.

Crayon is hard to pick up as it's less defined than pen so I couldn't get a good shot of the end result but this gives you an idea. 

There are many things in Young at Art that I agree with and I wish I'd read it 6 months ago. I do think she's pretty rigid in her ideas though and there's an awful lot of 'thou shalt not' (often the same things repeated) that she claims will quash all creativity if you foist them on your child. The general premise though is that children should be allowed to explore art at their own pace without being expected to produce recognizable shapes before they're developmentally ready for it. She's a great fan of scribbling. She is vehemently opposed to themed production lines at daycare and toddler groups where holiday art is produced and the child's own production is cut or drawn on to produce turkeys, daffodils etc. It's something I've been opposed to without really knowing why so it's good to read her thoughts on it and to feel empowered not to follow what everyone else does. 

Another things Striker is keen on is valuing children's art by keeping it and displaying it - she says sticking it on the refrigerator isn't enough. We're not quite at the framing stage but I have started a display and found a box in which to put the loose pieces we have so far (we also have a book which Isaac draws in which is something we'll develop as time goes on). 

I have plans to put into effect more ideas from the book in the next few months.

And now for that chicken...
Have you heard the joke: 
A chicken walks into the library. It goes up to the circulation desk and says: "book, bok, bok, boook". The librarian hands the chicken a book. It tucks it under his wing and runs out. A while later, the chicken runs back in, throws the first book into the return bin and goes back to the librarian saying: "book, bok, bok, bok, boook". Again the librarian gives it a book, and the chicken runs out. The librarian shakes her head. Within a few minutes, the chicken is back, returns the book and starts all over again: "boook, book, bok bok boook". The librarian gives him yet a third book, but this time as the chicken is running out the door, she follows it. The chicken runs down the street, through the park and down to the riverbank. There, sitting on a lily pad is a big, green frog. The chicken holds up the book and shows it to the frog, saying: "Book, bok, bok, boook". The frog blinks, and croaks: "read-it, read-it, read-it".

Well all today all I've heard is 'book, 'buk, boook' and I've spent an awful lot of time in 'the chair' reading to Isaac. And when I wasn't reading to him he was reading to himself... 

Wednesday, 25 March 2009

Basket & Beads.

I went to Ikea again this week (to pick up the legs for the drawers we got the other week). My friend Carrie asked me to pick this basket up for her but Isaac had a little play before it got taken to its new home... 

We used the finished salt dough beads from the other day. Threading onto shoe laces or string is hard as there's no tension in it so we used what I would call pipe cleaners but which seem to be called fuzzy sticks now. 

I did the first one and he then tried it out. He needed a bit of help to get his hand near enough the end of the pipe cleaner and then to push the beads down once they were on but otherwise he got the hang of it really quickly and really enjoyed it.

Well until he started trying to eat the beads anyway...

I'm sure most of you have seen crafty kids blogs with immaculate work spaces in beautiful houses that just make you feel inadequate... well here's how we do crafts:

And that's tidier than it is now as he's currently emptying both boxes onto the floor...

Sunday, 22 March 2009

Dressing up and painting

Isaac appeared with one of Matthew's jumpers and seemed keen to do a little dressing up - I've wondered for a while what to put out as dressing up clothes, now I know. The jumper is about as heavy as Isaac and he didn't want it on for long but he had fun for a few minutes.

We then got down the now dry salt dough beads. They're rougher in texture than I thought they'd be but the salt gives them a bit of sparkle. Isaac loves paints so had fun for a while painting them and the work surface. He then got bored and emptied the cutlery drawer instead so I finished them off. Not sure how long they'll last as Isaac tried to eat a couple of them and Matthew broke one. 

Another attempt to photograph the dog... 

Saturday, 21 March 2009

We're going on a Bear Hunt

Inspired by our recent reading we went on an adventure this afternoon. (OK so it was just to B&Q to exchange some curtain rings.) This is a very common sight of the bear off doing his own thing at the end of a very long lead while the rest of us try to keep up - its not exactly sociable walking our dog!

Isaac decided he wanted to walk - well no actually he decided he wanted to climb on benches but he had to walk between them... 

A blurry close up of the bear enjoying the sun. My camera doesn't like taking pictures of the dog and gets confused about what to focus on. 

Proof that I was there too...

Friday, 20 March 2009

Bits and oops

Fridays tend to be hectic as we have Sing and Sign in a morning and then a drop-in in the afternoon so with lunch and a nap if we're lucky there's not much free time in the day. I'm amazed though at Isaac's reaction to when he's been rushing around a lot. When we came home he went straight for his art box - it's been nearly a week since he's shown any interest in it. He's learnt to take the lid off his pens (and can put them back on again although often he forgets this bit) so I just took the lid off his box and opened the drawing book and let him get on with it. 

This is what he made. 

I'm trying not to direct his art now that he knows how to make marks on paper and this is the result - a totally self-directed bit of scribbling and sticking. It didn't hold his attention for very long but seemed to be a good way of grounding himself after a day rushing around. He went through a phase of using drawing to express himself when he was upset or frustrated and I must remember to offer it to him more often when he's struggling.

We've got a lot of new books recently and have progressed more to the story books after months of board books. So here are a few of the current favourites. 

I remember reading We're Going on a Bear Hunt a lot with our godson Jake (now 9) and hating it but after a long break I'm loving it again. Where the Wild Things Are is a masterpiece and a great example of children's play being used to help them work out issues of control and power. Click Clack Moo is very silly and funny and results in lots of random mooing! The book in the top right is One City, Two Brothers which is another Barefoot Books book. The illustrations are beautiful and while it's a long story for a 19 month old Isaac seems to really like it. 

This is my current pile of library books. I'm currently loving Cecelia Ahern's books, they're whimsical and have a touch of magic/fairy tale about them. The one I've just read If You Could See Me Now is my favourite so far of hers. I've got back into reading crime fiction again after feeling a bit weak and feeble since I was pregnant about violence and the darker storylines. I used to read pretty much nothing but crime but now need to intersperse it with lighter reading. Chick Lit is a whole new adventure for me and I'm finding it a mixed bag. Most of it whilst ok to read at the time just leaves me feeling hollow and sad that we seem not to have progressed from the boy meets girl view of women but there are some good writers in and amongst the dross and when it comes down to it I just want something light and unchallenging most of the time. 

Isaac's been loving his wooden bike and has been scooting around on it a lot. I was just taking a picture of it to post on the blog when he fell off. He's got a bit of a bruise on the back of his head but a reading of a book or 3 calmed him down. 

Wednesday, 18 March 2009

Park life.

The weather has been glorious here for the last few days so we've been hanging out in the park a lot. In the next few weeks the council will be starting work to 'improve' the park which should be a good thing but I can't help feeling that some of the magic of our little park will be lost in the process. 

Isaac loves the swings but his favourite thing at the moment is to climb onto the picnic tables and watch the world go by (usually whilst flailing his arms around or bouncing up and down). 

After a bit of sitting and watching we did a bit of toddler marching. 

And running. 

And then a bit more climbing before making shapes in the shadows.

And then the next day there was a bit of tree inspecting.

Some daisy picking. 

And then more walking (he's discovered zips recently and has to undo his coat all the time hence he's losing it).

And then the battery went on the camera... phew I hear you all cry!

Sunday, 15 March 2009

NCT Sale haul and the music box.

For those of you not lucky enough to live where there's an NCT sale it's a twice yearly second hand sale where you can get some great bargains and sell all the stuff you don't use any longer. This was my first one where I was selling stuff and I was pleased that all the big bits went but had to bring most of the clothes home as they just weren't selling - I think ebay and supermarkets make second hand clothes seem expensive. 

The only problem with all the bargains is it can be tempting to pick up anything you think *might* be nice and so you end up going home with more stuff than you cleared out. I was reasonably restrained this time though (although no thanks to Cara who kept forcing me to buy more things!). I got a bargain Muddy Puddles suit as Isaac's outgrown the Togz one we had.  I also bought a load of books now we're progressing onto the next stage of reading - my favourite so far is Silly Suzy Goose.

My shopping list for the sale included wooden cars (I've seen most of them in a set from ELC costing £15 - I paid £2 for the partial set),

wooden blocks (£1 for a cloth bag full),

and also a large duplo base board, which I got for £2 (I've seen them go for over £6 on ebay so this is a great bargain). I missed out on some other Duplo bits but it's apparently not the done thing to wrestle to get what you want... 

I always keep an eye out for musical instruments. There were lots of cheap keyboards but as we have a proper electric piano I'd rather Isaac played with that at the moment. There were quite a few bits of percussion instruments though so I picked up some more bits for the music box. 
The bells are the best thing out of the two mixed bags - although the drum is quite fun even if it sounds better when hit on its base!

The music box may have to have a thinning soon as we can't fit everything in...

These are our favourite bits. 

The sandpaper blocks are proper percussion ones and Isaac loves them (although one of the handles fell off today so I need to get the glue out).
The wooden drum is one Granny and Grandpa bought from John Lewis - it has a lovely tone but needs to be hit with a rubber tipped stick.
The two sets of bells were both second hand.
The recorder was from Poundland - it's not great but Isaac has fun blowing it and can learn that covering the holes makes different tones. 
The square toy is a lift the flap toy from ELC which has different music at each stage - it's a noisy toy that neither of us hate and so should win awards on those grounds alone.
There's a wooden guiro which has a throaty frog sound when stroked with the stick or a high tone when hit. It's one of my favourite toys as it feels really nice in your hand as well as sounding good. 
Then there's a proper mouth organ. It was cheap but is a great toddler toy as it's easy to make a noise - much better in fact than many of the toddler toys that cost a fortune.
And finally there's the Triola - Isaac can work it ok but it's always funny to see adults trying it out for the first time as you have to hold a key down to get any noise and it takes a little while for this to be realised...

I should also have done a picture of the things not to buy... top of the list would be the ELC slide whistle.

Thursday, 12 March 2009

Cheese Flapjacks and Latches.

I had a few minutes spare before lunch and having seen a recipe for cheese & veg flapjacks I thought I'd give them a go (thanks Karen/Karlou!). They're dead easy to do 
200g oats
200g grated carrot (about 2 medium carrots)
200g grated courgette (about 1 courgette)
200g grated cheddar
2 small onions finely chopped
2 beaten eggs to bind
1 tsp of dried thyme or sage (or mixed herbs)
seasoning to taste

mix it all up (it seems quite dry) and press it into a greased (I would line it as well after this attempt) baking tray or swiss roll tin and bake at 190 C for 25-30 minutes

('Scuse the smeared lens, Isaac had been playing with the camera)

The delivery of the day was the Melissa & Doug latches board that I ordered ages ago that's finally come into stock. Isaac loves keys, locks and the like so it's perfect for him. 

Some of the latches are a bit stiff so hard for him to do at the moment and some he hasn't worked out yet but he's been having fun with it and has enough success that he's not too frustrated by it. 

I first saw the latches board on the Chasing Cheerios blog. She's also had a Melissa & Doug house with locks and keys that we'd love but sadly it's been discontinued. 

Tuesday, 10 March 2009


A bit of painting.

What happens when you climb onto the work surface and walk on your new painting... 

The main activity for the morning was sticking as Isaac loved it last time. I cut up bits of paper, ribbon and fabric and used some of the ELC foam shapes and gave him a bowl full of bits and then let him paint the glue onto the paper before sticking the bits onto it. He much preferred messing with the glue and it took me longer to cut the bits up than for him to play with them but it was fun while it lasted. 

Helping Daddy.

Learning from the master. 

And helping yourself... 

Sunday, 8 March 2009

Starting a Montessori space

After doing various activities standing at the kitchen worktop it's become clear that we need some Isaac height furniture. As we were in Ikea yesterday I found a small table and chairs and have cleared a space in the spare room (aka the dumping ground) and put up some posters to brighten up the room a bit. Eventually I'll move my old computer and work things out and it'll be a proper playroom and in time Isaac's bedroom. 

He was a great help putting it together. 

And had to try it out immediately.