Halloween Arts and Crafts!

(C) 2015 Creative & Curious

Eeeep! Halloween is only three days away. I’ve been focusing mostly on costume-making, but now that that’s complete I wanted to create some fun spooky crafts to use as decorations around the house!

First up, spooky silhouettes. I found some color diffusing paper left over from an art class I taught last summer and I knew I wanted to use it up. It’s a really neat product that can be used in a variety of ways. I know ours was purchased at S&S Worldwide. This paper is absorbent, so washable colors (we used Crayola washable markers) will blend beautifully together when sprayed with water while the permanent markers stay put creating a silhouette effect! Don’t have diffusing paper on hand? A coffee filter works just as well (see the spooky sample below)!

(c) 2015 Creative and Curious

I used a Sharpie to create the silhouette portion of the craft, coloring in any areas I wanted to be black. Then I handed it over to my one-year-old, who happens to be a great scribbler!

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Once she was finished, I sprayed the paper with water and laid it flat to dry! That’s it. These look great displayed in windows, as they almost have a stained glass feel to them.

Next, we made some mummy candle holders using (1) Mod Podge, (2) empty glass jars (3) gauze and (4) googly eyes.

(c) 2015 Creative and Curious

I applied the Mod Podge to the jars using a sponge brush. Then I wrapped the jar in gauze. I had two types of gauze on hand, the one in the foreground looks much better (in my opinion!). It was woven less tightly than the other, which allows more of the candle light through when it’s dried. Sadly, I only had enough of that type to cover one jar!

To seal it, I applied a final coat of Mod Podge over the gauze in a dabbing motion and added some googly eyes.

Once it was dry, I used an electric candle to light it!

(C) 2015 Creative and Curious

Lastly I want to share this cute pumpkin stamping activity. All you need is (1) an apple (2) orange paint and (3) paper! Cut your apple in half and dip it into the paint to stamp your pumpkin shape!

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Allow the paint to dry, then decorate the pumpkins as you wish. We used a combination of more paint and number stickers 🙂

(C) 2015 Creative and Curious

Looking for other Halloween Crafts? Head on over to our Pinterest board and check out other projects we’ve pinned for you!

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Help! My child hates to write: Pre-writing Activities for Kids

IMG_9977A friend of mine recently came to me with a problem – her pre-schooler hates to write. My first thought was, “She’s 4! Of course she hates to write. What on earth is she writing anyway?” But deep down I guess that I get it. Writing is important and I know it’s a skill that is expected of pre-school aged children. Do I agree with this? Nope. Personally I think that children shouldn’t be expected to use their fine motor skills this precisely until their gross motor skills are more developed. But back to the task at hand (no pun intended).

The bottom line is kindergartners and pre-schoolers are expected to write, whether they’re ready or not. Which leaves us with the question: What can parents do to practice writing and ease the frustration that may come with the task? Let’s start by finding activities that your child will enjoy and that are age-appropriate. Keep in mind that writing skills are naturally developed and strengthened during almost all play activities. Even infants reaching for a toy or picking up a cheerio for the first time are working on developing the muscles necessary to write. So simply playing catch or building blocks with your child can help them develop motor skills that are associated with writing, without mention of the dreaded word ‘write’.

Here is a list of fun activities that can help your child work on these skills, regardless of where they are in their writing abilities.

(1) Build with play dough! Squeezing, rolling, pushing, molding and pinching are all great ways to strengthen the hand muscles necessary for writing. Want to sneak in some letter identification? Use alphabet cookie cutters or roll the dough into ‘snakes’ be shaped into letters. Even my one year old loves identifying and tracing clay letters with her fingers. This is a great way to explore letter shapes, while strengthening hand muscles.

(c) 2015 Creative and Curious

(2) Though it’s definitely not necessary to purchase items, my daughter LOVES this Helping Hands Fine Motor Tool Kit! She uses the tools with enthusiasm in the sand box, water table or the bath!

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(3) Another fun product (the holidays are coming!) is the Boogie Board Play N’Trace. It’s sort of like a high tech Magna Doodle. It can be used to write/draw or trace. There is a downloadable iPad app. We were given one as a gift and I think it is pretty awesome! I’m saving it for our next long car ride or restaurant trip. It’s a great quiet toy.

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(4) Multi-sensory writing practice is a fun, tactile way to encourage writing. This would include drawing in shaving cream, sand, pudding, finger paint, etc. Start simply with pre-writing shapes such as circles, vertical lines (top to bottom) and horizontal lines (left to right) before moving into letters. Rather than simply verbalizing your direction (“draw a circle”) use magnet letters or flash cards  (can be hand drawn as I’ve done) as a visual prompt. This way, your child is solely focused on the writing and not having to multi task, recalling which letter/shape you’re asking for!

(C) 2015 Creative and Curious

(C) 2015 Creative and Curious

(5) Make a letter ‘road’ to ‘trace’ with cars! Using large paper or side-walk chalk, draw a roadway in the shapes/letters you’re targeting. Let your child drive their favorite cars along the letters. This activity was a huge hit. Side note: we are definitely a Peppa Pig household…

(c) 2015 Creative and Curious

To sum things up, if your child is frustrated start by approaching writing with anything BUT a pen or pencil! Give them markers, play dough, crayons, paint brushes, scratch art, oil pastels,Wikki Stix, a Magna Doodle… really ANYTHING other than the pencil and paper they associate with writing for school. Keep in mind that their fine motor skills may not be there yet (and that’s okay) so try working with basic shapes/lines and on a larger scale (sidewalk chalk letters). Most importantly, keep it engaging and fun.

These are just a few suggestions that can be done at home. Here is a Pinterest board of additional activities you can try!

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Crafty Monday: Paper Marbling with Shaving Cream!

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Marbling with shaving cream is a simple, fun and pretty mess-free project for kids and adults. I’m happy to share this step by step ‘how to’ with you! Here are the supplies you will need:

  • Plain old shaving cream. Nothing with lotion or any added items. We got ours at the dollar store.
  • Paints or food coloring. I used acrylic paint, because I liked the color options. I’ve also used food coloring with students in the past and it works just as nicely. For fun I added glitter paints this time ’round, but didn’t really get the effect I hoped for.
  • Paper or card stock. Thicker paper does work better.
  • A chopstick, end of a paintbrush, toothpick or similar to swirl the paints.
  • Wax paper for drying.
  • Ruler, cardboard or other hard edge to scrape the paint off.
  • Tray for containing mess.

First, spray your work area with shaving cream. Be sure to create a section large enough for your paper.

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Then, drop your paint randomly on the shaving cream. Start out with just a few drops, you can always add more later if necessary.

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Next, using a chopstick or similar tool, create swirls with the paint on the surface of the cream.

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Once you’ve gotten a design that pleases you, use the palm of your hand to gently press your paper onto the design, making sure the entire surface is touching the cream.

ShavingCream3IMG_3009-1Peel the paper off and place it on waxed for about 3 minutes.

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Using a ruler or other hard, straight edge (I improvised and used a paint tray!), scrape the shaving cream off in one, steady motion to reveal your design!

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You can reuse the shaving cream, if you’d like. Adding additional paint for round #2! I decided to marble book marks and go with some darker paints this time.

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My favorite part about this activity is how easy it is to clean up. All you have o do is rinse your tray in the sink and you’re done!

These are some examples created in an art class I teach at a rehabilitation center to adults with traumatic brain injuries. We added lettering to create greeting cards!

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Water WOW!

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(photo courtesy of MelissaandDoug.com)

Since my early speech therapist days, I’ve been big a fan of Melissa & Doug toys. I think they are all around fantastic educational toys for kids. One day, while browsing my local Once Upon A Child, I stumbled upon a Water Wow book. My daughter was around ten months old then, but has had a love for painting since she was about four months, so I couldn’t pass up trying one out. We were about to take our first plane ride in a few days and I thought it would be a perfect distraction for travel!

I didn’t realize the instant love I would have for these books. Fast forward a year later and I’m pretty sure we own all of the books and splash cards they offer. They’re great for car trips and restaurants and they are always a hit with other children on play dates.

They feature a brush that holds water in its body. When you paint on their pages, an image or colors appear. When it dries, they disappear. It’s pretty genius and provides hours of entertainment for my now 22 month old.

I don’t know why more parents don’t know about these gems. Every time I give one as a gift, they’re a huge hit at the party and parents are always asking where I found them! They claim ages 3+,  but you’ll find as I post more about my favorite items, I don’t really follow those guidelines. I’d say they’re a great gift for any child!

Wikki Stix!

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Today I want to share with you a new staple in our household – Wikki Stix. A few weeks ago, I took my daughter to ride the Sea Glass Carousel in Battery Park. If you’re local to New York City or visiting, I highly recommend the experience. On our way home, we stopped to eat at Blue Smoke. It was really the only restaurant near our ferry that had a reasonably priced lunch menu. Plus, I love BBQ. I was hesitant to go in at first as it looked a bit too fancy for my over-tired toddler. But from the start, the staff went above and beyond ‘kid friendly’. I didn’t order her a kid’s meal (I knew she’d just eat my sides), yet they brought out a raw sugar cookie shaped like a pig and container of sprinkles to decorate it with. How fun is that?

And it got better! Instead of the usual crayons, they gave us a package of Wikki Stix! I had totally forgotten about these gems from my nannying days and I enthusiastically demonstrated their abilities. Fast forward 45 minutes later, my daughter is still engrossed in Wikki play and I’ve eaten an amazing meal in peace! Bonus: upon receiving our check, we also got our decorated cookie back, baked.

Now that Wikki Stix have entered our lives, we can’t live without them! I keep a few in a baggie in my purse for long waits, restaurants, car rides – wherever! Together, we build the planets, numbers, letters, animals, anything and everything out of them. Today I took a trip to a Lakeshore store to buy some teaching tools and I was so excited to find these Wikki Stix number cards (pictured above). My daughter is fascinated by numbers, so I couldn’t resist buying. They can be purchased here.

Please enjoy some of our Wikki Creations, shared below! Oh and in case you were wondering, none of my posts are sponsored. We just like to spread love!

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Family Portrait Mini Sessions: Be A Part of Our Fundraiser!

Creative and Curious is excited to announce its first fundraiser. Join us on October 24th (sold out!) and November 8th for our fall mini sessions. Families sign up for a 1 hour slot and go home with 5 print-ready digital files!

All money collected will go directly to funding the costs of growing Creative and Curious!

Sign up now. Spaces are limited!

Send an email to WeAreCreativeAndCurious@gmail.com for more information!MiniSessionFlyer

“Curiosity is More Important than Knowledge!”

(c) creative and curious 2015

You can thank Albert Einstein for those wise and truthful words. It’s no secret that curiosity is crucial to learning. One of my favorite things as a parent and a teacher is just how curious kids can be. It’s inspiring. The longer children stay curious, the more driven they are to learn and discover. As parents and educators, it’s our role to support this curiosity. If we’re smart, we’ll use what they’re naturally curious about to teach the skills we want them to learn.

Unfortunately it’s easy to diminish creativity, without even realizing it. We all say things such as, “don’t touch that!” or “you can’t get that outfit dirty!”. I know I am guilty of phrases along those lines, especially after a long day or too little sleep. We are far from perfect, but remaining conscious of our responses to a child’s curiosity is key in supporting their creative exploration and  learning.

I remember during my student teaching, a professor told us “a child who has just been yelled at, will never retain the lesson you were teaching, only the fear of that moment.” I have always kept that phrase in the back of my mind. Let’s think about it for a second. Even as adults, it’s a very valuable idea to keep in mind. How constructive is a conversation where people are yelling? How effective is a boss who screams at her employees? If a child is afraid of an educator or placed in a chaotic learning environment, he will fear creativity and exploration. Novelty and discovery will not feel safe. He will likely choose to stay in his comfort zone, not pushing boundaries towards exploration and learning. Without a safe environment to experience new things and feed our curiosity, we would all have fewer opportunities to succeed, to learn, to make friends and so forth.

But a child (and adult!) whose curiosity is supported, will want to repeat that curious moment, continuing to explore, to learn and build upon it. They’ll want to share it with peers and teachers and to be praised for their discoveries. They’ll become secure in their learning and seek further exploration and knowledge. I believe that’s what Albert Einstein meant when he said the above.

What can we as parents and educators do? First take a deep breath. I know these moments of curiosity can often come at the worst times or disguised as bad behavior. My daughter once poured an entire cup of coffee on the kitchen floor. Did I want to scream? Yes. Did I? Almost. But I stopped and reminded myself that she was exploring. She’s a one year old. She was curious. She didn’t understand or care that her action was not a socially acceptable (or convenient) thing to do! My initial reaction was frustration, but I tried to view it as an opportunity. She was showing me what she was curious about.

Instead of yelling, I filled a bucket with water and brought it outside. I added some food coloring and gave her some old cups, letting her pour water into various containers, on the floor, on herself. Refilling the water as she demanded “more water, mommy”. Instead of a tantrum from a one-year-old, because she didn’t get her way/got yelled at. I got about 40 minutes of uninterrupted computer time and she got to do something she enjoyed. Win. Win.

But there is more! Through her exploration she was also internalizing pre-concepts of basic science (mass, volume, liquid) and language (lots of new vocabulary). I was busy, so I continued to work at my laptop but I occasionally peeked over and gave her some useful vocabulary while she played independently – wet, float, sink, liquid, cold, empty and full – all terms I’ve now seen her generalize in other play. How cool is that!?

To build on this curiosity, I set up water play for her regularly, in hopes of avoiding upset and additional spilled drinks. By recognizing it was a current interest, I gave her the opportunity for further exploration. I began to give her tools to expand upon her exploration, such as foam letters and shapes. Her strong curiosity for water also provided an opportunity to teach things that mattered to me such as shapes (hello math skills) and letters (more literacy) as well!

If you think about it, your child shows you the things they are curious about on a daily basis. How can you give them additional opportunities to explore the things that interest them? Once you’ve done that, try adding to the activities – setting them up for success in expanding their discoveries while building off of their natural curiosity!