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!

“Every child is an artist…

photo (C) creative and curious 2015

… the problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.”

The above quotation by Pablo Picasso is one that resonates pretty strongly. As adults, many of us struggle to find our creative side or avoid it completely. Maybe we’ve learned too many rules, hit one too many creative blocks or simply do not have the time to cultivate our creative thinking. But as parents and educators, it’s important to remember that our children mirror what we do. We see ourselves reflected in their play, in their phrases and daily interactions. They watch how we handle our successes and failures. We are their main example of how life is lived. It’s important we throw a little creativity in when we can!

What steps can we take towards supporting a child’s creativity? Author and artist Julia Cameron suggests, “we let them explore freely and praise them for their efforts.” This means more than giving them some crayons and paper, though that is a very good start. Allowing children the freedom to be creative can be a difficult balance for parents and teachers – it’s a struggle for me and I consider myself an artist.

On one hand, we want our children to follow rules and we want to provide them with structure. We know those things are also crucial to their learning. But when exploring their creativity, we want to give them the freedom to break some rules. I’m not talking the ‘keep your hands to yourself’ type of rules, more like ‘the sky is blue’ or ‘we color in the lines’ rules.

We often cannot help how we react to our children’s art – particularly when their work is more abstract (think mommy has three eyes or the sky is green and the grass is red!), our role and natural instinct is to teach them. And the reality is mommy only has two eyes and the grass is green! But keep in mind that art is often a rebellious act. It involves taking risks, thinking outside of the box and pushing boundaries. As parents, we have the unique opportunity to provide a safe environment in which our children can take creative risks with support and even praise.

In addition choosing our words carefully when we discuss their art, we can support their creativity by providing ample opportunity to think creatively. One easy way to do so is to put together a creativity box/corner/room, whatever you have the space for! Stock it with paints, toilet paper rolls, glue, markers, paper, crayons, plastic bottle caps, rocks, yarn… you get the idea, anything goes. Keep these things readily available throughout the day or even set aside time for them to work with these items through open ended play and art.

If you’re longing to bring out more of your creative side, join in the artistic fun. Create a project along side your child, selecting from the same materials.  Allow your child to explore the materials anyway they wish while you do the same! As you work, provide them with the vocabulary to describe their process, discussing their work without judgement and with praise. (“You’re using a lot of red paint. I like that!”) When you’ve finished, display both creations on the refrigerator! Valuing your own creativity will teach your child to value theirs. Watching you embrace your ‘mistakes’ and push boundaries, will set a valuable example for their inner artist. Encourage their inner creativity, as you rediscover your own.