My boys spent the good part of this morning playing with laundry baskets and their large building blocks.
It began with 1 basket. There was a fierce battle with one boy at each end, playing tug of war, tears, yelling, “I don’t love you anymore.”
We talked it out, assuring each other that we do love each other, all the time, even when we’re frustrated with each other.
The talk ended with a search for another basket.
The brothers piled the blocks into the baskets, helping each other, and slid them across the floor into other rooms, dumping them, and scooping them back in singing, “clean up clean up everybody everywhere”
K gets distracted by something else. J ends up in the kitchen with both baskets dumped on the floor.
J builds a tower, calling it a trampoline and an elevator. Then he calls to K and invites him to knock it down.
K runs to join his brother and they continue to build and bonk the blocks over and over.
Siblings Without Rivalry, by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish…an easy book to read that teaches parents how to help siblings live together without so much of the hurtful kind of rivalry.
If you want to build something more permanent, take a look at this post. J uses wood, hammer & nails, screws & screw gun with Dada to build a car ramp.
Or take a look at this beautiful little sculpture made with small pieces of wood and hot glue gun, then painted blue.
Using a hot glue gun with children can be done if you show trust in their competence. There are low heat glue guns that kids can manipulate safely if you give them a proper demonstration and instructions, emphasizing the hazards of getting a burn.
My friend H utilizes an unused area under the kids’ climber for mud pie making. The space is meant to be used as a sandbox, but H already uses sand in a sensory table. She weeds the area and brings over the hose.
This is an activity that can be so simple and successful to arrange for your children.
Central Station has a great post that lists many ways folks have gone about creating mud pie-making spaces for their kidlets.
Irresistible Ideas for Play Based Learning is a blog from a Progressive school in Australia, and they have a great outdoor curriculum that revolves around mixing potions. Just Beautiful.
We go over to H’s for some messy play and bring with us the old muffin tin, some shovels and rakes.
The kids take turns holding the hose, get the area, and their friends, nice and wet. The kids dig, scoop, rake and dump the soil, uncovering lots of worms.
The experience of making mud pies is a strong tradition in childhood, a right of passage…been going on since the beginning of the human history, I’m pretty sure. Maybe, at another time, it was a more functional activity, a way of making vessels, a way of building a home, a way to protect the skin, but for my kids, it’s about discovery and entertainment. I believe every child should have the right to stick their hands in the dirt and feel the cool goodness of the wet earth.
Big K shows Friend C a handful of mud.
I don’t think I’ve touched a worm since my own preschool days. I remember building little stick houses for the poor little worms and ants on the playground. That sure got scared out of me when I was told I’d get worm eggs under my nails and then in my belly. EW! But, my kids make me live…and I will touch worms for them, and maybe help them to build a nice worm home as a natural extension to our mud pie making.
Here and here are some ideas for making homes for our tiny little friends, ideas from Your Big Backyard.
Our Cousin R joins us in our Mud Muffin Making. She is 8 years old and lends a whole new, older and girly, perspective to the experience. J takes the passenger seat and helps Cousin R to mix and pour.
Cousin R chooses varied and very colorful ingredients. We add tulip petals, greens from trees, buttercups, weeds, aging orange play dough, old sprinkles for baking, old flour, some very old spices that have lost their smell, mulch and dirt. Using the old spices gets me thinking about smells though. What if we used little bits of the herbs growing out front with a mortar and pestle? This would add to the sensory experience, for sure, and might be another life skill technique to practice. Then, when the kids get older, they’ll be able to crush mint leaves and sugar together really well, to make Mojitos for their aging parents.
J scoops some of the mixture into a dump truck.
There are probably a million and one variations on how to make a good mud pie.
See this blog entry from let the children play.
See this blog entry at Go Explore Nature.
Please, share your ideas with me. I’d love to hear about how you mix and make.
Happy Mud Making, Jena
I have been gathering photos and words from mud pie experiences since the very early Spring. I have three stories to tell so far. This is the first one.
This mud pie adventure began this winter, long before the hope of goopy, wet soil. I came across a sweet, delicate, well-written little recipe book for dolls at the library. It’s over 40 years old and is now out of print.“Mud Pies and Other Recipes: A Cookbook for Dolls” by Marjory Winslow and Illustrated by Erik Blegvad.
This is one of the recipes I found in the book. It goes a little like this:
“Left-Handed Mudloaf and Right-Handed Mudloaf: For Left Handed Mudloaf, sit on the ground with a bowl in front of you full of thick mud. With your left hand, reach out a add a fistful of whatever you find there. Stir and pack into a loaf pan. Mold with left hand. For Right-Handed Mudloaf, follow the recipe for Left-Handed Mudloaf, but this time use your right hand.”
So cute, so funny. Right up our alley. Due to the cold weather and a few feet of snow covering our yard, we had to work with “what we got.”
TinkerLab posted a great Creative Experiment using flour, salt, water, baking soda and white vinegar.
A quote from Rachelle, author of TinkerLab, “made missing a nap totally worthwhile.”
She had me there.
I tried this with the boys when Big K was working late one night, with a cookie sheet on their little table in the kitchen. I did not use the camera for this one. The messiness went from 0 to 100 in a matter of seconds. It was a blast, took me a couple of days to remove the “better than glue” mixture of water and flour off of the cookie sheet, one of those times the mess gets ya when you put creativity before a perfect house. It was worth it.
In the warmer part of spring, I read a post from The Chocolate Muffin Tree. They were cooking up some Dandelion Cupcakes. That very day J was deadheading some Dandelions and giving me bouquets. We had to try the cupcakes. I used an old muffin tin, an old bag of flour, some old glitter, kool-aide, a couple of kitchen tools and the garden hose. He had about an hour of quite fun. If you have a spirited boy, you know this is delightful and very lovely difference in energy. I watched him in a happy haze, ran for tools when needed, and took lots of photos. It took me a week to clean the muffin tin too. Also worth the mess.
Most days, when I pick J up from school, he’s on the playground with his little pack of boy friends. All of them are bent over their dump trucks, full of whatever treasures deemed worthy of the day, running as fast as their super fast shoes can take them, usually running from pretend monsters and bad guys.
With his interest in trucks that carry it’s no wonder…
J has a very good friend who owns a Duplo Rock Quarry Set, complete with diggers and dozers, grey Duplos and a plastic mountain. J thinks it’s divine and has a very hard time leaving it after a morning of play. So, after saving the Duplo box info in my head, I realize, we have all the bits to make up a rock quarry already.
I start up a conversation with J about what belongs in a rock quarry, and we make a list together:
A Cement Mixer
A Dump Truck
Rocks, little and big
So we collect all the things on our list, gather it on the part of the driveway already covered with small stones.
We build a little quarry out of bigger rocks.
Setting it up was enough fun for one day. J dug next to the rock wall for a bit and was done.
I can’t wait to see all the ways we use the rock quarry, but I’m already thinking of the things we can add. A huge water bottle from a bubbler, a scale we found at the Swap Shed, oh, and a great new idea I saw on havingfunathomeblog.blogspot.com, coloring warm stones with crayons. The crayons melt as you draw on the warmed stone…we’ll see how things play out and what stories emerge.
I’ve been working on some freezer paper T-shirts. I made one for Big K for his birthday, but I can’t show that one yet because it would ruin the surprise. (Post soon to follow with the Birthday T.) And I made some for the boys for a Fourth of July Parade in which we’ll be taking part via tractor and trailer. We’re also working on some ideas for T-Shirts for the local MOMS Club.
I had a lot of help on the how to from Artful Parent and a great book called “the creative family,” written by Amanda Blake Soule., also author of blog, soulemama.
I made stencils with the freezer paper using silhouettes found on the internet and an exact o knife, inherited from Great Nana.
The first stencil I made was too small and not so aesthetically pleasing, so I tried a second time, happily getting it better. My friends and I got our T-shirts together, printing with Lumiere Textile Paint and flat headed paintbrushes.
This past weekend, there was a Women’s Build through Habitat for Humanity/ Metro West, Greater Worcester in my town. Habitat for Humanity is in the business of giving families a hand up in a tough economy, helping to make a home possible through donations, when otherwise it might be impossible. So a few of my friends that are MOMS, joined forces to hammer nails. This event is mostly promotional and is meant as a fundraiser. We each get sponsors and show up for a shift to help the real construction workers put up walls and lay down floors and we worked. The house is its framing stages right now. We were able to work shoulder to shoulder with women we love and respect and the family whose house we were building. I forced positive energy into each nail hammered into that house. We were given a brilliant and delicious lunch from a local restaurant and had a warm and fuzzy feeling as we were leaving to reunite with our little families.
We get home from a fun night at a friends house for dinner, where K gets a big bubble bath and a pair of his girly friend’s pajamas. When we get home, he is not ready to sleep because he took a very long nap earlier. While he was napping, J and I look through a new Tractor Supply catalogue that comes in the mail, cutting out the things we think K would like.
So with Dada at the gym, and J comfortably tucked into bed and out like a light, K and I sit at the little table and work on gluing the cut outs to a piece of paper labeled, “These are a few of Keenan’s Favorite Things.”
K has had some experience with a glue stick. We go to the library story time every week to read stories with the librarian, and afterwards he does a little craft that usually involves glueing stuff onto a paper plate. Now, as I watch him, I see him make some rules for himself while arranging the lawnmowers. He doesn’t want pictures to overlap or touch, and he couldn’t manage to arrange it that way, he asked for my help. He also put the glue cap back on between each picture and had to place it standing up on the table.
Little K, “This motorcycle. That tractor. That Daddy’s? This is weed-wacker, Mommy, okay? Awh! I need to put glue on it. That’s a big weed-wacker! I need to find another lawnmower.”
Once the paper is full, he scribbles over some of the picture. He takes the leftover clippings, the ones that didn’t fit on the paper, and cuts them up into very little pieces.
Little K, ” I be careful of my fingers.” and when he manages to cut through a whole piece of paper, he puts his scissors down carefully on the table, holds up his hands and says, “TA LA!”
He then cuts and rips his whole paper, with all the clippings, in half, puts it on the fridge with a magnet and says, “That’s better.”
Big K takes the day to “fell trees” with fellow Forester R today. He’s working on our fire wood for next winter already. “R’s forest”, as the kids call it, is not too far from home, so we plan to stop by for lunch as a special treat. K is in love with Dada and chainsaws and tractors in a BIG way.
Dada is deep in the woods when we get there so we call for him and he appears out of the forest a couple of minutes later. We walk to where he is cutting wood and see Roger, the chainsaws, axes, wedges and the big blue tractor.
R gives us a demo with the tractor, a hook, some chain and some big logs. Big K cuts down 2 trees for us. VERY EXCITING.
R explains the process of leaving the “crop trees” to grow strong and cutting the weaker hard woods to use for firewood.
“Forester for Life,” working for the improvement and protection of forest life.
We leave the woods hungry, our sillies have been hiked out of us, we’re full of ticks and citronella, but that doesn’t stop us from making some wishes with dandelions.
We strip off some layers, get out our lunch because we were having so much fun, we forgot to eat… and we blast the music all the way home with the car windows all the way open.
The sun is finally out after 5 days of rain.
I was busy getting dinner ready and washing dishes. The boys were downstairs in the basement. While we have a great studio in the basement, when Dada is home, and it’s raining for a week straight like it has been, the boys like to spend time with him in his half of the basement, at his workbench.
Darn, I didn’t get a chance to watch it happen, but the boys built a beautiful sculpture of scrap wood, hammered together to make a ramp, a hiding place and a “parking” space. Kevin said it is completely Little J’s design.
We’ve worked on the idea of parking lots before. And I believe this is J’s love for playing with his little cars, lining them up to see them all… resurfacing after a small hibernation period.
J plays with his ramp today with 4 cars and some small blocks.
The 4 cars, all very good friends, all with names and personalities, hide from a monster under the sculpture, but then the monster runs away to Africa, so we’re safe, until it comes back. J builds a trap and catches the monster. “We need to hide really soon again, cause another one is comin’.” J and I abandon post to hide behind the train table until it’s safe.
K was taking his nap, and all was quiet in the house because we were in the basement studio.
I’d been working on some freezer paper printing on t-shirts and J wanted to help. I thought we’d have more fun if he used the tempera in the studio, and I knew there was already some paint and cups and brushes waiting to be discovered and used. He’s been painting very differently lately, much more interested in what’s happening on the paper. Previously, he was more into the feel of the motions while painting, scribbling. He’s now naming everything he paints and is telling stories and singing songs about what he was painting. It’s great to watch!
He painted through 2 very big pieces of paper, deciding after that, he wanted to paint directly on the easel without paper and make prints. I found him some tissue paper and we worked together to smooth over his painty marks and peal it away. I felt like his apprentice. This was a lot like the way I was working with the textile paint and freezer paper.
Of course, this led to hand painting and stepping on the tissue paper prints that were drying on the floor. He made a great footprint on the paper and decided to use his feet on the easel. I helped a little by picking him up after he painted his feet so he could paint with his toes on the easel. There was a lot of giggling going on.
Eventually, we just removed the easel board and put in on the floor. When he ran off the board he made a trail of footprints. I put down a long piece of paper so he could make his prints somewhere other than the floor of the basement. He kept returning to the board, using more paint on his feet and adding tracks to the paper.