The power of simple water play never gets old.
Whether you have the kids working in a process table, standing on a stool at the kitchen sink, the bathtub or the beach, there is a giant value to this activity.
Water is a huge part of the human world. Playing and experimenting with water develops and builds relationship and comfort level with the basic element. Children are able to practice pouring and dumping, basic concepts of math and measurement.
The options for tools you use in the water are endless.
What stands out for me the most about open play with water is the story-telling that’s born from the interaction.
I add some dish soap to the bottom of a process table, add warm water in a shower spray to activate the bubbles. Here is a bit of dialogue I overhear as my 2 boys play in the water with cups, large spoons and medicine dispensers.
“pretend this is bubble soup that you always wanted
i made it cause you wanted it for a whole day, such a long time
so i made it for you
I don’t want it, it’s too yucky
someone told me it was yucky
what about pineapple soup
no answer, kiki is focused on his own work.
this is chicken juice for me to make for a customer
this one is blueberry, i made it for myself
friend, i made some pineapple
sorry i already made blueberry
pretend i wanted to drink it for a whole week.
happy face, dump it back,
i already drinked it all
do you want me to make more
I’ll make more tomorrow.
pretend you the chef and I make the soup
this store is closing
mom, the store is closed now
time to rest up for tomorrow.
pretend all the customers are leavin’
pretending to lock up the doors of the kitchen.
cock a doodly doo
time to go back to the store.”
Having boys is like having puppies…you’ve GOT to take them for frequent walks, in all weather.
Winter in New England can be long and cold.
Taking a walk outside can freeze you thoroughly and fast.
But if there is snow, it changes everything.
Taking a wintery hike is a seasonal sensory experience; crunchy, impressionable snow.
Crunchy, brittle ice, some white, some clear, all of it slippery.
We don’t run or jump onto the ice because we fall hard.
We’ve had some unusually warm days here, mixed with the regular NE weather, so there’s lots of ice and snow. We find the edge of a lake today, on our wintery walk, and break off pieces to throw onto the frozen lake. The thrown pieces of ice shatter like glass and slide across the slippery surface like they’ll never stop. This project, involving breaking ice, pulling it up and throwing it, keeps the boys employed for about an hour.
Ice play is a perfect exploration/activity for a snow day, after the family has shoveled the driveway, gone sledding, built a snowman, made lots of snow angels, drank up their hot cocoa.
I put ice cube trays on the back porch on a cold night, ice cube trays full of water and generous squirts of food coloring.
In the morning, I popped out the ice, put it in the bowl, filled the ice cube trays again, repeated the freezing on back porch sessions, until I felt I had enough for a good building session.
On a snow day, I set up the ice, baking trays and gloves.
The kids aren’t sure what to do with the ice at first, so I start to build towers.
The ice is starting to melt and is too slippery to successfully stack.
The kids fill a round baking sheet by circling the out to the inside.
Then they’re done.
I see a post from Nurture Store that mentions the use of salt to fuse the ice blocks together!
How could I have forgotten!
So, the next time, there will be ice AND salt.
My Little Friend A was at his first day of school during the official Mini Rainbow Warrior Dash, where when everyone was done with their “heats,” we threw around colored corn starch as warrior powder. We were so excited to use the powder, that all the bags of color were gone before we could save some.
I wanted to make more, so Friend A could have a turn too.
We take our time making more. There is no rush, and lots of fun to be had during the process.
We fill the process table with one very large container of corn starch.
We add water and lots of packets of orange kool aide, making goop and adding some fun toys, like rocks and cars.
The next day, the goop has firmed up making it really fun to scoop. We add spatulas and large serving spoons.
When the goop is dry, we hammer it to turn it into chunks.
I put the chunks into the food processor.
We take the orange powder and use it to throw around, making one happy Friend A.
After our visit to the Worcester Art Museum we are inspired by Charline von Heyl’s The Wall at WAM and by Ellsworth Kelly’s Orange White. We are most influenced by the simple shapes and bright colors.
I make prints of Ellsworth Kelly’s Orange White and offer them to the the kids as a provocation with the DIY liquid watercolors we made together.
Little J and a friend, both 5 years old, start by tracing the shapes with color. Then, they fill in the shapes with marks, followed by filling in the rest of the spaces. Little K, 3 years old, thinks, “screw this, I’m gonna dump this glass of black liquid watercolor over the paper and see what happens.” He asks me for another paper. His marks are done only with red paint, his favorite color.
Finished art inspired by art.
Epilogue: After I put down the camera and turn my back to clean dishes at the sink, the kids find syringe-type medicine dispensers and use them add more liquid watercolor to the papers. The images dry pale and look like a tie dye sunset.
We take all the markers in the house, fat ones, skinny ones, permanent and washable, smelly ones and very expensive art store markers. One by one, we test each marker on paper to see if the ink is dry. We make 2 piles of markers: the ones that still work and the ones that are dry. We have about 30 dry markers when we’re done.
We categorize the markers into 5 color families. Each family goes into a glass of water, upside down without the cap. We leave the markers steeping in water for a full 24 hours.
Voila, free liquid watercolors. For a more thorough tutorial, see finding my marbles.
Warning: permanent markers, make permanent paint. Use caution if you want to keep your skin and clothes from getting stained.
Fill a clear plastic container 1/3 a way with water.
Add the food colors that you like.
Fill the rest of the jar with oil.
If the water/oil seperation waves aren’t trippy enough…you can add an Alka Seltzer and it starts to bubble color like a real lava lamp.
sponge, cut to whatever size you like
straws for the mast
paper to make sails
tape to attach the sails to the mast
Cut the sponge to the shape boat you like.
Poke a hole in the middle of your sponge with a sharp scissor.
Insert straw into hole.
Cut out a sail shape from paper
Tape sail to straw
At nature camp this summer, the kids take samples from a pond. They find a leech, 2 tadpoles, and 2 very cool bugs.
I pack a white tray, popsicle sticks, little clear jars and paper and drawing pen to go to one of our favorite places, the river.
We pull samples from different parts of the river: the shallow still waters, from a rock in the middle of the river and scooping muck from the bottom of the river.
We pour the samples onto the white tray and browse for living creatures with our pop sticks.
We find a leach, lots of water skimmers and something that looked like a tiny crayfish.
The kids become involved in catching lots of water skimmers.
When they are finished observing, we empty the contents of tray back into the river, and draw a picture of water skimmers together.
When I was a little girl, I used to go everywhere with my very sociable Abuelita Mercedes. She would take me to visit all sorts of family. We would go to the bakery, where they would let me empty a loaf of bread, leaving the outside crust. We would go to her apartment and make wedding dresses for my pretend play. One of my fondest memories is going to my Tia Martha’s house, and as the biejitas talked their gossip, they would play a game. They would throw coins onto the carpet, and I would pretend for hours to be a diver, diving for coins.
The boys are wired after summer camp. They need some down time. I bring our “Rainy Day Fund” coin jar down to our pool. Little K throws the whole jar in the pool.
The boys dive for coins, emptying them into a tupperware. Dunking their heads under water is a new summer skill for them and they’re loving any time they have to practice.
Big K has a dream of scuba diving in Key West and finding a treasure, keeping us rich and comfortable as gentlemen farmers for the rest of our lives. Little K says he wants to be a “diver, diver” when he grows up too.