Sunday, April 28, 2013

Learning To Use Tools - Balsa Wood

About a year ago Mr Bubble&Squeak set up a tools area for the girls in our garage. He likes to work on our cars during his spare time and tries to involve them in what he is doing whenever it is safe. He put together a box of kid friendly tools and sectioned off an area where they could spend time with him and watch while he worked.
The girls have spent hours ripping up old cardboard boxes with pliers, making their block towers even with spirit levels and hammering golf tees into foam board. Their interest in building things and tools led me to create a little area outside this week where they could learn to use things like hammers and screwdrivers safely, and experiment with making things.
We started with balsa wood which is nice and soft as well as light to handle. I rang a few balsa wood workshops and was able to collect their offcuts for free which were perfect for the girls to work with.
Instead of nails we used thumb tacks which were easy for them to hold and hammered easily into the soft wood.
These were perfect for Squeak and she hammered tack after tack into her pieces of balsa. Bubble very quickly moved from thumb tacks to nails, starting with large headed thick nails to a range of other sizes. Both girls mastered the screwdriver very quickly and were both busy screwing and nailing bits of wood together all afternoon.

Please note : Obviously, safety equipment is a must whenever kids are using or around tools of any kind, but most important is supervision. Constant and vigilant supervision. Before the girls laid hands on the tools they were shown how to use them properly and they are both already well versed in the dangers of using them improperly. We made sure the tools were appropriate for them in size and appropriate to their skill level as well.

 * balsa wood offcuts
* child sized tools 
(hammer, measuring tape and screwdriver) 
* thumb tacks/push pins with large grips
* safety glasses 
* safe and secure work area 

The balsa wood offcuts were perfect for the girls to start with. The wood is very light and very soft. Make sure your thumb tacks have large grips to give the kids something to hold.

We keep our balsa in a large tub so the girls can choose what they need.

Squeak loved being able to use the hammer and tacks all by herself.

They both loved using the screwdriver. Squeak needed me to start her screw going the first few times but they both had it mastered in no time.

It didn't take long before Bubble was joining wooden pieces together.

The girls enjoyed measuring their offcuts with the measuring tape and marking the wood with textas to show where they wanted them cut. I would then saw the pieces for them to the lengths they wanted.

At the end of the day the screws and nails can be removed easily and all of it reused again.

Designing Doll Clothes From Scrap Fabric

For her birthday this year Bubble was given a 'Design An Outfit' sticker book from one of her best mates which she absolutely loves. Today she asked if she could design some 'real clothes' for her dolls so we put together a little basket of things for her to use.
She has spent hours over the last few days busily dressing all of her Barbies and adding little bits and pieces to their outfits. Not only has it been great for her fine motor development and imaginary play it is also adorable to watch.


* scrap fabric
* scissors
* pipe cleaners
* ribbons
* elastic bands/hair ties
* embroidery needle
* embroidery thread

I put everything I thought Bubble might be able to use into a basket so she could use it however she liked. If you don't have scrap fabric then plastic bags, alfoil, tissues or tissue paper, wrapping paper etc... all work great too.

At first she found coming up with ideas and making them work frustrating so I sat with her for awhile working it out together. After she'd done a few though she was off.

Looking good Barbie.

I was amazed with how long she persevered with this activity and how many ideas she came up with. I'll keep adding to her basket so she can learn other techniques like sewing on buttons and making patterns.

Chalk Dust Paint

We have a serious over abundance of chalk at our house at the moment and a lot of it was looking a bit old and crumbly. Today we put it to good use and made some chalk paint, the girls found the process of creating it as fun as using it!


* chalk
* ziplock bags
* hammer
* bowls/containers
* warm water
* mixing spoon (pop stick)
* paint brushes

First we put our chalk into a ziplock bag and sealed it.

Then we took turns using the hammer to make it into powder. This was fun :D

We then poured the chalk powder into bowls and added warm water slowly, mixing it with a pop stick until we had the paint consistency we wanted.

The girls really enjoyed painting with it and the best part is it can be washed away just as easily as when we use chalk the conventional way!

Friday, April 26, 2013

Outdoor Fairy Tree

We are doing a big over haul of the girls outdoor play area now that the colder weather is approaching and playing outside is a bit less enticing. One thing Bubble wants to create is a Fairy Garden, so today we made a Fairy Tree as a start on that project.
This activity cost next to nothing and strengthened many areas of fine motor development not to mention imaginary play!


* terracotta flower pot
(we got ours at Bunnings for $1)
* air drying clay
(you could also use plaster of paris)
* sticks
* paint
* brushes

We spent a few days collecting sticks with interesting shapes whenever we went to the park and once we had a good collection I spread them out and set the girls up with paint and brushes.

They both enjoyed painting the sticks for the fairy tree in all sorts of different colours and patterns. I put out a variety of brushes so that they could experiment with them.

We laid out the painted sticks on big sheets of paper to dry in the sun.

Once our painted sticks were dry we got our pot and pushed the air drying clay into the bottom of it.

The girls loved the squishy texture of the clay. Make sure you have enough clay in the pot to hold your sticks upright.

The girls then pushed their sticks into the clay to create the Fairy Tree.

Because the clay doesn't dry right away they were able to play around with the sticks and get them exactly where they wanted them to be.

The girls wanted to make the Fairy Tree sparkly so we cut up some metallic pipe cleaners and ribbons to tie to the branches.

Squeak got a great fine motor workout attaching the pipe cleaners and Bubble finally learnt how to tie knots with the ribbon - way to go Bubble!

Some of Bubbles knots.

We used a small stick to make a swing in the tree for the fairies to sit on.

Once the clay had dried we topped up the pot with sand and the fairies moved in.

I love the way one little project created so many opportunities to practice skill building and has encouraged so much play!