Play

Week 5: Watercolours (52 Weeks of Provocations)

Provocation 5 : Watercolours

You can find more information about provocations here πŸ™‚

Provocation 5 - Introducing Paints - Adventures of a Subversive Reader

Background Information

We’ve played with watercolours before, but back before Squirm was walking. Now he is walking and he is a little taller, I was able to pull out an easel and allow Squirm to explore watercolours in a whole new way

Materials

  • Watercolour paints (from Big W)
  • A selection of brushes
  • Water and water container
  • Easel (from Ikea)
  • Big pieces of paper (Mine were left over from when I was teaching, but you can get great pieces of big paper from Storage places)
  • Table
  • Mirror
  • Various pencils and crayons

Set Up

At first I just set up the easel with the watercolours and water on the ground. This was successful, but meant that Squirm needed to do a lot of crouching and standing. The next day, I placed the easel next to the table and set up the watercolours, mirror, water and pencils and crayons on the table. This was much more successful. I gave Squirm a new piece of paper each time, though some had writing on the back from my classroom days. I made sure the watercolours were wet before Squirm began

Provocation 5 - Introducing Paints - Adventures of a Subversive Reader

Experiences

Squirm seemed to remember the watercolours from when we’d played with them before. To start with he stuck with his brushes, putting them in the paint and making long strokes on the paper. Some of the time he put the brush in water between colours, other times he didn’t. Later on he experimented with using a crayon to dip in the paint instead of a brush, and he tried some small twigs as well. He mostly kept his lines to one part of the page, though he would paint over my lines if I made any. On one of the days, he enjoyed the fact that he would use the water and the paint to make a hole in the paper.

Provocation 5 - Introducing Paints - Adventures of a Subversive Reader Provocation 5 - Introducing Paints - Adventures of a Subversive Reader Provocation 5 - Introducing Paints - Adventures of a Subversive Reader Provocation 5 - Introducing Paints - Adventures of a Subversive Reader

What Next?

Art, art and more art πŸ™‚ The easel was a massive hit, so I’m sure we’re going to use it for drawing, pasting, and painting with different types of paints. Squirm also seemed more receptive to art experiences – this has carried over into drawing which he does most days. There’s a wonderful post at How We Montessori with different art activities, which I’m definitely going to use for ideas.

Provocations are experiences offered to a child, based on past knowledge or interests, with the aim of extending the child’s ideas.

Our provocations present a small range of materials – some which are part of Squirm’s every day life, others which are new to him, or only known from other provocations. The aim is to present them in a thoughtful and (hopefully) attractive way, and to allow Squirm to investigate them in any manner he wishes. These provocations will remain in place for around a week, and then a new provocation will be presented.

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7 Ways to Encourage Science with Toddlers and Preschoolers

7 Ways to Encourage Science - Adventures of a Subversive Reader

It was the toy car which brought it to my attention. Squirm has become more and more interested in his toy cars and making them move. One day I noticed that he was picking them up and moving them onto the lino to play with them – he’d noticed that they rolled better on the lino than the carpet.

It struck me that he was exploring friction and forces – he was exploring science. And this wasn’t the only time he’d been exploring science – he explores gravity when he drops something and biology when he examines the ants crawling on the path in front of him or watches a bird preening. In fact, a lot of the time, his world is one big science exploration. I guess it’s probably the same for a lot of toddlers – whichΒ  amazes me and thrills me.

As an upper primary teacher I know this fascination with science doesn’t hold out. Students might enjoy experiments, but they’re not always interested in repeating them. Or finding out the ‘whys’ behind it. Or applying their knowledge to other situations. And it often gets bogged down in important, but rather dull lessons about scientific method and how to write up experiments. Or is held hostage to safety concerns or (sadly) a lack of resources in the schools.

Teaching science is hard. Often these are massive, complex concepts which are continually being researched and examined at university level. As a teacher you have to understand them and then work out a way for kids to explore them, without being spoon fed any of the information. Resources are tight (both for experimenting and for explaining) and time is limited. Teachers who excel at teaching science should be celebrated.

But maybe we, as parents, could help these teachers out a bit. Maybe we can play our part to preserve the curiosity and exploration which is evident in our toddlers. Here are a few simple ideas to honour science with our children:

1. Give them space and time to explore

Exploration doesn’t happen in 10 or 20 minute blocks. Children need the chance to observe the world around them and to figure out what interests them. Offering extended times to just play independently – inside or outside – gives children the time they need to explore and process different ideas.

2. Respect their questions

According to my mother, I was the kind of child who had hundreds of questions about everything. It’s important to let children know that their questions are valid and worth asking – after all a good scientist is curious about how things work and how they could work better

3. Offer opportunities for tinkering

Offer opportunities to pull things are and put them back together, to play with different materials and to make grand plans for mundane materials. This TED talk looks at a program devoted to tinkering:

And TinkerLab is a wonderful website with tonnes of ideas. But for younger toddlers, tinkering could be as simple as offering a range of household materials to play with or even a cardboard box. Squirm ‘discovered’ the cardboard box that my new frying pan came in the other day. He realised that he could manipulate the lid in different ways until it made a great slide to roll blocks and other toys down.

4. Give children opportunities to share their learning

One of the things my students used to find hardest was writing up their experiments. It can be extremely difficult to share what we do or what we observe, so it is great if children get into the groove of sharing their experiences and understandings from the beginning. They might want to talk about it, or record their voices on the computer, or they might be a visual person who likes to draw what they understand. An adult can also scribe their ideas for them. Sometimes the act of writing things down or listening to their ideas might spur them on to further exploration or clarification

5. Help them to extend their understanding

The jump from experimenting or observation to concepts can be a hard one to make. If you have a child who is really into a scientific topic, then you might like to extend them with the help of your local library. Lots of libraries have great non fiction sections for kids, and books will often explain different concepts and give children ideas for new explorations.

6. Invite science into your house

Make science a part of your life the same way you might make reading or writing part of your life. Have books about science topics or scientists. Talk about cool things you’ve seen in nature, or the awesome science you saw on the news. You can even get music about science, like the awesome Here Comes Science from They Might Be Giants. This is my favourite song and video from that CD

7. Go out and find science

As well as the science you find naturally around you, there’s also awesome places with tonnes of science information and exploration. Squirm and I recently visited a local nature centre which had lots of science information, science books and microscopes for children to look through, as well as a cool nature walk. When I used to take students to the Queensland Museum, one of their favourite areas was the Discovery Centre which had drawers of animal poo! There’s lots and lots of places where you can discover science when you get out and look for it!

Week 4: Foam Block (52 Weeks of Provocations)

You can find more information about provocations here πŸ™‚

Unfortunately we had some work done on our house which halted . . . well everything for a while. The disruption caused some problems both in the areas we could use, and with Squirm’s behaviour at the time. We seem to have everything slowly getting back to normal though, and I’m restarting the provocations – beginning with one we actually did during the disrupted period.

Provocation 4: Foam Block - Adventures of a Subversive Reader

Provocation 4 : Foam Block

Background Information

It started with a pin cushion left just in the reach of my ever growing Squirm. To my horror, I found him crouched on the floor, intently pulling out each one of my very sharp pins! Obviously, this was incredibly interesting to him, but in no way safe. But it got me thinking about what could we do to mimic the sensory experience of pulling pins out of a pin cushion. This was our (sometimes surprising) alternative.

Materials

  • Foam florists block (from the local discount store)
  • Golf tees (from the local discount store)
  • Platter for holding the block
  • Container for the tees
  • Splash mat (because we did it indoors)
  • Water

Set Up

We set this up on the floor of our kitchen on top of the splash mat. First I wet the block to make it less ‘flaky’ then pushed in the golf tees. I placed the block on an old platter I had (non breakable) and put it on the mat with the container.

Provocation 4: Foam Block - Adventures of a Subversive Reader

Experiences

Squirm LOVED this provocation. The tees and the block worked extremely well together and he enjoyed pulling the tees out (there’s a slight ‘pull’ before they come out), and pushing them back in. He also likes using the tees as tools on the foam – making holes and ‘carving’ paths and lines with them. He also enjoyed using his hands to push and pull at the block – demolishing a whole corner at one point. The tees continued to be a toy separate to the block as well – used for poking and prodding and tinkering.

Provocation 4: Foam Block - Adventures of a Subversive Reader Provocation 4: Foam Block - Adventures of a Subversive Reader Provocation 4: Foam Block - Adventures of a Subversive Reader Provocation 4: Foam Block - Adventures of a Subversive Reader Provocation 4: Foam Block - Adventures of a Subversive Reader

What Next?

The foam block made me think about using clay and the different experiences Squirm might be able to have with that. As we begin to move into more art based activities, I’m sure there’s be clay available to play with. I’d also like to use the golf tees again since Squirm really enjoyed manipulating them.

Provocations are experiences offered to a child, based on past knowledge or interests, with the aim of extending the child’s ideas.

Our provocations present a small range of materials – some which are part of Squirm’s every day life, others which are new to him, or only known from other provocations. The aim is to present them in a thoughtful and (hopefully) attractive way, and to allow Squirm to investigate them in any manner he wishes. These provocations will remain in place for around a week, and then a new provocation will be presented.

Five Favourite Toys That Aren’t Really Toys: The Inside Edition

5 Favourite Toys That Aren't Really Toys: Adventures of a Subversive Reader

Like other babies and toddlers, Squirm has a long-held fascination with the every day items around him. Often these items become his most played with and explored toys. Here’s five of his favourites for playing with inside.

Five Favourite Toys That Aren't Really Toys: Adventures of a Subversive Reader

An Old Keyboard

Squirm is fascinated by things he can press at the moment, and our laptops are a constant source of interest. Unfortunately for him, we don’t always want him typing messages on our laptops (he once sent a garbled message to a politician’s Facebook page) and he’s not always the most gentle with the keys. Enter my wonderful father who works with computers. He had this wonderful wireless keyboard in his discards pile and was able to clean it up for Squirm. He plays with it almost every day, typing out all sorts of messages for the world to read.

Five Favourite Toys That Aren't Really Toys: Adventures of a Subversive Reader

A Torch/Beacon

After we visited the Ipswich Art Gallery’s Light Play exhibition, I sought out some ways for Squirm to play with light. One of our discoveries was this torch/beacon from Big W. It comes in a couple of different colours (we have red and blue) and has a torch in the end, plus the ‘glow stick’ part. It has a variety of settings (including flashing) and has been an absolute hit with Squirm, especially during late afternoons and early evenings. Recently, it’s become even more fun because he can press the button himself and doesn’t need me to help him with it.

Five Favourite Toys That Aren't Really Toys: Adventures of a Subversive Reader Five Favourite Toys That Aren't Really Toys: Adventures of a Subversive Reader

A Stepping Stool/Bench

I originally bought this stool from a discount store, back when Squirm was pulling himself up on furniture for standing. But once he started walking and started climbing up on things, he discovered a new way to use it. When it was overturned, it was the perfect height to practice stepping up onto and down off again. He sets it up in the middle of the living room and spends ages stepping on and off it and running around to try again. Then when he’s tired, he has a nice seat to sit on πŸ™‚ (Plus it has a little container built in the top for him to store things in!)

Five Favourite Toys That Aren't Really Toys: Adventures of a Subversive Reader

An Old Purse, Glasses Case and Loyalty Cards

A couple of months ago, Squirm got hold of my purse while we were visiting my parents. Suddenly money was being thrown through the air, quickly followed by an assortment of very old receipts (thanks to this, I have a very clean purse now). After this happened a few times, I dug out an old purse of mine, along with some loyalty cards, a few Woolworths animal card doubles and an old student card and an old glasses case. These are all kept in an old handbag of mine, which has about 100 (or at least 5) zippers and compartments – it keeps him busy for ages.

Five Favourite Toys That Aren't Really Toys: Adventures of a Subversive Reader

Utensils

Squirm can reach into 3 out of 4 of our drawers in the kitchen now. The bottom one holds his plates and cups, the next one holds nothing (though he occasionally uses it to store food . . . ) and the next one up has out cooking utensils. These are the ones he likes the most – they make a wonderful noise when he hits them together or against other things. But he also uses them to push and pull things across the floor.

It’s wonderful to see the imagination Squirm has when it comes to ordinary household items – I’m always wondering what he’ll play with next!

What’s going on?

You may (or may not) have noticed that I’ve been a bit quiet lately. We’ve been thrown into a bit of chaos lately with a possible move in the future. The problem is, we don’t have any confirmation of whether or not we’ll be moving – something which has done wonders for my anxiety. Meanwhile, we’re trying to get things fixed around our current house – which led to a long, convoluted and anxiety inducing adventure with the gutters – and that’s only the first thing we got done!

So, to catch up, I thought I’d put together a bit-of-everything post – which hopefully will inspire more posts!

Something to Support

Kaleidoscope

You probably know that I’m passionate about good fiction for children and young adults. I’m also passionate about diverse fiction for children and young adults. This is not always easy to find, especially as you head into genres such as science fiction or fantasy. Kaleidoscope is an anthology of diverse, contemporary Young Adult fantasy fiction which will be edited by Julia Rios and Alisa Krasnostein, and published by the independent Australian publisher, Twelfth Planet Press (I’ve reviewed some of the awesome Twelfth Planet books here and here). There is a Pozible campaign running at the moment, with awesome rewards (including Twelfth Planet Press books) and it’s a campaign well worth contributing to.Β  If you can’t contribute to the Pozible campaign, maybe you could pass the word around on social media – I’d personally love to see this collection in every high school library! (There’s also a blog with great articles and a Facebook page to follow along with the progress)

Provocations

I know I’m terribly behind on these – partly because we’ve had little or no access to our back yard. I do have two new ones and a bunch of others planned. I’ll have them up as soon as possible.

Awesome Coconut Oil Chocolate

Have you tried these Coconut Oil Chocolates over at Sew, Cook, Laugh Live? I seriously love them – and I haven’t bought a bar of chocolate – or missed them – since I made them. That’s a HUGE thing for me. Today I’m going to try making them with ginger πŸ™‚

Kids Clothes Week

Kids Clothes Week starts next week! I’m not an official participant yet, and I’m not sure what my schedule will be like next week, but if you sew things for kids, head over, sign up and enjoy checking out other people’s wonderful outfits.

And what’s Squirm up to at the moment?

Adventures of a Subversive Reader

Everything! He’s 100% toddler at the moment and constantly busy. He loves investigating things – especially things with wheels. Here is is checking out his friend’s car πŸ™‚

Week 3: A Collection of Stones (52 Weeks of Provocations)

You can find more information about provocations here πŸ™‚

Collection of Stones Provocation: Adventures of a Subversive Reader

Provocation 3 : A Collection of Stones

Background Information

I wanted to return to the stones which Squirm enjoyed so much in the first week, while introducing a few different types of stones. However, I thought I would also continue to use some of the excellent materials which worked so well in the second week. So this provocation kind of became a combination of the two. Plus we finally had a table to use!

Materials

  • Two stainless steel bowls (from KMart)
  • 6 large river stones (from the local discount store)
  • 6 large blue ‘glass’ stones (from the local discount store)
  • 6 large green ‘glass’ stones (from the local discount store)
  • water
  • Mirror (from the local discount store)
  • Table (from Ikea)
  • Plastic covering (from Big W)
  • Rug (from KMart)

Set Up

Because the table is a little tall for Squirm, I discovered the materials worked best if they were set up close to the edge of the table. I put the plastic covering on the table first (because we were working with water), then the rug on top. On one side of the rug, we had the bowl with the stones in it, on the other side a bowl with water, a mirror in between.

Collection of Stones Provocation: Adventures of a Subversive Reader Collection of Stones Provocation: Adventures of a Subversive Reader

Experiences

Squirm really enjoyed the feel of the ‘glass’ rocks, picking them up, turning them over in his hands, dropping them on the ground (to hear the sound) and trying to make them spin on the ground. He really enjoyed dropping them in the water, then tipping the water bowl (water everywhere!) to get them back again. He also spent a lot of time just playing with the water again. He continued his more cautious approach from last week, but also enjoyed tipping it over a bit at a time to see the water spill.

I was able to get a video of some of Squirm’s play (note, the cup was from last week’s provocation. He wouldn’t give it up πŸ™‚ )

Collection of Stones Provocation: Adventures of a Subversive Reader Collection of Stones Provocation: Adventures of a Subversive Reader Collection of Stones Provocation: Adventures of a Subversive Reader Collection of Stones Provocation: Adventures of a Subversive Reader Collection of Stones Provocation: Adventures of a Subversive Reader Collection of Stones Provocation: Adventures of a Subversive Reader Collection of Stones Provocation: Adventures of a Subversive Reader

What Next?

We’re going to give the rocks and water a little break for a while now, but I’ll be very interested in how Squirm approaches them when we pull them out in the future. I’d like to include some short sticks and even some blocks with the rocks, especially as Squirm gets more interested in stacking.

Collection of Stones Provocation: Adventures of a Subversive Reader Collection of Stones Provocation: Adventures of a Subversive Reader Collection of Stones Provocation: Adventures of a Subversive Reader Collection of Stones Provocation: Adventures of a Subversive Reader Collection of Stones Provocation: Adventures of a Subversive Reader Collection of Stones Provocation: Adventures of a Subversive Reader

Provocations are experiences offered to a child, based on past knowledge or interests, with the aim of extending the child’s ideas.

Our provocations present a small range of materials – some which are part of Squirm’s every day life, others which are new to him, or only known from other provocations. The aim is to present them in a thoughtful and (hopefully) attractive way, and to allow Squirm to investigate them in any manner he wishes. These provocations will remain in place for around a week, and then a new provocation will be presented.

Week 2: Water Play (52 Weeks of Provocations)

You can find more information about provocations here πŸ™‚

Water Play Provocation: Adventures of a Subversive Reader

Provocation 2 : Water Play

Background Information

At first I thought I would do a direct follow up to last week’s provocation. However, during the week, we noticed that Squirm was really interested in scooping up water and playing with it during bath time. We’ve slowly been introducing Squirm to cups and other drinking implements during meal times, so I thought this would be a good opportunity to extend the ideas he’d been playing with in the bath.

Materials

  • Two stainless steel bowls (from KMart)
  • A plastic mug and ‘glass’ (from KMart)
  • A small rug (from KMart)
  • A ‘tough’ mirror (from the hardware section of our local discount store)
  • Water

Set Up

At first I set this one up on the ground, with the mat laid down, two bowls of water next to each other, and the mirror, glass and mug in front. However, Squirm wasn’t great at moving around when sitting, so we moved it to the upturned crate. Although this made access easier for Squirm, it did make balancing things more precarious. I’m really glad I’ve bought a small table now!

The small rug was a wonderful way of ‘setting’ the activity – making it clear that this was something separate. It was also heavy enough that it didn’t move in the wind, and dried really well when hung up between play.

 

Water Play Provocation: Adventures of a Subversive Reader Water Play Provocation: Adventures of a Subversive Reader

Experiences

Squirm’s experience with the water was quite messy. His initial approach was to smack his hands into the water, resulting in some spectacular splashes and some of the times the water bowl would tip. As the week went on, I noticed that he approached the water more carefully – hitting it more softly or splashing only his fingers in it. He still played with tipping the bowl over, and enjoyed playing with the water that splashed on the ground.

When he’d emptied the water out of the bowl, Squirm enjoyed playing with the bowls themselves. They made a wonderful clatter when they were dropped on the concrete floor, and because the base was very rounded (with only a small flat bit) they wobbled and spun in a really enjoyable way. Squirm loved to tip one side, then release it, watching the way it would rock back and forward on its own.

Because he’d been scooping with a cup in the bath, I thought he’d do the same with the cup and mug here. However, he was less interested in that than playing with the cup and mug themselves. He loved the sound of them dropping on the concrete, but also the ways they would move – the cup would roll in wide circles, while the mug was stopped by the handle. He did drop them in water occasionally, but didn’t pick any water up with the cups.

Water Play Provocation: Adventures of a Subversive Reader Water Play Provocation: Adventures of a Subversive Reader Water Play Provocation: Adventures of a Subversive Reader

What Next?

I’m definitely going to continue to offer provocations with water to Squirm – he is endlessly fascinated by it and the way it moved – plus it’s easy to play with, especially as it heats up. I’m also going to keep using the mat, which really defined the working area, and the stainless steel bowls, which were just so nice to look at and manipulate. I may offer another provocation using the cups in the future, but without any kind of preconceptions next time!

Water Play Provocation: Adventures of a Subversive Reader Water Play Provocation: Adventures of a Subversive Reader Water Play Provocation: Adventures of a Subversive Reader Water Play Provocation: Adventures of a Subversive Reader Water Play Provocation: Adventures of a Subversive Reader Water Play Provocation: Adventures of a Subversive Reader

Provocations are experiences offered to a child, based on past knowledge or interests, with the aim of extending the child’s ideas.

Our provocations present a small range of materials – some which are part of Squirm’s every day life, others which are new to him, or only known from other provocations. The aim is to present them in a thoughtful and (hopefully) attractive way, and to allow Squirm to investigate them in any manner he wishes. These provocations will remain in place for around a week, and then a new provocation will be presented.

Week 1: Stones and Water (52 Weeks of Provocations)

Welcome to the first of my posts about the provocations I offer Squirm. You can find more information about provocations here πŸ™‚

Rock and Water Provocation: Adventures of a Subversive Reader

Provocation 1 : Stones and Water

Background Information

We’ve noticed that Squirm is very interested in the way things feel. He likes to pick things up, likes to thoroughly examine them. He’s also a big fan of water. I wanted his first provocation to have some familiar objects, but offered together in a way they hadn’t been available to him before.

Materials

  • Β 12 river stones (from discount store)
  • Water
  • 2 paint brushes (part of a pack from Woolworths)
  • Small tongs (from Spotlight)
  • Hard plastic bowl (from discount store)
  • Plastic container (from discount store)
  • Silver tray (from discount store)
  • Mirror

Set Up

I placed the stones into the bowl and placed it next to the container of water. These were both offered on the tray, along with the mirror, the brushes and the tongs. (All of these were presented on an upturned crate-style box – I’m hoping to get a small table soon)

Rock and Water Provocation: Adventures of a Subversive Reader

Experiences

I was amazed at the huge range of activities Squirm explored with this provocation, very few of which I had expected. He spent a fair amount of time picking the stones up and dropping them into the water – which was probably closest to what I expected – but there were many other things he discovered while playing.

Most of the play was with individual items. Although he had been exposed to all these items before, this was the first time he’d really explored them – probably because it was the first time they were available constantly and in an uncrowded way. The stones were probably his favourite things – he spent a lot of time picking them up and moving them around, but he also explored the way they sounded (dropping them on different surfaces, banging them together) and the way they moved (his favourite thing was getting them to spin on the cement floor).

Sound was a common theme throughout the week – Squirm also used the brushes and the tongs to bit against different surfaces and objects, exploring the different sounds he could make. He spent a significant amount of time with the tongs, working out how to squeeze them together (though he doesn’t yet have the strength to carry things with them).

There was also a significant amount of water play. Squirm’s favourite thing was hitting the water, although he wasn’t always thrilled to be splashed by it. He also enjoyed tipping it up and examining the way it moved on the tray or the concrete.

Rock and Water Provocation: Adventures of a Subversive Reader Rock and Water Provocation: Adventures of a Subversive Reader

What Next?

Although I’m not immediately offering a similar provocation, there are a number of ways I can see this provocation being extended and changed. We could offer alternatives to the stones, or offer different materials as well as them. We could also replace the water with something different. Squirm really enjoyed this, so I can definitely see us revisiting something similar in the future.

Rock and Water Provocation: Adventures of a Subversive Reader Rock and Water Provocation: Adventures of a Subversive Reader Rock and Water Provocation: Adventures of a Subversive Reader

Provocations are experiences offered to a child, based on past knowledge or interests, with the aim of extending the child’s ideas.

Our provocations present a small range of materials – some which are part of Squirm’s every day life, others which are new to him, or only known from other provocations. The aim is to present them in a thoughtful and (hopefully) attractive way, and to allow Squirm to investigate them in any manner he wishes. These provocations will remain in place for around a week, and then a new provocation will be presented.

Our Trip To Ipswich: Part One – Light Play!

Last Thursday, Squirm and I went on a BIG adventure to the Ipswich Art Gallery. To put into perspective how BIG this was – we’re talking about a nearly 2 hour journey on a train with a nearly one year old . . .

Big Light Play Adventure: Adventures of a Subversive Reader

There was a very good reason for taking such a big trip, though. The Ipswich Art Gallery had two amazing displays on – Light Play, which offered opportunities for children to explore and play with light, colours and reflection and The Wonder of Learning which was a brilliant demonstration of the learning going on in the early childhood centres in Reggio Emilio. I’m going to talk more about the latter exhibition in another post and concentrate on Light Play here.

After getting terribly lost on the very short and quite simple walk from the train station to the art gallery, we made our way to the special baby and toddler session of Light Play. This was especially put on for children between the ages of 6 months and 3 years, with lots of understanding about strollers and children putting things in mouths. Imagine a room full of different, cool light materials and a bunch of really small children – tonnes and tonnes of fun.

There were about 6 different areas of the exhibition, and Squirm and I spent a bit of time at each one.

1. Over Head Projectors

There were a row of overhead projectors lined up facing the wall, each one with a bucket of ‘stuff’ sitting behind it. The ‘stuff’ included coloured see through items but also regular household items (computer bits, metal washing scrubbers, toys) and were roughly separated by colours. The children then could put them on and off the overhead projectors, and explore moving them and the pictures they created on the wall. A lot of the older children were fascinated by the pictures on the wall – the way they were changeable, but they could get up there and touch the wall and play with the shadows. For Squirm, it was more about the light and the items (and which ones he could fit in his mouth)

Big Light Play Adventure: Adventures of a Subversive Reader

2. Small circular light tables

There were four different light tables set up. Unlike the overhead projectors there was a smaller range of items, but in more colours. So one table had coloured plastic transparent glasses and coloured plastic transparent measuring spoons, and these could be manipulated and stacked to play with colour. This wasn’t terribly interesting to Squirm, or the other smaller children, though a lot of adults seemed to really enjoyed it πŸ™‚

Big Light Play Adventure: Adventures of a Subversive Reader

3. Mirror Triangles

These were seriously cool – big triangle shapes ‘tunnels’ which had mirrors on all three of the inside walls. All of the children seemed to enjoy crawling and walking inside them and exploring their own reflections.

Big Light Play Adventure: Adventures of a Subversive Reader

4. Light Sculptures

This was my favourite thing, but probably more aimed at an older audience. On a line of wire, different items and combinations of items were hung and torches (flashlights) were provided to explore the sculptures. By aiming the torches in different ways, holding them closer and further away, moving the sculptures, the shadows on the wall were almost dancing in different ways. It was lovely and completely repeatable in a home environment.

5. The Reflection Corner

This was a perfect area for the smallest visitors and also served as a nice chill out kind of area. Using mirrors almost as a divider from the rest of the space, it was filled with reflective cardboard, reflective material, mirrors, CDs, torches and glow sticks. Squirm really loved the glow stick and spent some good time interacting with the mirrors.

Big Light Play Adventure: Adventures of a Subversive Reader Big Light Play Adventure: Adventures of a Subversive Reader

6. Webcam and Light Box

This was a popular one with all of the children. A big, low light table was set up, with all sorts of amazing mirrors and see through things in different colours. Also on the table was a small webcam which was projecting onto the blank wall nearby. There were so many different ways that the children could interact with the table – stacking, moving, manipulating, reflecting, patterning – then playing with the webcam to discover what designs they could make. The best ones involved the mirrors, especially when a young boy decided to see if he could move the camera from the table and use mirrors and a glow stick to create an image for the projection.

Big Light Play Adventure: Adventures of a Subversive Reader Big Light Play Adventure: Adventures of a Subversive Reader

The exhibit was amazing and I think it’s around until 25th August. If you’re in the area, it’s totally worth making the trip to go and see it.

Adventures in Play Dough: The First Try

Adventures in Play Dough: Adventures of a Subversive Reader

One of my fond memories from my own childhood is my mother making play dough for us. She must have cooked it, since I remember it it being warm when we played with it. It always had a nice, heavy feel in our hands, and the possibilities of a fresh ball of play dough seemed endless.

Squirm and I have just had our very first experience making and playing with play dough. After our experience with paint and other art, I knew we needed to go slow when I introduced it. I also knew that we needed to make sure it was non toxic – more than likely it would go in the mouth.

As it turned out, Squirm didn’t try to taste it at all, which really surprised me. He didn’t really want to interact with it, except when I put little shapes of play dough on the brick he was exploring. There he moved it, pressing his fingers into it and explored it a little more. We’ll play with it over the next couple of days to get him more used to it – but for a dollar or so of materials, I’m not real worried if he doesn’t get that into it.

Making the Play Dough

I started off using this recipe. (I didn’t want the bother of cooking play dough this time, so non cook was the best option) Since I wasn’t sure how it would turn out or how Squirm would react to it, I halved most the recipe, but added a little more than half the oil. I also used hot water. When I was adding the water, I added a little bit at a time to try and get the best mix. Having some extra flour around would be good in case you use too much water, though.

The best tip I have is to put the spoon down once you start adding water and knead it together by hand. You can get a much better feel for the play dough that way and you’re more likely to get what you want.

I also held off on adding the food colour. When I had the play dough to the consistency I wanted, I divided it into four small balls. I then put a couple of drops of yellow colouring in the middle of one, and that was what we played with today. When we came back inside I coloured the others for later play.

Adventures in Play Dough: Adventures of a Subversive Reader Adventures in Play Dough: Adventures of a Subversive Reader

When we came back in I did notice the dough left out on the bench was a little dry. It moistened up as soon as I started playing with it, and it might keep better now that I have it in a container. I’ll keep an eye on it over the next couple of days and report back.

This really is a nice way to start playing with play dough. I’ll be very interested to see if Squirm becomes more interactive with it over the week, as well as if he’ll keep up his record of putting everything in his mouth . . . I bet the salt of the play dough will be a bit of a shock!