Friday, 14 November 2014

3 ideas to repurpose children's art

Some children can be so incredibly prolific when it comes to art, especially in the stage of discovery, or process art. This is when the focus is on doing rather than achieving a masterpiece.
The products of the discovery are often beautiful in spontaneity and many parents choose to keep them to remember their little explorer many years from now. But piles grow as we lack space to store them all and threaten to take over our already covered walls.
Here are 3 ways I have found to not only store, but showcase Finley's beautiful art.

1. I used the edge of the Montessori inset frames to trace a square on the paintings and cut them out. I arranged them in a geometric pattern on a piece of coloured card and framed it. 

2. We make banners! Lots of them. I cut the art into triangles and Finn helped me sew a straight stitch through them all on the sewing machine.

I find bubble wrap printing is ideal for banners. I sandwiched our rectangles between a long piece of washi tape folded over lengthways.

 3. Cards! I used the same template as for the collage (the edge of the Montessori inset frames) to cut out the art to make cards. We have quite a stock of cards ready to be sent for all occasions now!

What are your favourite ways of reusing your children's art? Please share!

And remember, Grow Grow Grow is on Facebook now! Have you liked our page yet?

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Simplifying our lives

I am the type of person who gets easily overwhelmed. Too much noise, light, movement around me, too many strong smells, too many people, too much to do... All this sensorial input creates an imbalance in me. Sometimes it results in hyperactivity, sometimes in lethargy, but I'm always exhausted inside no matter how my body reacts.
Many people are like that but few recognise the cause. Children are especially vulnerable to an abundance of stimuli which they respond to with stress and anxiety, visible to us as what we call misbehaving. Misbehaviour is very often due to a feeling of loss of control over children's lives. Too much stuff (toys, clothes, books...) can soon become uncontrolable, as can too many planned activities.
Consciously eliminating causes of stress in the home is a constant work in progress. In our house, regular declutter is essential to our family's well-being. We try and keep the things we really need and really love. If something doesn't meet these two criteria, we donate it.

At least, that's the aim.

I find toys especially hard to tackle. Because they are not mine, for a start. For the most part, they were all thoughtfully chosen and of great quality, which makes them hard to part with. But how many toys does a child need? Take building toys for example. Does a child need Lego, gears, three types of building blocks, magnets, Knex, Brio, Kapla... all at once? No. Too much is overwhelming and causes anxiety. You will do your child a great service if you resist the temptation to buy more. Even if it's great quality and a bargain at the charity shop, even if it was given to you for free. Why? Children engage with materials so much better if choice is reduced. Their focus improves and real creativity can happen. It's a bit like trying to make a dish with 50+ ingredients. Try a handful instead and see how much easier it is. Can you be more creative with fewer choices?
Books are just as difficult to sort through. I am in charge of keeping them to a manageable level (which they are not) and this must be the hardest task of all for a book loving person. We are keeping a few of Finn's very favourites from baby/toddlerhood, but otherwise we donate them as he outgrows them. The books that enter our house are only of exceptional appeal and quality.
Too many activities outside the house can also become overwhelming for a child. We try and keep our schedule mostly free, with few planned trips/outings each week. It can be hard to select just a few things to do. It means you have to choose one playgroup, not three. One great class over three average ones. One playdate. Remember, children are slow beings. They need time, plenty of time, to explore and just be. Being busy does not make you or your child happier. It just makes you busy.

What does your life look like? Do you try and be mindful of maintaining a simple schedule for you and your child?

Sunday, 2 November 2014

Thursday, 30 October 2014

Pressed leaves craft: Make placemats!

I'm very excited to share this space with Anne from Itty Bitty Love today!
Hello Grow Grow Grow readers!  I'm Anne, Montessori mama and writer of the blog Itty Bitty Love.  I live in the mountains of Montana with my husband, our two-year-old daughter, and our slightly crazy cattle dog.  Please stop by for a visit some time!
Autumn has certainly settled in around here.  The days are growing shorter and cooler, there is a dusting of snow on the mountains, and the trees have burst into golden hues - yellow, orange, red and brown.  My daughter Elise and I have been collecting handfuls of leaves on our walk each morning. Some have ended up on our nature table, but most we've pressed between the pages of a heavy book. 
A few days ago, I noticed that our heavy book was beginning to overflow with leaves, so I decided it was time to start putting those leaves to use!  Our dining room table was in need of some seasonal cheer, so Elise and I decided to make a few place mats with our pressed leaves and contact paper.   
If you've ever done a craft with a 2-year-old before, you'll know that they are far more interested in the process than the product.  I, on the other hand, am more of a product kind of person, so crafting with Elise causes me a fair amount of stress.  While I experienced moments of panic here and there, overall, this craft project ended up being developmentally appropriate for both of us!  ;)  
Elise thoroughly enjoyed the stickiness of the contact paper - which ended up being forgiving enough that I was able to move things around a bit as needed.  Of course, leaves were crushed and dog hair blew in from every direction, but once I stuck another piece of contact paper over the, the result was really lovely.  The best part?  Elise thinks her new, homemade place mat is really great.  She's been eating all her meals and snacks on it, and it's durable enough that we can wipe it clean.  I'm actually bravely thinking about carrying on and making a few more for each of our spots at the table!
Interested in making your own pressed leaf place mats? 
You'll need:
  • a selection of dry, pressed leaves
  • one piece of contact paper that is cut to the size of a place mat (ours is a 40 x 30 cm rectangle)
  • one piece of contact paper that is slightly larger than your desired shape (this will make it easier for sticking it to the first piece of contact paper)
  • scissors
          1. Peel the backing off of a place mat-sized piece of contact paper. Once the backing is off, the contact paper should lay flat and your child will be able to work on a table or the floor.
          2. Stick leaves to the contact paper, making sure that none overlap the edges.
          3. OK, this next part is kind of crucial. Start peeling the backing off the second piece of contact paper, but don't remove it entirely. Carefully line it up with the first piece of contact paper, and peel off the backing as you unroll it over the leaves.  
          4. Use scissors to even up the edges.  I cut the corners to make it look a little more professional.
          5. Enjoy your new place mat! 
Thank you Anne for this great idea! Elise looks very pleased indeed!
Please leave a comment to share your best pressed leaves crafts!

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Montessori zoology puzzles review and GIVEAWAY from Tower High Learning!

Do you know what this is? (Montessori teachers, shhh)

Yes, it's a puzzle, but a very special one!

Why is that, I hear you ask. Well, it's a Montessori zoology puzzle!

Faithful to the Montessori ideals of beauty, realism and simplicity, this horse puzzle is not just a horse puzzle. It represents all mammals. Traditionally in Montessori zoology, one animal is taken to represent all from that class. A horse for mammals, a goldfish for fish, a robin for birds, a turtle for reptiles and a frog for amphibians. It's up to the child to classify other animals by comparing their features.

And have you seen what's underneath the pieces? Not only do those puzzles teach animal body parts but they also connect the parts to the skeleton! Finn was surprised to notice that the horse's tail bones were not as long as the tail hair and that there were no bones underneath the mane!

Another very attractive puzzle is the goldfish one. This was the first one we bought when Finn was just 2 years old and he loved it from the start. He was very interested in learning the particular names of the different fins and curious about the fish's gills. These puzzles are such a great introduction to zoology for a toddler.

The quality of these puzzles is fantastic. They are so nice to handle that even adults are drawn to them.
When Finley is a bit older, he will be able to trace around the pieces to make his own drawings of a horse and goldfish, labeling them if he wants to.

I love these two puzzles so much that I contacted Marie-Louise at Tower High Learning, where I bought the puzzles, and asked if she would be happy to give away one skeleton puzzle to a lucky reader... and she was! Not only will she give a puzzle away, but she will send it anywhere in Europe!

For your chance to win, visit Tower High Learning, and write a comment on this post stating which of the skeleton puzzles you would like to win (choose between horse, goldfish, turtle, frog and bird). Please include your email address in your comment so I can contact you. Only one entry per person please. The competition is open to readers from Europe.
The giveaway will run until 1st November at midnight (British time). The winner will be chosen at random and will receive an email from me.
Good luck to all!

Sunday, 19 October 2014

3 simple art cards activities

Have you got a collection of art cards yet? Whether they are postcards you have been collecting from various museums, the Usborne Famous Paintings card set like we have, the Usborne Impressionist Paintings set or even the Phaidon Art Box... there is so much you can do with them!

I already mentioned how Finley likes to use the cards as story prompts. We use the cards to play many varied games, including matching the paintings (I photocopied and printed a copy of each painting - you could also purchase two sets), bingo, guessing which card is missing from a small selection after observing them... and many more.
Below are three extra activities you can do with art cards.
1. The detective game. From a few clues, Finn has to guess which painting I'm thinking of from a small selection. There are many, many ways of choosing your clues depending on the child's age and what they know. When Finn was younger and new to this game, I may have said: "the painting I'm thinking of shows some fruit." Now that he has played with the cards many times and in many ways, I can say "the painting I'm thinking of was painted by C├ęzanne." Don't be afraid to mention artists names, paintings titles, styles, orientation, materials used... at almost any age! A little bit of extra information each time will fascinate your child and keep their interest fresh.

2. Sorting games. Either you choose the categories, or your child does! Colours? Orientation? Subject? Encourage your child to look for similaries in the paintings and sort them accordingly. A variation is for you to sort the cards into two "mystery" categories while your child watches and ask them if they can figure out what your criteria are.

3. Recognising painting styles. For this activity we used the Mini Masters series of board books about art. Each book is about a different artist and shows several reproductions of their work. They are ideal to give a young child an understanding of artistic style. Finn and I looked at the books together, taking time to notice some details, or commonalities between the artwork of the artists. Then I gave him one of the art cards of the corresponding artists and asked him if he could find out who the artist was by comparing it with the paintings in the books. You can do a similar activity by using art cards instead of books.

Is your child into art? What games do they like to play with art cards? 

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Looking for guest posts!

Finley and I are off to France next week and while we are taking a break from everyday life, I am also taking a break from this blog for just over a week.

Isn't this a perfect opportunity to get your voice heard through a guest post at Grow Grow Grow?

You don't need a polished writing style. There are as many ways of writing as there are people on this planet, all I want is for you to be you!

As for the topic, we'll try and stay within the general topic of childhood/ education/ lifestyle but I'll leave it up to you. Just write about something that you feel strongly about.

Guest posts from bloggers and non-bloggers are very welcome and all will be published, there will be no selection.

Please email your guest post to before Monday 20th October to see it published a few days after that date.

Happy writing!
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