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Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Weaving Craft Inspired by Psalm 139

Today Wugs started his first weaving project.  It was inspired by this passage from Psalm 139: 13-16:

For you created my inmost being;
    you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
    your works are wonderful,
    I know that full well.
My frame was not hidden from you
    when I was made in the secret place,
    when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed body;
    all the days ordained for me were written in your book
    before one of them came to be.

I've been a bit hesitant to do activities with Wugs that are directly related to bible stories. I remember how bored I used to be learning about this stuff as a child, colouring in little cartoon bible figures in Sunday School and feeling completely disconnected from the characters I was learning about.  And it's this stuff - the real meaning and truth behind the bible stories that I want Wugs and Dooey to understand and appreciate more than anything else and my challenge is to engage them without making the stories feel like "just another story".  I decided to apply a hands-on activity (weaving) that develops fine motor skills to Psalm 139.  The Psalm also ties in with another activity that I have been doing with Wugs, which is looking back on his baby pictures as a way of celebrating his life, recalling fun times and hopefully generating some empathy for his younger brother!

I researched the phrase "you knit me together in my mother's womb" and this brought up some image templates.  I traced the main outline of the baby from the drawing on this site onto white paper and cut it out. I fixed two sheets of black A4 card together (I wanted it to be sturdy as I thought Wugs might struggle with the weaving and tear the card) and then glued the image of the baby onto the card.  Then I cut around the image, leaving about an inch of black border. Using a single hole punch, I went around the black edge and evenly punched some holes.  I attached some thick wool to one of the holes and tied a knot at the back.  As the wool was quite thick, I thought Wugs may struggle to pull it through the hole, so I sellotaped the end of the wool that he would be guiding through the hole into a pointed shape so it would be easier for him to grasp.  The activity was an experiment and I didn't think he would pull the wool completely through or I imagined he would get bored, but he picked up the idea straightaway and insisted he didn't need any help.  We followed up the activity with reading part of the Psalm 139.

What we used:
2 sheets black A4 card
1 sheet white paper
Black marker pen
Single hole punch

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Singaporean Shop Tiles: Exploring Patterns, Colour and Symmetry

A stunning decorative feature that you cannot miss in Singapore is the beautiful tiles that adorn the traditional Singaporean shophouse.  My parents bought me a book called "Singapore Shophouse", by Julian Davison and Luca Invernizzi Tettoni.  The book is full of the history and images of the shophouse and Wugs loves to flick through it pointing out the pretty designs. Following on from our coloured "glass" tile craft yesterday (that I've featured in the picture on the bottom left), I painted some more tiles in traditional shophouse colours for Wugs to decorate.

The craft yesterday made me realise that Wugs' interest would only last long enough to decorate possibly two tiles, so I decorated the tan-coloured tile using a black marker pen to show what an older child could be capable of.

What we used:
Egg cartons
1 Packet of Heinz Baby Pasta Stars (which looked like miniature flowers)
Le Fantasie flower-shaped pasta
White, red, green, tan-coloured paint
Yellow, red, blue food colouring
White Distilled vinegar
Ziploc/freezer bags
Black Marker pen
Fake flowers
Cornstarch/Corn flour Glue

Yesterday I coloured the pasta by placing it in Ziploc bags, adding the food colouring and a teaspoon of Distilled white vinegar and squishing it around until the pasta had soaked up the colour. Then I left it to dry overnight.

This morning I laid out the materials including the cornstarch glue we prepared for our tile yesterday.  (This was made from 30g of cornstarch/corn flour mixed with 150ml of water.  I mixed just a little of the water and cornstarch to remove any lumps and then I added the rest of the water gradually to the mixture in the saucepan over a low heat).  We covered the egg carton with glue first and then Wugs added the decoration.  The egg carton was a good material to use for creating tiles because it encourages a certain amount of balance not only because of its shape but also because Wugs has used one for counting and sorting before.  It also enabled him to explore the materials and colours without them sticking firmly to the tile.  In fact all day he has returned to the red and green tiles and added bits to them from around the house such as real flowers, pennies etc. I like the fact that the patterns are not permanent, so we might leave them that way, but if we want to display them on the wall, we can easily tap out the pasta that didn't directly stick to the glue and then add another layer of glue to seal them down.

This tile craft was easier (so definitely appropriate for a 2.5 year old) than the glass tile craft we attempted yesterday as it wasn't necessary for Wugs to cover the whole tile and the pasta shapes formed the intricate details and gave a sense of balance to the tile.

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Exploring Colour, Symmetry and Light with "Glass" Tiles

Today's craft was inspired by my love of a place in Singapore called Kampong Glam, a neighbourhood with Malay and Middle Eastern influence.  Along its streets are rows and rows of shops selling jewellery, rugs, lamps, fabrics and coloured glass tiles - all with intricate patterns, bright colours and a variety of textures.  I wondered how we could re-create some of this beauty through our crafts and a craft that a 2.5 year old could do.

I managed to get hold of an egg carton that carries 30 eggs and I cut it into squares (so that there are 9 egg holders to every tile).  I will use the other 3 tiles for a Singaporean Shophouse tile project that I have planned tomorrow.  I coloured this tile in white paint so that the tissue paper would easily shine through.  Meanwhile I cut out squares of blue and red coloured transparent paper and squares of tin foil (the tiles I've seen have a combination of coloured glass and mirrors in them) and I thought it would be nice for Wugs to handle a different material other than the coloured paper.  As Wugs would also be sticking the paper to the carton, I made some child-friendly glue using 30g of cornstarch and 150ml of water.  I added some of the water to the cornstarch and stirred it around to remove all of the lumps.  Then I placed it into a saucepan on a low heat and kept stirring the mixture until it boiled.  Once that had cooled down we started to add the glue to the egg carton with a brush.  I found it easier to cover the egg carton with glue before adding the paper as the paper tends to get stuck to the brush and hands and can be frustrating and distracting.

What we used:
Egg carton 
White paint
Blue and red coloured transparent "sweet wrapper" paper
Tin foil
Cornstarch Glue

I found this craft a little challenging for a 2.5 year old as it involves creating symmetry and balance.  Wugs did so in terms of adding the tin foil squares, but I think a child of 4 years or older would appreciate it better.  Having said that, Wugs enjoyed sticking and using the brush to spread the glue and appreciated the reflectiveness of the tin foil.

Monday, 11 August 2014

Jelly Worlds

Today I took advantage of my husband having a public holiday and decided to put together a sensory play activity for both Wugs and Dooey. I haven't attempted this with both children at the same time before, so it was a bit of an experiment and it helped to have an extra set of hands and eyes to limit the mess. Having said that, the play was surprisingly civilised.

I themed the jelly play according to the moulds that I already had in the cupboard - flowers, fish, starfish and shells.  Making the jelly involved a bit of trial and error as I bought two types of jelly - one made of seaweed ("Swallow Globe Agar-Agar) that involved adding sugar and boiling the mix and the other one ("Jello") was a ready mix that only required hot and cold water. I found the seaweed jelly to be the best as it was firmer, cheaper, set quicker and with just 4 packets of the white powder, I could separate it out and colour it with food colouring according to my requirements (so less waste).  Having said that, the "Jello" softer jelly worked best as a base (we used it as the base of the coral reef jelly tub).  As it broke up easily, it was fun moving the firmer jelly fish, shells etc through the base.  It also meant the children could experience the texture of two different types of jelly.

As the coral reef themed tub was for Wugs, I included some non-edible plastic coins (treasure) for Wugs to dig up.

Then we placed each tub on the light box to see how the light passes through the jelly creating different colours.  For details on how to make your own light box, click on my post: DIY Light Box

The first thing Dooey did was pick out the small flowers from his tub and eat them.  He saw the sensory play as one big feast, to the point that we had to remove some of the flowers as I was concerned about the sugar content.  The first thing Wugs did was use a spoon and carefully lift out the fish for closer examination.  He did eventually touch the jelly, but preferred to handle it with utensils.  Then they swapped places and enjoyed each others' tubs.

What we (should have) used:
(I'll spare you the details of exactly how many packets and brands of jelly we went through to get the right mix and just give you my recommendation):

1 packet of "Jello" green powder mix jelly
1 packet of "Jello" blue powder mix jelly
2 packets of "Swallow Globe Agar-Agar" of white seaweed jelly (I'm sure any brand of seaweed jelly would have worked as well)
500g castor sugar
Food colouring (red, yellow, green, blue)

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Loose Parts Play - Jewellery

When I think back to the first activity I did with Wugs, it was an activity based on heuristic play (it was a "treasure basket"- a collection of everyday sensory items (safe for baby) that can be found around the house).  I've returned to that idea this week with our loose parts play.

My jewellery box is a highly sought-after item among my boys. It's kept inside my wardrobe at a height above Wugs' head, but every time I open that wardrobe, he stands on tiptoes and peers into the glass door, his eyes lighting up at all the sparkly colours.  At the weekend I sifted through the items that I was happy for him to play with and set up a loose parts jewellery play space. I used to make jewellery in a past life so I had a few additional accessories - like the tools and metal springs to make spiral bracelets and rings.

Whilst Dooey was sleeping (I have to wait for him to go down as the beads are a potential choking hazard), I presented Wugs with the play space. Immediately Teddy became part of the play and was offered beads to eat that Wugs had lovingly picked out for him and placed in the jewellery box. He was then adorned with bracelets and armlets on his feet, until Wugs removed them and told Teddy emphatically that "These are mine, not yours!" Finally he covered Teddy in bindis, which Teddy was allowed to keep.  One of Wugs' favourite parts of the play was the tools. He used them to bend and mould the pipe cleaners into different shapes. He counted beads and pointed out the colours and talked enthusiastically throughout his play.

For me, it reminded me of why I love heuristic play so much - our possessions say something about who we are, what we have done and where we have been. I saw Wugs handling earrings that I wore when my husband proposed to me in Bali. He put on a bracelet that I made as part of the wedding favours at my wedding - a bracelet that sat in a favour box that I had decorated with the bindis that he was sticking to his bear. The beads were loaded into a congkak board which we have because my husband is Malaysian and the congkak game is a traditional childhood game of Malaysia. There was a sense of my son "playing with history" and at the same time adding to the happy memories of the objects he was playing with.

What we used:
Hair bands
Metal springs
Crimpers and pliers
Wooden, jasper and mother of pearl and spacer beads
Jewelled box
Pipe cleaners (in case he wished to thread the wooden beads on to it)
For us, the loose parts play was centred around jewellery because it's an "everyday item" of our home - both for wearing and making, but this loose parts play could be adapted to any hobby where the materials are appropriate for a child to handle.

Friday, 1 August 2014

Hari Raya: Weaving Rice Dumpling Cases - "Ketupat"

The "Ketupat" decorations are very popular at this time of year in Singapore as they have become associated with the end of the Muslim fasting month.  The weaving of rice dumpling cases is a traditional craft of this region and one that children as young as seven have mastered. I decided to give it a try with a lot of help from this video.

"Ketupat" refers to a rice dumpling that is packed and cooked in palm leaves and can be found in South East Asia and the Philippines.  As the rice cooks, it expands to fill the casing and becomes compressed creating the dumpling-like texture. Although the Ketupat's significance is not necessarily religious, it is often connected to the end of the Muslim fasting festival Ramadhan and the beginning of Hari Raya Aidilfitri or Eid ul-Fitr.  According to Javanese tradition, the criss-cross pattern of the woven palm leaves is believed to symbolise sins for which fasting and deliverance is required.  The white rice dumpling is meant to symbolise purity and forgiveness after the fast.

We are hanging our decorations in Wugs' and Dooey's room to remind us to pray for the children who are living in conflict in the Middle East.

What we used:
Balloon ribbons (15mm width and 1m in length for each colour)