Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Crayons Count and Home-made Playdough, Paint Brushes and Puzzles.

Rubbery Playdough cat
I congratulate Crayons Count for their initiative in seeing the need to put a learning kit in every early childhood institution across Jamaica, and in requesting donations to make this possible. Included in the learning kits are play dough, paints and paint brushes. So far, no play dough has been donated. In the meantime, teachers and parents of children aged 3-6 could use the following recipes to make their own play dough . (Not suitable for children under 2 years of age.)

Rubbery Playdough

2 cups baking soda
1 1/2 cups water
1 cup cornstarch
Mix with a fork until smooth. Boil over medium heat until thick. Spoon onto plate. (I tried this with a reduced quantity and it worked satisfactorily.)

The next recipe for a softer play dough, I used successfully at my school many years ago.
1 cup flour
1/2 cup salt
1 cup water
2 tablespoons oil
2 tablespoons cream of tartar
Mix flour, salt and oil, and slowly add the water. Cook over medium heat, stirring until dough becomes stiff. Turn out onto wax paper and let cool. Knead the playdough with your hands until of proper consistency. Use as is, or divide into balls and add a few drops of food colouring. (Children prefer it coloured, but also like to experiment and mix the colours, ending up with a dirty-looking grey!) Store in an airtight plastic container.
          You could also use beet, calalou and carrot juices for colouring. I haven’t tried this, but think it would be best to colour the water as these colours are not as strong as food colouring.

        I tried my hand at making paint from flour and water, (another recipe off the internet), but I wouldn’t recommend it. The consistency wasn’t smooth and it has no preservative in it so will spoil quickly. It made a better glue than paint! I also tried natural colours—tea, broccoli, curry powder and bougainvillea flowers with limited success.

Home-made paint and paint brushes
        I do however strongly recommend home-made paint brushes. Children, especially little ones, destroy brushes quickly because they tend to press with them as with a pencil or crayon. I successfully used hibiscus or guinep twigs beaten at the ends, with a stone, to make brushes. You have to use twigs which are not too green and not too woody. A little experimentation will tell you which to use. You could also use sisal leaves. A word of warning—don’t use poisonous plants. Oleander and Allamanda are deadly. Another home-made brush can be made from something like a J-cloth wrapped round a stick and cut to make bristles. These are good for covering large areas with colour. They work well with liquid (poster) paints, not with paints in a paint box.

Home-made paint with food colouring

Home-made paint - not such a good idea. 
 I recommend that children be given cardboard to paint on—any kind of cardboard. Carton boxes are good. So are the pieces of cardboard they put in with clothes to keep their shape. When children paint on paper, they usually get it so wet that it disintegrates, or they make holes in it with the paintbrush.
      Lots of newspaper spread on the work area absorbs splashes, and children can dry their paintbrushes on it.

Why should children paint and play with play dough? Not because we are looking for the next Barrington Watson, but to improve their hand-eye co-ordination, to help develop their motor skills and creativity, for them to experiment with colours, textures and shapes, to talk about what they are doing and to do so in a relaxed atmosphere where there are no wrong answers. Most children enjoy painting and it will occupy their undivided attention for half an hour at least.

Also in Crayon’s Count’s learning kit are puzzles. Jigsaw puzzles can be made from pictures pasted to cardboard and cut into pieces. I was surprised that some primary school boys who’d never been exposed to puzzles had great difficulty putting together a picture cut into 4 pieces. So we could make a bunch, and increase the difficulty level by cutting them into more pieces. Good pictures can be found in old calendars, and telephone directories. Puzzles help children to learn the importance of orientation. They have learnt that objects retain their identities regardless of orientation - a chair is still a chair whichever way you look at it. In order to read and write, they must learn the importance of orientation in relation to letters. In mirror image, 'b' becomes 'd' and upside down, 'p' or 'q'.

1 comment:

Pamela K Witte said...

I absolutely love the creativity expressed in this post! I’m ready to make play dough, go outdoors and find some sticks and make some fun paints and puzzles. And I’m a grownup! Imagine what fun learning experiences these activities will spark for kids. Wishing I had some grandchildren about now. 