Cooking Art

There are many benefits to offering cooking experiences to children. You can talk about health, food safety and risks in the kitchen. Children can become more involved with their food!

There is a simple and fun activity that I’ll share today. Unfortunately, I don’t have any photos that belong to me but it’s an activity that you can also Google and you can see it there.

Pancake Art!

Use your preferred pancake mix recipe and then pour it into several different bottles. Sauce shaped bottles are perfect for this. Put a different colour of food colouring in each bottle, or you can use natural colours from fruit.

I would recommend an electric frying pan in the room, assuming you don’t have access to a kitchen the children can use. Make sure they are aware of the heat risks and have proper supervision. The children squeeze the pancake mix onto the frying pan, using the different colours to make their own unique pancake. It has to be done fairly quickly so it can cook properly.

The results are awesome! Then add your own toppings!

Have you tried this experience before? Are you going to? Do you have other cooking experiences you’d like to share? Comment below!

Dress up: Doctor

Dressing up is a great way for children to explore identities, roles and responsibilities. Some children may want to just wear the costume while they go about their play, but as roleplay skills develop, they can use them to expand their play.

Here are some ideas to expand play with doctor costumes:

  • Have mattresses or pillows for sick patients
  • Notepad to write down symptoms
  • Bandages, gloves and tissues
  • Add a desk with science tools to make medicines
  • Add a desk with a phone and computer to take calls and make appointments
  • Encourage problem solving with difficult illnesses or injuries
  • Use bikes or cardboard cars etc as ambulances to help people around the yard
  • Toys can be used as patients

Don’t have the complete costume or the funds to buy one? No worries! Create your own out of paper, cardboard or spare material. Children have amazing imaginations! Sometimes they just need you to get them started.

Do you have any examples of doctor play that you can share? Comment below!

Dress up: Princess

Dressing up is a great way for children to explore identities, roles and responsibilities. Some children may want to just wear the costume while they go about their play, but as roleplay skills develop, they can use them to expand their play.

Here are some ideas to expand play with princess costumes:

  • Princess costumes can be made out of any dress or even other outfits
  • Add or make a crown to go with it
  • Ask the children what princesses do
  • Expand on their play by introducing other characters
  • Princess are often depicted as being helpful. How can the children be helpful for others?

Don’t have the complete costume or the funds to buy one? No worries! Create your own out of paper, cardboard or spare material. Children have amazing imaginations! Sometimes they just need you to get them started.

Do you have any examples of princess play that you can share? Comment below!

Dress ups: Police

Dressing up is a great way for children to explore identities, roles and responsibilities. Some children may want to just wear the costume while they go about their play, but as roleplay skills develop, they can use them to expand their play.

Here are some ideas to expand play with police costumes:

  • Remind children about the centre rules about rough play. Police play does not need to be rough.
  • Toys or other children can be in need of assistance.
  • Police can be directing bike traffic.
  • Solve a mystery.
  • Help children find their parents.
  • Guarding something important.
  • You can set up a gaol but I would personally encourage the play to be about redemption.
  • Set up a police station with phones and notepads to take emergency calls.

Don’t have the complete costume or the funds to buy one? No worries! Create your own out of paper, cardboard or spare material. Children have amazing imaginations! Sometimes they just need you to get them started.

Do you have any examples of police play that you can share? Comment below!

Cutting Activities

It can be difficult to organise activities using scissors. Some centres have strict rules about supervision and when you have a ratio of many children, you cannot just focus on one aspect of play. It is important for preschoolers to have experience with scissors though. They will be going to school the following year and the teacher will have an even higher ratio of children.

You do not need to have a specific activity planned just to use scissors. Providing just paper can be enough, especially for initial exploration. However, when you want to increase their skills, there are other activities you can do.

  • Draw lines or shapes on paper and ask the children to cut them out
  • Provide a magazine and ask them to cut out images that they like
  • Explore cutting with different types of scissors (zig-zag scissors)
  • Experiment with cutting different types of materials
  • Use life cycle or similar worksheets that require children to cut out images and arrange them in order

You can find a free shape cutting printable on the resource page.

What activities have you explored with children based around using scissors?

Dress Ups: Chef

Dressing up is a great way for children to explore identities, roles and responsibilities. Some children may want to just wear the costume while they go about their play, but as roleplay skills develop, they can use them to expand their play.

Here are some ideas to expand play with chef costumes:

  • Have the costume available near the home corner/kitchen play space.
  • Use old pots, pans, spoons, tea towels etc to expand on play.
  • You can add play food for quick set up and pack up.
  • Or you can use natural resources as food (different types of leaves, sticks, etc)
  • Or you can use playdough! They can make their own food.
  • Have plates, bowls and cups for serving food.
  • Have a table available to become part of the restaurant.
  • Use small clipboards with paper for children to create a menu.
  • Children can create their own restaurant signs.
  • Encourage children to “write” down orders – early literacy.
  • Toys can be used as customers if there are not enough children playing.
  • Introduce play money.

Don’t have the complete costume or the funds to buy one? No worries! Create your own out of paper, cardboard or spare material. Children have amazing imaginations! Sometimes they just need you to get them started.

Do you have any examples of chef play that you can share? Comment below!

Playdough Clothes

Playdough is such an amazing resource. The children can use it to manipulate different shapes and experiment with textures and tools. Be open minded when it comes to using playdough. Add other toys with it that you would not usually include.

If you give them children figurines (or even animals) they may make impressions and footprints, or they may start to make items for the characters. They can use their imaginations to make different clothes or they can even make furniture or spaces to live.

Be mindful to clean your toys after they have been used or the playdough will go hard and you may find it difficult to get off. The children can help with this too, and it can become a lesson about caring for resources.

Have your children made clothes for figurines before? Are you going to try this activity? Comment below.

Origami

Origami can be quite difficult but I have found that it is a great activity for challenging fine motor skills and focus, while also incorporating in culture and other themes.

There are different levels of origami. Introduce it with simple folds. Children will need to watch and mimic what the educator does, and they may need extra support with certain folds. If you end up doing the fold for them, open it back up so they can see how it worked so they might be able to try next time.

Origami is one of those activities that gets easier over time. Children will become more confident the more times they try it. It is also one of those activities that really requires having high expectations of the children. Encourage them to try. It doesn’t matter if their final result does not go to plan. It is still theirs.

If you work in a centre with mixed ages, allow the younger children to try too, even though it may be too difficult for them. It will give them initial experiences, and when they develop their skills more they may want to try again.

Have you offered origami experiences before? Are you going to? Please comment below.

Great Resources: Train Tracks

Train tracks are a great way to follow children’s interests while encouraging problem solving and exploration of motion. Children can also use them for roleplay and small world play.

It can be tempting to set up the perfect track that allows for a continuous circuit, like the picture above. Depending on the skill, interests and other situations with the children, it may be the best option for the time, but don’t do it every time you have this resource available. Children should be encouraged to make their own tracks and play spaces.

Children can be further challenged by add in other materials to make tunnels and buildings around the tracks. You can also set up this resource in different locations. If you have tables at different heights, how can they move from one to the next? Or how can they move their track around certain obstacles?

Have you got these train tracks at your centre? How have you used them to challenge the children?

Dress Ups: Fire fighter

Dressing up is a great way for children to explore identities, roles and responsibilities. Some children may want to just wear the costume while they go about their play, but as roleplay skills develop, they can use them to expand their play.

Here are some ideas to expand play with fire fighter costumes:

  • Place them near large loose parts play. This can be built up to create buildings that are on fire.
  • Places dolls or other toys on the building so they can be rescued.
  • Children can use bikes as fire engines.
  • Children can create their own fire engines out of large boxes or other materials.
  • Create a fire station area with a phone for children to take emergency phone calls.
  • Use obstacle course ladders as fire engine ladders. These are usually heavy and will require team work to carry.

Don’t have the complete costume or the funds to buy one? No worries! Create your own out of paper, cardboard or spare material. Children have amazing imaginations! Sometimes they just need you to get them started.

Do you have any examples of fire fighter play that you can share? Comment below!

Pencil Shaving Art

As early childhood educators, we tend to spend a lot of time sharpening pencils. It’s basically part of the job description. The children can help too, and this supports their fine motor skills while learning how to look after their materials and be safe with sharp objects.

But what do you do with your pencil shavings?

I would generally put them in the bin, but I have worked with a wonderfully creative person that had a brilliant idea. She used them as an art resource!

This particular experience started with an outline of an image and the pencil shavings were glued on to fill the image in. You can sort out the colours or make a rainbow picture. Some of the shavings are small, others are long and curly. This activity further promotes fine motor skills while children explore their creativity.

Shavings can also be added to loose parts art experiences and general craft.

What do you do with your pencil shavings? Are you going to try an art experience? Comment below!

Swings

Children are often drawn towards swings. They can feel the motion in their body and it can be calming and fun. There are risks involved and there a many things children can learn.

  • Science – what goes up must come down
  • Sharing – turn taking
  • Maths – timing or counting until it is time to take turns
  • Risk taking – holding on and swinging high
  • Sense of space – watching out for other children on the swing
  • Motion – swinging and spinning around

It can be a simple activity to set up. Get the swings out, supervise, encourage turn taking and help to push. However, I have a personal rule that I follow with the kindergarten aged children.

I refuse to push them.

Okay, I realise that might sound harsh at first glance, but I have my reasons.

If I am pushing a child on a swing, how are they going to learn how to do it themselves? What is their incentive to learn?

If a child really wants someone to push them, I tell them to ask one of the other children. This encourages social skills and it usually results in children taking turns to help each other. It is a way of showing that sometimes you need to work for what you want.

What are your opinions about pushing children on swings? What other learning is involved? Comment below.

Patterns Activities

Being able to recognise and repeat a pattern helps children to develop problem solving skills.

I find one of the easiest ways to introduce patterns is with coloured blocks. Start with simple patterns: blue, yellow, blue, yellow, etc. Ask children if they know what block comes next. You can try this again with 2 different colours to see if they understood the activity. Gradually increase the difficulty to see how far you can stretch their skills.

Pattern ideas just to get you started (I’ll just use letters but substitute them for colours)

  • ababab
  • abcabcabc
  • abcdabcdabcd
  • aabbaabb
  • aabbccaabbcc
  • aabcaabc
  • aabcddaabcdd

Don’t always stop at the end of a pattern cycle. Otherwise the first colour the children have to put down will always be the first colour you put down.

You can also use worksheets to explore patterns. I would not recommend using worksheets for everything but occasional use is fine. Patterns where they have to fill in the colour will also support their pencil grip and fine motor skills as they colour in.

I have developed a few pattern worksheets and you can download them for free on the Resources page.

How do you encourage children to learn about patterns?

Superhero Play

Dressing up is a great way to explore identity, but I have heard that there are centres that do not approve of superhero play. It can encourage rough play and fighting.

However, when faced with a problem, should we ban it, pushing the problem aside? Or should we face that problem head on and find a solution? Putting a ban on something usually makes people want it more.

Superhero play is a great opportunity to teach the children about kindness, confidence and helping others. When children explore identities they can leave their own insecurities behind and become someone new. However, when a child starts to initiate rough play, use it as a teaching opportunity. Talk to the children about what they are doing. Get them to do their own risk assessments. Use problem solving and substitutions to support the children to make kinder choices.

One of the easiest ways to engage in superhero play is to have someone take on the role of the “bad guy” and then the superhero has to save the day. This type of play makes it really difficult to avoid rough play though. Explore the superhero the children are expressing interest in. What else do they do? Come up with “problems” that require emergency assistance and encourage team work. How are the superheroes going to save the day?!

What are your opinions about superhero play?

Shapes

Children can be introduced to shapes at different ages. Some children are already very familiar with different shapes by the time they are in their kindergarten/preschool year but other children have not yet had the opportunity to discover them. I like to check what the children already know at the start of the year so I know what we need to work on.

There are many different ways to introduce shapes.

  • Flash cards
  • Shapes in books
  • Shapes in the environment (eg. square window)
  • Exploring images or toys
  • Worksheets

I would not recommend using worksheets too often with this age, but they do have their place to use them occasionally. I have developed some worksheets to explore children’s understanding of shapes.

These worksheets can be found on the Resource page. The children are encouraged to find and colour in specific shapes. Sit with the children as they work on them and discuss what they can find.

I also have shape cutting and tracing activities that can be found on the same page. These activities are free to use and they can also be edited.

How have you introduced shapes to children. Please let me know if you plan to download my resources.