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Doodles Blog

Doodles crafty and creative activity blog for kids!

LITTLE TINKERS! Building & design for kids!

holly rose

doodles_littletinkers

"Building" is a BIG part of creating. Here at Doodles we work with a lot of 'little tinkers' - small people who like to create! So, last week we really got down to the nitty-gritty of creative making; building up a structure, breaking it down again, designing, dismantling, moulding and shaping...

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After a quick intro of dressing up in high vis jackets and hard hats our tinkers had a discussion about the range of building bricks on offer (erm...sponges actually). We had a lot of fun launching them at the parents mostly, but then we had to get down to the serious business of creative play. 

A firm fave of the morning was the building wall of huge sponges, foam, black sand and fluffy cotton wool. The general agreement was that we should mix up our 'cement' with a giant squidgy and get stacking and knocking down! Absolute delight for any child Under 5!

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Blocks were heavily included with a block printing area for plenty of splodging and pattern making. A good way to use old play blocks in a new and engaging way. We all have a box of unloved building blocks somewhere in the toy cupboard!

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Of course, no building yard would be complete without some mighty trucks! This week we introduced 'sand dough'...modelling dough mixed with oats, sand and wholemeal flour. This gives it a really chunky, gritty effect. Perfect for sculpting bolders, roads, pebbles and bricks. Add in some rice and oats for scooping and your little tinkers will be in building heaven!

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Last, but most definitely NOT least, we explored the Doodles 'Tinker Lab'. A huge range of everyday junk items to build, glue, tear, shred, stick, rip, sculpt, paint and design. Then adding sticks, pipe cleaners, foil and feathers for structures to take shape.

Using non-specific materials allows kids to build using their imaginations - they can create anything!

If you would lilt to join us for a Doodles creative play session please take a look at our 'Up & Coming workshops for Under 5's.'

BUILDING WITHOUT BLOCKS! Creative character design for kids!

holly rose

Building without blocks....Creative character design for kids!

2015 sees the start of a new Doodles term and the theme this spring is 'I wish...' where we will be exploring imaginative activities to get the Doodles kids into character.

The first week began with a friendly introduction to a series of jungle animals as we all became explorers for the morning. After a lot of roaring practice we started on some creative and sensory play with an emphasis on building characters (without blocks!)....

Doodles crocodile construction in progress!

Doodles crocodile construction in progress!

We often like to engage the kids in some large scale making and this time used lots of hand painting and collage to build on our huge crocodile sculptures.

By encouraging the use of different textiles, wool, paper shreds, cotton wool and card each crocodile started to transform into an individual character. The idea was to explore the different textures from hard to soft, squidgy to smooth and also add some of the 3D element to their final designs by building up a picture! This helps with creating a dialogue and includes an element of storytelling whilst the kids are creating.

Jungle vines and scary snake designs!

Jungle vines and scary snake designs!

To extend the character play, kids could make their own jungle designs. String 'vines' hung next to the crocodiles with mini leaves and pipe cleaner 'snakes'. Using the same collage technique we wrapped, twirled and built up materials onto the wires to make a wiggly snakes and used plenty of tape in the process. TIP! Masking tape is really easy for smaller hands to tear and manage and is a good substitute for glue as it achieves the sculpture effect instantly when building...much more satisfying for a toddler!

Brocoli, spring greens and pasta playdough jungles!

Brocoli, spring greens and pasta playdough jungles!

The Doodles kids also got stuck in with some squidgy play dough building. This time the emphasis was on building a mini jungle for our animals using lots of yummy broccoli trees, spring greens and dried pasta! Food items are always a hit and add an element of play discovery to our well loved playdough!

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Creative building can be more than just using blocks. By providing a range of basic materials and scraps children can explore and design without any restrictions or instructions.

Fizzy Fireworks! Painting Ideas for Kids!

holly rose

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Huge bonfires, freezy toes and muddy wellies, explosive fireworks, toffee apples and treats! Just a few of my childhood memories, celebrating Guy Fawkes night here in Britain on the 5th November! This time of year basically gives you an excuse to use lots of glitter at any opportunity so here are some ideas to get you started using splodgy, sparkly painting techniques with the kids!

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As always, we try and use household, cheap tools to create lots of painting effects:

- Cardboard tubes can be cut down to make explosive shapes,

- Pipe cleaners knotted together to use as stamps.

- Plastic forks and scrubbing sponges create great textured effects.

- Spatulas, potato mashers and large spoons are great for BIG splodgy painting!

- You can even try rummaging around in the garden for some flower heads with spiky and interesting shapes! A creative reason to get outside in this chilly weather and explore!

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Use a selection of bright colours, orange, pinks, yellows and reds are a good starting point. We tried adding a bit of foam to our paints for an added 3D effect plus plenty of glitter.

TIP: Adding glitter to the paint BEFORE helps to prevent it getting everywhere as it sticks to the paint rather than flying about across the room!

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Use a range of papers to experiment with colour. Foil and black papers work really well to highlight bright and neon paint colours.

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For the really brave, go BIG and paint with spray bottles and large paper. Kids love to see the effects of this painting style, watching colours mix and run on the papers.

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Modelling clay is another creative option to explore with kids. The squishy texture works well with the paint and you can use a range of star shaped cutters for a firework effect. Here we have used dried spaghetti for extra explosive effects and to explore mark making techniques!

Have fun and remember, remember the 5th of November!

Storybook Magic 'What the Ladybird Heard' by Julia Donaldson

holly rose

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For those of you who know me (Holly!) and have been to a Doodles workshop then you will no doubt understand my eye popping excitement and general creative giddiness when designing some of the 'Storybook Magic' themes this Autumn term. It made sense to kick off with one of our favourites 'What the Ladybird Heard' by Julia Donaldson - an excellent opportunity for BIG! art and box painting.

Big box painting and lots of mark-making with tractors!

Big box painting and lots of mark-making with tractors!

The idea was to create a farm themed painting space with a few loveable box characters for kids to really get covered in squishy paints. Changing the scale, and inviting kids to explore large art areas gives them confidence and opportunities to use their whole bodies in the painting and mark making process. From painting the huge mural card to decorating the box characters and of course a bit of body painting and hand printing!

Ice-cream play! Frozen cornflour with smelly, sensory extras!

Ice-cream play! Frozen cornflour with smelly, sensory extras!

By far, the most popular sensory zone at this session was the super sweet and smelly frozen play ice-cream. Simply made by freezing cornflour and water, this safe melting mush of gooey fun gives the feel of real ice-cream and melts in your hands. The simple ingredients ensure that it is toddler and baby safe, plus you can re-freeze if making at home. For the story book session, I wanted to make a link with the farm animals and in this case we used the cow and the ice-cream connection. Each block was scented with a familiar sweetness; mint, strawberry and cocoa powder so it not only looked like the real deal but smelt delicious too!

The activity offers colourful, tactile, sensational imaginative play getting kids to think about the temperature sensations of cold to warm and melting a solid to a liquid without even realising they are doing it! These kinds of simple activities really build on basic sensory learning. They are open-ended, no fuss, child led activities that prompt conversation and encourage investigation.

Textured paint mixing and hand printing!

Textured paint mixing and hand printing!

Hopefully the activities and themes sparked a few ideas for the children and parents/carers so that once the stories are re-read at home then we can remember and talk about some of the creative journeys explored in a doodles workshop!

Autumn Cloud Dough Cafe

holly rose

As Autumn creeps up on us it's starting to get chilly outside which can only mean one thing....lots more time indoors on a rainy day with the kids! But before you start to panic, here's a simple, toddler safe sensory play idea that will keep the whole family happy.

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Cloud Dough. It really is as wonderful as it sounds. Not only does it feel smooth, soft and molds like sand but you have probably got all the ingredients stored at the back of the kitchen cupboard.

Cloud dough is a regular feature at Doodles HQ, but this time we wanted to inject a bit of imaginative play and decided to set up our own autumn inspired cafe for some serious sensory play!

Cloud Dough is simply:

* 7 cups of plain flour

* 1 cup of veg oil (do not use baby oil with small children as it is not safe digested).

This is the kind of recipe that we like to chuck in a huge bowl, not paying much attention to measuring too carefully and get mixing! The flour is messy, it will go all over the floor and table but hey ho, it's easy to sweep up and won't stain. For extra effects you can add powder paints to colour the dough, or glitter if you are brave and mad (like us!).

Now let the fun really began, adding in some autumnal herbs and spices to get our senses really engaged. Cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and cocoa powder are a good place to start and young children can begin to identify and learn all about new smells, textures and the wonderful colours of the spices.

Of course, no Autumn table would be complete without a few natural extras. Pinecones, twigs, leaves, conkers and a dash of golden glitter! You could even use this as an excuse to go for a walk outdoors collecting materials outside before you start, making the entire activity last for even longer. Just don't eat any of the pretend play no matter how scrumptious it looks!

Our cloud dough cafe play ended up lasting over an hour with plenty for the kids to explore. Cloud dough provides a brilliant tactile experience for little fingers to scrunch, mix and mold. Patting down the dough, building up shapes, mixing, creating and sorting.

When used on its own it can be a wonderful, relaxing material for kids to explore, but in this case it was a great prompt for dramatic play and communication.

Give it a go! Its super easy!

What is Sensory Play for Young Children?

holly rose

Some of you may say 'what's the point' of creative, sensory play? Why do children need to engage with squishy paint and clay that will get trodden into the carpet?

Sensory play IS messy and after you have spent the best part of half an hour trying to carefully sprinkle glitter into a thimble sized paint tray whilst your 18 month old is already declaring 'I'm bored' you've probably lost the will to live. Crafty time then becomes cranky time as you get left to tidy up! But before you hide the paints and glitter in the back of the cupboard never to be seen again, let me try and persuade you of some of the benefits of messy and sensory play.

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What is important about sensory play?

Messy and sensory play stimulates the senses for your child (and you!). Exploring sight, sound, smell, touch, taste and movement help to build up a picture and make pathways for storytelling and communication. This supports your child's learning, creativity and of course, encourages a vivid imagination! It is important to remember unstructured sensory play allows children to play freely without a drilled in learning process, helping them to discover their own likes and dislikes and to think for themselves.

Home made playdough is an excellent way to start with sensory play at home, Use edible herbs such as mint, rosemary and thyme for rich smells and textures. Try adding strawberry, lemon or vanilla baking scents too!

Home made playdough is an excellent way to start with sensory play at home, Use edible herbs such as mint, rosemary and thyme for rich smells and textures. Try adding strawberry, lemon or vanilla baking scents too!

Imagination and creativity

If like me, your kids will not sit at table and make a beautiful canvas or rainbow pasta necklace for 3 hours it's probably because they don't want to. Or, you enthusiastically announce 'let's make some bug sculptures' and get the monotone response of 'No' from your four year old. Creative play needs to encourage imagination on their terms and like all good games and activities kids need to think they are the ones coming up with the ideas and in the lead.

Start with a bit of a prompt and let them take it from there. Perhaps you could say "Ooh Teddy's just mentioned he is feeling a bit hungry, perhaps he would like a nice big lunch?" Cue, pots, pans, spoons and plenty of creative dry goods from the kitchen such as muesli, pasta and rice. Let them tell you about what they are doing and provide plenty of 'open ended' tools for them to explore. Use a bag or box for them to discover a toy, word or an object and discuss how you can take the play opportunities further. Never be intimidated by creative activities....make a rocket to fly to the moon, a huge mummy eating caterpillar or even a dollshouse. A cardboard box and a bit of imagination is all you need!

Cheap, easy to find materials to craft with! Save all of your old cereal packets, card tubes and veg trays for some serious imaginative fun!

Cheap, easy to find materials to craft with! Save all of your old cereal packets, card tubes and veg trays for some serious imaginative fun!

What sensory play it is NOT!

Creative play is NOT making something for your children. Let them do it themselves and choose activities that are age stage appropriate. Trying to finish a sock puppet with a 12 month old will be nowhere near as fun as making pink mud pies or painting dinosaur footprints. Any activity that involves an adult staring in confusion and muttering 'let me just...' whilst your little one has to wait patiently for 30 seconds will end in boredom and a general loathing of crafty time. Make it an active activity; make up a playdough dance, squish some paints with your feet in a tub, squeeze some gloop and use descriptive fun words during the process.

Get messy, have fun...

Get messy, have fun...

Preparation!

DO NOT, I repeat DO NOT suddenly decide to engage in any messy play 10 minutes before you leave the house. Instead, have a selection of crafty activities to hand such as sticker books, safe cutting tools or a chalkboard in case your little one announces they are feeling a bit creative and heading for the aprons. The idea is that you don't ever have to say no or raise your eyebrows to the skies whilst feeling guilty, instead you can offer an exciting enough alternative.