A Spinning Contraption Develops a Purpose

We have been exploring  drilled plastic lids, drilled wooden dowels, old records, metal clips, pulley device, etc. by suspending these things  from the ceiling from a length of yarn.  We can twist and spin them, and pull up and  down and change the items around.



We have found that:

Adding weight makes the spinner wobble.   A pulley teaches cause and effect.

We painted with our contraption in a variety of ways.



When the children’s interest turned to the candy shop in the dramatic play area we viewed the YouTube video Making Candy Canes (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pnHKFvflgFQ) and learned how candy rope was made.  The children wanted to make their own candy, so we gave it a try.


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We experimented with yarn, glue, starch and glitter and fastened it to our spinning device.

We were successful in twisting our yarn into “candy” rope.  Yeah!  We cut the rope into pieces, and shaped the pieces into shepherds crooks.  The children were thrilled with the canes that they made, and home they went for Christmas.

…and, other young students twisted candy sticks for their clay and cinnamon Christmas people.

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lion copy

Captain Kangaroo, almost 50 years and I still remember you

 I remember watching  the Capt. Kangaroo show when I was of preschool age. (The children’s TV series that aired on CBS from 1955 until 1984). Some shows utilized the Magic Drawing Board.

In an episode, a journey of a lion is both a narrated story and a drawing combined.  The Magic Drawing Board draws the lions paths as the narrator speaks, and by the end of the story all the lines become a drawing of the lion.  It was all very magical to me.

The technique from Magic Drawing Board has remained in my memory,  and I have tweaked the idea and occasionally use a similar “drawing game” approach with the children.

Our stories begin with a mystery creature in a box.  The children speculate what the creature is as we draw.  Excitement builds as we add to our drawing, and the children call out what they suppose the creature is.  Every so often, a child will come to the drawing table and announce that he/she knows what we are drawing because a child from the day before has revealed the creature.  I am very, very pleased that the children discuss their drawing experiences, but I’ll announce, “today is a different creature for you to guess”, change the story slightly, and we draw a different creature.  Our stories with drawings proceed something like this:


Once upon a time there was a very happy witch cruising along on her broomstick. She was very happy because it was the Halloween season and she had a new Halloween pet in a box on the end of her broomstick.  She was flying home as fast as she could to give her pet a little bit of dinner.  All of a sudden a humongous burst of wind jolted her on her broomstick and the box with her new pet fell off the broomstick and tumbled and tumbled and tumbled down until it hit the ground. The box lay on the ground and it looked like this. It was a tall rectangle shape in the middle of a large soccer field.

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The creature did not know where it was but it knew that it wanted to get back to the witch. It did not know which way to go and it did not know how to get there, so it decided to stick out its foot to to feel the ground. That seemed safe so it poked out its other foot too.

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Then the creature in the box said to itself, “I can walk back to the witch! But I don’t know which way to go, maybe if I could hear if it is safe that would be good.” So it poked out its two pointy ears. 

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It listened intently to make sure there was no cars or loud things coming. Then it said to itself “If I want to get out of this box I need a door.” So it built a door. But it did not add an outside doorknob because it did not want anybody coming in uninvited. It only had a door knob on the inside of the box, just for him. The creature took a few steps and then a few more steps and it said to itself. “This is going to take a really long time to get back to the witch!” And then it remembered that it was a creature that could fly because it had wings and it stuck out its wings and they looked like this.

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Well creatures are like airplanes and airplanes need a tail to fly straight so this creature in the box popped out its tail.

Photo Nov 03, 1 12 39 PMThe creature said to itself, “I’m ready to get back to the witch but I am not sure which way to go. I do need to see. I need to make a window at the top of this box.” And it did cut a rectangle window with a line down the middle and popped its two eyes out.

Photo Dec 29, 1 20 48 PMIt poked out a little triangle shaped mouth just in case it had to ask somebody a question, and off it flew to find the witch. The little owl creature did get home for Halloween in the witch was so happy that she gave it some yogurt for a treat before dinner!




Baking Soda and Vinegar Volcano

I had a number of objectives in mind when I asked some of the children if they were interested in making a volcano that erupted.

  1. Introduce the word “chemical reaction” and  allow the children to experiment.

  2. Provide all 70+ children in the school with the sensory opportunity to participate in building and erupting the volcano.

  3. The morning and afternoon 4 year olds had finished constructing a road project using “slime” as a building material, and a second project  using the glue, laundry starch, and paint concoction  as a building material would expand and help reinforce their knowledge. (there are a few photos of the road project at the bottom of the page.)

  4. Use the volcano as a means for the children to have conversations with each other including science vocabulary, use of the substances, and use of tools to make and erupt the volcano.

  5. Enjoy the studio as a space where the children initiate their own experiences.


A discussion on the color of the smoke


A drawing on what the volcano should look like


A mixture of paint, sparkles, crushed crayons, sand and glue


The children learn that the laundry starch that we mix in is made from corn


…and we have a not too sticky mixture to form a volcano from a piece of canvas over a chicken wire frame


The children add a mixture of glitter, red sand, red paint glue and starch for lava




Mixing the solutions and working together:


dish soap, a dab of paint and water


Using the funnel to add baking soda then vinegar, paint, soap solution


The first lava flow is a success!

Taking Turns!

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Oops, we need eye protection.

The children are told that the vinegar could sting their eyes. They are scientist and they need to protect their eyes with goggles. The children are outstanding about reminding each other to wear goggles.

Producing baking soda and vinegar reactions in a cup is very popular.  The child, would then pour their mixture onto the volcano.  Scooping up the “lava” flow is also favored.

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This child has made her own prediction about the volcano…she is protecting her ears.102_6449 102_6665

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Dozens of vinegar, baking soda, paint, sand, and sparkle mixes poured down our volcano.  They reacted with the “slime” base and unexpectedly beautified our volcano!

The 4 year old’s road project:

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red rooster

The Red Rooster by Marc Chagall

Art Talk

Several years ago at a Cincinnati AEYC conference (http://www.cincinnatiaeyc.org/home/) I attended a session regarding “talking about art with young children”. This has been an excellent means for the children to apply critical thinking skills, and has sparked some very lively discussions and debates in our studio!  In brief, groups of 5 or 6 children view a print or piece of art and asked open ended questions such as: 

what do you see?

what colors do you see?

What shapes do you see?

Do you see any creatures?

Is this taking place inside or outside?

I do not interject my observations about the art, or agree or disagree with  the children’s ideas.

Rachelle Doorley from the Tinker Lab (http://tinkerlab.com/five-easy-steps-for-talking-with-children-about-art/) said it so well here:

“It didn’t matter if she was wrong or right; what mattered is that she was invested in the artwork enough to think for herself and think critically about the piece by reasoning through her ideas.”

We recently viewed Marc Chagall’s “The Red Rooster”, which hangs in The Cincinnati Art museum. The initial question to the children was “What do you see in this print?” 

Below is a mixture of the children’s observations and conversations.

About the Man in the Sky

The man is flying because he has a jet pack on.”

I think the man’s lying in the snow and trying to catch the moon.”

I see a person trying to catch the moon so it would be morning time.”

I like his funny hair because it’s bright.”

I like his blue face”

I like his outfit”

The flying man looks like the Joker on Batman.”                                                                                                                                  “The Jumping man is flying over the chicken.”                                                                                                                                “That’s not the joker, the Joker can’t fly.”

I think his face is purple because he ate too many purple cupcakes.”

I think the person and the chicken are racing.”

About the creature playing an instrument

The donkey is playing his ukulele.”

The donkey is hiding under the Bush from the big chicken.”

He’ll keep playing a guitar under the bush by the rock.”

The fish is playing the guitar in a jacket and a little boy in a jacket is climbing down the tree.”The moose with clothes on is using a guitar made of feathers.”

I see a turtle with a guitar.”

there’s a donkey.”

It’s a cow.”

It is a turtle because it has a shell on.”

About the Rooster

The chicken is looking for the man.”

The chicken wants to run into the woods where he belongs.”

Why is that chicken looking for that guy.”

The Rooster is eating the bush.” 

The Chicken is walking in the snow; I think the person is in the shower or tub… no, he has his pants on.”

The Rooster would want peace and quiet time.”

About the person in the red cap

There’s a bad guy”

Mrs. Williams- “Why do you think it’s a bad guy?”

It’s a witch”

Mrs. Williams- “Why do you think it’s a witch.”

Because it has a green face and a hat”

That is not a witch hat, a witch hat is pointy”

A witch today would wear that hat, not a pointy hat.”

I like that hat, I would like to have a hat like that.”

Mrs. Williams-Do you Like this Art?

Because it’s so amazing, because if you don’t see a picture like that you think that’s amazing.”

I would like it in my house.”

It is beautiful.”

Mrs. Williams-“What makes it beautiful?”

The trees make it beautiful.”

and all the creatures.”

Mrs. Williams-”What else do you see in the painting?” “What else do you like?”

Orange mess and an orange mouth cut in half”

Another chicken flying through the air”

The chicken is pretending to be a moon”

Mrs. Williams- “why do you think he’s pretending to be a moon?”

“because he’s curved like the moon and a cupcake.”

“I don’t like the tree because I think people are hiding in it.”

I like the moon because I like the duck.”

I like the words.”

I like the sneaky crook because he looks like he’s flying to the man.”

I like the crooks hat; not everyone thought that was a moose.”

I like the chicken because of all of it’s colors on it’s head.”.”

Mrs. Williams- “What do you think it is titled?


A chicken.”

A chicken story.”

The little hiding face.”

Mrs. Williams- “Anything else?”

No, I’m done, can we go play now?”

“Would you like to do a Three Day Painting” (Chihuly part III)

I take a lot of photos in the studio and I happened to  digitally capture this child’s undertaking.  While our community sculpture was under construction she  began to paint her own interpretation of  what the “Chihuly” sculpture would look like when completed. Commonly, a child will finish a painting in one day but this child chose to work on her painting over several nonconsecutive days. On the last day she used pastel crayons to add details.


October 14th


October 20th


November 2nd


Finished November 2nd

I was inspired by her unhurried process, and when the children returned from Winter break I asked the 5 year olds if they were interested in making a three day Chihuly painting.  Of the  32 children asked 11 children were interested. I was delighted that some of the children were still interested in the Chihuly project after a three week vacation!

chih 11

Thank you Mrs. Walton…

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for such wonderful photographs!


We again, brought out the photos of Chihuly’s desert exhibition. The children chose their favorites and  we discussed the sky and sand and plants.  We learned that in the photos the sky and ground or plants touched each other.  We learned that the glass sculptures were in front of the sky and ground.  We discussed that in our three day painting that we could paint the background on the first day.  On a second day we could paint the glass sculptures on top of the background .  On a third day we could use a different medium; maybe crayons or markersThe children have complete freedom to finish earlier, or take longer if needed, or develop their own methods for their painting.

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Their completed efforts!

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Materials Engineer, anyone? “Yes, we are here, and we are busy…We have stuff to investigate”

Materials science, also commonly known as materials science and engineering, is an interdisciplinary field which deals with the discovery and design of new materials. Though it is a relatively new scientific field that involves studying materials through the materials paradigm (synthesis, structure, properties, and performance), its intellectual origins reach back to the emerging fields of chemistry, mineralogy, and engineering during the Enlightenment.[1] It incorporates elements of physics and chemistry and is at the forefront of nanoscience and nanotechnology research. In recent years, materials science has become more widely known as a specific field of science and engineering. ∼From Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Materials_science

There are those children who will readily physically engage in gooey, messy, sticky materials for a really long time when allowed.  The studio, with cardboard covered floors, and plastic table covers provides the opportunity to explore with minimal interruption concerning “neatness”. 

 White glue, liquid laundry starch, and a little liquid water color for this slime

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Observing the children interact and handle, or choose not to handle these concoctions will occasionally give me a thought on how to further explore these mixtures with the children:

Some of our children had just visited an ice cream shop, and were interested in making fake ice cream.  We found that cotton ball covered slime worked very well for drippy cones.


Pink color for peppermint. yum!


Clear glitter is always a great condiment to slime.


Slime made 24 hours prior is not too sticky to cover the cotton balls.


Blueberry with sprinkles


Strawberry with sprinkles


Classic vanilla with chocolate chip sprinkles

The Habitat Project

A few years ago a group of children were interested in making a winter tree for animals to live.  Slime, paper towel tubes, tape and paint worked well.  The children enjoyed the light texture and coolness of the mixture as they spread it on the branches.

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A Fairyland stream made from blue slime covered cotton fabric

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and more to come…



They are the Sculptors now (Chihuly part II of III)

Our Chihuly inspired sculpture project was truly admirable.   The children learned about the artist and how that artist was inspired.   They had gained useful knowledge through direct  participation with the planning process and the free-spirited use of watercolors, markers, paint,  bottles and scissors.  I asked the students if they would like to try to make little Chihuly sculptures that they could take home.  The children were interested. 

They were offered white or clear shrink plastic, permanent markers, acrylic paint, brushes and droppers to create designs. They cut the plastic into three or four interesting shapes and use a variety of hole punches on the plastic.  We shrunk  them somewhat in the toaster oven. As the children’s assistant  I twisted the heated plastic to the children’s specifications. The children glued and wired pieces together. Our Chihuly inspired sculptures were beautiful and the children enjoy them as an installation. 

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