Like most people I know there are times my kids need a quiet activity, whether to calm down at the end of a rambunctious game or to help them wake up in the A.M. - I took ideas from a wide variety of schools of thought and started to have these, what some people would call invitations to play out on a table every so often. I think this would also work wonderfully in an art room as an "after activity", especially as a way to introduce new materials or techniques.
Over winter break I started to lay out materials and tools on simple white trays. There were a variety of different activities over the two weeks, mostly seasonal. My kids gravitated towards them throughout the day for different intervals of time.
Whether my kids complete them in the way I intended is up to them. Unlike what I understand to be the Montessori school of thought, I don't care if my kids do what I thought they would with the material. For example, I thought Auggie would enjoy pouring the rice back and forth between the pitchers; which he did. But then when some spilled out he asked for a spoon to put it back into the pitchers, and then he just started playing with the rice as a sensory experience, all A-okay with me.
A collection of items that any kiddo would be jazzed about:
1. Wikkistix, Encourage those little people to build up and out. Art doesn't have to be on paper! These will encourage exploration in three dimensional art for those older kids while entertaining even the youngest (as well as remain mess free!)
2. Pom Pom Beads, I used these a lot in my art ed room and my kids use them a ton at home as well. Easy to thread and adorable as a garland, these provide a relaxing, quiet activity that improves fine motor skills and gives you instant decor that you got free of labor charges. Plus for under $2 for 100 of them - I mean, come on. No brainer.
3. Learning Resources Sorting Tray, My two year old is really into sorting objects. We change it up depending on the season, but he really enjoys seperating out what belongs together in these small compartments. This could also double as an organizing tray for loose parts or craft materials.
4. Craft Supplies, pipe cleaners, googly eyes, sequins, glitter - any variety of these items woudl delight children or all ages, and let's be honest - probably a few adults too.
5. Spin Art, It doesn't get any better than squeezing a bunch of paint on a piece of paper and then sending it whirl around. Plus, this Alex version is hand operated (no batteries to purchse or have run out on you)
6. Playdoh, A classic.
7. Tempera Paint Sticks, These might be my favorite thing this year. A no mess container lets your child paint easily at a kitchen table without you worrying about cleanup but they can still blend colors and get that painterly feel. They dry to the touch after about a minute so no worries about putting htem up to dry. Bonus - it feels like you're painting with tubes of lipstick!
8. Boone Stash Organizer, A little pricey at around $20, but it makes your kid's crayons and markers look organized and at the ready. We keep ours out on our kitchen island at all times.
9. Buddha Board, An exercise in zen, the Buddha Board allows you to paint with water and then watch it slowy disappear, leaving you the opportunity to have another go. My kids really like this and it's such a beautiful design that it stays in our general living space for kids (and adults) to utilize whenever they feel like it.
If you feel like there is something we missed let us know. We are always on the hunt for newest and coolest (and old classics) in the art world.
Do you give suggestions to students or school families about what would make great gifts from the art world?