We had another fantastic play group this past Sunday. I had seen a cardboard city for kids on starlightjj’s Instagram account and was totally inspired. My husband needed a weekend off from my diy projects, however, so I was limited to making it work on my own. I went to Trader Joes early in the morning and was able to get all of the boxes from the flower deliveries for free. SCORE. I taped them together with duct tape and spread them out all over a long tarp. They were ready and waiting when the kids arrived. Our play group is art based for ages 6 months to around 3 years and about an hour and half long. I usually have three different activities planned. One in the playhouse, one starter activity on the grass (usually water play) and one main event. This play group was a little different. It was a little chilly for water play so I scratched that. I set up an invitation to play with clay in the playhouse and set up the boxes on the grass. It worked out perfectly. All the kids gravitated toward the playhouse first. I think the boxes looked a little intimidating and the kids usually need to settle a bit when they first arrive and get acclimated. The playhouse provided a cozy, engaging space for the kids to explore. After 15 or 20 minutes kids started to wander out to the grass to check out the boxes. With a little prompting from the adults, they got right into constructing their tower.
I have to thank my husband for this part. I was going to pre-construct the tower when he suggested the kids do it and we tape as we go. ”Way more Reggio,” he said. I love this man! Of course, he was right. The kids built the tower and the adults did the major taping. We handed out small pieces of tape so the kids could tape as well. They really liked this part. I find the more responsibility you can give your kids, the more they rise to the occasion and the more interested they become. Plus, it’s great to expose them to different materials.
After taping we broke for snack. I ask friends to bring snack so I can focus on the activities. It’s usually fruit, string cheese and some water or juice. Snack makes for a great transition from one activity to the next. For this group, it gave me some time to set up the paint.
Before long, the kids were ready to get their paint on. I LOVE watching kids paint. It seriously moves me to tears sometimes. Is that strange? I think it’s one of the most freeing activities for young children. For any children really. Let them paint!
I tried extending the activity as much as possible. With toddlers especially, they are ready for the next thing pretty quickly. We started with paint brushes and bio color paints from Discount School Supply. I love these paints. The colors are strong and vibrant. I thought they’d show up really well on the boxes and they did. The florescent ones are especially exciting to the kids (and to the adults.) After brush painting I introduced squeeze glue and spray bottles with liquid water colors. My daughter is sooo into glue right now. She could squeeze a glue bottle for a half an hour. The bottles are great for muscle development and fine motor strengthening. Moms helped with the taping, painting and gluing. It was so exciting for the kids to see their moms enjoy the process as well. We also had great dad participation. Thank you Ryan, for taking all these amazing photos!
Lastly, I refilled the paints with some of my helpers and introduced these fantastic pattern rollers, also from Discount School Supply. DSS is my go to for almost all art supplies. The price is right and they have everything. We have the water color paper, clay, nancy bottles (a fav) and tons of paints. These rollers are perfect for little hands. The kids grabbed them with ease and continued painting and rolling them all over our tower.
I kept this water tub out throughout the play group so kids could come over and wash their hands. A water tub is great for building independence and keeping the flow of the play going. You don’t want to have to break to wash hands or have to bring kids inside. Plus, kids love washing their hands this way. Sometimes Gigi paints her hands just so she can wash them over and over again. When it felt like the tower had run it’s course, I got out a rubber ducky and told the kids it was time to give all the brushes and rollers a bath. When they saw the ducky they really got into it. When possible, I do my best to include clean up as part of the fun. I’ve been working on this a lot with Gigi. She is almost an expert at putting caps back on the markers. Yay! Personal success.
Here’s our completed box tower in all it’s glory. One of the kids brought over a “birthday cake,” she had been working on in the playhouse. A nice little touch I think.
Unfortunately, this little girl was getting over a cold and couldn’t really participate besides making scrunch faces non stop for the camera. My little d.
Overall, this was a fantastic way to spend the morning. I am addicted to play groups! Now, what to do with the tower…oy.
All pics by Ryan Born