Getting Organised – Art & Craft Supplies

Getting Organised - Art and Craft
Over the years I have stored our art and craft supplies in many different ways.  We have progressed from having everything squashed into a large box, then onto sorting items into smaller boxes, jars and organising them onto shelving.  I much prefer to have everything on shelves as it is easier to see what we have and am more likely to use them.  It also makes it so much easier to set up and pack away activities.
When organising our art and craft supplies, I wanted to keep it simple and inexpensive.  I have recycled and reused baskets, containers, boxes and jars I have found from around the house.  When you start looking, it is amazing the things you will find that can be very useful to organise, store and tidy up art and craft supplies.
This book shelf is only part of what we have in our collection of art and craft supplies, we also have a play dough toolbox, paint box and recycled household items stored in our study which are used for activities.
To save space I have set up our craft shelf behind the kids play room door. It is out of the way and leaves more room for playing.
organising art and craft items
Tall Jars:  I store our pipe cleaners and straws in tall jars which are originally meant for spaghetti pasta.  I find this way of storing them takes up the less space than having them in another container or box.
Fabric Boxes: Our fabric boxes are really handy because they can be folded flat when not needed and stored in small spaces. Boxes are great to keep things tidy.  We store all our loose craft items such as balloons, paper plates, cellophane and tissue paper in these boxes. 
Glass Jars: These jars are recycled empty coffee jars that I have collected slowly over the years.  What I really like about these jars is that they are transparent and you can automatically see what is in them.
Baskets:  Baskets come in different sizes, shapes and heights and are always a great way for storing craft items and keeping them neatly together in one place.  Baskets do not have a lid so this also allows for extra room for items without the issue on trying to compress a lid on top.
Plant Pots: These are great for storing some items standing up, such as glue sticks, rulers, scissors, pencils, crayons etc.  They are also easily accessible and kept neat and tidy this way.
Lunch boxes:  Containers with lids or unused lunch boxes are perfect for keeping craft items neatly stored altogether.
Washable Labels:  These labels are made from laminated coloured paper which I write on with a white board marker.  I list all our art and craft supplies on these labels that are stored on each shelf and what are inside the boxes.  This helps me to keep a record of what I have, anything new I have added or what I need to replace. As things change I can easily wipe away the labels and re-write on them with a white board marker.
list of art and craft supplies
This photo is just a snippet of some of the art and craft supplies we have stored on our book shelf.  On the very bottom shelf we store some kid’s games and toys such at the Wooden Hammer and Tac Set, puzzles, sight word cards, base ten blocks and dominoes.
Some craft supplies I absolutely love to have that are not listed in the picture are alphabet foam stickers, shape cookie cutters, paint containers, felt, dot stickers, alphabet and number stickers, coloured paper and card, PVC tape, threading beads, mosaic paper squares, large pop sticks, poly string, empty jars, magazines, balloons, hot glue gun, small and large paper plates, envelopes, glitter, crepe paper, cellophane, activity trays, fake flowers, bubble wrap, sponges, rubber bands, plastic cups and spoons, magnets and decorative cutting scissors.
Learning 4 kids

Simple DIY Felt Boards

Playing with felt encourages many great learning experiences as it is a sensory toy that involves touching, feeling and manipulating.  It promotes creative play, the imagination and role play through story telling.   It also encourages skills development with hand & eye coordination, fine motor skills, spacial awareness and exploration.
Felt is a cheap and easily accessiable material that can be cut  and created into different shapes or characters.  It is a wonderful tool to learn with while makinng it fun.
Here are two simple and inexpensive DIY ideas for making your own felt boards at home.  
Chalk Board Easels are the perfect height for little people to reach making them great for turning into a felt board.   This is done by cutting some felt into the correct shape and size to fit the board.  Using a light layer of PVA glue, glue the felt onto the board and trim off any over-hang or excess with a stanley knife.  I chose to use blue and green felt to symbolise the sky and the landscape. 
Tip:  Do not use too much glue as this will soak the felt material making it hard and difficult to place other felt pieces on top.  It reduces the friction.
To make a larger felt board which allows more children to play with it at the same time is covering a light weight art canvas with felt material.  You can purchase large sheets of felt from most fabric shops and the canvas from most craft stores.  I have chosen to use a light coloured felt as it is a more versatile colour and most of our felt toys are brightly coloured.  To attached the felt to the canvas I folded the felt over the edges and stapled it on.  As I folded, stapled and moved around the outside of the canvas I gently pulled the felt to make it tight without over stretching it, just enough to make it firm but not floppy.
Learning 4 kids

Why Puzzles are so Important for Kids Learning?

From early childhood right through to adulthood we love to play with puzzles.  We like the way they challenge our thinking and exercise our minds.
Puzzles are also an important educational learning tool for toddlers and young children as they provide many skills and mental learning benefits and opportunities.
Benefits of Playing with Puzzles
-          Cognitive Skills:  Puzzles come in a whole range of themes and topics such as alphabet letters, shapes, vegetables, numbers, pets, transport and colours.  It increases their visual spacial awareness and develops a deeper understanding of these themes and topics.  All children learn differently and puzzles may be their medium for grasping an understanding of certain themes such as alphabet letters.
-          Problem Solving:  Completing a puzzle, even the most simplest of puzzles sets a single goal to achieve.  Toddlers and children must think and develop strategies on how to approach in achieving this goal.  This process involves problem solving, reasoning skills and developing solutions which they can later be transferred into their personal/adult life.
-          Fine Motor Development:  Puzzles are a fun way for children to develop and refine their fine motor skills.  When engaged in playing with puzzles, children are required to pick up, pinch and grasp pieces (some with small knobs, pegs or chunky pieces) and move them around, manipulating them into slots, sorting them and fitting them into the correct places.
-          Hand and Eye Coordination:  Playing with puzzles requires a trial and error process which involves a lot of hand and eye manipulation.  For example, as a toddler or child places a piece of the puzzle that does not fit, they will try all over again where their actions involve doing what they actually see.
-          Social:  Puzzles are a great educational tool to enhance and promote cooperative play.  As kids work together to complete a puzzle, they will discuss where a piece should go and why, take turns and share and support each other when handling frustration, then sharing the joy of finishing the puzzle.
-          Self Esteem:  The accomplishment of achieving a goal brings so much satisfaction to a child.  Overcoming the challenges involved in solving a puzzle really gives them a sense of achievement and pride within themselves.  It provides a boost to their self-confidence and self-esteem as this prepares them for other challenges in life. 
Puzzles are a fun educational toy that challenges young minds, teaching and preparing them early in life some very important life skills.
Learning 4 kids

What is Imaginative Play and How to Encourage it?

Ideas for imaginative play for kidsImaginative play is essentially when children are role playing and are acting out various experiences they may have had or something that is of some interest to them.  They are experimenting with decision making on how to behave and are also practising their social skills.  Children learn from experience: from what happens around them, from what they see, hear, smell, taste and touch.   To absorb those experiences and make sense of the world, they need to be engaged in imaginary play. 
We as adults can often under value imaginative play.  Play is a child’s way of engaging and making sense of the world.  Role play may appear to be a very simple activity, yet within it, young children learn practical life skills such as dressing themselves, how to cooperate and share with others.
How to encourage and support imaginative play with our children? 
Prop ideas for imaginative play
A place to play – Provide your child with a space in your home for imaginative play.  It could be a separate room or even just the corner of a room.  Wardrobes are great places for imaginative play.  Another great place for imaginative play is the dinner table, remove all the chairs and cover the table with sheets, it becomes an instant cubby house or even a castle where a beautiful princess is kept captive by an evil dragon. Couches are another great place to begin imaginative play; again a sheet thrown over the couch can become a tunnel or a cave that an explorer needs to investigate. Canopies and play tents can create a great place to begin the imaginary world.  The play corner or imaginative play area should be changed regularly with different props and toys to keep children stimulated by it.
Provide Props and Toys – This does not mean that you have to go out and spend a lot of money on toys to help promote imaginary play.  You will find that the most simple of items found in the home will act as perfect props to spark the imagination.  Card board boxes can become anything in the imaginary world, I have seen them become computers, cash registers, and beds for sick animals.  The plastics cupboard or drawer in the kitchen is filled with props that kids can re-invent them into other things.  Provide a dress ups box full of clothes, scarves, hats, handbags, shoes and wigs.  Dress ups are irresistible to young children to spark the imagination.  Consider creating a props box filled with toys, objects and props to encourage your child’s fantasy world. You might include: washing baskets, pretend plastic flowers, old telephones, stuffed animals and dolls, blankets, plastic crockery and cutlery.
Children learn so much from their parents and how they interact with them
Be your child’s playmate – Kids love to play with their parents!  When your child brings you a pretend cup of tea, play along and ask for a tea spoon of sugar.  Ring them up on their pretend phone asking to put in an order for 2 large pizzas for delivery.  Show an interest in what they are doing as this helps to develop the story and encourage the imagination but let your child be in charge.  Arrange play dates with children of a similar age so they can support each other’s imaginative play.  
Provide them with experiences to role play – Reading to your children will expose them to different scenarios, stories and experiences. Taking your children to many interesting places such as the zoo is also another way of exploring new experiences.  This does happen naturally anyway, such as visiting the doctor and the supermarket.  These will provide them with more experiences and more ideas for their imaginative play.
“Help I’m trapped in a castle!”  A princess calling on the phone for her prince to come and save her!  Technology will pop up in our children’s imaginative play!
The learning benefits of Imaginative Play –
  • It provides opportunities for children to identify with the adult world.  Practise and role play their understanding and interpretation.
  • Develop social skills: practising negotiation skills, turn taking and sharing. Provides opportunities for working out problems and experimenting with solutions.
  • Emotional development: Understanding and expressing their feelings through the re-enactment of certain experiences.  Taking on roles that encourage discipline and empathy.
  • Encourages imagination: Children can be anyone and do anything in the pretend world.
  • Develop language skills: practising listening, looking and talking.  Being spoken to and talking with other people, also developing an understanding of what is being communicated through body language such as smiles and nodding.
  • I also believe that imaginative play is a great way for children to relax and unwind from their busy lives.
I whole-heartedly believe that kids should be allowed to be kids!  In our world today, it seems as if we get caught up in being busy and forget to have fun.  Encouraging our children to play and have fun will develop healthy connections and choices in life. 
Thanks for reading!
Learning 4 kids

How to help Children Develop a Love for Reading?

tips for helping kids learn to read
Developing a love for reading in the early years is a lifelong lasting gift on so many levels.  Not only in an imaginative sense and for pleasure but also in the development of important literacy skills.  Reading provides a growth of knowledge, a pleasurable hobby to escape from our busy lives and the development of critical thinking.   Developing a love for books in the early years will set your child up for reading readiness and help lay the basis for your child’s success inside, outside and beyond school.
Parents can encourage their children to read and develop a love of reading in many ways.
Books, Books, Everywhere Books!
reading to kids, developing reading skills in kids
Fill your child’s life with books! 
Have a great variety of books available to read and explore.  Choose books that are kid friendly and have topics or stories that are relevant to them. 
Select books that are age appropriate, such as fabric books for infants and board books for toddlers, minimal print, and picture books. 
Developing a love of books is about having them accessible, we have books in the bath, car, bedrooms, play area and we take them on small trips and holidays.  Sometimes they come with us in the shopping trolley and pram.  They are everywhere!
Build a Home Library
reading with kids, home library, reading tips for kids, learning to read
Visit the local library regularly and browse around the variety of books.  Talk about the different kinds of books and select books on particular topics that are an interest to your kids. 
We have gone to the library to find books on guinea pigs, Australia, the weather and seasons because this is what they were interested in or learning at school. 
You can also take your children to the second hand shops to build up your home library. 
Create a Place to Read 
reading to kids, how to read to kids, providing somewhere to readreading activities for kids
Reading does not have to always be about being read to by an adult in the early years.  It can be about sharing a book with a friend, sibling or reading by yourself. Reading is not only about decoding the text but making meaning from the stories.  I love it when my kids make up their own stories from the pictures; they enjoy it so much more. 
Getting comfortable and sufficient light will prolong reading.  Create a reading corner near shelves of books and a comfy chair or a pile of cushions and soft toys. 
Reading out loud
reading to kids, how to read to kids
The single most important thing you can do to prepare your child for school and develop a love for reading is to read to them every day.    
Make reading a special time together and set it in a routine to help make it happen regularly.   When we read to our children, they develop a love of books and are eager to explore ways to “read” to themselves, write about what they see, and create their own stories. They learn new words and concepts and understand that written words communicate ideas and information. They are able to see the connection between the sounds they hear and the words and pictures they see.
Model Reading  
learning to read
Parents are the best examples for good reading habits as children imitate the actions of their parents.   When children see their parents reading for enjoyment, they will assume that reading is a fun and natural experience.  Model reading by reading a variety of materials at home, including novels, recipe books and directories. Children are most likely to follow your example and the rewards are good reading skills that last a lifetime. 
Books – A great gift
books are a great gift for kids, gifts for kids
Books are a great gift for kids! 
My children receive a book that has a written note inside as a gift every Christmas and birthday.  Not only are they receiving a personal gift, they are also building up their collection of books for their home library.  Books that they will be able to take and share with their own children one day. 
When I ask my girls what they would like for their birthday, they always say a book and talk about what it needs to be about or one they have seen in the library.
Books stimulate the senses, arouse the imagination, and inspire a love of reading that will last a lifetime.
Thanks for reading!
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