As we have had a cold past week or two, I've been aware of the exhausting cost of being active outside. The children (and adults) have to muster much more energy simply to get out the door each day! As much as is possible, I've encouraged children to put on their own (several) coats and snow suits, socks, mittens and hats by themselves. They have to work hard to zip their coats, sometimes around their puffy, layered bellies. Taking off boots each day is also quite a feat--bending a padded, short body over to try and pull a tight boot off of their own cold feet. They are able to do it, though often they are more able when no adult is watching. On our hikes, it's harder for children to walk in all their boots and layers, but this is all wonderful strength building activity. All of these winter struggles help to build their strength and confidence. Inside, even with crafts, I try to let children experiment with holding their scissors, or getting paint on their hands and washing it off themselves.
We have made a few natural crafts this past week, which we are enjoying outside. Before our chilly days and ice storm, the children used rubber spatulas to spread peanut butter onto pine cones and then roll them in birdseed. It's been fun to watch them nibble at it from the window. We also made "wreaths" outside by filling baking pans with little nature finds like pine cones and leaves, then filling them with water and letting them freeze overnight. It was neat to see the shapes the ice formed. Most recently, the children painted pine cones. It provided an interesting surface to paint and required that they used both hands in order to be able to turn the pine cone and paint it on all sides.
Our early winter months have been filled with both rain and activity. For three weeks we worked on our masterpiece bowls. Papier mache is a long process, but included so many wonderful sensory experiences for the children. The first step for them was to tear the paper into strips, which as I've mentioned in previous posts, is a wonderful fine motor skill. Tearing paper prepares the hands for cutting with scissors but also hones the ability to control one's finer finger movements. Patience was required each day as the children had to cover their whole bowl with layer after layer of paper. The finished results were beautiful.
I was happy to find a very thick and fluffy yarn for making snowballs with the children. They wind and wind yarn around a donut shaped piece of plastic. Once it's completely "stuffed", I trim the yarn and tie it together for them and then they give it a "haircut". The yarn made the project do-able in just one morning, which, after our extended bowl-making project, was refreshing. Indoor snowball fights ensued with "snow forts" being built out of the play stands. We also did some painting with tiny sponges, making a snowy scene on blue paper. This was again to hone in on the fine motor skills of the very tips of the finger and to exercise their budding pencil grip. It takes time and patience to make a painting using a teeny little sponge!
Outside, the children have loved both hiking into the woods around here, and also building "obstacle courses" in our play yard. Ideally, they like to use every piece of material that we have. Sometimes we leave it up, but often I find that because it's all about the process of building, clean up allows for that same excitement to be revisited the next day.