It’s Not All Mary Poppins

I’m not sure this is what they mean by life drawing…

Welcome Spring at your home with this quick and easy spring-time craft! We call it “dancing flowers”.
1. Washable markers in assorted spring-time colours

2. Assorted toddlers
(Sorry, no pictures of these. You’ll have to find your own.)

Important: Each toddler must have one (1) belly-button

1. Have toddler lie on their back on the floor. Locate belly-button.

2. Using belly-button as your centre, quickly sketch flower. (Speed is essential, as bellies (and belly-buttons) tend to become highly blurry jiggly when tickled sketched.)

Continue until all available belly-buttons have been floral-ized.

Welcome Spring! Let the dancing commence!!

April 6, 2011 Posted by | crafts | , , , | 2 Comments

Emily wins

…the Sweetness Stakes today.

“May I have the markers?” Our bin of 50 or so markers is Emily’s current Favourite Thing at Mary’s. Today she requests the addition of some scissors and some tape, please. After twenty minutes or so of concentrated effort, she produces…

“It’s for Noah, and Noah’s mummy and daddy.”

“Who have you drawn?”

Emily is used to my obtuseness in matters artful, and doesn’t even sigh a little sigh. Perhaps it helped that I recognized it was a person.

“It’s Noah’s mummy, and that is the baby in her tummy. Noah and his mummy and daddy might like a picture of their new baby, I think.”

I think so, too. It’s every bit as clear as any ultrasound snap I’ve ever seen. And this one? Is hand-crafted with love.

June 17, 2010 Posted by | crafts, Emily, the cuteness! | , , , , , | 3 Comments

Mis-steps and recoveries

I was a creating machine a couple of weeks ago, all methodical and assembly-line. Take three metres of red satin. Cut into 5 lengths of 60 cm. (No waste! Not a single cm! I am so proud!)

I have great instructions, capes are simple things, and I am a competant seamstress. I foresee no problems.

Fold in half (times 5)
Cut curve at lower end (times 5)
Hem all raw edges (three edges times 5)
Attach bias tape to neck (times 5)
Iron all (times 5)
(I am a model of efficiency, I tell you!)
Iron on initial and lightning bolts…

and discover…

I have SIX initials.


(ridiculous woman)

..I have SIX children.


And since I planned it sooooo well, there is NO red satin left over.

…double damn…

Happily, I have brilliant readers, extra interfacing and leftover lightning-bolt material, so I can make a wee superhero shirt for the littlest one.


And now I am making clothes-peg wreaths with the four-year olds. I prepared for two wreaths, because I have two four-year-olds. I counted.

Only, this week, because school’s out, I suddenly have FOUR four-year-olds. All of whom looooove to do crafts.


But that’s okay! I pulled rank and forced Emma off the couch and into the cold (-19C, feels like -28C) to the hardware store for two more packs of clothespegs, which, bless their hearts, they are still selling. In -19C weather.

And all day yesterday we painted and painted and painted dozens and dozens of clothes pegs. With a night to dry, we’d be all ready to assemble our wreaths today. All I needed was some duct tape, the ribbon to decorate the top, and a pair of wire-cutters. Got all those!! Oh, and a couple more wire coat-hangers. No problem. We have dozens of those things. I foresee no problems.

Only, when I’d dissassembled the first clothes-hanger, I discovered it was TOO FAT to go through the spring of the clothespeg. So I have 172 painted clothespegs, 200 metallic pony beads, a few metres of Christmas ribbon, four eager and expectant four-year-olds… and no craft.


My wonderful husband had a suggestion. “Don’t use those sturdy hangers. Find some of the flimsy ones from the drycleaner.” Brilliant!!

Except we have only ONE in the entire house. I have a vague memory of tossing a bunch into the recycle bin some months back. These things breed in the corners, I reasoned. Why don’t I just toss the flimsier ones???


But we did have one! If I cut it in half, we could make TWO smaller wreaths. There are, of course, four 4-year-olds. Time for the tough decision. Emily and Willliam, who come here daily, get to make a wreath.

And Timmy and Nigel, whose small faces are quivering… Nigel and Timmy get to… um… get to…

Nigel! And Timmy! You get to take the clothespegs home! 42 each! And 21 beads — you even get to pick which colours!! And a length of ribbon! And we’ll put them all in zipper bags, neatly labelled, and this is a KIT, you see. A KIT, so you can make your own wreath at home!!!

(Assuming your mothers haven’t tossed all the flimsy coathanger in your houses…)

This afternoon, while the middlers are napping, I plan to assemble the picture frames they’ve created. All I need are the painted and dried jigsaw puzzle pieces, the plastic frames, and the hot-melt glue gun.

I foresee no problems…

December 22, 2009 Posted by | Christmas, crafts, holidays | , , , , , | 4 Comments

It’s all in the eye of the beholder

One learns, in this business, to make no assumptions. None. Adult perceptions are not toddler perceptions. Bear that in mind as you gaze upon Anna’s artwork:


Completed only 20 minutes ago, and I just had to share it with you. Because I am generous that way. I am also UNflappable. Not a tremor of the voice, not a single snigger escaped me as I spoke to her…

“Well, now. That’s an interesting picture, Anna. Can you tell me about it?”

(‘Can you tell me about it?’ The all-purpose, non-judgmental, non-directive kids-art question. And said, I might point out, in a quiet, gently enquiring tone of voice.)

“It’s my new nightie. It has a fluffy thing at the bottom, lots of pieces of shiny blue dangling stuff.”

“I think that’s called a ‘fringe’.”

“Yes. That’s right. It has a fringe at the bottom. And the shoulders are big and puffy.”

Fringe at the bottom? Big, puffy shoulders? Aha! I was looking at it upside-down!


It’s a nightie! With a fringe and puffed sleeves. Of course!

What else could it possibly be?

April 28, 2009 Posted by | Anna, crafts, Mischief | , , | 9 Comments

Christmas crafts, again

At Mary’s house, there is always the craft table (aka the dining table), set out with scrap paper, crayons, scissors, glue, and assorted other stuff — cotton balls, tin foil, popsicle sticks, stickers… They can play with these things however they see fit, as often and as long as they wish. I offer only such assistance as is directly requested, and even then I may opt to assist by asking questions rather than by doing anything to their creation. And I never, ever “improve” something they create in this way.

These days I have three three-year-olds in the house. Fun! Three-year-olds are usually fascinated by crafts. They will respond according to their personalities, of course: The social ones expect you to stay and chatter with them as they create; self-motivated tots are happy to work for long stretches on their own; really active munchkins will zip to and from the table, adding a sparkle here and a scribble there between bouts of wild cavorting in the living room.

But by and large, they love the colours and the stickyness and the poking and twisting and gooping.

At three, they are only just moving past the absorption in the process that consumed them at two. Two-year-olds have no interest in “making” something recognizable. They are interested in the scratch of pencil on paper, the crunch of tin foil, the slop of paint, the scent of glue, the unfolding of colour, sound, texture, smell. It’s all about the ‘doing’ for a two. And as they “do”, they learn how all these things work, and they develop confidence in their creative process.

At three, while still fascinated by the doing, they are developing an interest in the outcome. Which is why the best three-year-old crafts have a little of both. The best crafts for this age do not need a lot of adult intervention. (The best crafts for 2-year-olds need essentially none, beyond providing the materials and maybe some instruction in how to use them.)


This ball is a good craft for this age. They peel the stickers off (fine motor), they stick them to a ball (more fine motor), and they create something to hang on the tree — or simply grace their bedside table. This is Emily’s ball. She worked on this thing for a good hour, in several sittings. It required no adult assistance whatsoever.

And this is a not-so-developmentally-perfect craft:


They got to draw the faces on these angels, and they made the halos by twisting the metallic twist-ties, but all the assembly was done by me. They helped by putting tape in the appropriate spots, but this is clearly an adult-essential craft.

That’s okay. They learn different skills, skills they perhaps can’t yet manage, but will in time. They see something being created in a step-by-step manner, with an eye to a goal. They also learn to follow instructions. All of these are Useful Life Skills. You don’t want all crafts to be adult-essential, of course. Non-directed crafts allow for exploration and experimentation. In a week of daily crafts, one or two adult-essential, directed crafts still allows for three or four days of free exploration crafts. A reasonable balance, I think.

And the parents get recognizable angels for the Christmas tree! So everyone’s happy.

December 10, 2008 Posted by | crafts, Developmental stuff, holidays | , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Figure Drawing

“Can I colour?”

It is Anna’s first utterance upon walking through the door. No, “Hello, Mary!”, nor “It’s very snowy out there!”, or even “Get your nose out of my face, Indie!”

“Can I colour?”

These days I keep a pile of paper and a basket of crayons on the table at all times, so Anna can satisfy her obsession. At three and… two months (?), three (?), Anna has moved past random scribbles. She is now drawing with an intention to produce an image.

In her case, faces. Faces and faces and faces. Faces with eyes, nose, mouth, and hair. No ears, yet. As the weeks went by, the faces sprouted arms and legs, and then, in a final burst of anatomical finesse, hands and feet. No fingers or toes yet, and it will be a little while before an actual body shows up. In the toddler world, arms and legs always spring direct from the head.

The steady deluge of a month of faces and people has made an impact on at least one other child. Last week, Emily decided that she, too, would produce a person. A person, mind you, not just a face.

I had an idea. I gave them card stock instead of the usual scrap paper. I sketched out for Emily in general terms what would be required. “First you’ll need a head.” I swirl my fingertip in a circle over the card stock. “A head with eyes and nose and mouth. And then you’ll probably want arms and legs,” stroking, linear motions, “and maybe even hands and feet.” I touch the card at four spots. Then I left them to it.

And here’s what they did:


Anna’s is on the right, Emily’s on the left. Anna’s has eyes and hair, Emily’s is blind and bald. Anna’s is just “a girl, like me.” Emily’s is “a boy named George.” So there.

Why are they cut out? Because these are not just (yet another) drawing. These are paper dolls!

George is a boy, so he, so I was told, needed overalls. I produced them. Anna’s is a girl, and she needed a “long, long dress with buttons and ruffles.”

After all that hard work drawing, they were not interested in colouring in their clothes, so I did that, too, again under direction as to colours.



December 8, 2008 Posted by | Anna, crafts, Developmental stuff, Emily | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

She’s an artist. No, I think she’s a poet.

Rainy days are craft days. We’ve been doing a lot of crafts these days. Today’s craft involved largish sheets of card printed in a pale-sky and puffy-white-cloud pattern, popsicle sticks, and blue tempera paint. Dip the popsicle stick into the tiny bowl of paint, and then dab, dot and scribble the paint across the sky.

We’re making rain, of course.

Malli unloads the paint primarily into one palm-sized patch of sky, and swipes it back and forth in those four square inches. Nigels, meantime, covers his sky with dots. Dots and dots and dots. Tappa-tappa-tap, tap, tap, tap, go the popsicle sticks on the west side of the table. Anna and Timmy, meanwhile, tap once or twice, to offload their wee bit of paint, then commence to swirling the tip of the popsicle stick through the paint. Swirls and swishes of blue appear.

“I’m makin’ rain!” Nigel, he of the tappa-tappa-tappa, declares.
“I’m makin’ rain, too!” Anna echoes.
Malli considers Anna’s page, then her own. “I’m making a storm. I’m making a storm of rain and wet drops. Anna is making wind, a storm of rain and wind.”

Anna’s painting:

Malli’s painting:

You know? She’s absolutely right.

June 23, 2008 Posted by | crafts, Malli, the things they say! | | 4 Comments