Before I was a mother, I was a preschool teacher. Those years of teaching and learning from the children in my classroom, undoubtedly impacted the way I mother my own children.
When my kiddos were pre-k/kindergarten age I started doing Activity Tables with them.
The purpose of the Activity Table is to give the kiddos the opportunity to follow their own natural curiousity. When I set up an Activity Table, I choose a theme, gather a variety of supplies, and set it all up on the kitchen table. The kiddos job is to have fun! No end product in mind, no time limit, no specific instructions… just them exploring and creating on their own. I’m always near by to help but I don’t interfere.
This is the first Activity Table I did with my children-
The theme behind this activity was “art mediums”. They were given a stack of papers in all shapes, colors, and sizes. I set out watercolor paints, tempera paint, colored pencils, crayons, markers, chalk pastels, charcoal pencils, and brushes in all different sizes. They had such a good time! I left the supplies out for the better part of the day and let them come and go as they wished.
The second Activity Table we did was a Science theme. I went to the Dollar Store and stocked up on all kinds of ingredients. I put out cornstarch, oil, colored water with eyedroppers, shaving cream, salt, vinegar, bar soap, baking soda, sugar, and cornmeal. The purpose of this table was to let them mix, dissolve, measure, and observe any chemical reactions that happen along the way.
This project was messy! No getting around the mess. But they had a great time trying different combinations of mixtures. I made sure I had plenty of paper towels and rags on hand to deal with any accidents. I also made sure they were wearing play clothes.
They most recent Activity Table we did was 3D art. For the last three months I had been saving egg cartons, toilet paper tubes, soapboxes, half & half cartons, oatmeal canisters… anything that had an interesting shape.
The purpose of this table was to use the supplies to construct something. The boys really got into this project!
I tried to set out anything I thought they might need for assembling their 3D art. We had white glue, a low-temp glue gun, a variety of colored and patterned tape, pipe cleaners, hole punches, Sharpies, stapler, twine, colorful poms, googly eyes, buttons, and paint. I even set up a few cans of spray paint on a work table outside so they could spray paint the plastic containers.
G wanted to make binoculars
As always I let the children come up with their own ideas. I made sure I was around to help with any cutting or carving but for the most part I let them do everything themselves.
These are the little egg carton turtles that Miss E made.
These are the robots that the boys made out of Miss P’s old Puff containers. Aren’t they fun?!
This is G’s soapbox robot.
Miss E really wanted to make animals! This is her egg carton caterpillar.
J even managed to make a few robots that had moving parts; arms or feet that could be moved back and forth.
The Activity Tables are work, and they are messy, but I don’t mind because the payoff is worth it. Watching them happily create something on their own it totally worth the work!
If you’re interested in doing and Activity Table with your own kiddos here are some tips I learned over the years-
- Cheap plastic tablecloths are your best friend! They are water proof and disposable. When you’re cleaning up you can just leave any bits of paper and trash on the tablecloth, wad it all up and throw it away!
- be sure to set up near a sink, and always have paper towels and rags on hand.
-set up different “stations” at the table. Make one end of the table a “painting station”, have designated spot for glue, and a spot for cutting and taping. This will help keep the chaos at bay.
-if the table starts to get too messy, take a few minutes to clear away the trash and reset the stations. Too much mess and clutter can hinder creativity.
-take a deep breath and relax! There will be moments when you want to loose your cool, especially if your like me and have a hard time letting mess just happen Messiness, clutter, and a bit of chaos is just part of the experience, and you have to learn to let go and not be too controlling.
-give the process some time. When the kids first sit down they will be keyed-up and excited. That initial excited frenzy will pass and that’s when the creative magic starts to happen. Don’t give up before it gets good!
If you enjoy doing projects with your kiddos and are looking for new and fun projects to do with them, The Artful Parent is one of my favorite blogs! Jean Van’t Hul is a never ending wealth of knowledge and creativity! I also love her Pinterest Boards.
Now go out and have some fun with your kids! And thanks for stopping by! ~April