When I posted this simple drawing game for kids on Instagram, the crowd went wild!
So I thought I better dedicate a blog post to its awesome self.This is a collaborative, drawing game that I’ve dubbed “Pass the Portrait.”
Hand-drawn portraits by kids are one of my very favourite things in life.
It involves all family members and simple materials.
Here’s how to play this simple drawing game for kids of all ages. You need some good-quality paper and a Sharpie for each family member.
Everybody starts with an oval on their page. The page is labelled with the name of a family member. That oval is that person’s head.
We started with the feature of eyes. So you had to draw in the eyes of the family member named on your paper.
Then you PASS THE PORTRAIT to the person next to you. Next we opted to draw the nose.
PASS THE PORTRAIT. Add the family member’s mouth.
Keep passing the portrait until all features are filled in and then colour in the portraits. Each family member will end up with a portrait that bears maybe 6% resemblance to their actual visage, but collaborative art activities is where it’s at, my friends!
Yes yes, there are actually 5 members of my family. But the 5th member went off-script and chose to do a self-portrait.
If somebody doesn’t want to stick to the script, my advice is ROLL WITH IT. I would kill for eyelashes like that. This kid is my often-reluctant creator, so it’s important for him to express himself as he pleases.
We then unleashed the watercolour palette and paint sticks. Some family members coloured their own portrait. Others coloured the portrait of another family member.
These simple cardboard masks for kids are an amazing project. We originally made them as prototypes for a READ + CREATE class I had scheduled for the holidays. We all know how that story ends #coronavirus Seeing as the class was cancelled, I’m giving the idea to you.
To run this as a READ + CREATE activity in your home, simply read a book about monsters or wild characters.
We were going to read ‘Wild’ by Emily Hughes. ‘Where the Wild Things Are’ would work beautifully too.
Then invite your child to create their own wild creature.
Create your own simple cardboard mask for kids
Seeing as we are all indoors for the moment, we have had a huge influx in online shopping delivered to our door.
Use the boxes to create these cardboard mask.
I cut out several oval-shaped bases for the faces and pre-painted these.
I then cut out various shapes to resemble facial features. Lots of circle, semi-circles and rectangles.
I presented these shapes to my kids with paint sticks and paint pens.
We discussed the different shapes that we could use to represent different facial features.
They coloured their cardboard facial features.
My main tip would be to encourage your children to experiment with the placement of cardboard facial features on their base board.
Once they are happy with how it looks, glue all the features in place with craft glue.
I then presented some tulle and ribbons so that my kids could further embellish, but they weren’t too hot on that step.
Tape a dowel rod to the back of the cardboard mask and let your inner-Wild Thing ROAR!
You know that I am a passionate Literacy Advocate Warrior Woman, right? I’m passionate about finding ways to encourage kids to read more. And more. And more.
I passionately believe that reading has the power to change and enrich lives. At the moment, we’re all trying to stay home as much as possible, right? #thanksCOVID19
This means that I’m sick of hearing my own voice by the time I get to bedtime stories with my kids. The consequence of this is that my bedtime read alouds have become a bit, ahem, sub-par. Reading isn’t something that should just be saved for bedtime. It should be happening at different points throughout the day. The current situation did make me consider how we can inject more reading into our kid’s days in a stress-free and authentic way.
So here are my 5 ways to encourage kids to read more…
Plug into audiobooks or podcasts
This is my number 1 tip for when I’m sick of hearing my own voice. Audio books and podcasts are an awesome way to ensure that your child is hearing the written word spoken aloud. Furthermore, an important comprehension skill is being able to take what you are hearing and create images in your mind. Audio books and podcasts aid in the development of this skill.
We’ve been loving accessing BorrowBox through our local library’s website.
My 2 eldest kids listen to podcasts during their daily “Quiet Time.” This is when they play quietly in their rooms for 90 minutes or so. Sometimes we’ll play a podcast as we eat lunch or we’ll often listen to an audio book on the school run in the car (remember when we used to drive around?!)
Read recipes and get kids in the kitchen
Look, I know that having kids in the kitchen can be messy and stressful. But recipes are such an authentic way to engage readers in a procedural text. They are one of the most engaging and authentic ways to encourage kids to read more.
And you end up with something delicious to eat! Win!
Create a Book Nook
I’ve yet to meet a little friend who doesn’t love building cubbies and forts. If reading is feeling a bit stale and unloved at your place, rethink the location. Helping your little reader to create a book nook filled with cosy cushions and great reads can be a fun way to mix things up and encourage kids to read more.
I’m also a big fan of scattering books in different places across the home so that books, and reading, are always accessible.
If space permits, I’m also a huge advocate for displaying some books with front covers facing outwards. Books on a bookshelf with spines out can be quite uninviting to a child.
Be a Reading Role Model
In order to see reading as a valued pastime and valuable skill, children need to see the adults in their lives reading for pleasure and embracing books. This is awesome if you’re a book-loving adult. This is your carte blanche to read, read, read. If you’re not much of a reader, I’m going to ask you to fake it until you make it. The benefits for your child are far-reaching. This role also means that you can open up conversations with your children about the books they are reading, what they are enjoying and what they are not. Being able to talk about books is an important reading skill!
Read + Create
If you’ve hung around here for awhile, you’ll know that teaming reading with creating is my superpower. This allows children to go beyond the book and deepen their understandings of and links with a book.
Need some help with reading + creating?
If you sign up to my newsletter crew, you receive a free 30+ page READ + CREATE guide.
Found yourself suddenly thrust into the role of homeschooler thanks to Coronavirus? Looking for some simple and fun learning ideas for learning from home? Let me see what I can do for you.
So here’s the thing.
As a teacher, I don’t expect you to replicate the classroom in your home during these strange and confusing times. I would hope that you’re all just loving hard on your littles but it’s a weird one to balance, isn’t it? I’m ALL FOR giving kids the space to get bored. But I also find it useful to have some ideas to fall back on when my kids apparently lose all ability to think up an activity for themselves and are climbing up the walls.
Trying to maintain normalcy in times that are wack seems near-impossible. So don’t go too hard on yourself if your *lessons* don’t turn out as planned. The ideas for learning from home outlined from here are all open-ended. Don’t be rigid and go with the flow. You never know where it will take you.
Process not product, people!
Okay if we try and be positive and look for some silver linings, imagine all the books our kids can enjoy during this time.
Missing friends and social isolation is a big worry for our little ones. Rally a group of schoolmates and meet up via FaceTime, Skype or Zoom and discuss the books that are being enjoyed at each home. You could structure each call with a guiding question like “Who was your favourite character and why?” “Tell us about your favourite part of the story.”
Maybe you could use my Book Scavenger Hunt (developed for Book Week a few years ago) as a way to thematically organise each call. For example, “This week we’re going to find all the books about Dinosaurs on our shelves. We will share our favourite Dinosaur book when we call each other.”
Board games are a totally under-rated way for families to slow down and connect. They also give children a fab chance to practise turn-taking, winning and losing. Take an audit of the board games in the cupboard and pull one out every now and then.
Set up an imaginary restaurant. Holy moly all the writing practice a child will get playing a waiter or waitress! All that vocab development as you construct a menu. See how such a simple set-up is infused with authentic learning opportunities?
Choose a teddy and plan a birthday party for him or her. Write invitations. Plan the party food. Peruse catalogues or supermarket websites and write a shopping list. Calculate your budget. Create decorations. What parts of the syllabus have we covered here? Writing for different purposes and contexts. Letter-sound relationships. Reading for a purpose. Money. Number. Addition. Subtraction. Learning disguised as play? My favourite.
Write an old-fashioned letter to a friend. Take a few snaps of it and send it via the Interwebs for instant connection and easy writing practice. Or try your hand at some of these cool pop-up cards from Maggy at Red Ted Art?
Go on a virtual excursion
The borders of the world may be shutting down but the world is opening up virtually.
Lastly, what do you do when the proverbial poo hits the fan?
Channel your inner Lady Gaga and “Just dance, gonna be okay.”
Turn the music up and DANCE. (My husband attempted to introduce my kids to rave music this morning. They were not impressed.)
Here’s a super fun activity that teams music with painting.
Do these strange times have you scouting for indoor activities for kids?
Our schools have not closed here but my Teacher Brain has been mentally stockpiling ideas for the possible inevitability of homeschooling my kids thanks to COVID-19 shutdowns.
I’ve been hypothesising about how our days might look should this become a reality.
I thought I might start sharing some teacher-approved indoor activities for kids – want to come along for the ride?
I’m aiming to come up with play-based ideas that are simple and flexible but infused with opportunities for learning.
I shall also include some of the prompts that I use to gently guide the learning. (These are shown in italics.)
But feel free to go off-script – look for the teachable moments!
This map-making activity is fun, light on resources and full of conversational opportunities.
Step 1: The Walk-Through and Drafting Your Map
I equipped my two older children (aged 6.5 and almost-5) with a clipboard each and we stood at our back door. The 3-year-old was happily engaged in independent play so she didn’t come along for this part of the ride.
What learning is happening here? I began with some positional language. What is behind us? What is to the left of us? What is in front of us?
Once we discussed the lay out of where we were, we began discussing how we would represent this on paper.
At this point, it is useful to discuss map-making as taking a bird’s eye view.
My almost-5-year-old wanted to draw a roof on his map but we discussed how we were like birds looking down on our house.
What learning is happening here? We discussed the shapes we could use to represent different sections of our house and each began sketching a map. I modeled on my clipboard. How many sides does that have?
As we walked through the house, we counted our steps between points. What learning is happening here? We explored measurement by chatting about how the size of our feet led to different answers between the three of us.
Step 1 involved a lot of mathematical thinking. Step 2 involves a lot of literacy and fine-motor skills.
Step 2: The Collaborative Map
I’m not gunna lie.
In a perfect world, this activity would have involved compliant children thirsty for knowledge.
In reality, one child was in a *MOOD* and frustrated by perfectionist tendencies.
This led to a discussion around flipping to a positive mindset and things not needing to be perfect.
So teach to the teachable moments.
After walking through the house, we took our draft maps to the dining table and set to creating a final map with coloured paper.
We cut the shapes out and arranged them. In an ideal world, my children would have refined their scissor skills and cut the shapes out but, as per the above disclaimer, there were varying levels of cooperation. What learning is happening here? As I cut, we discussed the layout of the house. So again we were reinforcing positional language and spatial awareness.
What was Miss 3 doing whilst this was happening? I set her up with a big sheet of paper and some coloured paper. She went wild with collage and every now and then we’d chat colours and shapes.
I then asked my first-grader to label the parts of the house. What learning is happening here? She used her letter-sound knowledge to spell unknown words. We also discussed syllables and how we can use syllabification when spelling unknown words. “Pan-try. How many syllables in pantry? You know how to spell pan! How would you spell the second chunk?”
Once all the spaces in the house were labelled, we brainstormed a list of activities we could do in each space in the event of extended periods spent at home. Call it an “I’m-Bored-Combat-Plan.”
We used dot stickers to highlight places where we could go for some chill-out time should we need it.
So now we have a plan to survive and thrive should we go into lock-down. All masked as some play-based learning.
Win and win.
This tea party craft for kids is such a fun, hands-on project for parties or bigger groups.
It is open-ended and involves using lots of different materials. Total winner for all ages!
In 2019, I ran the Kid’s Crafty Corner at the Sydney Tea Festival.
These tea party small worlds kept the crowds of creative kids engaged and entertained.
This crowd-pleaser was originally inspired by these Under the Sea sculptures by my friend, Arielle at Art Camp LA.
Here is what you’ll need for this tea party craft for kids….
I set up a smorgasboard of craft materials featuring:
Paper straws and toothpicks
Sprigs of rosemary
Flowers and gumnuts
I greeted all mini-makers with the prompt of “What materials can you use to create a mini tea party?”
* To colour pasta, place dry pasta in a ziplock bag. Add a few drops of food colouring into the bag. Squeeze in a few drops of hand sanitiser. (You don’t want to soak the pasta.) Zip the bag up and massage the liquid through the bag. Once it is evenly dispersed, pour the pasta out onto basking paper and allow to dry.
Each mini-maker was given a paper plate and a ball of play dough to start.
(You can find my fave play dough recipe here. I substituted the vegetable oil with coconut oil.)
Then the little creatives were let loose on the smorgasboard and they collected their materials. I adore how every tea party is so unique. When they presented their tea parties to me, I asked them something along the lines of “Tell me- what is happening at your tea party?”
I love how each tea party feels a bit like a Dr Seuss world.