Bored was a naughty word in our house; children should be inspired to live creatively and use their imaginations. A little boredom here and there can either help a child learn problem-solving skills and it can lead to problematic behaviors. Here are a few ideas for parents now that our schools have all been shut down for a while.
Remember, it’s not your job to entertain your little ones all the time and you don’t even have to do any of these projects with them. Give them some materials and directions and see where it takes them. Ask them to clean up after themselves when they are done and voila you have a happy child and a few moments to yourself. This is also a great opportunity to get to know your little ones and to learn a thing or two as well. Make the best of this time while you can because they are little for such a short time.
Make some art; make messes; have fun and even learn a thing or two.
The Primary Colors and a Color Wheel
The primary colors are red, yellow and blue. These are the foundational colors that give life to nearly every other color known to man. You can buy color wheels, but creating and coloring a color wheel with your little one is a fun easy project you can do with materials you already have hanging around.
You can either print a template (feel free to use this one that I created) or create your own unique color wheel. The best part about this project is that your child will learn something new. Understanding where color comes from can be fun and inspiring for young artists. Sometimes people can be a bit afraid of color and things become a little bit beige as a result. Have fun with color and experiment a bit while you’re at it.
The artist color wheel can be rather simple which is great for younger children and it can be rather complex for the more discerning artist. Create a color wheel that fits with your child’s age and level of understanding. Preschool-age children are happy enough to learn the basics starting with the colors of the rainbow. Red plus yellow equals orange and so forth until you have explained all the colors of the rainbow.
Older children might be interested to learn about prisms and refracting light and how when the light mixes you get the different colors of the rainbow. Further, still, you can teach them the names and origins of the more obscure shades of the main rainbow colors. This can also be a great opportunity to learn the order of the rainbow colors. Red, orange, yellow, green, blue, don’t forget violet too.
Origami, the art of paper folding, can be a fun, easy boredom buster and can help teach your child spatial reasoning and a little geometry too. Origami was traditionally for creating ornately folded paper decorations for ceremonies in Japan. Now that the cost of paper has come way down and availability has increased, paper folding has become more of a meditative or fun and creative art form.
There are loads of books and tutorials available on the subject as well as websites and videos to instruct you in the fine art of paper folding. There is even an origami museum in Tokyo even if you won’t be visiting it anytime soon there are lots of amazing pictures of the creations on display there to help inspire you. (here is a link to their site, it is available to view in both English and Japanese.)
If you choose to create paper airplanes you can also take a moment or two to introduce simple physics to your child as well. Paper airplanes and other interactive types of origami can add to the enjoyment of the project and turn creative time into play time.
Although Pythagoras was primarily a mathematician his theories can be useful in art too. Pythagoras discovered the relationship between the length of the two sides and the hypotenuse (the longest side of a right triangle, opposite the right angle). This leads to triangles and other shapes being useful in creating beautiful geometric designs. You can create a project using precut shapes or even just a ruler, paper and markers.
You can use right triangles to create a spiral (called the Spiral of Theodorus or Pythagorean Shell). This can be fun for kids to color or use in their art projects.
You can also find and print a spiral design to color.
A puzzle-game I used to play as a child is Pythagoras. The accompanying sheet shows many shapes and the child tries to recreate the shapes using the 8 geometric components of the game; it develops spatial reasoning and geometry skills. Since the shapes (shown in the picture) are easy to make you could create your own shapes with cardboard or wood and let your imagination go wild.
Puzzles are a lot of fun to put together and can be even more fun if you create your own puzzle with your own art on it. Puzzles are part game, part test, and part toy; they provide your child with problem solving opportunities. Assembling puzzles provides children with opportunities to use logic to solve them. There are many types of puzzles—jigsaw puzzles being one of the most popular kinds. Created by John Spilsbury in the 1760 as a tool to help teach geography, jigsaw puzzles have been used in education ever since.
There are scores of templates available online, or you could create your own pattern. Your puzzle can be as large or as small as you want it and you can use any image you want to. The sky's the limit and that’s a big part of why puzzles are so much fun.
Easy at home puzzle
Choose an image
Color your picture
Mount it on cardboard to increase its durability
Cut it out
Mix up the pieces
Assemble the puzzle
Slime is not just fun but it’s science. You can create your own slime at home easily enough if you happen to have a few simple ingredients. While you're at it you can have a fun easy science lesson about the states of matter and discuss liquids, solids and gasses.
1 bottle of clear school glue, Elmer’s is a great product that gives consistent results.
Baking soda 1-2 tsp
Food coloring just a few drops depending on the desired color
Contact solution (for cleaning contact lenses). Mix this in a few drops at a time as you stir until your slime reaches the point when it balls up on the spoon and doesn’t stick to the bowl.
If you didn’t manage to get to the store in time before all the supplies were gone or you just don’t want to risk going out in public then you can always go with the messier alternative to slime and let your children play with muck, or oobleck or whatever you want to call it.
Simply mix a little water with cornstarch until you get a firm-ish substance. This can be tricky if you’ve never done it before because it’s a liquid and a solid. Take the time to feel the dry cornstarch before adding any water then feel it as you go. Make observations of this fun non-newtonian liquid. This is a fun simple activity and rather messy but clean up is a breeze and it doesn’t stain. It’s also safe for all ages because it’s edible too. Science Bob has a fun website that more fully explains why the cornstarch behaves as it does.
The most important thing is to give your kids room to explore, create and grow. I love the quote by Jess Lair, “Children are not things to be molded, but are people to be unfolded.”