This is a gallery of photos from Storiestalk, a new art and drama after school group, run by myself (Jenny), Emma (an artist) and Tabby (an actor). Storiestalk is based on children's books, and this term we looked at The Enchanted Wood by Enid Blyton. We played drama games based on the story and made theatre boxes with a wax crayon resist backdrop paintings, we made puppets to slot in the top, and paper plate 'lands' that spun though a hole in a cloud!
The school holidays are a great time to get the playdough out! If you (or the children) are getting bored of the same old playdough toys/tools, I've put some images together of simple playdough activities that have worked well when I've done them at Happymess. They all use toys, household or craft items you are likely to have in the house already, or could look out for in charity shops.
We use home-made playdough because it's softer and easier to play with, and quicker to clear up. I often use single colours or two primary colours that look good mixed up to avoid 'mixed-up-colours-playdough-rage' (from myself or my eldest!). It's really quick to make - I use this fail-safe recipe from the Imagination Tree. Cream of tartar is the key ingredient that gives it a good texture so don't try to make do without (as I found out the first time I tried to make it!).
Both my three and six year old love playdough - I feel like the day may come quite soon when my six year old gets too old for it - but it hasn't come yet! My two play with it in very different, personality based ways - my three year old loves the tools and testing what they can do, and my six year old is more into the construction/creative aspect and experimenting with what she can make. We do have some Playdoh toy sets (the hair salon one is a favourite), but I find they are so fiddly they require a lot more adult input that more simple DIY playdough activities such as these ones...
If you have any questions about these activities, please feel free leave me a comment below. Happy playdoughing everyone!
Bristol Harbour Festival
Cirque Bijou Children's Area
Castle Park, Bristol BS1 2BD
Saturday 22 and Sunday 23 July 2017, 12-6pm
Join us to make a colourful paper parrot kite, search for pirate treasure hidden in sand, and play with a blue, sandy ocean! All welcome, activities are free and drop in!
Happymess Paper Mache Hot Air Balloon Workshop
186 Wells Road, Bristol BS4 2AL
Monday 7 - Friday 11 August, 10-11am
£15 per hot air balloon (so £15 for all five sessions)
Summer holiday messy fun, inspired by the Balloon Fiesta!
Come and join us for the simple but messy process of making a paper mache hot air balloon. Each layer of paper mache has to dry overnight which is why this workshop is spread over five consecutive mornings (you will need to come to a minimum of three sessions to make your balloon, ideally four - but you are welcome to come to all five). You need two or three layers of paper mache, and then a morning to paint and decorate your balloon.
We are asking everyone to leave their finished balloon at Craftisan until after the Balloon Fiesta that weekend, so they can be exhibited in the window - after that they are yours to take home!
Suitable for all ages from 2 years up. 2-5 year olds will need quite close supervision / a bit of help! Older children should be supervised but this can be from a distance (with a cup of coffee!).
There will be one additional activity every morning (such as playdough, hot air balloon colouring in etc).
To book a place -
Please pop into Craftisan or call them on 0117 971 3822 to reserve a ticket.
Funny Face Portraits (Bristol Art Trail)
186 Wells Road, Bristol BS4 2AL
Friday 1 Sept 2-3pm
Saturday 2 Sept 10.30-11.30am
£5 per child, £2.50 for siblings
Join Happymess at Craftisan for a portrait workshop (aimed at children aged 2-8 but all welcome). We'll be making playdough funny faces and collage/mixed media portraits.
Please call Craftisan on 0117 971 3822 to book a space.
Part of the Bristol Art Trail
If you are up for making a bit of a mess at home at home with the aim of entertaining young children, here is a list of my top 10 tried and tested activities to get started with (in no particular order - we love them all!):
1) Homemade playdough
Children love playdough and it's great for developing fine motor skills and strengthening little hands. Homemade playdough is cheap and easy to make, and making it can become an activity in itself. I find homemade is easier to clean up than bought playdough too. The possibilities for play are almost endless; you can use actual playdough toys or kitchen tools – rolling pins, garlic press, cupcake trays and cases. You can add natural objects such as pine cones, twigs, pebbles, or lolly sticks, straws, buttons, sequins. To keep it simple use one colour at a time if you don't want the colours to get mixed up, or use two primary colours – i.e. yellow and red so it turns into orange (rather than using three or more colours and ending up with brown!).
I use the Imagination Tree's Four Minute Playdough recipe. Like Jamie Oliver's 30-minute meals, in reality it takes a bit more than four minutes but it's still pretty fast!
2) Shaving foam
Shaving foam is pretty cheap (Sainsburys Basics version is 50p) and one can is plenty for one or two children to play with. It's an interesting texture; light, soapy and mouldable. It's fun to smooth it over a flat surface and make marks in it, and a lot of children like to cover their hands and arms with it. You can stir in food colouring or leave as is. Good with plastic dinosaurs or bugs, ice cream toys, pots and spoons, or just hands! The great thing about shaving foam is that it dissolves away to almost nothing, so although it gets everywhere it's not too tricky to clean up, and because it's a toiletry item, it's clean messy fun!
Sand is an oldie-but-goodie. Whether on a beach or in a sandpit I find it holds children's attention for a long time. My youngest loves it so much that as a one year old he'd eat big mouthfuls of it (not to be encouraged – but it didn't seem to do him any harm!). It can be poured, mixed, sifted, moulded, dug, prodded, smoothed. Play with it dry and then damp – it's texture and mould-ability changes so much that it will hold children's interest for even longer. Playing with sand and water together is also a timeless and brilliant combination. You really just need to provide a digging tool – spoon or spade – and maybe some pots, but you can also add toy diggers, moulds, shells, stones or sticks for extra fun.
4) Cornflour gloop
Gloop is cornflour mixed with water and is quite unique in that is can seem both like a solid and a liquid depending on how it is manipulated. It is very messy but worth it – it's such an interesting consistency and properties are fun for children and adults! To make it gradually add water to cornflour until it's gloopy. Your child can help with this! Then play. Hold a handful up and watch it ooze down. Any toys or tools you leave in the gloop will get 'stuck' to it, and it can be quite hard work to rescue them! You can use food colouring or coloured ice cubes to add a bit of colour. If you use coloured ice cubes they leave a lovely trail of colour as they melt, but use a little less water to make the gloop, or add a bit of extra cornflour later so the mixture doesn't get too runny. A good tip for clearing up is to leave the bowl of gloop to sit for a while afterwards – it separates and you can drain the water off. Then leave it to dry out and the cornflour dries into solid lumps you can pick up and pop in the bin (or food recycling) – or actually could be played with as another messy play activity!
5) Dried pulses/rice/pasta
Playing with dried pulses, rice or pasta is quite noisy which can add an extra element to messy play. Generally pulses can be played with in a similar way to dry sand, for pouring, mixing and sifting. I like to put out tubs of different kinds of dried foods which can then be mixed together in smaller tubs, or lifted out with big toddler tweezers. It's good to find some metal bottom cardboard cartons (such as breadstick tubes or some cocoa tubs) as they make such as good noise when they are shaken with pulses inside. You can colour chickpeas, pasta or rice using zipped food bags; put the chickpeas or whatever you want to colour inside, with some gel food colouring and a little squirt of anti-bacterial hand gel (the kind that you use to wash hands without water), shake it all up until the colouring is spread evenly, and pour into a baking tray or large shallow tub to dry. Keep them in a airtight container (make sure they are dry when you put them away) and they keep for ages and can be played with again and again.
Painting can be messy but it's so much fun and so good for fine motor skills / learning to hold a pen that it's really worthwhile, and it is possible to slightly control the mess. We often stick to watercolour paints inside, as there is a bit less danger of spreading the paint around the room than with poster paint. Using an easel or painting on the ground works well outside. Plus being ready to pop them in the bath straight away afterwards! Many little children (and often bigger ones too) love the feeling of poster paint on their hands or feet so starting with hand and foot prints is fun! There are so many variations when it comes to painting - printing with vegetables (celery makes good fish scales), painting with funny brushes (toothbrushes, dish brushes), splatting with fly swatters, or varying the surface by painting on tinfoil, bubblewrap, cardboard are all fun options worth experimenting with!
7) Chalk and water
Chalk and water seems like a simple combination but it can actually be played with in a lot of variations - my children have spent hours playing with jumbo chalk and water in spray bottles, drawing pictures and then spraying them with the water - we've made targets to aim at on the walls and mushed up chalk 'splats' on the ground. They have made 'potions' with water and little scraps of chalk, they have drawn figures on the wall and thrown wet sponges at them - inspired by 'splat the teacher' games at the school summer fayre! Some children enjoy wiping and so just giving them a wet sponge with alongside chalk on an easel enhances chalk drawing. Chalk colours look bolder and brighter on damp surfaces too.
Water is the number one messy play activity in our house. Well, mostly in the back garden! Cheap spray bottles for gardening have provided hours of fun. The plants, walls, windows, chalk board all get sprayed. We have a 'no spraying people' rule but it isn't always adherded to! Both my children like to play at cleaning windows with a spray bottle and a sponge. My daughter is really into giving her dolls a bath at the moment, but she also likes making 'potions' and watering plants, and pretending to be a mermaid in the paddling pool. My son likes pouring and is very keen on watercans - we have quite a collection! Both of them enjoy playing with a simple water wall I made for them (find out more about how to make a water wall by clicking here) and playing with funnels.
When it is not possible to get out to play with mud in nature, playing with mud at home (outside!) is a good plan B! In the past I've used bags of topsoil from a garden shop but more recently I've been using coir, which is really fun to prepare and quite a 'clean' mud if it goes in mouths accidently. It's rehydrated coconut husks which you buy in small, light blocks and hydrate by soaking in water overnight. It swells up quite quickly and you have to crumble it up into the remaining water. It's very cheap and you can use It for gardening as well. You can buy ethically produced coir from Traidcraft by clicking here. Coir (or mud) is good for digging, mixing, planting (we've played with mud and dried beans or real vegetables before), or add plastic animals/vegetables to make a farm. A cardboard box can easily be turned into a mud kitchen if you draw a few circles on the top and cut an oven door out of it. We've got a hand-me-down plastic kitchen in the back garden we use for this purpose!
10) Cloud dough
Playing with cloud dough is like playing with soft, smooth sand! It is mostly flour, mixed with any kind of oil (at a ratio of eight cups of flour to one cup of oil). We mix it with our hands like rubbing scone dough but you could also use a wooden spoon. It gets mixed up as it is played with though too. it is mouldable like damp sand, so you can make shapes with it using sand moulds or cups. You can colour it with powder paint or if you make it with cornflour instead of wheat flour it is just like crunchy white snow. So much fun and very relaxing to play with (if you can cope with the mess!).
There are so many possibilities when it comes to messy play - have fun experimenting!
Used coffee grounds are great for messy play! To play with they are a bit like a cross between sand and mud, in that they are grainy and can be crumbled up, scooped and poured, and can be moulded too. They also smell great (if you like coffee)! Most cafe's will give you their used coffee grounds for free - some even bag them up ready for customers to take because they can be used for gardening. They have to be fairly fresh as they start to mould within a few days. The brown colour lends itself well to setting up a zoo animal scene but I have also made coffee grounds into a farm. The photos here are from when I did Happymess at the Bristol International Balloon Fiesta last year - the theme was recycling so coffee grounds were perfect! I just added some plastic animals, scraps of astroturf, some cardboard box enclosures and a few messy play tools (spades, pots, rakes etc) along with the coffee grounds to the tuff tray and lots of fun was had by the children who visited!
Here's an adult messy play / craft activity for you! I made these last year and am about to dig them out to refill them for this Christmas. They were very easy and fun to make and are pretty sturdy - I think they should last a good few years. I was inspired by those lovely fabric advent calendars you see, but didn't have the time or inclination to sew, and had a large loo roll tube collection, thanks to Happymess. It takes a few days to make due to glue and paint drying, but it doesn't use up much actual work time to make, if you know what I mean.
What you need:
12 loo roll tubes - all the same size, cut in half
Sheet of sturdy cardboard
PVA glue (I used an adult version but I'm sure children's glue would be fine too)
Green spray paint
Coloured tissue circles
Loom bands or other small elastic bands
Number stamps (or you could use stickers, or hand write)
Sweets/tiny toys to fill (I used chocolate coins, and some jewellery, erasers, stickers and a parts of a 'road works' set that I found in a charity shop)
How to make:
I followed the instructions on the glue packet for priming the loo rolls and board - I watered down the glue and brushed it over the board, and dipped the ends of the loo rolls into it, and left to dry over night.
I then arranged the loo rolls into a Christmas tree shape and glued them onto the board, and left overnight to dry. I sprayed the whole thing green and again left overnight to dry. I cut out tissue circles and stamped each one with the numbers 1-24. This year I have made this part easier and I have got pre-cut tissue circles and Christmas number stickers (from my new favourite shop, Tiger).
Once the paint was dry I popped sweets and tiny toys into the loo roll compartments and covered them with the tissue circles, fastened with a loom band. The children loved them and I was pretty proud of them too!
If there was a prize for the most child-friendly art installation, Liz West's Our Colour at the Pithay, Bristol would get our vote! It's basically like playing inside a rainbow, but not as high up. In fact it's in a disused, striped-out office space, with a shiny but not too slippery floor, so much better for health and safety than an actual rainbow. When we went, the lovely invigilators were really happy for children to run around. One of them even sang nursery rhymes, there were so many children there. There is absolutely nothing they could break, and it's a unique, rainbow-lit space for a play. I imagine it's so much more fun than when it was an office!
Our Colour is part of the Bristol Biennial 2016: In Other Worlds and is on 10am-7am until 10 September 2016, at the Pithay, Bristol BS1 2LZ
Jenny Clarke. I run Happymess (art, craft and messy play classes for young children). I have two small children who love to get messy and make things. I also like to see as much art as I can. This blog is about art, craft and messy play activities you can try out at home, art to see with your children, and the occasional Happymess event you can come along to!