Picture Starters: How to Help Reluctant Artists

 My kindergarten child is a perfectionist about some things.  If Brickston thinks he cannot do something, he is very reluctant to even try.  This is particularly true when it comes to drawing or writing.  He is actually a wonderful artist, but getting him to do it is sometimes a struggle. Can you think of a child like this?

Maybe this trick will help you, too!  

Art/Writing Center Set up

In my centers, I have a shelf that houses all of the art/writing materials for the week.  This week, I placed these picture starters. 

I gathered old magazines, toy catalogs, and Scholastic news flyers.  I cut out a variety of pictures and glued them onto white paper. Super simple!

Invite the Children to Draw

Next, I invited my boys to add to the pictures by drawing whatever they wanted.  They were eager to grab a pen and crayons.

Brickston drew a cave for his dinosaurs to live in.  At the very top, you can spy an asteroid heading for Earth.

Zaven transformed the photograph into a picture of a construction worker building a house.  My favorite part is the lawnmower!

Fine Motor Skills

Writing and drawing is important for building fine motor skills.  It increases hand strength and small muscle control.  You can also ask your children to find their own photographs in magazines.  They can cut and glue them onto paper.

Letter Sound Sort Game

 I am always looking for authentic ways for young children to play with letter sounds.  Here is an idea that was a hit in our home with my new kindergartener.

First we read the book, If You Give a Pig a Party by Laura Numeroff.  If you want a copy you can get it using my referral link here.

The title of this book has some fun alliteration. PIG and PARTY start with the same sound.  We talked about that as we read the title.  

Next, I found a bag.  I love this bag that came from a gift order from Amazon.  Any bag will do, though.  It is so fun for kids to reach in and pull out a "surprise."  That's why those painful unboxing videos are so popular on YouTube.

 I gathered a few items that started with either a P or S. You could use pictures, but real items are so much more fun.

If you are doing the letter S, I would stay away from SH-words at first.  SHEEP and SHOE would be a little confusing as you are introducing S words. 

I grabbed 2 baskets.  You can use any type of large container: laundry basket, bins, Tupperware.  I placed a post it not on each with the letter S and P. Then I invited my son to grab an item from the bag and place it in the correct basket.

I am going to leave these items out in our center area this week.  Hopefully, my son revisits this.  After we did this activity, he was so excited to go into our kitchen and point to all the other things that start with the S and P sound.

You can see him play this game here:

The Difference Between Adult-Directed and Child-Led Learning

 You have heard me go on and on about the benefits of child-led learning.  I wanted to show you two real life examples from my own house just this morning.  It is important for you to know that both of these examples happened within the same hour.  

My son, Brickston, is in kindergarten this year.  His school has been virtual this week, and then they are going to a 2 day schedule next week.  

Adult-Directed Learning

Today, he was asked to listen to a Pete the Cat story and then complete a worksheet.  On the sheet, he was supposed to write the color words.  He had zero interest in doing this task.  His older sister valiantly came to the rescue and I video taped from across the room.  You can watch their interaction below:


Brickston is frustrated.  He rubs his eyes and slumps in the chair.  He slams his pencil on the desk.  He is whining.  He says, "I can't draw an R!"

Have you seen this before?

Just 20 minutes later....
Child-Led Learning
Brickston is drawing on a whiteboard.  He has designed a game where he draws a letter, and I have to close my eyes.  When I open them, I have to tell him what the letter is. At one point right before I started recording, he ran to get his blue letter chart from his desk space to use as a reference.  All of this was directed by him.  Watch below: 


Do you see the difference?  Brickston is smiling.  He is eager.  He shows persistence.  

And guess what...he is still writing that letter R that he said he couldn't write!

He is also making words on his own (this would have been just as meaningful of an activity if he wrote a nonsense word).  

I have no idea how he accidentally wrote "rib," but he loved it.  I loved it.  Look how many times he wrote it over an over again!

There is joy in the second video.  Our job as the adult is to continue to find where joy and learning intersect. If we continue to make space and time for child-led learning, joy will follow. 

Individual Sensory Bins

 Individual sensory bins are perfect to use in a physical distancing scenario or in the home!

Because of the virus, teachers are constantly being told what they cannot do in their classrooms.  No sensory tables.  No soft surfaces. No shared materials.  The list gets longer each time I look.  

Here is what teachers need to do:

  • We need to remember that we are still experts in the field and we know what children need in terms of development.
  • We need to ask why certain guidelines or suggestions exist.
  • We need to determine what children NEED, and then find ways to still provide THAT within the new guidelines.  Can we get creative?

I think these individual sensory bins could be an option!

Simply label small containers with the children's names and you are ready for sensory play!  You can play with the materials at the children's tables OR even on the playground.  These bins are also perfect for at home.

Gather inexpensive materials

If you are making these for each child in your class, you need to keep cost in mind.  That is why I used inexpensive materials that would be easy to find and split.

First, you need the bin. 

I chose these bins from Walmart, because I liked that they were clear.  You can find the link here, but I think they are in store only. Look in the food storage aisle for options.  You want them to have a lid and stack nicely.  Label the bins with the children's names.

Next, you need to fill it. 

The sky really is the limit when it comes to sensory bin fillers. You can try water, but I would do this outside first.  My favorite dry fillers are: pasta, dyed pasta, rice, birdseed, popcorn kernels, or any type of loose parts.

Finally, you need tools and accessories. 

Plastic spoons are great for scooping.  Clothespins can act as individual tweezers.  Toilet paper rolls can be funnels.  I put condiment cups, cupcake liners, and paint palettes in our bins for filling and dumping.  You can add wooden dolls or plastic figurines to transition the bins to small world play.

Pasta individual sensory bin

What are you going to put in your sensory bins?

Crafts are Missing the Mark: Product versus Process Learning

Pretty soon school hallways and bulletin boards will be filled with crafts like my fish example. Travel over to Pinterest for a minute and you will see tons of examples under “preschool art” 😢

What do I have against this sad little paper plate fish?

It is focused on a product. The fish I make and the fish you make should look similar in the end. We want the finished product to look like the teacher example. 

This leaves very little room for process learning....the messy middle.

The place where we actually study fish in the water. 

The place where we try to draw what they look like moving along the rocks at the bottom. The place where I’m allowed to talk about my knowledge of fish in the creek versus fish in the pond versus fish in my friend’s tank. The place where I try to decide what materials to use to show you what a fish looks like: does this color seem right? Does marker work best? Or should I use clay?

Be honest. Which of the two examples do you have hanging on your fridge? Which type of learning did your child experience?

Open-ended projects allow for children to explore the process of learning without a clear cut, teacher determined end in mind.  Children always accomplish more than what teachers could imagine when we just trust them.  Do you want to try a Reggio-inspired project with your child?  Are you just not sure how?  I would love to help you! 

Sign up for Atelier @ Home!  It is a one-month at a time parent coaching group.  You can find out more here.

If you want to hear me on my soap box about craptivities, you can give this video a listen:

Back to School Traditions

It is almost back to school time!  And this year it is more important than ever to maintain traditions and get your children excited about the year. 

Do you have traditions that you do to prepare for the school year?  I would love to hear about yours!

In our home, we have a few that I want to share with you!

School Clothes Shopping

I can remember going to the City Center with my mom every year right before school started.  I looked forward to picking out new outfits for my first days of school.  I have carried on this tradition with my children. 
Of course this year, our shopping trips have looked a little different (thanks to a pandemic).  My husband and I taken turns shopping with each of our children individually.  We did this so we could manage the masks and the social distancing easier.  Honestly, I think the children loved the one-on-one attention. 

First Day Pages

I have been doing these since my 7th grader started preschool.  I make a quick template on my computer and have my children fill them out.  I take a picture of them holding on the first day of school.  I LOVE to look back to see how their handwriting has changed.  It is so neat to see how their aspirations develop over time.

The Night Before School

Every year, I read my children The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn.  It really is the most precious story!   We read the story and then I draw a kissing heart on their wrist with a permanent marker.

I'm happy to announce, that even though my daughter was entering into middle school last year...she still brought a marker to me and told me "you have to do it." You can see the post below :)

Do you want to watch a read-aloud of this story?  

What are your back to school traditions?

Are you still trying to figure out your back to school plans?  That makes this even trickier!  If you are looking at preschool options, I would love for you to check out Atelier @ Home