Friday 11 January 2013


How many variations of a combine/excavator is it possible to draw?!
My sister-in-law just gave the boys two drawing pads and a huge stack of white and coloured paper in various sizes for Christmas. Perfect present! I fear my family could be single-handedly destroying a rainforest with the amount of paper we get through. Zac is mad keen on drawing and his output is massive. Last summer we could have carpeted the entire kitchen floor with his pictures of combines and other big machines. His latest obsession is drawing with a ruler, so we get lots of geometric patterns and architectural drawings of the Eiffel Tower or Tower Bridge. Plus he has just discovered Origami, which means all our coloured paper is being turned into sailing boats, swans or Ninja stars!

That was FUN!
However, it was not always so. Zac's first love of paper was something much more basic. He loved shredding it! Pretty much as soon as he could sit up unaided he could be kept entertained by giving him an old newspaper. A frenzy of ripping, scrunching and generally throwing it about would ensue. I'm not sure why he found it quite so entertaining but I guess it exaggerated his movements and made lots of interesting sounds. He literally used to squeal with excitement. I don't want it to sound like everything my kids did had some ulterior motive behind it for their improvement; discovering that Zac loved destroying newspapers was a sheer accident and I let him do it because it was evidently such fun, but it turns out that ripping paper is a great way to develop little 'uns grip and builds the muscles and control they need for picking small things up, holding a spoon or a pencil etc, so this mess-creation had hidden benefits.

Papier mache penguins.
James and the papier mache peach!
Ripping paper still comes in useful because we've made a few things out of papier mache, which is dead easy to do and lots of fun but VERY messy. You basically make a model by using little bits of paper coated in glue to build up layers over a simple frame. Newspaper or kitchen roll works best, and there are various gluey mixtures you can use, including water and flour or wallpaper paste, but we generally use well watered-down pva glue.

It's starting to erupt!
Gluing on the strips
The most successful thing we made was a volcano. To start with I made a cone shape out of card with a hole in the top that fitted a little plastic bottle inside. The boys then ripped up a newspaper into strips, painted them with runny glue, and stuck them all over the cone. We let it dry and repeated the ripping and sticking a couple of times so that it was properly lumpy like a real volcano, then painted it. By putting a mixture of vinegar, red food colouring and baking soda in the bottle inside we could make it "erupt lava" all down the sides. Although it's over two years old now, it's still with us and still gets erupted from time to time!

Collage and paint.
After ripping comes snipping. Scissor skills are quite tricky for little children but it's handy if they've mastered them by the time they start school. I'm not very keen on the scissors that are designed for kids' safety because they often don't cut that well, which makes them frustrating to use. I let mine use proper scissors quite young but with strict rules- no waving them about, and if you have to carry them somewhere you always hold them by the closed blades and walk- to limit the possibility of falling and skewering yourself. A good activity for children which involves ripping and snipping, where either will do, is to make a collage. We did a good one a couple of years ago of an autumn tree. I drew the outline of a tree then gave the boys some old magazines, They found pictures which had any autumnal colours in- red, orange, yellow, brown etc and ripped out the page, then we all snipped the colours up into very rough leaf shapes and stuck them on. This year Zac wanted to do the same, but then decided to leaf-print the top of his tree and collage the trunk. Once they get reasonably good at holding the scissors and using them with a bit of control they can make collage pictures by cutting images they choose out of toy catalogues, kids magazines etc to make their own scene.
This Christmas, Danny was perfecting his snipping skills by making millions of those snowflakes, where you fold a paper circle into quarters and snip out shapes along each edge so that you get a doily effect when you open it up.
Danny's thrilled (?) with his newspaper hat.
As I mentioned at the top. Zac's new paper obsession is with Origami. Folding paper is another skill that's quite tricky for little ones to master. Other than folding paper in half to make cards, or creating very basic paper aeroplanes, I don't think mine had had much practice of folding accurately, but it's a handy thing to be able to do. Zac taught himself to make Ninja stars by watching a youtube demo, after some boys at school were selling them as a fundraiser and he decided he'd rather not pay!! Since then he's learned all sorts of things, including how to make a very fancy paper hat!
Not so scary now T-Rex!

So if your little person is fond of paper, but fancies a change from drawing and colouring, there are plenty of other things you can do with the stuff to keep them entertained.

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