Thursday, 26 March 2015

From Slip mat to Play mat

I am always looking for something quick and easy to create especially if it's re-purposing something.
This is an easy project if you can crochet or not. As you can see I did crochet this particular mat but you could easily make it by weaving the wool through the squares.
The idea is to make a play mat with a particular scene on it. This one is for 'Under the sea' but I can visualise an array of different mats including 'Outback Australia', Jungle, Forrest, Fairy Garden, Space, and a 'Winter Wonderland'. The possibilities are endless.
Use your own imagination. 

First you need to purchase a non-slip mat that they use under rugs. They are cheap as chips to buy and are rubbery and flexible. I found them at POCO for $6.00 each.
Then you need to decide what scene you want to make. If you are not confident to just create as you  are going along you can draw the scene on the mat first using a black marker (hint: put paper under it otherwise you will have your little scene depicted in dots on the floor or table).
Select the colours that relate to your theme. As mine was 'Under the sea' I went with colours relating to that from the sand to the water.

Folds up easily for storage
If you are crocheting it is really easy to do. Using double stitch just go into each square and secure the stitch to the top of the square just like you would on normal crochet work and work along the row. You cannot make a mistake. Change colours where you have decided the scene needs it. For example I used several colours for the sand just to give it texture as sand isn't always the same colour. Also for the water I made sure as my work grew the colours darkened to represent depth.

Underneath the finished play mat
Finish off by crocheting right around the outside to give it strength and so it sits flat.
Just to add to the look I chain stitched waves on top of the already finished piece.

You now have a durable non-slip play mat.
Now to start the 'Australian Outback' which is four times the size :)

'Under the Sea'

Thursday, 5 March 2015


I often walk around the markets drinking coffee and chatting to stall holders and something will catch my eye. This particular day I was with a friend and a lonely little cardboard box was on the ground in front of a trash and treasure stall. No one stopped to open the flap they just kept walking past. I couldn't do it. I had to see what discarded treasure was inside. (I say treasure because someone else's trash is always someone else's treasure). When I pulled the flap back a thousand possibilities jumped out. Bags and bags of little metal craft jewels all packaged and waiting for someone to see their potential.  To say I was excited is not an exaggeration. As soon as I recognised what they were and that there was more than one sort mathematical concepts started swimming in front of my eyes.
Oh the sorting, grouping, matching, patterns, comparing, sequencing, counting, dividing, multiplying and sharing; the possibilities were endless in my mind.
I had to have the whole box which ended up being divided between me and my fellow marketeer. 
It was obvious the vender had no idea he had just sold a box of endless learning opportunities for children at the bargain price of only $10.
So they sat in my shed for months and months until today when they jumped out screaming pick me pick me. You see I was looking for an activity to put out that would engage the children but with intentional reasoning behind it: to build on the children's hand and finger strength. I wasn't looking for an activity relating to mathematical concepts at all, however, when I noticed the small packets I knew that they had the potential to be both.
After putting them in a basket on the table I just let the children investigate. No prompting, no suggesting just free range to do with at will.
The first hurdle was to get the packets open. Grunts and groans followed by 'I just can't open it' were echo by all children.
Still no interference.
Hang on a break through. One child found if she ripped the corner upwards she could get a better grip. So with all the strength she had she pulled, just like a tug of war; the plastic one direction the cardboard the other. Next minute success as the slightly overbalanced child yells out "I got it".
That was the start of all the children mastering the art of opening packaging.
Opening items is a learned skill. We need to provide the opportunity for children to work it out for themselves. Yes we can demonstrate, but if we keep doing it for them we rob them of the feeling of accomplishment or developing the skills that will carry them through to the next stage of their learning.
So while I did buy the jewels to be used with a preconceived idea in my mind they proved to be so much more.
The determination of opening the packets outweighs the learning that followed. I already know that the children here are mathematically competent for their ages, but what I have observed over the last few weeks is that they needed support in building strength in their hands.
Looking for learning can be tricky. Sometimes we need to open our eyes wider. It is not always about academia.
Building sound foundations will support a world of learning.
Lets get back to basics. Oh and quirky is fun too.


Wednesday, 4 March 2015

The Drink Bottle

"Can I take my drink bottle home" a child asks her mum.
 Mum replied with  "It will be your responsibility to remember to bring it back, do you think you can do that"?
"oh yes I will bring it back in the morning" was her determined response.

For two days the child agonised over the fact she kept forgetting to bring her drink bottle back. Of course she was given a replacement however it didn't sit well with her at all.
Later that night a text message with a photo of the child holding up her drink bottle filled the screen of my iPhone.

The story goes like this:
Child arrived home and was obviously still thinking of her forgotten drink bottle. As the family were all busy doing their evening rituals of homework, cooking dinner and getting ready for the next day, they didn't notice the child had started gathering bits and bobs and putting them on the table; including blu tac off the wall. When mum finally realise there was a growing pile of 'junk' starting to overtake the table she asked what she was doing.
"I'm making my drink bottle into a person so I don't forget it" was the nonchalant reply. 
The child, using initiative set about solving her dilemma with explicit instructions to her older wiser sisters, that she didn't need any help she was doing it by herself. Sticking bottle tops for eyes and a water balloon to the top for hair she set the next stage in motion. She instructed her older sister to write a note saying 'I will not forget my drink bottle tomorrow' and sat it on the table next to her now embellished bottle.
Mum was astounded and took a photo straight away and sent it to me.
Some who read this might be thinking 'why didn't the mother just pack the drink bottle? Poor child to be worried like that'

I wanted to hug the parent.

Thankyou, thankyou, thankyou, for giving your child the opportunity to be independent and responsible for herself.
Thankyou, thankyou, thankyou for allowing your child to have opportunity to investigate and find a solution to a problem that was obviously causing her so much anguish.
Thankyou, thankyou, thankyou for believing that your child is capable of making decisions.
The last but most important thankyou is for allowing your child to follow through with her solution.
Now that is parenting.

The look on the child and mothers face when they arrived the next morning with 'The Bottle' was priceless. It took pride of place on the table and was admired by all.

And I did hug the parent.