It can be hard to help kids think up fun activities to occupy them, especially when it sometimes seems as if all they want to do is play video games or watch cartoons.
When I received this free review copy of 150+ Screen-Free Activities for Kids, by Asia Citro, I had expected to see some fairly typical “how to occupy your kids” advice, much of which would probably be too baby-ish for my kids. “Put on a puppet show,” perhaps, or “go on a color hunt”,” etc.
What I received, instead, is practically my favorite thing ever: tons and tons and tons of recipes and tutes for sensory and arts and crafts supplies for kids.
The sensory materials range from the dead simple, such as flax and water “goo,” to many more elaborate iterations of gak and oobleck and slime. Although toddlers and preschoolers are especially fond of these types of materials, I’m a big proponent of sensory play even for older kids. My kids, for instance, followed the recipe for Simple Two-Ingredient Slime completely independently (take that, you preschoolers!), and then each played happily with their creations, squeezing and stretching and smooshing as contentedly as any toddler.
One note on coloring: although natural food coloring is definitely the most eco-friendly choice, we use liquid watercolors for their vibrance and color saturation. Powdered Kool-aid is a common coloring alternative listed in the book; although I have no opinion on whether or not it’s a greener choice than liquid watercolors, I don’t use it because I know my kids would take one look at the packets and want to actually, you know, make it and drink it. Barf!
The art supplies, as well, all range from the simple to a little more elaborate. Some, such as dyed rice and dyed pasta, we’ve done before, but others are brand-new–how has it never occurred to me to dye Great Northern Beans? They’d be a FABULOUS mosaics material!
Again, my kiddos made the sidewalk paint recipe completely independently, and poured it into squeeze bottles to play with outside (they did make a huge mess in the kitchen, of course, but I just waited until the solution had dried and then had them sweep it up). I had expected the kids to sit down on our big driveway and make pretty pictures, but instead they ran about, screaming happily, and enjoyed squeezing the paint all over. Kids always do this when they’re exploring an entirely new material, and it does take a while before they’ve experienced it enough to use it as the tool, not the focus. Nevertheless, our driveway is now a glorious riot of color that will be washed away in the next rain.
Since I’m so happy with these two recipes that we’ve tried, I’ve now got a long list of other recipes from the book to have the kids make on quiet afternoons: moon sand, perhaps, or crystallizing watercolors, or miniature water beads.
Certainly colored beans!
[I received a free copy of 150+ Screen-Free Activities for Kids, because I can’t review a book unless my kids have used it to help them cover my kitchen in cornstarch.]