Hello again

So, Boris has bounded back into our lives to announce that…nothing has changed.

The weather is still lovely (aggravatingly enough – doubtless as soon as lockdown eases we will have the longest spell of wet weather in living memory). In the meantime, here are some more ideas of things to do with your children.


1. Paint making

Stone Age paintings dating back 40,000 years (the last Ice Age) have been found in caves in Britain, France, and Spain. The paints were made of mixtures of ground rock or charcoal with animal fat. They give us a glimpse into life in a different era with pictures of human behaviour and animals which are now extinct. They also give us a prompt for a great activity to do at home, with links to art, technology and ancient history (if you have half an eye on the National Curriculum).

You will need:

  • Some charcoal or chalk. Either white or coloured chalk works, and you can use natural chalk from the ground if you have it, or chalk sticks.
  • A pestle and mortar or a mallet and a surface to bash on.
  • Some water or vegetable oil (depending on what sort of paint you want to make).
  • A paintbrush – a bought one or one made from a stick.
  • Grind up the chalk or charcoal into a powder using either the pestle and mortar or the mallet. if you are using a mallet remember to have eye protection and work outdoors, as bits will fly everywhere – this is quite fun though!
  • Add water or oil to make the consistency you want. Adding water will make a water-based paint and vegetable oil will make oil paint.*
  • Mix different colours of paint together to make new shades, or experiment with natural colours. if you have coloured chalk sticks you have a head start with colours, but can you find other sources of pigment in the garden (or the spice cupboard)?
  • Use your paints to decorate stones, paper or a sheet. You can paint designs, tell a story or make hand prints – all things that the Ice Age artists did.

* if you make oil-based paint NB that it makes a much more lasting mark that water-based paint!

2. Seed bombs

Creating seed bombs is a great way for your children to start thinking about the environment. At this time of year you will probably have to use bought seed, but later in the summer you can make seed bombs using wild seed that plants have set.

The clay helps to protect the seeds from intense heat, waterlogging or hungry birds. Traditionally seed bombs were used for stealth gardening in urban environments!

You will need:

  • A measuring cup
  • 1 cup of native wildflower seed (bought or harvested)
  • 2 cups of top soil or compost
  • 5 cups of potter’s clay (NOT air-drying craft clay)
  • water
  • A mixing bowl
  • Empty egg boxes to hold finished bombs

What to do:

  • Mix the soil and clay with enough water to make a dough.
  • Add the seeds and keep mixing until they are well distributed.
  • Take a handful of the mixture and roll it into a ball.
  • Place the finished ball into an egg box (or similar) to dry for a day or so.

Your finished bombs are best sown in early spring or autumn just before a heavy rainfall to help them germinate. Finished seed bombs can be kept in a cool dry place in a cardboard container.

To sow them, gently toss them into a patch of bare earth in a sunny spot.


3. Clay prints

This is a finding and making activity using clay to record a print of natural materials. In the example above I have used leaves, but you could use sticks, bark, nuts or even handprints.

You will need:

  • Clay.
  • Natural objects to use to print with.
  • A rolling pin and something to roll on (I used a milk bottle and a log round).

Collect your materials, bearing in mind that what works best will have a definite texture, and an edge that will show up clearly. It is also good to avoid things that are potentially stingy or prickly!

  • Roll the clay out until it is smooth enough to take an impression.
  • Place whatever you are printing on the clay and press down carefully but firmly. Try not to get your thumb prints on the clay and don’t push so hard that you can’t get the leaves/sticks/etc off the clay when you are done!
  • Carefully peel away the object from the clay to reveal the impression.
  • You can cut carefully around the outline of your prints and leave them to dry as ornaments.


4. Make a story stick

This activity helps children to develop vocabulary and storytelling techniques.

The Aborigines first used ‘message sticks’ to remember and convey information. The sticks were easy to carry, and carved or painted with symbols and tribal markings that together told a story or recorded important facts.

You will need:

  • A stick.
  • String or wool.
  • Found materials from the environment (leaves, feathers’ smaller sticks).

What to do:

  • Find a stick: it can be any length from a staff to no longer than the length of your forearm. It should be easy for you to carry safely though.
  • Think about the type of story you want to tell, and choose your materials accordingly. Or, see what you find on your daily walk and use that to tell your story.
  • Attach your found objects to the stick, with string or wool.
  • Use your stick to help you remember the parts of the story you want to tell.

Some more suggestions to (hopefully) help you through, same time next week.

Let us know how you got on with these ideas, and send us photos of your creations.

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