Project ::Deconstruct Monitor::

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My mom was cleaning out her basement and came across my husband’s ancient computer monitor, and for some crazy reason she didn’t want it. So she asked my sister to deliver it to my house…which is over 300 miles away!! What a good sister. But guess what? We didn’t want it either! So, this big ol’ dusty tan hunk of Apple history became the perfect toy to deconstruct…with grown-up help because it turns out that monitors have tricky pockets full of icky stuff that can be deadly if messed around with in the wrong way. Lucky for us, my more-tech-savvy-than-me husband was up for the challenge!

After reading up on the dangers of endeavor, we decided that we’d only take Project Deconstruct Monitor so far before it would find itself at the town recycling center. The monitor has been in storage, inactive, for about ten years so there was very little chance of being shocked by a charged capacitor. On an aesthetic level, I just love the look of those transformers on the circuit board (am I getting this right??) — it looks like a big (miniature) city!

Before the monitor met its fate, we brought out some tinkering tools to explore with: scissors, screwdriver, and flashlight. And N loved it! She got her hands right into the wires and asked loads of good questions. It was really fun for all of us to see exactly what was inside a monitor.

N got her flashlight out to get a closer look at the circuit boards, wires, and metal housing pieces.

And she even got to give the screwdriver a spin or two.

After this, my husband carted the whole thing off to be recycled by professionals, and suggested that next time we take apart a simple keyboard or mechanical clock. Agreed!

Aside from being on edge about safety, this was a great project for matching my child’s interests (she’s taken note of other deconstructed computers lately), supporting curiosity, encouraging exploration of the unknown, and giving her a more intimate understanding of the inner-workings of our computers. Who knows, she may be a computer scientist one of these days!

Have you deconstructed anything lately?

This post is linked to It’s Playtime, We Play

Idea Roundup: Tinkering

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Do you think children should learn how to use hammers and nails? Power tools? Glue guns? And how do you feel about open-ended exploration of art materials? This week’s roundup brings you some big ideas on tinkering, creating opportunities for child-directed art, and free exploration at the art table. And as a bonus, I found an inspiring journaling idea that I think you’ll love.

Co-op nursery school teacher and blogger extraordinaire Teacher Tom writes countless thoughtful articles on play-based learning and childhood exploration. And I believe he’s a philosopher at heart. I love this post: Let them teach themselves

In a similar spirit, often the best activities are those with the least amount of direction. Kindergarten teacher Sally Haughey of Fairy Dust Teaching documented a day at the invention table in her class: Creation Station
Early childhood educator Jenny at Let The Children Play invited her kids to take apart old video recorders with plyers, scissors, and screw drivers. Real tools! There’s a huge public sculpture of dissected computers in our neighborhood that has grabbed ahold of my daughter. This is definitely something we’ll be trying soon. Tinkering at Preschool: Let the Children Play
Preschool teacher and educational consultant Amanda Morgan of Not Just Cute writes about providing children with art experiences with the spectrum of preschool arts and crafts in mind. There’s a place in the preschool world for crafts, but crafts are often parent or teacher-directed while art is child-directed.  The Spectrum of Preschool Arts and Crafts
And, as a bonus, Rachel Meeks at Alphamom came across this inspiring illustrated way to document the passage of time with children. It turns the scrapbook on its head with the parent making simple drawings of “a day in the life.” What a fabulous keepsake. And wouldn’t this be a great activity to do WITH a child once they could draw too? Draw Your Story: The Illustrated Journal

What good ideas have you come across lately?

Art With Everyday Things

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I stumbled upon Tsh Oxenreider’s blog, Simplemom.net, and its words of clean and simple living wisdom have been a huge inspiration to this pile-making, book-loving, overstuffed home-making, can’t-throw-away-art-supplies-from-college kind of gal. I was so drawn in that I purchased her book, Organized Simplicity, and I’m finding myself on a new path toward simplifying my home and life.

Related to all of this, my home has fallen under The Great Purge, and odds and ends like never used triangular make-up sponges are mostly finding their way into the trash. Or in this case, because I still have the art material hoarding sickness…the art table. Although the whole point of this journey is for me to get rid of things, I had a feeling that my little art explorer would enjoy tinkering with them.

And she did! After sponging to her heart’s content, N reached for the paint squeeze bottles. Mixed media painting begins here! When she was younger I waxed poetic about limiting art supplies in any given project to avoid overwhelming a child with options. I’m still formulating my thoughts on this as she gets older, but it’s becoming more and more clear that she enjoys having access to a wide variety of materials in one sitting. In another recent session, she used pom-poms, glitter glue, and watercolor paint…all of her own design.

And then she picked up a grease pencil, or china marker, for some additional mark-making. These pencils not only make beautiful bright marks, but they’re fun for kids to peel open.

While the triangle sponges were saved from the dump this time around, it’s a whole other story for the old blender, maternity clothes, and set of rarely used hot cocoa mugs. Although, on second thought, that dying blender may find a second life as a paper pulper. Or not.

I’d love to know…what everyday objects you or your kids like to tinker with?