These suggestions require few materials, little clean-up, and once you have given the child the general idea for the use of the material, he can carry on from there.
Toothpicks are fun to arrange on a table in different designs. Sticking toothpicks into a dry sponge or scouring pad provides entertainment for very little children. Children can poke toothpicks into a potato, onion, cucumber, lemon or apple, to make an animal, a person, or a porcupine.
Children can make designs on a table top with dry beans (such as navy or lima), or oyster or triangle crackers, or any combination of these.
Pipe cleaners have become popular recently, and come in assorted colors. Some preschoolers can made pipe-cleaner figures and dolls. Pipe cleaners can also be fashioned into handcuffs, eyeglasses, necklaces and rings, chains, handles for Easter or May-Day baskets, and Christmas-tree decorations (see Holidays section).
Colored chalk is fun on blackboards or pretty on paper. But it is especially effective on paper towels or paper plates which have been dampened.
Another Way: The next time the colored chalk is out, try dipping it in a glass of water before applying to the paper.
A four-year-old will discover that if he holds two crayons in his hand, he can make two marks on his paper with one movement
Burlap is so loosely woven that children can unravel it easily. Start with a small square (say 6" x 6") and let the child fringe the sides. If he likes to do this, he could make gifts of coasters and place mats (see "Christmas" in the Holidays section).
Glue a piece of felt on one side of a square of plywood or heavy cardboard (it should be at least 12" x 12"). Cut smaller pieces of felt into circles, squares, triangles, rectangles, or any shape you want Shifting the arrangements into many patterns is obviously the fun here.
If you buy enough felt for the board, you can get the smaller pieces from old hats.
Four-year-olds can sew large buttons onto a piece of cloth or cardboard. If you draw a chalk line where they are supposed to sew, small children can follow this line surprisingly well.
Put liquid detergent in a paper or plastic cup and dilute with water. Use soda straws to blow bubbles. An outdoor activity unless you confine it to the kitchen or bathtub.
Partially fill a suit box with cornmeal and provide sieves, measuring cups, spoons, but no water (unless you want cornmeal pies!). The child can work while standing at a card table. Put a large shower curtain under the table.
Cornmeal is something like soft sand.
This is a technique of art which is especially suitable for children because it has so many possibilities. A child's interest is bound to hold when he is set before a collection of paper, metallic papers, paste, feathers, ribbons, soda straws, scotch tape, excelsior, colored sequins, and scraps of material. And he is sure to turn out an original picture. The idea is to have the collection of treasures on one side, a bottle of mucilage on the other, and a sheet of paper in the middle.
Start a box for collages. Use the materials listed above, and also watch for other suitable materials to add to the box such as: toothpicks, pipe cleaners, hairpins, string, rubber bands, colored stars, and cotton.
Children will add to the collection by contributing leaves, grasses, pine needles, shells, colored paper, candy and gum wrappers, and lollipop sticks.
When a child finds that certain objects do not stick well with glue or paste, suggest that scotch tape or gummed paper be used to hold the object in place. This is the only type of supervision necessary.
For an effective "canvas" for the collage, many kinds of materials may be used, such as colored construction paper (from stationery and variety stores), brown wrapping paper, cardboard, or a number of textiles, such as a piece of sheet or burlap thumbtacked to a base.
Have a bowl of thin paste solution (flour and water) for the child to dip pieces of colored string or yarn and press on colored paper.
School paste is a little expensive, especially when small children often finger paint with it, and many like its flavor. Here are some ways to make paste.
1. 1/2 cup flour and water mixed together until smooth and the consistency of heavy cream.
3. To make 1 pint of paste that will last indefinitely, dissolve 1/2 ounce of alum (which may be obtained from a drugstore) in 1 pint of warm water. Let stand until cold. Add flour slowly until it is as thick as heavy cream. Add 1/2 teaspoon powdered resin (also from the drugstore), and a few whole cloves to give it a spicy clean smell and make it taste better. Bring this mixture to a boil, stirring constantly, until it is thick.
Always use a clean spoon to dip the paste out of the jar. Bacteria cause mold to form.
The child may make something which you or he want to keep. But certain activities are entertaining whether or not he ends up with a result
Mostly, clay is to be pounded and punched, without the aid of tools. Possible exceptions might be a 10c rolling pin, and a popsicle stick for cutting. It is best to play with clay on nonporous materials such as linoleum, oil cloth, tile, or Formica-top breakfast tables.
Clay is a good investment It is only 10c a pound (from a potter) and 35c a pound from stationery stores. Should it become hard, a small amount of water added and allowed to absorb will make it as good as new.