Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs, Day 2: Sensory Play & Process Art

It's Day 2 of our Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs story stretcher and we are still having so much fun with this book theme! S loved using the pasta sensory bin yesterday with some little people, toy food and construction vehicles to play about the town of Chewandswallow. We used dry pasta in our sensory bin, though cooked spaghetti can also make for a great sensory experience. You can also dye your pasta if you wish, like we did in this post. There are varied opinions around using food for play and art with children and it can be a downright hot topic among parents and educators. One end of the spectrum feels that using food for purposes other than eating is wasteful while the other end of the spectrum feels it is not and also poses benefits. I fall somewhere in the middle of the road on the topic. On one hand, I do not like to waste any material we use for sensory play and art. For that reason, I tend to gravitate toward materials that can be used more than once. I do feel that the opportunity to play with and manipulate food can help familiarize more particular eaters. For children who are not particular about what they put in their mouths, edible materials for art and play can be of great benefit! I recently read a particularly interesting article on the topic of food being used in play, titled "Is It Wasteful to Play With Food?" and encourage you to read it for a fresh perspective as well. If you do wish to use food items for play, I tend to post ones in here that can be used repeatedly.
Some prefer to use for play only what can then be used for consumption and will go from playing in dry oats to baking oatmeal cookies. I often joke that using a box of pasta for play, art, stringing and sorting leaves far less to the trash can than a typical dinner served to my toddler! If you prefer not to use food for play, however, feel free to substitute in yarn for your "spaghetti" or shredded paper instead.

We started our morning with a Table Time activity to decorate an apron. S has been particularly inclined to help in the kitchen. When I saw this coloring apron on sale at a craft store a few weeks ago, I stashed it away for this book theme. He was so enamored with it that he wore it all morning! He also asked to take out the sensory bin again this morning. I offered the suggestion to add in the Magnatiles and build about the town of Chewandswallow. He loved the idea and took to building houses outside of the bin and filling them with pasta! He is also quite self-sufficient with being manager of Chewandswallow's sanitation department, so I didn't worry too much about spills and pasta outside of the bin. You can put down a drop cloth if you prefer, although picking up dry pasta is a great fine motor exercise!

We have also greatly enjoyed our target book's sequel, Pickles to Pittsburgh also by Judi and Ron Barrett. In this equally tall tale told by Henry, the grandson in the first book, the people of Chewandswallow return to their hometown turn their own misfortune into a mitzvah. They are able to use the giant food that flooded their town to feed hungry people across the world! As I think about the topic of how abundantly we are fortunate to live that we can use food here both for play and for consumption, I am reminded that for many others, hunger is a very real issue. Particularly during the summer months when schools are not in session (and reduced cost/no cost school breakfasts and lunches not an option for families in need) there is a great and real struggle to get through the day with adequate nutritional intake. Every morning we begin our day with prayers and with giving tzedakah (charity). S and Y (with my help) put a coin in our tzedakah box and when it gets full, we empty it, count it and make a donation before beginning again to fill it, day by day, one coin at a time. One of our favorite agencies to donate to is Masbia Soup Kitchen Network, a group of soup kitchens and food pantries that cater to hundreds of families in New York. This seems like a wonderfully theme related way to incorporate service projects and Jewish values with our story stretcher theme. Food banks more locally to wherever you live are a great place to bring donations to particularly in the summer months.
Meanwhile, I definitely didn't want Y to miss out on all the themed fun and play. I set out this invitation to create a Chewandswallow Sensory Bottle yesterday in the evening, and S got a great kick out of making a set of toys both he and his brother can use. He worked with great determination and concentration at pinching and dropping the pasta into each bottle.

We used clear plastic craft bottles (but you can recycle an empty plastic bottle if you have one at home), dry pasta small enough to fit through the top and miniature food we found at the craft store. You can alternatively use red pompoms for "meatballs" or buttons shaped like food or even make your own tiny foods using clay that can be baked or left to harden. 
S particularly likes the sound the pasta makes when you shake the bottle. Y is not as much a fan of the sound...

Y IS a fan of putting it in his mouth! Speaking of which, if your little ones are at risk to actually chew and swallow what's inside the Chewandswallow sensory bottle, you'll want to tape or hot glue the bottle shut. 
In addition to shaking and, um, sucking on, it's a lot of fun to play Chewandswallow I-Spy with these and search for all the tiny foods inside. S particularly likes to find the itsy bitsy donuts!
Prompted by S's interest in putting his lunch on our Pasta Taste Test chart yesterday and my sister's art project with her sons during their Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs story stretcher, today we made our own "Macaroni and Meatballs" collage. This was a fun little process art activity that really captured S's attention as he drizzled glue, placed on pieces of pasta and experimented with pouring pom poms over the paper and shaking off the excess to see which ones stayed put to puddles of glue he had left behind!

We will be back tomorrow with some fun alphabet review and another great children's book to explore the sub-themes of weather and food! Until then, happy playing...

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