Ephemeral Art

Have you heard of ephemeral art? It describes art that is non-permanent, short-lived and transient.

Some ephemeral artists use mainly natural materials:-

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Others use man-made materials in a temporary way:-

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Because of its emphasis on the process over the finished product, it is a perfect art style for young children to explore. Think of chalk drawings on the footpath, sand castles at the beach, pictures drawn with a finger on a steamy rainy-day window. Children love these activities, even though (or because?) there is nothing to hang on the wall when they have finished. If they are not happy with what they have made, a quick swipe of the hand and it is gone!

Here are a few examples that my children made last year. I love how they used the things they found in ways I never would have thought of.

Have a lovely weekend!

Moments in Time

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Happy Easter everyone!!

We have been having such a relaxing time of it these school holidays. After a few days away at Kangaroo Valley, we are now home again and have been very busy doing nothing much at all.

There has already been much chocolate eaten (I keep promising myself that after Easter I will start eating better!) and I suspect there will be lots more consumed before the weekend is over.

We went for a walk yesterday, to get out of the house and enjoy the beautiful weather. The kids and Barry kicked the soccer ball, while Molly the dog and I kept a more leisurely pace, and watched the birds diving for fish in the water.

Every now and then, one small, warm hand would find it’s way into mine, and a little person would chat away to me about this and that.  I drink up these moments, realising how fleeting these early years are. When they were very little, it seemed that we would never emerge from baby/ toddlerhood. I was so consumed in the day-to-day, that it didn’t occur to me that one day we would leave this stage, never to return. I now make a point of savouring the little things- tying shoelaces, brushing hair, listening to rambling tales about their day, tucking them into bed, because what seems permanent now, is merely just a moment in time.

While walking, we were also looking for ‘the perfect branch’. One that had fallen from the tree, just the right size, spreading twigs- perfect for our Easter tree. Just when I was about to give up, I saw it, and it now stands on my kitchen dresser, festooned with ribbons, tiny birds, and coloured eggs. It makes my heart sing every time I look at it. It is just so pretty!!

Do you decorate an Easter tree?

Do you sometimes wish that you could slow down time?

Are you planning on eating too much chocolate this weekend?

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The homework station.

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If homework at our house was a book, it’s title would be ‘100 ways to procrastinate – the ultimate guide to putting things off’.

The conversations go something like this – “I need the scissors”, “I can’t find a pencil”, “Where’s my homework book?” and “I left my pencil case at school”.

In an attempt to eliminate this daily struggle, I have created a homework station, which contains everything a little person could possibly need to complete their dreaded homework. I used this trolley, as it is bright, has three levels, and is on wheels. We keep it next to the kitchen bench, which is where the children do their homework. I like being able to keep an eye on them, and be close enough to help when needed.

Pencils, textas, crayons, scissors, eraser, sharpener, ruler and glue sticks live on the top level; homework books are in the middle; and spare paper is kept at the bottom. I try to keep it looking tidy so that the children can get straight into their work, without having to hunt around for what they need.

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I use silver plant pots to hold the pencils, so the children can move them to where they are needed. These pots also help to keep everything organised. I find that the easier it is for children to put things away, the more inclined they are to do so.

I deliberately made the area as inviting as possible as I want homework to be a pleasurable experience, not something to avoid. (hmm..we’re still working on this!) I know that when my office desk is neat, clear and organised, I do feel more motivated to begin work. We also try to stick to a routine when it comes to homework. After the children have unpacked their bags, changed out of their uniforms and had something to eat, they do half an hour of homework. I like to get it out of the way, so they then have the rest of the afternoon to relax and play.

Having all of the drawing materials in the one place also means that quite often, the children will just grab some paper and the coloured pencils, and sit up at the kitchen bench to draw a picture while I am making dinner. I love chatting to them about their day as they draw and colour and create.

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What tips do you have for getting children to do their homework?

Are you a procrastinator, or do you just get stuck in?

Do your creative juices flow when you see a row of perfectly sharpened, coloured pencils?

What I have learnt from Milly Molly Mandy.

We have, once again,  just finished reading Milly Molly Mandy, the children’s book about a little girl and her family, which was first published in 1925. I love reading these books to my children, as I get as much pleasure as they do (maybe more?) hearing about life in the English countryside in the 1920’s, learning about how they lived their lives, what was important to them, how they grew their own food and sewed their own clothes.

When I am feeling particularly stressed at the end of the day, I like reading about how Mother baked apple turnovers and made jam from the blackberries that Milly Molly Mandy collected. I find it soothing. It seems a long way away from paying the phone bill, updating policy manuals and doing my tax return.

I have also learnt a thing or two from these books:-

Children do not need much to be happy.

Milly Molly Mandy and her friends spend long days fishing for tadpoles, planting pumpkin seeds, making dolls, and picking blackberries.  Their parents are too busy running their farms and shops to be setting up guided play experiences for them.  They do not get driven to ballet lessons and soccer practice; they don’t have playrooms full of the latest toys or wardrobes bursting with fashionable clothes.

When they are not helping with chores or at school, they are free to explore, to learn from and to be entertained by the world around them.

They are also given a lot more responsibilities than children are nowadays. While I am not advocating a return to the work-houses, I do know that children relish being given ‘grown-up’ jobs to do. The children in Milly Molly Mandy cook onions, paint  fences, and polish the brass. These tasks all present challenges, adventures and good deal of fun.

Different generations can live quite happily and productively together.

Milly Molly Mandy lives with her Mother, Father, Uncle, Auntie, Grandmother and Grandfather in their nice white cottage with the thatched roof and “everybody…had some particular job to do-even Milly Molly Mandy”. For example, Mother cooked the dinners and washed the clothes, Grandma did the knitting, Grandpa took the vegetables to market in his pony-cart and Milly Molly Many ran errands.

While I know that this is an exaggerated version of family life in the 1920’s, it was certainly more common then than it is now. Indeed, there are many cultures today where nursing homes are unheard of, and the elderly live with their families, contributing where they can to the running of the household.

Although this is often not a viable or preferable option for many people, it would be nice to see it being encouraged and facilitated by governments through programs such as home visits by healthcare professionals and adequate carer allowances for family members.

‘Make do and mend’ is a sensible and sustainable approach to living.

In the chapter where Milly Molly Mandy is given her own bedroom, her mother and father do not drive to the nearest Ikea and pick up a brand-new, cheaply made and imported bedroom suite that is likely to fall apart within the next five years.

Instead, she keeps the bed she already has, and her Mother dyes the bedspread green “so she has a nice new bedspread”. She also dyes the curtains while she is at it. Grandpa buys a little chest of drawers from the second-hand market, which Uncle paints apple-green. He also paints the frame of an old mirror, to hang on the wall. Finally, Grandma embroiders little birds onto a linen cloth to go on top of the dresser.

Milly Molly Mandy’s bedroom is made all the more special by the love and care that has gone into creating it. Now that it is so cheap and easy to buy everything brand-new, we seem to have lost this ability to repair and refurbish. This book reminds me to think twice before I throw something away and replace it with something new – Can it be fixed? Do I already have something that I can use instead? Do I really need to replace it? If so, can I find one second-hand?

I love being able to share the stories of Milly Molly Mandy with my children, just as my own mother did with me when I was a child. Even she read them when she was young! The stories are as entertaining and relevant today as they were nearly 90 years ago.

Did you read these stories when you were young? Are there any children’s books that have taught you important life lessons? What was your favourite book as a child?

Sleeping Beauty

On the weekend I booked tickets to go and see the ballet, Sleeping Beauty, with my mum and daughters. It is being presented by the Imperial Russian Ballet Company, at the State Theatre. I can’t wait!

Each year I try to take my kids to see a show. I would love to think that they will keep the wonderful memories of these experiences, and that they will gradually develop an appreciation for artistic expression. Most of all, I just love the fun and anticipation; sitting in the darkened theatre, waiting for the curtain to go up, clapping like crazy, and talking about it for days afterwards.

When I was about five, my mum took us to see Disney on Ice. I can still clearly remember sitting in the rows of seats, being bombarded by the colour, lights and energy, seeing all those larger than life characters. We bought a program, and I would look through it again and again in wonder.

Last year, I went with my mum and daughters to Mary Poppins. The best part was actually watching my girls faces during the show. Their wide eyes, taking in the magic, excitement and drama. When she ‘flew’ over the audience, I thought they were going to take off too!

The year before that we saw Swan Lake on Ice, with the Russian Imperial Ice Stars. This was one of the most magical performances I have ever seen. I spent the show in a combination of goosebumps, tears and open-mouthed awe. Many of the performers are former Olympic skaters, and their skills on the ice are mind-blowing. They tell the story of the doomed lovers in an incredibly poignant way. Oh, and the kids enjoyed it too!

The very first concert I took my girls to see was the ballet of Swan Lake, also by the Imperial Russian Ballet Company. (They truly are amazing). We were so far up the back that I nearly got vertigo, but the kids didn’t seem to mind. They were taken in by the spell of the orchestra, the magic happening on stage and the sense of occasion. It was performed at the State Theatre, which feels a bit like stepping into a palace.

Do you remember the first show you went to as a child? I’d love to hear! xx

“When can we do the fun stuff?”

 

Today we went to Hazelhurst Art Gallery in Gymea to see an exhibition of artworks by leading Australian children’s picture book illustrators.

Curator Mike Shuttleworth says Look! gives children a chance to see artwork from their favourite stories up close and explore the process of visual storytelling: “Here are works from Australia’s finest children’s book illustrators. The exquisite images tell many stories, some beautiful, some hilarious, some difficult. They help children to understand their world. They give imaginations fuel to dream.” 

My kids loved wandering around the exhibition, talking about the pictures, asking questions. There was one picture in which the artist had scratched the paint to make the foxes fur look, well, furry. Next to the painting, the artists’ tools were displayed in a box. My kids found this especially fascinating as it gave them a special glimpse into how illustrations can be created. When we got home, Callum stuck a piece of aluminium foil onto paper, then scratched it with a pencil. He said “See, this is what the lady did with the fox!”

In the middle of the space was a big pile of cushions, a cosy armchair and bookshelves displaying all the books from the exhibition. After looking at all the pictures, we sat and read a couple of our favourites, including ‘Love from Grandma’.

As it was the first day of the exhibition, there were a range of special activities for the children, such as short films, book making, craft, drawing lessons, and FACE PAINTING!!  My kids’ love for face painting knows no bounds. Callum actually spent most of the time asking “When can we do the fun stuff? I really want to get my face painted!” So, we made our way to Studio 1, where we found an extremely long queue leading to a surprisingly calm looking face painter. After asking the kids if they reeeeeally wanted to have their faces painted (I know, stupid question), we lined up, and lined up, and lined up…for 90 minutes! This was a lady who clearly took her job as a painter of faces seriously. (see results below)

In the end, I took my tired little puppy, kitten and vampire (!?) home for lunch and a rest. We didn’t have long as my kitten had a McDonald’s party to go to.

So, if you’re in the area, and are looking for a free, fun experience for your kids these school holidays, I would highly recommend the LOOK! exhibition.

Image at top: Elizabeth Honey, illustration from I’m Still Awake, Still, music by Sue Johnson, Allen & Unwin, 2008, gouache on paper

Teaching your child to read.

Lately, Callum has been showing such an interest in letter and sounds. He says things like “Pirates use an X to mark the spot, and a boy at my kindy has an X because his name is Max” and “if you turn a W on the side and draw a line, it makes a B”.

This is the perfect time to nurture his interest with lots of language and literacy experiences.

We have been:-

  • Writing a range of signs, lists, directions, labels, maps and stories
  • Making ‘words’ with the alphabet magnets we have displayed on the fridge
  • Reading lots of books with simple, predictive text, such as ‘Dog in, cat out’
  • Thinking of words that begin with the letter that designates our car parking space at the shopping centre
  • Playing with alphabet puzzles and games
  • Visiting the library
  • Writing letters in the flour on the kitchen bench
  • Talking about the letters we see in street signs
  • Making letters out of play dough
  • Singing funny, made up songs which contain letter sounds, such as “L L Lucie, L L Loves, L L Licking, L L Lollipops”.

Literacy learning experiences can be found absolutely everywhere, and you do not have to spend a fortune (no matter what the toy catalogues tell you!) If your child is showing an interest in letters and sounds, then they are ready to take those first steps on the path to reading. Just remember to keep it relaxed, positive and fun!