So it seems that a one-and-a-bit-year-old is still too young to enjoy sitting for any length of time to create works of art:
I give Lucy colouring pens and paper and her dad arrives home from work perplexed as to how his baby girl managed to grow a green moustache in the few hours he was away.
A bucket of large chalk pieces and an even larger piece of paper stuck on the floor? All that remains at the end of the (short) session is a blank page and some very chalky leggings.
“Stickers!” I think, in a light bulb moment while browsing the aisles of the Reject Store for inspiration, only to find that stickers lead to tears when rationed out. My little one just doesn’t understand why mummy only lets her have a few instead of the whole sheet in one sitting.
Back to the sensory learning drawing board, then.
And this time I found a WINNER!
Now this activity takes a bit of prep, a bit of setting up, a bit of forethought, and a whole lot’ve cleaning up afterwards. But I do think it’s worth the effort and you and your bub can have a memorable (for all the right reasons) time together as you grab, squish, smell, taste, discuss, smear and spread jelly all over the floor/yourself/the dog etc
The concept is a simple one: make up some batches of jelly, each a different colour and scent, then allow your baby to play with it!
You can execute this in different ways but I’ll show you how I did it:
I know my child’s capacity to eat large volumes of anything delicious so rather than use premixed box jelly which would be too enticing, I mixed gelatine and water, added food colouring and then mint leaves, apple juice, and vanilla essence respectively to give the three batches a pleasant scent rather than flavour. I made up the jelly in baking trays and a muffin tin the night before and set it overnight in the fridge.
We have a lovely large space on the kitchen floor so I stuck down a cheap plastic tablecloth (also from the Reject Store), using masking tape. The floor surface is polished concrete so it’s super easy to clean up afterwards. You may prefer to do this outside on the grass or the deck, or even in the bath.
I stripped Lucy down to just her nappy to avoid any stains. To start off, I gave her just one of the trays of jelly to gauge how she was going to respond to the activity. If her attention span was going to be short-lived, I would rather hold on to the other two batches and try again on another day.
It turns out she was ENTHRALLED! As you can see, she wasn’t content to simply squish it in her hands – she wanted to bathe in the stuff!
So I brought out the other two batches of jelly and let the fun continue. She had a go at tasting it but – as per the plan – didn’t find it terribly appetizing and reverted to playing with it rather than eating it.
We managed to get in a good half an hour of gleeful, gooey, gelatinous fun, which – if you are familiar with the attention span on one-year-old’s – is pretty darn good going! I then bundled Lucy up in a (dark-coloured) towel and took her straight to the bath to give her a good scrub down. She loves a soak in the tub so this segment of the activity was enjoyed as much as the former, especially since she got to splash about in purply-browny-tinted water! Once she was dressed I bundled up the plastic tablecloth from the kitchen and threw that into the bath and this again proved enjoyable as the water now really turned an interesting shade of something sinister.
The highlight of all this came some time later when I messaged my family with pics of the jelly experiment and my mum replied, “I’m sure Jackson Pollock must have had a mother like you, Jen!”
Once Wikipedia had solved the small problem of who on earth this man was (go on, get your Google on…) and that my mum was handing me high praise (if you’re into abstract expressionism), it struck me that maybe I do have a little artist on my hands, she just likes to get her whole body involved when creating her masterpieces.