Invitation to Create with styrofoam, pipe-cleaners and paint.

Apr 18, 2014

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The first week of the school holidays here was quite miserable weather so there was a lot of time spent inside. This meant lots of creative and open-ended activities to keep the kids, aged 5 and 2, entertained and their minds stimulated.

Today's activity was an Invitation to Create with a few available materials we had on hand. My original idea had actually been to wrap pipe-cleaners around some foam pieces to create a type of pipe-cleaner resist artwork, however, it was more interesting and promoted greater creativity and investigation to simply supply the materials and leave the rest up to the kids.

Ages: 2+
(See the bottom for handy tips to make the activity work best for your child.)

  • Styrofoam pieces (I wouldn't buy this stuff, just recycle any that enters your house in packaging. etc. Any shape or size is fine)
  • Pipe-cleaners
  • Paint (we used our favourite easy wash metallic paint from Micador)
  • Brushes

When presenting the same activity to children of multi-ages, it is always interesting to see how they approach it. It was no surprise to me that my toddler went straight for the paint and his older sister started with the pipe-cleaners.

Maddie (5) worked with care and purpose. We discussed ideas for what her creation could be used for. (I think she decided on a stage area for toys to perform).

Noah (2), enjoyed the sensory experience of touching and using all the materials around him.

He may not have thought to stick pipe-cleaners in the foam but working beside his older sister allowed for peer learning and discovery as he attempted to imitate her careful actions.

Practicing those fine-motor skills and hand-eye coordination

As with all different painting surfaces, the paint will react differently with it. The foam was somewhat absorbent but also somewhat water resistant at the same time which was interesting for the kids. Some of the colour would soak in but my toddler discovered he could wipe the paint back off the foam with a cloth and reapply the paint over and over again. This gave us many opportunities to talk about the different colour combinations as he applied them.

Exploring the paint, swirling and mixing. Without realising it or with any intention, we are investigating properties of various liquids (the paint), including the density and thickness and how it sits on a brush or canvas. This is also a natural time to discuss colours and colour mixing with children.

When the paint dried on the styrofoam, the colours were a bit duller but overall made a nice effect. We're not exactly sure what we're going to do with out now decorated foam pieces but I'm sure we'll come up with something. Any suggestions? :)

Handy Tips:

- Simplify this activity by leaving out the pipe-cleaners and simply exploring the effects of paint on styrofoam. Or, for a mess free activity, leave out the paint and focus on working fine motor skills through building sculptures with the foam and pipe-cleaners.

- Extend this activity by adding extra elements to your initial invitation. Add things like beads, feathers, sticks, leaves etc.

- Get well set up before you start painting with little kids. It's when you have to race off to grab a damp cloth or similar that things can quickly go from a controlled mess to an outright mess, so be prepared before you start by having cleaning supplies like a damp cloth and toweling paper at the ready.

Talk with your child about what they are doing and ask them questions. This will help them understand the physical and mental processes they are going through as well as giving them the vocabulary to describe it. While children are being creative and focused,  it can be a great time to talk about sensitive issues and their feelings.

- Use new language and descriptive words like, "manipulate", "spread", "vibrant", "absorb" etc. This will help with their language development.

- Still feeling creative? Here are some of our other arty ideas for kids. 
(click on the pictures to go to the post)

 art for kids, fun art, canvas art   painting activity, kids activity, activity for kids  activities for kids  kids art

Happy creating,
Debs :)

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  1. Isn't it fun to just let them create? Love it!

  2. So wonderful to let them play and explore materials that you simply have on hand. It's amazing what they come up with. Great post!

  3. Looks like they had great fun, really great post! #TheWeeklyKidsCoOp

  4. Styrofoam is a versatile material used also for packaging materials. Polystyrene Thermopore Boxes are increasingly being used for ice-cream packing due to its best insulation properties which.

  5. Styrofoam boards are being manufactured in Pakistan and are being used as insulation materials in construction as well. It has been observed that Styrofoam boards installed on a roof top can reduce absorb more than 60% of the sunlight heat, keeping houses comfortably cool in hot summer days. I found this list of insulation materials suppliers in Lahore dealing in Styrofoam boards.

  6. Styrofoam is also used as protective coating and lining in Plastic Pipes, uPVC, cPVC Pipes. It protects against corrosion from the inside and outside and increases the life span of the pipes.

  7. Painting is the method of applying paint, paint, color, or another medium to a solid surface. The tool is commonly applied to the base with a brush, but other devices, such as knives, sponges, and airbrushes, can be used.


Thanks for taking the time to comment! I love reading them all.