When young children are in the family you need a huge bag of tricks. Those tricks are probably in your kitchen. All you need is a recipe. Painting with homemade sidewalk paint is always a hit. For more ideas to fill a bag of family activity tricks see grandparentsteachtoo.org and wnmufm.org pod casts "Learning through the Seasons." Books are available at the UP Children's Museum and WNMU-FM.
Water, cornstarch, food coloring or poster paint, low containers, and brushes
What to do
Sidewalk and street painting are popular around the world. Many groups sell sections of a street or sidewalk to raise money for many charities. Google "Naples Rotary sidewalk painting" and you will be able to see festivals in the U.S. and around the world with beautiful examples of paintings from all ages.
Families can have their own little festival or just an afternoon of fun that can be safely washed away when everyone is agreeable or during the next rain shower.
Recipes vary depending how well you want the sidewalk chalk paint to spread. The basic recipe is one-cup water, one-cup cornstarch, food coloring or poster paint for the desired colors. Use two cups of water for a thinner paint. Colors, especially the food coloring, will dry lighter so make all colors dark. Containers that don't spill easily are best rather than tippy cups. Some people use small individual plastic food containers with covers. Paint does not keep very well, however.
This is an excellent opportunity to teach color mixing of the primary colors red, blue, and yellow. These colors make secondary colors: red and yellow make orange, red and blue make purple, blue and yellow make green. Experiment by adding white to some colors. Add black or mix three colors together. What happens?
Carry on a conversation of what objects in nature have these colors. Family conversation is key to reading and doing well in school. Children need three million words of conversation in their early years to help them learn to read well.
Look at some pictures in children's favorite books ahead of time. Ask children to draw a picture on paper first so you know what colors to make. Children may change their minds, but this helps them plan. They might want to make a rainbow, a portrait of themselves, or family. They may like to draw a cartoon figure, animal, cars, princesses, flowers, or spaceships. Maybe they want to make a design with geometric shapes. This is a good time to use geometry and Ed Emberley's step-by-step drawing books.
Draw 2-foot squares for young children to fill with a painting and help them print their name on the picture. Discuss that these paintings will be washed with the rain so take many photos. Food coloring and paint may stain skin and clothing.
Editor's note: This column is penned by retired Marquette Area Public Schools teachers Iris Katers, Jean Hetrick, and Cheryl Anderegg. Esther Macalady is from Golden, Colorado. Tim Fox currently teaches at Superior Hills Elementary. It's supported by Northern Michigan University Center for Economic Education and Entrepreneurship, the School of Education, U.P. Children's Museum, U.P. Association for the Education of Young Children, and U.P. Parent Awareness of Michigan. Their book "Learning Through the Seasons" is available at area stores and www.grandparentsteachtoo.org. Their mission is to provide fun standards based activities that adults can do in the home to prepare children for school and a lifetime of learning and reduce the stress of child care.