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I saved these weird cardboard shapes from a set of dishes I got long ago, because I am a hoarder, and because I love re-using stuff to make things.  In honour of Earth Day, I gave Yummy this problem to solve:
  1. Create a basket that will hold a handful natural outdoor treasures
  2. Use the cardboard as the main medium (or material)
  3. It needs to have colour, but you can't use paint!

Of course I wanted to get in on the fun, so I challenged myself to the same project.  Working beside Yummy often helps her to be enthusiastic and motivated, rather than if I just watch while she works.  I didn't want to influence her decisions, so I only let her know what I was going to do after she had begun.  For example, before we began, I asked her what we could do to make the cardboard into more of a basket shape -how could we make the edges stay up?  After she decided that she would use tape to keep them in place, I punched holes in the edges of mine and ran a ribbon through to tie the edges up.  
My use of ribbon gave Yummy the idea to decorate her basket with ribbon too, to add the colour without using paint.  She threaded a few strands through a corner and asked me to knot it for her.
Yummy decided we needed handles to carry our baskets around.  She couldn't think of anything to use for a handle off the top of her head, so we went on a quick Handle Hunt around the house to see what other handles were made from; she found lots of metal and plastic handles, and then a fabric handle on Dooter's toy basket.  Back in the workroom, we got out the bucket of fabric bits for Yummy to sift through.  
We talked about different options for attaching things (glue, tape, staples, etc), and settled on staples as being the strongest choice for our baskets.  
Our baskets made, we had to head outside to find some special items to display.  Thankfully the snow is starting to recede a bit so we could find the treasures beneath!
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Rubbing some sage to release the summery scent!
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Back in the house, we set the baskets of natural treasures on a table by the front door to look at and touch whenever we go past.

Happy Earth Day!


What is Visual Problem Solving?
Visual problem solving helps us to find creativity and personal expression within limitations (and limitations are a big part of real life!).  Being less than four years old, Yummy can't solve every problem all on her own, but helping her look for different options is a great way to get her started on visual problem solving.

When I was teaching art to middle years students,  the book From Ordinary to Extraordinary: Art & Design Problem Solving by Ken Vieth, was a great help in devising lessons that encouraged creative thought.  As Ken Vieth says in the book's introduction, "we can anticipate some qualities that future employers will want.  Most will look for people who are willing to collaborate and work in teams.  They will want the individuals and teams they hire to be problem solvers and to show flexibility in dealing with others.  They will want employees who are able to address complex social issues, devise creative solutions, and imagine new worlds and new possibilities."

Teaching kids through the arts not only taps into their natural ability and need to learn through creative play (singing, dancing, drawing, playing, etc), it also provides them with some amazing skills: understanding themselves and others, confidence in their own capabilities, being able to imagine different outcomes, how to work through problems, make connections, express themselves... The list goes on and on!



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