Thursday, May 27, 2010

Messy Fun with Cement

by Kelly Miller

Summer is coming, and here is an outdoor project from the book "Do-It-Yourself Early Learning" by Jeff and Tasha Johnson.  The nanny next door lent it to me, and we are planning some fun projects to do together this summer.
Materials:  Ready-mix cement, sand or mortar mix.  Water.  Wet Rags.  Ice cream buckets.  Tarp or plastic sheeting.  Spray bottle full of water.  Craft sticks.
1.  Spread a drop cloth over the work area.  Things could get messy!  Have a bucket of warm water and some wet rags standing by.  You should have one ice cream bucket for each child.  Pour an inch or two of dry cement mix into each container.  Have a hose available!  2.  Dress the children to get messy.  Give each child one of the containers of cement mix you prepared.  Help them slowly add water as they stir the mixture with their hands.  Add water and stir until you have the consistency of chocolate chip cookie dough.  3.  Time to sculpt!  Dump the mixture onto the surface to knead and shape.  Use craft sticks so they can work the wet cement's surface.  If the mixture starts to dry out, add a small amount of water with the spray bottle.  Clean the children's hands with a wet rag.  4.  The projects should be placed in a cool shady area to cure.  Cover each project with a thoroughly wrung out wet rag.  While the cement cures, lighly spray it with water a few times each day for 3-4 days.  Avoid handling the projects during this time.  They will be dry to the touch in a few hours, but will need to strenghen and cure for a few days before handling.
What's learned:  This will be a new sensory event for many children.  They will use developing small-motor skills.  It is a great creative outlet to sculpt something that will in a few short days become almost as hard as a rock.  That is empowering!
Variations:  Mix ribbon, twine, small stone, marbles into the cement.  Paint the finished projects.  Encourage children to write stories about their projects.  Mix up small batches of vary wet or very dry cement for a sensory experience.  Squish wet cement between your toes!

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