Setting a Space for Inspiration: Materials Play
Bubble Wrap Explorations
One morning involved an appreciation of bubble wrap and its many qualities. To prepare for this, I thought about the different qualities of bubble wrap, and designed a quiet space (stamping), a slightly louder space (popping bubbles on the window) and a loud space (popping bubbles on the floor.) Depending upon your learners in your space, you might want to take certain steps to prepare participants for the loud popping noises, or mitigate the sounds by having the popping happen against a soft or carpeted surface.
Stamping with Bubble Wrap
I thought that the young learners might enjoy stamping with various-sized stamps. So I cut out shaped pieces of bubble wrap and hot glued it to the bottom of different yogurt cups, snack containers, and empty stamp bases. I put out our homemade stamp pads with blue paint for guests to stamp with.
Popping Bubbles on the Window
Taped on the window, we saw how the many different types of bubble wrap caught the light. When popped in large groups, the bubble wrap would get noisy. But when there were fewer guests, young visitors had quiet moments gently popping individual bubbles against the glass window.
Popping Bubbles on the Floor
Taped to the floor, it provided an opportunity to jump and crawl across it, creating loud pops. This did get quiet noisy and if I were to do this again, I would not put out the large air pillows as they made a startlingly loud sound when popped! (The young guests who popped them were thrilled by the sound, but it was a bit too loud for me.)
In thinking about the sustainability of this project, we considered how to re-use the bubble wrap as much as possible before disposing of it. Popped bubble wrap still stamps very well, and deflated sheets can be used as painting drop cloths. Our colleagues in the Early Childhood Education class at Holyoke Community College shared with us great ways to reuse the bubble wrap in dramatic play. They created a post office setting with their learners and provided the used bubble wrap (amongst other materials) to package objects for shipping!
Once the bubble wrap has been used many times and is ready for disposal, there are many specialty recycling stations that accept it, check the Plastic Film Recycling website for more information.
Immersive Tissue Paper Play
The next week, I was inspired to create a whole-body experience with tissue paper after seeing many toddler guests find great joy in tearing paper. I taped strips of tissue paper under two of our tables which created an inviting environment for guests to crawl under the tables and tear pieces off of the strips to use in a collage on contact paper.
Watercolor Pencil Waterscape
The most recent Materials Play exploration focused on a favorite material in the Art Studio at the moment, watercolor pencils. Wanting to encourage collaboration and usage of the watercolor pencils on a large-scale, I transformed the back of the Art Studio into a waterscape, complete with a paper pond, waterfall, and rivers.
Using our favorite watercolor pencils, Stabilos, guests drew lines and aquatic creatures into the paper waterway. They then added water with a wet paintbrush overtop of their lines to blend and mix colors. If you’d like to try this, you can purchase watercolor pencils and crayons that are both drawing and painting tools in one!
I hope that this post inspires you to focus your art explorations on one material within your creative spaces!