Got bored kids? Hand them an old bed sheet and watch it transform into a fort ceiling, a hauling tool, and an impromptu game of tug-of-war. In fact, we have an activity dedicated to just that (See Not a Sheet). But as much as we love the simple power of playing with a sheet in endless ways, we also like to take things up a notch -- and so do our kids. When our girls decided they wanted to give the old bed sheet we used for play a makeover, they reached for the fabric markers. Instead, we redirected them outdoors to see what they could find to give the sheet an update. Eureka: we discovered Nature’s Tie-Dye.
The kids scoped out colorful things in the yard and garden -- berries, goldenrod, green leaves, and dirt. Then we all went to work. Armed with spray bottles, mallets, rolling pins and, best of all, our hands, elbows, knees and feet, we mashed, stomped, and rolled the color out of all of that nature and onto our sheet. It was a full-body, fabulous sensory experience that we have since repeated with many classes. It’s good, productive, messy fun -- creative and gratifying for all involved.
This activity is sensory stimulation without actually being overwhelming. Because the ingredients are natural and the project is low-key (it’s just an old bed sheet, after all), kids can engage their senses of sight, smell, and touch as they work. It’s also a surprisingly physical activity for what’s essentially an art project. So much learning during the early years takes place through direct physical experience, and this activity calls on your child’s whole body. Kids also learn a lot about cause and effect as they turn natural materials into pulp (not to mention a clean sheet into a tapestry). The very act of transforming objects is an engaging brain-building behavior pattern that children exhibit in all cultures. Finally, even very small children are building a foundation for creative, flexible thinking when they confront an open-ended “problem” and come up with a (very messy) way to “solve” it. All this -- plus plain old fun -- from an old bed sheet!