Spending time on painting is quite a luxury these days. I took an interest in older Gem’s HBL art homework and decided to work on it as well! That’s to create an art piece of the jungle, drawing inspirations from Henri Rousseau’s jungle pieces. It’s amazing that Henri Rousseau painted his jungle pieces based on imagination when he had never visited one before! A Malayan tapir in my version after my recent fascination over the animal with repeat visits to the Night Safari the past month.
Diving deeper into Rousseau’s work, we looked at his painting “The Sleeping Gypsy”; a painting of a lion peering over a gypsy in deep sleep. The painting currently resides at the MoMA. We read a book of the same title and it explored a possibility of why only a lion was in the painting, which older Gem found hilarious!
The beauty of an art piece, where you can have your own interpretation and create your wild imaginative ending. Older Gem thinks that the gypsy will be the lion’s breakfast!
: The Snail and the Whale : The Stranded Whale : The Mystery of Whale Strandings :
As I was walking younger GEM towards her school gate one wet morning, I saw a snail slithering up the side wall leaving a slimy trial behind and I immediately thought of “The Snail and the Whale”. The both of us stood there for a good ten minutes watching the snail in action and I told younger GEM we will read the book together after school that day.
After reading “The Snail and the Whale” with younger GEM that afternoon, we got down to “creating” some snails using Spielgaben and a whale with LEGO!
So why do snails leave a trial? Snails produce mucus to help them stay wet and avoid drying out. The mucus enable the snails to stick to things and to move more efficiently, leaving a trail behind. I found a short, informative and easy to understand video for the girls to help with the explanation.
While the story of “The Snail and the Whale” needs no introduction for older GEM, I got her to research on whale strandings. “The Mystery of Whale Strandings” borrowed from the library was her main source of information. Check out the video below as she summarised her findings on why whales get stranded and how we can help!
One of the new activities I took up this year was to join a book club. The book club is organised by younger Gem’s school for parent volunteers and meets monthly. The inaugural book club meet took place in April and Beth Fredericks, an early childhood specialist, was invited as a speaker, highlighting the importance of exercising executive functions from a young age.
Focusing on executive functions, “Mind in the Making” by Ellen Galinsky is the book the club will be discussing throughout this year. The book identifies seven essential life skills every child needs. I reckoned, every parent needs! There are quizzes in the book to help us identify areas we need to work on and some practical ideas for us to engage our kids to focus and practice self control.
Just a few days ago, the book club met again to discuss the first skill, focus and self control. Here are my 2 key takeaways from reading chapter one and the book club sharing.
A Well Rested Mum is a Super Mum!
I believe the optimal way to teach our children focus and self control is us parents modelling in our daily lives. There are days I feel like a super mum, checking off to-do list in lightning speed, cook all healthy meals and making effort to look at the girls at eye level while conversing but the next day… lacklustre… It is not rocket science to identify the common characteristic for my super mum days; sufficient sleep! When I am well rested, I am calmer and able to focus and pay attention to the needs of my girls. So now I need to work on my inhibitory control, to spend more time studying the bible, less Netflix and Disney+ and sleep early (cause my girls wake up at six-ish!).
Encourage Your Child to Identify their “Lemonade Stand”
A practical way to develop focus and self control – Ellen Galinsky uses a lemonade stand as a metaphor for something that your child cares about. The idea derived from watching a bunch of kids who put in their heart and mind into making their lemonade stand succeed. Basically, when you are motivated to achieve a goal, you will be able to focus and practice self control to attain it. Therefore, encourage your child to find their “lemonade stand.” “Lemonade stand” may change or evolve as they grow older. At the moment, I believe dancing is older Gem’s “lemonade stand”, while she may not be an excellent dancer, the joy she exudes while dancing is contagious.
Since it was full home based learning and stuck at home, I headed to the book shelves for some ideas to engage the girls. Pulled out “I Love Chocolate” written by Davide Calì and illustrated by Evelyn Daviddi; originally written in Italian and translated to English as part of Singapore based publisher, Epigram Books’, Stories from Around the World Series.
This book was part of a mystery pack I ordered for the girls for Children’s Day a few years ago and usually sits on the book shelf without much of our viewing attention. The story got me craving for some chocolates and I decided to get the girls involve in making some chocolate truffles!
My first encounter with Henri Matisse’s art was a visit to the Rosary Chapel located in the South of France. I was 14 then on a school trip to Europe for an art history tour. The facade of the chapel was white and plain looking; a stark contrast to the majestic churches filled with Gothic and Renaissance frescos, which I was used to seeing earlier during the trip. It was a welcome change for me I recalled.
I remembered sitting inside the chapel and in front of me just behind the altar was a mural of a man drawn in black outlined. I thought to myself “Hey! I think I can do that too!” It was Matisse’s masterpiece of Saint Dominic. What caught my attention was the bold coloured stained glass which stood out against the white interiors. The chapel was designed by Henri Matisse in his final years.
Using resources from the Singapore library, I borrowed two books “Henri’s Scissors” by Jeanette Winter and “How the Snail Found Its Colours: The Art of Matisse ” by Jeong-Yi Kee. These books opened the world of Matisse’s cutouts to younger GEM.
Book I: Henri’s Scissors
The story briefly details the life of Matisse from how a young boy who enjoyed the arts became a lawyer but eventually followed his passion to become an artist.
Matisse’s art in his later years were putting together coloured paper cut outs as he was no longer able to hold a paintbrush due to his ailments. Despite his inability to paint, he didn’t give up but channeled his passion of art to another artform. He formed collages using his colourful cut outs on walls. I am a fan of his collages!
I planned for younger GEM to create her own coloured paper and make cutouts to decorate the wall and a recycled milk bottle to be used as a vase.
Materials & Tools:
Recycled milk bottle
Double sided tape
Just like how Henri’s assistants painted the paper for him to cut, younger GEM painted the drawing papers with the colours she chose.
I traced the some of the designs found in the book for us to cut. Both the “birds” were cut by younger GEM while the rest were too challenging for her.
Decorate the milk bottle with the cut outs using double sided tape. A little fine motor skill practise from peeling the tape!
Create a little Matisse inspired space! See image at the beginning of the post!
Book II: How the Snail Found Its Colours
This is a story of a colourless snail embarking on a journey to find its own colours and along the way met a number of artworks by Matisse. Finally, the snail found its own colours from Matisse; from a colourless sad snail to a colourful fabulous one!
From this story, younger GEM saw some of Matisse’s art such as “Dance (II)” and “Music”. The highlight was “The Snail”, which we will attempt to replicate.
Materials & Tools:
Picture of “The Snail” by Matisse
Square drawing paper
Crepe paper: black, orange, dark blue, dark and light green, yellow, red and pink
Spray bottle with water
I cut out the shapes similar to the original piece using crepe paper.
Display the cut outs and place square drawing paper on tray.
Younger GEM to place them on a blank piece of drawing paper according to the original artwork.
Spray water over the entire piece of artwork and let the crepe paper colours “bleed”.
Wait for a while and remove the crepe papers gently.
The end product looked similar to a water colour painting and it was perfect as a birthday card for grandma!