Archives for posts with tag: crafts

In terms of created or natural attractions and the concept of “quality lasts,” a really fun long-term activity to engage in with your child is to make a timeline.  A timeline can include everything and be limitless in scope, or it can be topically focused and zero in just one episode of history, such as the interactive timeline of World War II (and many more) found here:

The British Library has an online timeline resource that includes a central timeline beginning in 1210 and goes to the present day.  One can also choose timelines focusing on politics, literature and language, the arts, science, and other topical emphases.

Another fascinating timeline project, focused on science, evolution, and the humanities, can be found online at ChronoZoom.

Here’s their description of the project:

ChronoZoom is an open source community project dedicated to visualizing the history of everything to bridge the gap between the humanities and sciences using the story of Big History to easily understand all this information. This project has been funded and supported by Microsoft Research Connections in collaboration with University California at Berkeley and Moscow State University.

You can browse through history on ChronoZoom to find data in the form of articles, images, video, sound, and other multimedia. ChronoZoom links a wealth of information from five major regimes that unifies all historical knowledge collectively known as Big History.

By drawing upon the latest discoveries from many different disciplines, you can visualize the temporal relationships between events, trends, and themes. Some of the disciplines that contribute information to ChronoZoom include biology, astronomy, geology, climatology, prehistory, archeology, anthropology, economics, cosmology, natural history, and population and environmental studies.

Less graphically sophisticated but comprising a wealth of information and  people biographies is the web site Hyperhistory, with timelines for a myriad of historical events and movements:

In our family, we happened to live in an older home – probably no accident, given my early attraction to historic architecture.  But since our house was built in 1850, it provided a very handy way to date many other things that our children saw or learned about: “This piece of music was written ten years before our house was built.” Or “This painting was painted 20 years after our house was built.”  We resounded that theme over and over – not anticipating that we would ever quiz our kids about the chronology of architectural of artistic periods and styles, but just using something with which they were very familiar – our hybrid Federal/Italianate Victorian house – as a baseline against which many other creative outgrowths could be marked.  Maybe it was pointless, but I had a deep belief that if we continued to mark everything we saw historically by something we knew so intimately, something of that chronology would soak in to our childrens’ understandings of art, architecture, style periods, and cultural context.

You can simply discuss events verbally using the timeline concept, as we did using our house as the pivot-point, but even more fun is to make your own timelines, whether computer-generated, or by hand.

Here are the top ten programs for creating timelines, as compiled by David Kapuler, an educational consultant with more than 10 years of experience working in the K-12 environment:

You’ll find that in creating timelines, both you and your child will gain a deeper understanding of the unfolding of events. You can include illustrations, photographs, sound clips, videos, and other links and inserts — and as you go out in your community or travel on vacation, you’ll find that any number of things you come across have pertinence and can launch an interesting conversation.

As I said before, I never take credit for the fact that our two children were such good friends in those early years. I mostly consider it a happy accident, and one that had little to do with us as parents. But when a parent asks me if I can think of anything that might have encouraged that delightful state of affairs, I do remember certain elements of our household, and I wonder if perhaps some decisions we made in well-intentioned ignorance may actually have contributed positively.

It may all go back to the blue table.

This was a table I came across in a childrens’ store.  It was the perfect dimensions and height for two children to sit side-by-side and do all kinds of arts, crafts, and later, even homework.  It was very sturdy, although not very appealing from an interior design standpoint: a bright blue plastic embedded with fibers almost like fiber glass, and the legs were L-shaped with each side of the “L” about 3 inches deep, like two sides of a square, and those legs wrapped the corners of the table, giving it real stability. We placed it in the family room where an end-table would be at the end of the two sofas turned at a 90 degree angle, and had two plastic chairs there.  On the table was all kinds of craft supplies: drawing paper, construction paper, crayons, pencils, scissors, paste, tape, glue, always out.  At least for preschoolers, I don’t think there’s much more enticing than art supplies.  Even if you’re not “crafty,” (I’m not) watching TV shows where they cut and paste is sort of magical.  The sounds! The rrr-rrr-rrr sound that scissors make when they cut construction paper.  The sound of folding or taping or gluing paper. Something about it is soothing, like chicken noodle soup on a rainy day.  So the blue table was just. . .there.  Always available, and our two kids used it for hours on end.

At birthday parties, we could put our two and my godchildren at it.  In the summer we would move it outside when the kids were feeling entrepreneurial. It’s funny that something so seemingly random like the purchase of that blue table would have ended up affecting the culture in our house for years. If so much depended on a red wheelbarrow for William Carlos Williams, so much in our house depended on the blue table.


And from there, so many habits were established.  So that creating cool stuff became “what we do together.”


So that when we traveled, any table became the place for creativity.


And any place became the place for a brother and sister to find ways to amuse themselves.


Is there a “blue table” in your family’s life?  Something that has set the tone for positive, constructive enjoyment?

Perhaps there’s one in your future: what might it be, and how can you go about finding it?

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