Our Week in Review: Finger Painting, Polar Bears, and Counting Shells

The weather this week has been very tolerable, which means that we've been able to spend a goodly sum of time outdoors; the key to pleasant, stress-free days, I believe. In addition, I've been able to stay on track with being prepared with things for us to do inside. Throw in a couple playtimes with friends and we've had a pretty fantastic week.

This week we were...

Exploring Art

I bought a set of finger paints years ago when Silas was tiny and just starting to show interest in making art. They were a complete flop. Back then, he was very adverse to getting his hands dirty and he didn't like the sensation of the paint on his fingers at all. So, in all honesty, this is the first time that I've pulled them out in probably two years. It was far more successful this go 'round.

I can use a paintbrush OR I can use my fingers!

Seeing what happens if blue "tiptoes" though yellow.

Discovering that he can use the tips of his fingers to draw in the paint and the palms of his hands to "erase."

Watercolor Painting

We try to maintain the ritual that goes along with wet-on-wet watercolor painting in a Waldorf setting. It's always the same materials, brought out in the same order and set up in the same way. This is to reinforce the proper way to use our art materials, but it is also preparing Silas for setting up this activity by himself in the near future.

Each time we paint I ask Silas which color he would like to invite out to play. On this day he chose yellow so that he could paint a smiling sun.

We also invited green to the party and practiced cleaning our brush between each color's use, remembering to have Billy Brush wash his hair before taking a dip in the second color.

Practical Life

Last weekend Silas asked to learn how to use a knife. While he has been using a crinkle cutter for about a year and a half and I had intended to introduce a proper knife soon after he mastered it, I never quite got around to it. So, after a trip to the grocery store to get some bananas and a quick demonstration he was on his way.

Bananas every day this week for snack, lovingly cut into discs, by one Mr. Silas.

Project Work

He is still very much interested in polar bears. His investigation continues to circle around what it is that polar bears eat, catching seals out of their breathing holes, and teeth and claws in general. I set up this little small world play scene for him to discover one afternoon.

I froze a pan full of water into which I placed an empty jar so that there would be a hole in the ice to serve as the seal's breathing hole (after pulling out the jar, I filled the resulting hole with water). A little fake snow, some chunks of plastic "ice," and some arctic figures and we were set. I also set up a book opened to some photos of seals for inspiration.

He played for well over an hour; his little hands were so cold when he was done! When he's engaged with things like this, I usually try to fade into the background so that he can truly get lost in his play. I eavesdropped a little bit from the kitchen and there was a lot going on with that polar bear, seal, and walrus!

It may seem like this is "just" a fun way to spend an hour (and it is!), but there is so much more going on here. Play is how kids make sense of the world; how they work through scenarios and ideas and consolidate their knowledge. After this play session, he was able to talk much more confidently about this area of his interest and more questions were sparked for further investigation.


I finally pulled out the modeling wax for Silas and I to explore together. We have a set from Stockmar and I know there has been a bit of a brouhaha over the revelation that their products are mostly derived from petroleum and contain a very small percentage of beeswax. It's why I've put off introducing it, actually, as I purchased them before I had that information and probably would have looked elsewhere had I known. I really would like to try making some with all natural ingredients (this is the tutorial that I've bookmarked), but until I make time to do that, the Stockmar will do just fine.

I will say that the colors are incredibly vibrant and the experience of modeling with this wax really is unlike play dough, clay, or any other materials that we've tried. The variability in its softness depending on the warmth of your hands and how much you work it really is unique. After we had spent quite a bit of time modeling, all of our creations cooled and got quite hard, creating little play things that inspired some dramatic play.

Nature Study

This was our first week diving into the Waseca Introduction to Biomes curriculum. We started by going outside to observe everything we could see, hear, smell, and feel in the biome of our backyard. I made a list of the things that Silas called out and he drew his observations.

Then we headed inside where I presented the nomenclature cards for a biome. We were then supposed to put each thing that we observed into its appropriate biome element category. We tried, but this was way too abstract for Silas to really "see" what we were talking about. So, we brought it to a close for the day and that evening I made photo cards for everything that we observed. The following day, I invited Silas to put each photograph into its category. This worked so much better and was actually a lot of fun. 

We were also to introduce the idea of a globe as a model of the earth. I'd already presented the sandpaper globe several weeks before and it was Silas' enthusiastic interest in it that actually prompted me to take a more organized approach to some of our learning. The globe lives on Silas' learning shelves and he pulls it out often to ask questions about the arctic circle.


The melting, slushy snow and resulting goopy muddy mess has been a delight for this preschooler. Throw in some toothpicks and we have an opportunity to explore buoyancy and current.


Math is the one area that I have the most apprehension about presenting. Not because I don't feel capable, I do, but I know all too well how incredibly easy it is to make kids absolutely hate math. Right now, Silas is in a really wonderful place where he derives a lot of joy in counting and playing games and I in no way want to spoil that for him by pushing the "math" part of it. I hope that all aspects of his learning are child-led, but this is one area that I think it is absolutely crucial. I do, though, want to make sure that he does have a math-rich environment so that he can come to these concepts when he is ready.

Luckily, our first little math activity was a smashing success.

I'm using an older edition of this book for inspiration and followed its suggestion to add a die to pretty much anything in order to inspire kids to make a math game out of it. I presented to Silas a basket of shells, three bowls, and a die and told him that he could play with it however he wanted to.

At first, he decided to roll the die to see how many shells to put into each bowl. After he had cycled through all the shells a couple times, he decided to use them for dramatic play, clearing off the bowls and basket and using the shells as characters who moved about the world on the tray.