A head start instructor in Quitman is encouraging her students to spend time tapping into their creative side instead of binge-watching their favorite shows while school is closed.

Community Action Program for Central Arkansas head start instructors Kimberly Houston and Jessica Barker created “At Home Learning Bags” filled with art supplies, flash cards, dry-and-erase pages along with other items to keep the children they serve busy over the extended break.

In an effort to encourage their students to continue learning while school is canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Quitman Head Start instructors are sharing simple activities to keep students involved and engaged.

This week, Houston encouraged her students to create sidewalk “stained glass” art. Many of the students painted their pieces on paper. Houston allowed her son to take this project one step further.

“I don’t have a sidewalk at my house,” she said of why she allowed her 5-year-old son to transform their screen door into a stained-glass masterpiece.

The project kept her son, Ethan, busy for most of the day, Houston said.

“It was a lot of fun for me to watch him,” she said. “We laughed and laughed. And, he saw what colors he could make by mixing them together.”

Spending the day mixing colors and painting the entrance to the family’s home allowed Ethan to work on his fine motor skills as well.

“He worked on his fine motor skills and his creativity,” Ethan’s mother said. “I just handed him a paint brush and let him do his thing. He learned a lot and didn’t even realize he was learning.”

The 5-year-old boy told the Log Cabin Democrat he was thankful his mother helped him reach the top window pane so he could finish his project on Wednesday.

“I had fun,” Ethan said, adding that he learned how to make the color orange by mixing red and yellow paint together.

Houston said her students’ parents have sent her photos of their children’s artwork and other various projects throughout the week.

Since Gov. Asa Hutchinson ordered that all schools close their doors until at April 17 to help prevent spreading the coronavirus, the head start instructor said she has reached out to her students’ parents almost daily with ideas to keep their children engaged and away from the TV screen.

Families can use household items to create art projects at home, Houston said.

The head start instructor said toilet paper rolls can be used for a number of projects. Children can cut the rolls into 1-inch rings, color them and then glue them on their sides to create a homemade “hungry little caterpillar” and make DIY Easter bunny stamps by flattening two rolls and then gluing the now-oval-shaped rolls atop a regular roll.

Converting sheet protectors into dry-and-erase sheets is another interactive way for students to practice writing their names and other letters.

Allowing children to use their imagination and be creative while at home doesn’t have to become an expensive task, Houston said.

“Giving your kids something you wouldn’t normally give them allows them to use their imagination,” she said, adding that parents can paint numbers and letters onto rocks, incorporating an art project with an educational lesson.

Staff writer Marisa Hicks can be reached at mhicks@thecabin.net.

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