Making Aprons

In the Copper Room, the children have been invested in an exploration of restaurants. Their dramatic play often takes place in a restaurant, they’ve been doing cooking and baking in the classroom, and even made a collaborative refrigerator – copper colored, of course.

They’ve also been working on a new mindfulness and fine motor activity – sewing! In the classroom, they have been using stencils to help guide their stitches as they learn, and children have practiced pinching the thread and carefully threading their needle as well as tying knots at the end of the string. 

Sewing requires that both minds and bodies are still and focused on a complex task. This ties into our mindfulness routines by helping us to be intentionally still as we focus our minds on a specific task. Our fine motor skills were also tested as we pinched and pulled the needle through the stencil.

In the Art Studio, the children combined these two explorations, and made aprons for the children to wear during their dramatic play. They made personalized fabric incorporating kitchen tools to continue our exploration of the restaurant and reflect the use of the aprons.

We began with a bit of a guessing game with kitchen utensils to see if the children knew what the different tools were used for. I was impressed to hear about the children’s knowledge and experiences using these utensils!

But there was one tool that stumped the children… the mesh strainer:

‘I use that to scoop out the extra egg pieces that my mom accidentally cracks into the bowl.

‘Sometimes you can use that for seeds I think?

‘You just wiggle it over the oven to make it hot.

The children were able to choose a few tools to trace around to add a unique design to their apron before we painted on it. It was tricky to draw with the fabric crayons on the stretchy cotton. The children had to use both hands to hold down their utensil while trying to pull the fabric taut and trace around it.

The fabric paint was in spray bottles which presented a significant fine motor challenge. They had to use their fingertip muscles and sometimes even two hands to spray. However, despite the difficulty, I noticed that the children were very excited about using the tool and were not easily deterred by the difficulty of pressing the sprayer top. Perseverance and problem solving in action!

The children were invited to spray the fabric paint right on top of their tools to add another layer of visual interest by creating a resist print of the tool along with the traced outline. This came through with varying levels of success due to the way the paint bled on the cotton fabric.

We talked about how when you look at someone’s apron you might be able to guess what they are cooking (or spilling!) by looking at the colors and splatters…What does your apron say?

‘I’m making purple salmon and wet broccoli!’

The children seemed interested to see the way that the colors blended when they were layered on top of each other and seemed excited to fill their fabric (and the paper behind it) with as many colors as possible. The bright multicolored effect was very reminiscent of tie dye.

I love how colorful and unique each apron turned out. There is something so official about having a ‘uniform’ to put on when it is time to work in the restaurant.

Once the paint dried, our printed fabric was ready to be transformed into aprons for the restaurant. Each child sewed a small pocket onto their aprons. Sewing is not only a very practical life skill but also nurtures concentration, control, focus, patience and problem solving along with opening up a whole new realm for creativity and self-efficacy.

Once they chose their pocket color and where it would go on their apron, the children got to learn how to tighten and loosen an embroidery hoop to keep their sewing area taut as they worked. Many children seemed excited to learn what this tool was, as they remembered seeing the whole wall of them on display in the art studio!

We talked about the motion of sewing being ‘rocketship going up’, ‘rocketship going down’ which I heard many children repeat as they worked. A template with numbered dots provided a guide for where to sew and how long to make their stitches. The children worked in numerical order to go around the pocket much like a connect-the-dot drawing. Offering this template helped to encourage independence in the sewing exploration.

‘Did you know my grandma sews…she even made me a sweater once.

There was also discussion about how to use the REAL (and sharp!) needle safely to avoid poking our fingers. It is important to me that children at this age learn with real tools (paired with careful supervision and training, of course) so they learn how to work safely while gaining important experience, confidence and exciting results. When they are trusted with real tools, I notice their focus and concentration change as their sense of responsibility increases.

Once they had made their way all the way around the pocket, the thread was tied off and the children carefully worked to remove the paper template, revealing their perfectly imperfect row of white stitches.

Each child chose a ribbon for their waistband straps and after a quick line of hot glue, the finished aprons were ready to be worn.

A full-length mirror allowed the children to see their work and let’s just say “beaming with pride” is an understatement…

They should be proud of their amazing hard work to create such a fantastic end result! I was so impressed by their focus and perseverance in practicing this challenging skill and I just love seeing how excited and proud they are wearing their aprons. Way to go Coppers! We are even more restaurant-ready.

Reflection by the Copper Room Co-Teachers, and Johanna KaLhoun, Art Specialist

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