Things To Do With An Old Newspaper
Often, we don’t think about much more than the rubbish bin (or, better yet, the recycling bin) when we’ve finished reading the paper. But if you have young children, an old newspaper is a useful item – possibly even more useful for what you can do with it than it was when it was current and you read it to find out what was up in the world.
Parents with children attending a Montessori early learning centre would be especially wise to look to the potential of an old newspaper, as this item, covered with words and letters as it is, might be able to help your child in the process of learning to read and count (and other skills such as cutting and gluing) without you having to fork out oodles of cash for “proper” Montessori learning materials.
These ideas should get you started with what you can do with an old newspaper.
1 Make a moveable alphabet. The classic Montessori moveable alphabet is made of wood. However, cut-out letters from newspaper can also work in the same way. Cut the letters out and stick them onto cardboard (from an old box if you want to recycle even more stuff), and your child can use them to spell out words. Don’t forget to show your child how this is done, and only do it if your child is ready for it. Ask the teacher from the Montessori centre if you’re not sure if your child is ready.
2 Make papier-mâché. To make this, tear up the newspaper into fine pieces (or your child can cut it up with scissors while practising how to use these tools) and stir it into a glue mixture. Suitable glues include good old flour and water paste, dilute PVA glue (can be pricey if you are making a large batch) or wallpaper glue. Once the mixture is all nice and slushy, sculpt and mould things with it. An easy way of making something that dries quickly is to blow up a balloon and apply petroleum jelly to it. Cover the balloon with the papier-mâché mix to make a piñata, or some other ovoid sculpture (owls, pigs, etc.), and when it’s dry and ready to paint, pop the balloon and extract it. Papier-mâché makes a great activity for a messy play day.
3 Newspaper sword fights. Why spend vast amounts buying a Wii with a swordfighting game when you can get the same fun with newspaper swords held together with string, rubber bands or sticky tape? With small children, make sure that the newspaper swords are fairly flimsy so nobody gets hurt – a single section of an average newspaper is about right. If a too-hard blow is struck with these swords, the sword will break and the receiver of the blow won’t get hurt. These swords are a must for imaginative play involving battling monsters, pirates or wicked knights.
4 Make your own books. Newspapers are often a rich source of coloured pictures that can be cut out and stuck into an exercise book or scrapbook to make your own educational books (animals, colours, alphabet books, etc.). Your child can help you find and group the pictures, using the sorting and matching skills that Montessori education encourages, and can also help cut out the pictures. (pictures of cars in ads are great for colour matching) Don’t forget to cut out letters or words to make labels for each picture.
5 Protect surfaces during other activities. A lot of things that children do while learning a skill get a bit messy. And making the mess (a form of self-correction) is part of the “do it yourself” aspect of learning Montessori style. Newspaper makes a great way to contain and get rid of the mess. As they’re absorbent, newspapers blot up spills incurred while learning to pour. Newspapers are also able to cover a lot of surface area if you spread them out on the table or floor where a child wants to express their creativity using paint, glue or crayons.
6 Pet bedding. Keeping a pet, if your circumstances permit, is a good way for children to learn about the natural world and also about responsibility. Newspaper, torn into shreds, makes a good form of bedding for what are known as “shelf pets”, i.e. small things like guinea pigs, rabbits, mice and the like. Newspaper is a must for lining anything that’s likely to get messy, as it makes the clean-up process a lot easier. Don’t forget to involve your children, even if they’re small, in the cleaning up part of pet care – and make sure they wash their hands very thoroughly afterwards.
7 Dress-up clothes. With a bit of imagination, a pair of scissors and some sticky tape, newspaper can be made into a number of dress-up clothes. Paper hats and crowns are easy, as are skirts, capes and ponchos. These dress-up items won’t last very long, especially if they are used during games that also involve the newspaper swords mentioned in Activity 3, but they’re cheap and fun. Paper hats and crowns tend to last a bit longer.
8 Indoor-suitable balls. One reason why many parents don’t let children play with balls indoors is because most balls bought in a shop are too hard and easily knock down ornaments and smash equipment. However, a ball made of scrunched up newspaper is lightweight enough to do no harm and still allows your children to play games that build hand–eye coordination and gross motor movement (e.g. ball tag, piggy in the middle and all those old favourites).
9 Cylinder sets. It’s quick and easy to roll up newspapers to make a graded series of cylinders that can be used in the same way as the proper Montessori sensory materials. You can make cylinders of different thicknesses or different lengths, depending on your skill level, and you can paint them (or not) if you want to.
10 Window cleaning tools. It’s important for children to learn to help around the home. A damp scrunched newspaper is great for cleaning windows without using horrible chemicals that often damage children’s sensitive skins (or yours).