A trip to the shore can offer more than fun in the sun and sand for your child this summer. By gathering shells that have washed onto the beach and then stringing them together as a wind chime, your child will boost her math and science abilities and her appreciation of nature.
"Grouping the shells by shape and color as they're collected provides children with practice in sorting and classifying, skills that are the bases of important mathematical concepts," says Sara Wilford, director of the Early Childhood Center at Sarah Lawrence College in Yonkers, NY. Shells' beautiful shapes and colors are intrinsically fascinating to kids, and you can heighten your child's interest by looking through books on marine life to help her identify the various shells she finds as you comb the beach together.
Once she begins making the chime, your child will add to essential fine-motor skills as she works with you on gluing her collection of shells to the strings, then measuring, knotting, threading, and tying, according to Wilford.
After you've completed the chime, hang it on your patio or near a window in your child's room. As the breeze passes through, she'll delight in the shells' movement and calming sounds and relive her warm memories of summer.
To make the project
1. Wash flange with soap and water, and dry thoroughly. Ask your child to paint the top and inside with poster paint. Let dry. Paint the bottom, then apply another coat, if necessary. Top with sealer and let dry.
2. Help your child measure and cut five pieces of string, each 3 feet long. Measure about 7 to 9 inches from one end of a piece of string and tie a knot at this point, or ask your child to do so. Then tie another knot over the first. Repeat on three other strings.
3. If you feel comfortable using a drill, bore a small hole through the tops of the shells. For softer items, such as a starfish or sea horse, slowly poke a hole about 1/4 inch from the top with a large darning or ribbon embroidery needle. Tie four of the shells to the string ends that are closer to the knot. Tie the fifth shell to the end of the unknotted string.
If you'd rather not drill, simply glue the ends of the strings to the tops of the shells with a hot glue gun. Squeeze a drop of glue onto the top of a shell, and quickly attach the end of a piece of string. (Keep hot glue gun away from children.)
4. Ask your child to thread the other ends of the strings up through the holes of the flange. If you find that the knots slide through the holes, place a small washer on the bottom of the flange over each of the holes before threading the strings. Place the shell attached to the unknotted string through the hole in the center of the flange.
5. Help your child to gather the loose ends of the strings together in the center, hold up the chime, and adjust the strings until the chime hangs evenly. Then tie all five strings together in a knot about 6 to 8 inches from the top of the flange. Ask your child to thread the large bead onto the loose ends of the strings until it sits on top of the knot. Make another knot on top of the bead to secure.
6. Tie the loose ends of the strings around the bottom of the S-hook about 3 to 4 inches from the bead. Cut off the excess string, and add a dab of glue to the ends of the strings to prevent them from fraying. Hang the seashell wind chime on an eye hook attached to the ceiling near a window in your child's bedroom or playroom or on the overhang of your porch.
Copyright © 2001. Reprinted with permission from the August 2001 issue of Child magazine.