One of the best learning tools that is also guaranteed fun is a chalkboard. While the teacher uses it as a standard, yet still effective instructional tool, kids can doodle away on it for hours. It encourages imagination with role play as they pretend to be the teacher, breeds creativity as they create original art, or simply learn number and letter recognition as they scribble their numbers and the alphabet. Yes, there are many available at retail stores, but why pay retail when you can very easily make your own at home from things you didn't know you may already have. And aren't we teaching our kids to reuse, repurpose, recycle anyway? Let's get started.
What you need:
An old frame or cabinet door
Smooth thin plywood/board
Caulk for wood and trim
Paint brush or roller (choose the small width with a nap for painting cabinets)
Drop cloth, butcher paper or old newspapers
Chalkboard paint (black or green)
Prepare your work area in a well-ventilated space. If painting outdoors, make sure it's not windy outside or you risk getting dust on your fresh paint. A rough chalkboard isn't much fun to draw on. Lay down a drop cloth or paper (old newspapers will do, but layer up.) Line up your tools so you won't have to run back and forth. With painter's tape, protect the frame of your chalkboard making sure the edges are covered for a clean, straight line. Fill any holes and pits on the surface of the board with wood and trim caulking (unless your board is already smooth.) Let the caulk set. Lightly sand the board and clean thoroughly with a damp rag. Let dry. If your board is raw wood or the old frame color is dark, it is best to prime. Paint thereafter with two coats of blackboard paint. Be sure to follow instructions (we all learned that in kindergarten) and let dry between coats.
Embellish, restore, or distress the frame of your chalkboard to suit your home or kids' room decor. You can attach a little cup at the bottom for chalk, or if you want to get fancy, select a piece of trim from your local hardware store that's wide enough to hold chalk and attach along the bottom. Instead of getting an easel, think of hanging securely on your child's door with an over-the-door hanger to save space (since the floor is already covered in Legos).
Now go, VanGogh, doodle away. A freshly painted, pitch-black chalkboard is a joy to draw on, but remember to pass the chalk to the kiddos once in a while.
Several companies put out chalkboard paint. A magnetic primer is also available to make any wall in any color magnetic. Although it is tempting to use the magnetic primer under the chalkboard for twice the fun, the jury's out on its effectivity. Some manufacturers say the magnetic primer is rough as it holds metal particles for magnets and will be too abrasive for chalk . Others say the chalkboard paint might compromise the primer and magnets simply don't stick. Read the reviews on different brands and applications. There's no sense in making mistakes that others already have.
Visit Breed and Co at 718 W 29th St. to get your supplies. It's an honest-to-goodness general store that's been an Austin tradition since 1970. There's something for everyone. Moms, head to the right as you step in and grab bonbons at the front counter. Peruse gifts, fine china and tableware, and the most ingenious of kitchen tools. Don't forget to check out the pretty garden outside. Dads, hardware is to the left and please grab the chalkboard paint while you're there. Check out shop.breedandco.com for online shopping, store hours, and contact information.
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