Chalk is arguably one of the best resources for children to mark make with. It’s inexpensive and can often be bought in pound shops. The chunky type is perfect to take out with you as it offers enormous play value and opportunities for open-ended creativity.

Dating back to the 1800s a man called James Pillans is credited with inventing the blackboard and coloured chalk which he introduced to Victorian schools. Cavemen are also thought to have used chalk in cave paintings.

Take some chalk to the park or create pavement art outside your house. Chalk is fun for all ages and guaranteed to engross children and adults alike.

Here are some of my favourite ideas to get you started:

Draw a tree with branches – your child can add the leaves or fruits. Or you could collect real leaves to add to your picture.

Draw around each other – children love this activity, especially if they can draw around their Mama or Papa – they can add on the facial features, hair and clothing. Draw around your child and compare sizes.

Hopscotch – this game was invented many years ago; thought to have begun in ancient Britain during the early Roman Empire, although other theories think it may have originated in China. To play hopscotch, draw squares or a spiral. Write on the numbers. The idea is to roll a small pebble and which ever number it lands on you miss this number and hop over. Good for number recognition, coordination, learning rules such as turn taking, as well as being fun and good exercise for all the family!

Pavement art – you can create pavement art in your street – it’s a great way to get neighbours involved and build on friendships. Take your chair outside and a cup of tea and watch your child draw. When children say “watch me, look!” – it really means ‘see me’. They love to be watched and given attention. This is a good time to build on language and communication, and really express an interest in what they are creating. A plant sprayer bottle is a good edition to take out too. The trigger action builds up their hand muscle, they can spray their drawings and create patterns with the water. Unlike a watering can it takes a long time to use up all the water! Guaranteed hours of fun .

Chalk in wet weather – chalk takes on a new medium in wet weather as the colour is more vibrant. The chalk art will begin to mush up but will still make wonderful drawings.

Pounding chalks to make powder – chalks are soft and so can easily break – some children may worry about the breakages. Chunky chalks are less susceptible to this. Reassure your child that chalks are soft and can beak easily – you could say “let’s look what chalk can do”, then find a pebble and show them how to grind the chalk to a powder. which be used to sprinkle to create patterns or mixed to a paste with water to make body paint.

Chalks in nature – because chalks are made from environmental particles they are a good choice to take to the woods – writing and drawing on trees or fallen logs will be washed away by the rain.

Writing – chunky chalks are a good first writing tool, babies and toddlers can grasp them and older children can hold them in a wide pincer grip. They allow big body movements, especially when working outside as children are free to move about and experiment with their first ‘writing’. You could write your child’s name or play a simple word game. Or make a big grid and write a letter in each square.
“Can you jump on a, b…”
“Can you jump on O, o is for orange” etc. – the opportunities are endless!

Chalk tracking – fun to do with a larger family or groups of friends – a park with pathways is ideal for this. Split up into two groups and the first group sets off to lay the track, making arrows or writing signs for the second group to follow. This can be great fun as you can trick people to go the wrong way!

Chalk house – you’ll need a large space to draw a basic house with rooms. This is what we call planting a seed at Woodentots or scaffolding children’s play. The children can then come and draw in the rooms – the kitchen, bedrooms, living room, bathroom etc…
What they draw could provide quite an interesting insight into what seems important to them to add and what they don’t bother with.

Draw landscapes – add small world toys to landscapes such as a dinosaur land, roads, a zoo or farm.

Draw the beach and sea – children will really enjoy a virtual beach and you could pretend to swim in the sea, draw sandcastles and a picnic. Add fish, sharks and seaweed into the sea.

Draw how to bake a cake – Draw a large bowl, add the eggs, butter and sugar. Invite your child to draw these in the bowl. Draw a large wooden spoon or get a stick to ‘stir’. Draw the oven and then the finished cake ready for your child to decorate. They could search for petals or sticks to make candles.

Chalk café – draw a café stand with tables, plates, cutlery, glasses and a sign. Invite your child to draw on the cakes, sandwiches and drinks. Once it’s ready children can take turns to be the server and the customer, you could use stones or leaves as money. Draw around your child with an empty tummy to fill with all the food.

Cleaning up – if you’re in your garden or outside on the pavement, you might want to clean up. Provide a bowl of water and a child sized garden broom to dip in the water and scrub away the chalk. A hand scrubbing brush or dish brush works well too.

What are your favourite ways to get creative with chalk? We’d love to hear from you.

About the Author: Paula Woodman

Paula is a Montessori teacher and Forest School Leader who has run the much loved Woodentots Montessori nurseries in North London for over 30 years. Recently recognised as Montessorian of the Year, Paula’s schools offer a unique and rich mix of Montessori, Steiner and Forest School, with child-led creativity at their core.