Happy Holidays!

Back Camera

We’re taking a little tinkering break to spend some time with family and friends, and we’ll be back in the new year with more creative experiments for kids. There are a few other fun surprises for next year that I’m excited to share with you.

Meanwhile, wishing you and yours a joyous holiday season and healthy 2011.

Tracing Circles

tracing 1

Some of you have mentioned that you’re building up ideas for foul-weather-indoor-play, and I’ve got something for you that requires very little preparation and can be pulled together with materials that we all have on hand.

Materials

  • marker/pen/pencil
  • paper
  • tape
  • cups

I taped a sheet of paper to the table and showed N how to trace around a cup. I’m in love with blue painters tape, and can hardly imagine what we’d do without it. I wasn’t sure how this activity would go…would she find it too simple, boring, thrilling, or challenging? Turns out it was a good challenge for her, as she requested cups and markers for more tracing the next day.

And as you can see from her circles, this involves a lot of fancy handiwork, small motor skills, and hand-eye coordination for wrapping the marker all the way around the cup. I think my child is inherently right-handed, and it’s interesting to see her draw with both her right and left hands in order to draw all the way around the cup. Good problem-solving!

If your child enjoys this, a good extension would be tracing cookie cutters, tape rolls, food storage containers, etc.  Even better…ask your child to think of other objects to trace. And if you move away from tracing disposable things, shift from markers to pencils. A good lesson in preservation!

What are your favorite simple rainy day activities?

Paint *With* Me

DSC_0733

I picked up some inexpensive kitchen basting brushes for art making with the idea that it would be fun to experiment with various types of mark-making materials, and specifically, a variety of brushes. N picked two paint colors, red and purple, and I dropped the basters in the paint. As usual, I wasn’t sure where this activity would take us. After smooshing some paint around on the paper, she decided to paint her hand and have a go at hand-printing. And then a moment later, she asked me to join in the fun. Huh? Oh no, I thought, I’m just here to facilitate this experience. And then she asked again. “Mom, do you want to paint your hand, too?” Not really, I thought, but how could I say “no” when I’m trying raise my daughter to embrace play, experimentation, and risk-taking?

And it reminded me of a fabulous book that I use during Docent Training called Improv Wisdom: Don’t Prepare, Just Show Up. If you’re looking for a last-minute holiday gift, I can’t recommend this book enough. It’s a great read. When Ibrought it on a trip with my parents last Christmas, my mom devoured it in a few hours. And our docents raved about it too. The first chapter of the book is called Say Yes, in which the author makes the argument that we should say yes to everything and accept all offers. To quote the book, “Say yes to everything. Accept all offers. Go along with the plan. Support someone else’s dream…Yes glues us together. Yes starts the juices rolling…Saying yes is an act of courage and optimism; it allows you to share control. It is a way to make your partner happy. Yes expands your world.” The opposite of yes, of course, is “no,” which is a blocking word, and it indicates to others that we have a better idea, we’re critical of the idea on the table, or we’re simply uninterested. What kind of message would I send to my child if I said “no?” Instead, I gave her a whole-hearted “YES,” and I’ve lived to tell the story!

After making handprints, N painted in my mostly red print with purple paint.

And then added some more paint, snowflakes, and sequins. When we washed up, the red paint stained our hands a lovely pink color that reminded me of our joint effort to experiment, play, and take risks.

The YES challenge (via Improv Wisdom)

  • Agree with those around you
  • Say yes if someone asks for help and you can give it
  • For one day say yes to everything, and notice the results. (obviously, use common sense!)

If you take on this challenge, I’d love to hear about the results!

Candy Cane Still Life

DSC_0653

At least half of the art activities that happen in our home are improvisations. Today was another rainy day, and after setting up a marble run, sommersaulting off the couch, playing with neighborhood friends, and jumping in puddles, I pulled Candy Can Still Life out of my rabbit hat. It was a short activity, but totally worthwhile and applicable, I think, to a wide variety of ages. In terms of creating a still life, my toddler (is 2.5 still a toddler? I’m not so sure.) isn’t at all interested in depicting objects realistically, but at her age we could take inspiration from the colors of candy canes.

Materials

  • Black paper
  • Silver Sharpie
  • Red and White Chalk

I started by placing a black paper in front of her and asking, “What color are candy canes?” After a silent pause, I brought out the glass full of canes for further investigation, and we saw that they’re red and white!  This was my cue to “dig up” some red and white mark-making tools. I also asked if she’d like the silver sharpie. Um, yeah, have you ever met a toddler who didn’t want to draw with a Sharpie? Not likely.

After drawing with the Sharpie, she played around with the red chalk, and became fascinated with how it broke apart when she made forceful polkadots on the page. The smearing was pretty interesting, but after getting covered with a handful of red dust she was done. Fair enough.

I like how the vivid colors pop off the black background. While my child-art-projects generally have a focus on process over product, as this one does, I also really like how it turned out. The coherency of the final product seems to be the result of working within the constraints of limited materials. Professional artists work well with constraints, and I believe that children benefit from a similar approach to art making. So there you have it…a Candy Cane Still Life, of course!

If you try this out, I’d love to hear from you! Happy Drawing, and Happy Holidays!

Frozen Wreath

wreath

Until a few weeks ago, I thought Halloween was the best “season” to celebrate with little kids, but now I’m beginning to think it’s got nothing on the winter holidays. My two year old is enamored by holiday lights, menorahs, ornaments, snowmen, animatronic lawn decorations, Santa, nutcrackers, and gingerbread houses. And the list goes on and on. When I picked her up from preschool this week, I found out that she led her class in a round of Jingle Bells! So, this wreath project is clearly the icing on a very well-frosted gingerbread bundt cake!

To make the wreath, N and I foraged for berries, rosemary sprigs, red leaves, and green sweetgum tree balls on our way home from the park, and then set to work making magic happen when we got home. We filled a bundt pan with water, added our beautiful natural finds, waited for it to freeze, added a ribbon and some more water, and then froze it some more. The perfect spot to hang it ended up being a post by the street, where we could enjoy catching many of our neighbors stop in their tracks to take a closer look. I can’t tell you how happy that makes me, as little creative surprises can be mood changers and eye openers, and it reminded me of Keri Smith’s fun-to-read book, The Guerilla Art Kit.

I stole this idea from the very thoughtful and creative Jean Van’t Hul of The Artful Parent. While our warm California weather renders a wreath like this useless after an hour or two, the lore and magic of winter evoked by this project make the process so worthwhile.

Thanks for the fun idea, Jean, and happy winter!

Idea Roundup: Creative Growth + Kids

OB-LI540_juggle_E_20101214112636

Do you think it’s important for children to have creative and imaginative childhoods? Do you want to raise your child in an environment that supports his or her creative capacity? Here are some of this week’s best places to look for ideas that foster creative growth and kids.


Frog Design: The Four Secrets of Playtime that Foster Creative Kids

“When 85 percent of today’s companies searching for creative talent can’t find it, will more focus on standardized curriculum, testing, and memorization provide the skills an emergent workforce needs? Not likely. Play is our greatest natural resource.”


Wall Street Journal: A box? Or a spaceship? What makes kids creative

“To nurture creative skills at home, parents can invite children to come up with possible solutions for everyday problems, and listen to their ideas with respect, says Don Treffinger, president of the Center for Creative Learning, a Sarasota, Fla., consulting group. A child who notices that an ailing neighbor is snowed in might shovel her sidewalks, for example. A child who is troubled by photos of Haitian disaster victims might donate allowance money to a relief fund.”



WSJ Blog: Sparking Creativity in Your Kids

“With school holiday breaks looming, many parents will be racking their brains to come up with fun activities for their children while they are at home. This might be a good opportunity to nurture a little creativity in your kids…”

New Creative Studio Corner

Creative Studio Corner

Putting our closets/bills/holiday cards in order is enough of a thankless job without even beginning to consider corralling toys and art supplies. I have a short fuse for all of the things that get dumped all over the house (today it was a bucket of blocks, pillows from the couch, toy cars, and migrating books), and find that organizational systems are enormous time-savers that help me keep my cool amidst all the chaos.

I wrote about organizing art supplies in September, and after turning my home upside down about four times in the past year, it’s become more clear that I live in a fluid space where solving for my family’s needs is an ongoing process. While I’ve been reading books on organization (I love Donna Smallin’s One Minute Organizer), creating order isn’t my forte, and I welcome all ideas for improvement!

The big changes? We repurposed a bedroom armoire for supply storage after this weekend’s DIY bedroom makeover killed my weekend and left this blog bereft of good content. Truly sorry about that. The doors have been removed for easy access to materials. Gaining all of this extra storage enabled us to pull excess art materials off of the table, freeing up room for creating. And a clear table is so much nicer and more inspiring to look at!

My daughter can reach her favorite supplies on the lower shelves, leaving the top shelves for things I’d like out of her reach. And I finally have some nice, clear bins so she can find what she needs without dumping out every single box on the living room floor (yes, it happened!). Light from the window and lamp on the art table are also a huge improvement.

How do you organize your art space? Do you have any great organizational tips?

Cardboard Christmas Tree

DSC_0704

Have you ever had a weekend that began like this? It doesn’t bode well for fun and games, does it? The good news is that we’re now the proud owners (and, let’s not forget–makers!) of new bedroom dressers, and the bad news is that it was at the expense of being holed up in the house all day.  Okay, back to the picture up there. Don’t you love the repurposing of our Hello Kitty breakfast bowl? I got our 2.5 year old invested in the building process by asking her to sort all of the hardware into bowls. Not only did she love this task, but not a screw or dowel was missing! As I was breaking the boxes down at the end of the day, I cut a couple large tree-ish shapes for tree decorating.

I cut some colored circles, and then N pulled out the markers and glitter glue. She can’t get enough of the glitter glue. Guess what she’s getting for Christmas?

This is where we left it tonight. Exhausted and ready for bed.

As a result of our dresser-building mission, we were also able to create a little more room in our art space and clear most art supplies off the table and onto a nearby shelf from what used to be my armoir. Ahhh, I now envision many more hours of happy art-making with a simpler clean-up. Well, one can dream.

Bubble Paint Recipe

Back Camera

The bubble recipe I used in yesterday’s post didn’t live up to my expectations, so I went back to the drawing board (paint and soap laboratory?) and came up with something that creates big, rewarding bubbles that are easy to pull prints off of. While this worked for me, feel free to experiment with your own ratios and solutions. And if you come up with something good, please share it here. Thanks to Amy for suggesting Dawn soap and glycerin in yesterday’s comments. I love getting feedback :)

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons tempera paint (liquid, not powdered)
  • 2 tablespoons dish soap. I used Palmolive. Dawn or Joy (or something along these lines should also work, but we had far less luck with all-natural dish soap).
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • Straw/s
  • Paper. I cut mine into pieces that matched the size of the bowl’s opening.

Directions

  • Pour ingredients into a small bowl. (If you decide you want more bubbles, stick to the same 2:2:1 ratio and size up).
  • Insert straw into bowl and blow.
  • Place paper on top of bubbles and you have a print!! Voila!

Bubble Painting

Bubble Paintings

“There are no failures, just experiences and your reactions to them.”

Tom Krause, Author and Motivational Speaker

What follows is my pitch for attempting the unknown for the sake of having a new experience, and maybe the end result will match your expectations. Or not. Either way, you’ve tried something new.

Aren’t these pretty? These are the result of a moderately failed experiment in bubble painting. The failure isn’t evident, is it?

I started with a mixture of tempera paint (red with a little silver), dish soap, and a little bit of water to make it runny.

Whole Foods dish soap is apparently great for dishes, but truly terrible for making good suds. If you’re up for this project, Dawn or Joy are most likely the way to go for a bowl full of bubbles. Mine fell flat. I’ll try this again for sure, and will be sure to share the winning recipe. That was the first failure, but here comes one that’s even bigger.

Can you guess what happened here? We poured the mixture into a little bowl, and then after a little demonstration, I instructed my daughter to blow. Out. Don’t suck it in. It’s not a drink. Don’t forget to blow OUT.

“Oh no, is that red paint all over your FACE?” I’m the worst mom ever! Wash it out. Check the bottle. Phew, it’s non-toxic. Ack!

She did great for the first five minutes of blowing, but then just forgot what she was doing. Totally understandable. She’s only two, after all. And sometimes I forget that.

MaryAnn Kohl has a good suggestion in Preschool Art, which I wish I had read beforehand: Pierce a hole near the top of the straw to keep your child from sucking paint into their mouth.

After that short, freaky interlude, we resumed Project Bubble Paint. From this point forward, I was responsible for blowing bubbles.

And they make for delightful gift tags, don’t you think?

Do you have a good bubble paint recipe?

Raindrop Collage

Rainbow

Saturday was a gorgeous day, and then the rain came pouring down on Sunday. Amidst a full circuit of rainy day activities like treating patients in our tented doctor clinic and practicing gymnastics on the furniture, we conducted art experiments in the rain. A shift in weather can captivate young minds with questions about seasons, popping bulbs, falling leaves, flurries of snow, and pounding hail. The elements provided us with an improvisational opportunity to celebrate the excitement of rain, get a little wet, and play with a cause and effect relationship (i.e. IF I open an umbrella in the rain, THEN I will stay dry).

We each worked on our own piece, gluing strips of bleeding tissue paper to our papers. N noticed that a little bit of glue was still showing on my artwork, and did a good job covering it up. Phew!

We had a bowl of dry pasta on the table from another activity, which she decided to incorporate into her piece. Nice 3-D touch!

Then she put them out in the rain to let the raindrops do their work. I asked her to think about how the rain would affect our pictures.

Once dry, we took a good look at them. When I again asked what happened when the rain landed on the collages, she said, “It smeared the colorful paper, but not the big paper.” Righty-oh!

For a prettier after-effect, I’d recommend glue sticks over white glue. Just keep in mind that glue sticks add extra friction to tissue paper, making them more difficult for little ones to use.

More improvisational weather activities

Windy Day: Make long streamers  or wind socks to blow in the wind.  Or, fill a large ziplock bag with small pieces of tissue paper. Put a straw in the bag and zip it shut. Blow into the bag and watch all of paper fly around. Discuss how the wind works in a similar way.

Rainbows: Create rainbow-colored marble paintings.

Snow: Paint directly on the snow with spray bottles and food coloring.

What are your favorite weather-related activities?

Improvised Caution Tape

Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail

My daughter is FASCINATED by caution tape. It all started about a month ago when we walked past a building that was surround with the stuff, and I was barraged with questions like: Why is there caution tape there? Who can go over there? What happened? How did the fire truck get in the building? Why is that man behind the caution tape? Why can’t I go behind the caution tape? And so on. And ever since, her radar is attuned to caution tape like mine is attuned to drive-through coffee shacks (which are way too few and far between!)

So, one fine Sunday morning, she and my husband decked out our house with their version of caution tape. While I bought this tape with more traditional art projects in mind, I’m impressed with how they interpreted it as a medium for blocking off areas of our home. When this all got underway I was thankfully on the right side of the tape, as I was told that the other side was only for “workers only” and I wasn’t permitted to pass. Toddlers and their rules!!

In case you’re wondering, this is what she was stockpiling on the other side of the tape.

This simple play-acting game kept her entertained for close to an hour, which I attribute to paying attention to her interests, one of the first posts I wrote about back in May. While we could have purchased a head-to-toe construction worker kit like this, she got into the spirit of it all with simple yellow tape and orange paper repurposed into caution tape and cones, and it didn’t cost us a dime. Kids are awesome like that. And who needs a yellow safety vest when you can wear a pink tutu? (Bet you didn’t realize you bought her a construction outfit, Auntie Danielle!)

With rainy (and maybe where you are, snowy!) days ahead, I plan to look for opportunities to support my child’s interests using materials that we already have on hand. Or none at all. This afternoon we laughed through an improvised outing to a friend’s house to pick up stickers, using nothing but our bodies and voices. What a great way to pass an otherwise dreary afternoon!

How have you supported a child’s interests with a creative use of materials? What improvisational games have you found yourself playing?