Outdoor Water Painting Experiments

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My friend Diana sent me these amazing photos of her son (almost 2 1/2 at the time), experimenting with water painting. She offered him a couple containers of water and a paintbrush and gave him free reign to paint away. I love how he was able to take these simple materials and experiment with them in multiple ways. He’s enjoying the process of painting while learning about the properties of his materials, making comparisons, and experiencing the effects of gravity.

He squatted down low to get close to the action. The wood deck and porous tiles help capture the full effect of the water’s path.

He stood up high to flick the brush Jackson Pollack style, and discovered how distance could change the process.

He bent over to paint directly on the wood.

And then he painted on the tiles. A different texture with another look.

And finally, he painted on chalk drawings.

This is a beautiful reminder that creative thinking, exploration, and experimentation don’t have to come at an elaborate cost (of time or resources). If the weather is nice where you are, consider taking some water and brushes outdoors with an invitation to experiment. Other surfaces that absorb water nicely are bricks, terra cotta pots, and sidewalks.

What outdoor painting projects have you enjoyed?

Please feel free to share you photos in the comment section.

This post was shared with It’s Playtime, Childhood 101


Flour Sifter

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We have a make-shift sensory tub that often makes its way into the middle of our kitchen where we conduct experiments, make “cakes and pies,” and mess around with the feel of stuff. Some of the things we’ve filled it with are dry beans, oobleck, jello, vinegar and baking soda, and rice.

I’m always on the lookout for neat-o objects that might challenge and delight my child, and when I saw this flour sifter in the market I had a feeling she’d love it. And she does. Loves it. I’ve used it maybe once (I guess I’m not picky about eating lumpy cake), so if we were to mark ownership based on usage, it’s definitely hers!

I set her up with a couple plastic containers full of flour, a measuring cup, measuring spoons, a soup spoon, and a crank-style sifter. Once she got to work, she poured a few cups of flour into the sifter and started cranking away, making some great crusty ol’ noises.

She dumped out the flour dregs that didn’t spin through.

And then she had a pile of flour ready to mold into a tiny mountain. This process repeated a handful of times, just long enough for me to do some dishes and start dinner.

What other kitchen tools do you play with?

This post was shared with Art for Little Hands

Drawing Shadows

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Today was an on-and-off sunny day, but in those brief moments of sunshine we squeezed in a quick little chalk drawing project that’s a great way to help children look at things from a new perspective, which is a key ingredient in creative thinking.

I talked to N about a plan to draw our shadows earlier in the day, and lamented that it was too cloudy to try it out. When she spotted a break in the weather she was excited to head out and unpack the shadow drawing mystery. And her butterfly wings and bike, which were all her doing, were dynamic props for the activity.

What you need

  • Sidewalk Chalk
  • A sunny Day with a low sun. 2-3 hours before or after noon would probably be a good time to try this out.

We found a good spot with relatively smooth asphalt, and I asked N to choose a color for the drawing. What is it with this child and pink?! She watched closely as I traced around her shadow, and made every effort to hold her bike steady while I captured her image. It reminded me of those wonderful old daguerreotypes, or photos, of people who sat for their portraits for 15-25 seconds! I invited N to try her hand at tracing, but she wasn’t at all interested. I think it was a bit too challenging for her (she’s 34 months). Plus, she was busy being butterfly girl on a bike. Ya know?

Other Ideas

  • Take turns drawing shadows and being traced.
  • Invite your child to dream up props as shadow enhancements (akin to N’s wings and bike).
  • Draw shadows of inanimate objects: chairs, toys, tables, etc.
  • Distort reality by tracing part of a shadow literally, and other parts abstractly.

What else could you do with Shadow Drawings?

This post was shared with Childhood 101

Creative Challenge #5: Plastic Bottles

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Make something with Plastic Bottles

In honor of Earth Day, I’d like to raise a little awareness toward the enormous amounts of plastic bottles used around the world, coupled with some thoughts on recycling and upcycling those bottles into creative products. My family is hooked on bubbly water, and while the number of bottles we go through each week is staggering, each of these bottles gets recycled…and occasionally upcycled into art (our Recycled Sculpture project can be found here).

Sobering Statistics

The Challenge

Make something with plastic bottles! Have you cut the tops off to use them as funnels, added them to a marble run, used them as sand scoopers, or turned them into something surprising? The project should be executed by children, but adults are welcome to facilitate or collaborate if the mood strikes!

To join in

  • Use plastic bottles, along with any other materials of your choice.
  • Attach a link to your blog post, a YouTube video, or photo of the experiment along with a description of what you and/or your child/ren did in the comment section below.
  • There is no deadline for this project.

Inspiration

Instructions for adding an image file

  • Click on the “Choose File” button (below the “Submit” button)
  • Choose a JPEG file from your computer
  • Type in a description of your experiment into the comment text box
  • Click the “Submit Comment” button
  • Grab the Creative Challenge button and add it to your site, or copy this text into your HTML.
  • For more Creative Challengesclick here.

    How are you celebrating Earth Day?

Simple Balloon Yo-Yo

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This springy balloon yo-yo is fun to play with, easy to make, and can be created with things that you may already have in the cupboard. It can also teach children a nice lesson in resourcefulness, helping them understand that toys can be invented from simple objects. In this day and age of toys overflowing from grocery shelves and toy baskets, this is always a welcome lesson in my home!

I was inspired to make these balloon yo-yo toys after seeing this postby Sherry and Donna at Irresistible Ideas for Play Based Learning.

I attached a balloon to a funnel and filled it with rice. Small seeds or beans would work too. Or you could go with Sherry and Donna’s plan and partially fill with water.

I tied up the end of the balloon and secured one rubber band around it with a knot.

I looped another rubber band onto the first one…

and carried on with this looping and attaching until I achieved the desired length. I used four rubber bands per yo-yo, but this would all depend on the size of the bands and the height of the child (or person using the yo-yo…it could be you!).

After making these, we took our yo-yo everywhere  as a diversion. We were visiting grandma and grandpa at a hotel, and N found a way to entertain herself while everyone finished up with breakfast. If you can believe it, this was the best photo…playing with the yo-yo is active business that turned all attempts at getting a clear photo into a blurry mess!

What toys have you or your kids invented?

This post was shared with It’s Playtime, Craft Schooling Sunday, Childhood 101, Sun Scholars

Dry Erase on Windows

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Why use paper and crayons when you can draw on windows with markers?

My husband invited us to visit him during a class he’s teaching on the intersection of design and improvisation (oh how I wish I had time to take this class!).  He brought N a dry erase marker to keep her occupied. Can you find little sister up there?

He led her to the large sliding doors, and suggested that she could draw on them. Lucky kid!

She loved it…

And rose to the challenge. (Haha. I couldn’t resist!)

A couple days later, just before breakfast, we found N sitting on our dining room table, drawing on the windows. Gasp! It was all good once we replaced the magic marker with a dry erase marker. Thankfully no Sharpies were involved!

Thinking about her next drawing move.

Idea in mind, she was back to the window.

Sitting back to inspect and appreciate the handiwork.

This activity is great for pushing the envelope of material possibilities. All you need are a dry erase marker and a good-sized window. Dry erase markers can stain porous surfaces, so be sure to give clear instructions about where the markers can be used. Windows can be wiped clean with a soft rag or cloth.

For more on white board drawing, visit this related post: Wonderful Whiteboarding.

This post was shared with It’s Playtime, Childhood 101, Art for Little Hands

Egg Dyeing Experiments

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News break :) If you like TinkerLab, please click on over here and give us your vote.

We won’t win anything, but the attention sure is nice!

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I’m excited to share my first inter-blog collaborative project. Are you ready?

Today I’m posting two Easter Egg projects in conjunction with Melissa of The Chocolate Muffin Tree.

After reading about last week’s Rolled Easter Egg Painting, Melissa suggested that we could have gotten extra mileage out of the project if we’d made it a two for one kind of thing. In case you missed it, N and I made paintings by rolling painted plastic Easter eggs all over pieces of paper. When the paintings were done I washed the eggs off, and Melissa’s idea is that we could have kept the eggs painted as decorative treasures. Of course! I loved this idea, so Melissa and I hatched a plan for today’s post: We would simultaneously experimented with Rolled Easter Egg Painting and we’d also share an idea for Naturally Dyed Easter Eggs. You can read my posts right here on TinkerLab, and Melissa’s are over here on her blog, The Chocolate Muffin Tree.

Dyed Egg Experiment #1: We made Rolled Wooden Eggs with wooden eggs, acrylic paint, and glitter. Click here for details.

Dyed Egg Experiment #2: We made Vegetable-dyed Easter Eggs from beets, cabbage, and onions, and used stickers, parsley, and rubber bands to add texture. Click here for more.

While Melissa and I worked with similar materials, our perspectives and those of our children are different, and we hope you’ll enjoy seeing how these experiments transpired in each of our homes.

If you’d like to join the collaboration and share your version of either egg-coloring process (or something entirely different!), you’re welcome to share a photo or link in the comments.

Rolled Wooden Eggs

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This is part of a collaboration with my friend Melissa’s blog, The Chocolate Muffin Tree. Scroll to the bottom for a link to her Two for One: Rolled Eggs. Her colors are amazing!

We started with some wooden eggs. Aren’t they pretty?

What we used

  • Wooden Eggs
  • Acrylic Paint. Acrylics will stain clothes, walls, etc. Be sure to cover anything you wouldn’t want permanently painted!
  • Foil-lined bowl for the paint
  • Glitter
  • Container for rolling eggs in
  • Paper cut to fit in container
  • Tongs

N dipped the eggs in some paint, placed them in the container, and then rolled them around. She thinks glitter is almost as exciting as lollipops, and glitter was added liberally!

After rolling the eggs around, the papers took on a life of their own. N used A LOT of paint, which gave the paintings a rich, thick appearance.

And because we used wooden eggs, rather than the plastic ones we used last week, we now have some treasures to pull out and enjoy year after year.

If you’d like to see the other side of the wooden egg collaboration, visit Melissa at The Chocolate Muffin Tree to read about how she and her daughter painted their own wooden eggs.

 

Bird Feeder & Hop Circle

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Today I’m sharing two outdoor activities for creative play…

#1: Peanut Butter Bird Feeder

Our house is shaded by an enormous pinecone-dropping machine, and these little beasts can be found in all corners of our mini-oasis. They are so begging to be turned into something, right? Peanut-butter coated pinecone bird feeders, here we come! (Apologies up-front to all my gluten and nut-free friends…this is why there are TWO activities in this post!).

We started by mixing some oat bran into our peanut butter. I read that this is healthier for birds than straigh-up peanut butter because the grains break up the sticky PB and aid their digestion.

Our little set-up: Peanut butter mix, Holiday cheese knife, Bowl of Birdseed, Twine, Scissors, Pinecones, and Paper to place the completed bird feeders on.

I twisted the twine on the cones and then handed them over to the queen peanut-butter spreader, who took her job very seriously.

She then coated them with seeds (from the dollar store – huzzah!). Which reminds me, I originally bought ten bags of the seed as an alternative to sand for our sand table. I highly recommend it as birdseed feels clean, it has a nice texture, and it has little specks of color that make it pop.

And there it is…ready for the birds. Not the pesky squirrels. Okay, are you ready for the sad part of this little tale? We made FOUR of these (4!), hung two by our house and two off a tree by the street. And not one of them was hanging the next morning! I’m pretty sure the squirrels managed to bring them down, but how? Clever little monsters! Has anyone else had this problem? What could we do differently?

#2: Hop Circle

It was a beautiful day, so N moved down to the sidewalk and started on some chalk drawings. She drew a (wobbly) circle on the ground and asked me if I’d draw more of them so that she could play “Hop Circle.” Haha. I kept calling it Circle-Scotch, but it didn’t really matter.

I thought it would be fun to add in some other shapes and drew a triangle. BIG mistake! I really should have checked with the creative director first, as this was NOT in the plan. Back to circles!

Once all the circles (and lone triangle) were laid out to her liking, she hopped away. How fun! And this reminds me of another hopscotch alternative I recently saw at Let the Children Play, where the kids drew a continuous hopscotch all around the school. Take a look!

Glittery Collage with Acrylic Gloss Medium

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Have you used gloss medium before? It’s a clear acrylic paint that is great for sealing two-dimensional projects.

I was cleaning out the laundry room and came across an old bottle of acrylic gloss medium and varnish. Have you ever used this stuff? It’s awesome! It’s essentially glue wrapped up in a paint bottle, and so easy to apply with a paintbrush. And when it dries it leaves a beautiful, unifying glossy finish that makes everything look purposeful.

I also have a stash of laminate and wood pieces that I thought would make a good substrate for this project. I let N go through the pile and choose the ones she wanted. You can see her two choices in the picture up there.

Materials

  • Acrylic gloss medium. I also like matte medium, but the final look is obviously different.
  • Wood, linoleum, cardboard or some other sturdy surface to collage onto.
  • Paintbrush
  • Collage papers: We used aluminum foil and bleeding tissue paper
  • Scissors
  • Bowl for the gloss medium
  • Glitter

We put the materials out together, and N wanted to cut the aluminum foil. I showed her how it’s easily torn, but she loves cutting. It’s very empowering, and I guess foil is pretty fun to cut.

While she worked on the aluminum foil, I started cutting the tissue paper. Why, I don’t know, since she wanted to do that too. I should know better.

Once it was all set up, she began painting gloss medium on the laminate…

and sticking papers onto it. We talked a bit about layering and composition, and I used language like, “You’re layering the yellow paper on top of the blue paper” and “I see you chose to put the red piece vertically, next to the green piece.” It’s the teacher in me, for sure, but language like this also helps build vocabulary and contextualize the process.

Once her fingers got a bit gooey, some of the pieces stuck to her hand and she realized she could ball them up and stick them down in a new way.

And then she spotted the glitter and came up with the idea of shaking it right into the medium. Bravo!

And oh my goodness, the party just began! This got goopy and gluey, and the middle layer got higher and higher. I can’t even remember how many times she asked if she could add more medium to the bowl.

Once dry, the medium is completely clear, allowing all of the colors to shine through. I’m really excited about this piece, and love that it was created on a more permanent substrate…perfect for hanging. It feels substantial and archival and I’m thinking it could be a pretty nice father’s day gift.

What are your ideas?

This post is linked to It’s Playtime

 

Rolled Easter Egg Painting

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When my daughter was about 2 1/2, her very favorite art activity was rolling paint-coated marbles all over sheets of paper. We made Rolling Rock Paintings with smooth rocks and Spooky Marble Spider Webs for Halloween. With Easter coming up, I was inspired to make something fun with the plastic eggs that consume dollar stores across the country. Not only is this fun to do, but the set up is easy and it’s a novel way to celebrate the spring season. On the developmental/arts experience level, kids will make choices about the colors they use, they will be active (standing and moving!), and they’ll learn how to manipulate the uneven balance of a rolling egg (as opposed to a more predictable rolling marble).

Materials

  • Easter eggs. I used plastic, but just about any eggs will do. If you can pry the chocolate ones away from your kids, more power to you!
  • Paint. Tempera or biocolors. Washable is always preferable!
  • Paper
  • Tray to hold the paper. We used a wooden tray, but I’ve also had great success with an open cardboard box.

Before we got to rolling, N wanted to dip half-eggs in the paint…

And print them.

Then she took a closed egg, rolled it in red and white paint (because her favorite color is pink, and she’s proud of her color-mixing knowledge!)…

…and then rolled it on the paper.

A few colors later!

So much fun. And clean up wasn’t too difficult — as long as you keep those eggs on the paper and in the tray!

What do you think?

This post is linked to It’s Playtime

Abstract Recycled Prints

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Back between my careers as a movie costumer and middle school art teacher, I was once a printmaker. Anyone else have a circuitous career path like that? In any case, I have an enormous passion for making all sorts of prints. While my daughter and I have made handprints galore, we’ve printed from sink mats, and stamps are a staple of our art table, this was her first foray into real printing with a brayer. If you’re new to printmaking, brayers are simply the rolling tools that help get the ink onto the plate (printing surface), and they’re easily found for about $8 at any art supply store. And once you have one, your kids will find all sorts of fun uses for it at the art table.

A print that I pulled (left) and one that my daughter pulled (right)

Materials

  • Meat/Veggie tray or Styrofoam plate. You can also buy a 12-pack of scratch-foam for about $6.
  • Ball point pen or sharpened pencil — for engraving
  • Scissors
  • Brayer, like this one
  • Water-based printing ink. I like Speedball inks. While you can use tempera or acrylic paint, printing ink has a desirable tack to it that keeps the ink from seeping into the cracks and holes of your design. The ink is permanent, so be sure to wear a smock and cover the table well.
  • Paper to print onto
  • Paper to cover the table
  • Tray or plate to squeeze the ink onto

We started by cutting a rectangle shape from the bottom of a meat tray.

And then drawing right onto the foam with a ballpoint pen. I didn’t give my daughter any direction except to make some marks. She began by drawing some long lines and then enjoyed poking holes all over the place. Lots of little dots. It was beautifully abstract and I couldn’t wait to see how it would print.

We moved to the art table I offered her two colors of ink. White or silver. She chose both, which is probably what I would do if I were almost three. I squeezed a small amount of ink near the top of a tray and then evenly coated the brayer. After demonstrating the technique once, it was all in her hands.

The ink makes a nice tacky noise that we both enjoyed.

She inked up the plate (her foam design), and was ready to print.

She chose a green piece of paper for the first print, and I showed her how we could press our weight on the plate to push it down on the paper. She had a better idea and found her rolling pin. Kids can be so resourceful!

When we pulled the print, she remarked that it looked like grapes. I quite agree! We printed one of these on some nice frame-worthy paper and sent it off to grandma for her birthday. And she loved it!

This post is shared on Childhood 101, Skip to My Lou, ABC and 123, It’s Playtime

What kind of prints do your kids like to make?