Candle Wax Watercolor Resist

Ever since my 13-month old turned one she’s been fascinated with candles, so every week or so we bust out a birthday candle and sing five or six rounds of Happy Birthday to her. One of these candles was lying around and N, my three-year old, decided to draw with it. I immediately saw the opportunity to turn this into a wax-resist watercolor lesson — you know, where you paint with watercolors on top of a waxy drawing in order to reveal the lines of your drawing — and I ran to grab the watercolor paints, brushes, water, and paper towel.

By the time I settled down and got it all set up, N was ready for the paint.

The set up: Watercolor paper, birthday candle, paper towel (for blotting saturated brushes), bowl of water, watercolor paint palette, brush.

N has been painting with watercolors for a couple years now, but every time we sit down with them I have to remind her how to clean the brush by making it “dance in the water,” and how to use the paper towel to blot excess water. But of course she never uses the paper towel. In my experience, watercolor paint is not the best painting medium for young children because it doesn’t allow for fluid mark-making as much as other gooey + runny paints like tempera might, but it’s appealing to parents because it’s cheap and far easier to clean up than tempera. So, if you’re inclined to use it, go for it, but don’t expect the paint cakes to hold onto their distinct colors for long!

My one year old couldn’t pass up the opportunity to join in — it’s impossible to distract her away from the art table when we’re working at it, so she got her own paints, etc. Did you catch my rookie move up there? Dont’ worry, I caught it quickly…

Orange smock to the rescue! We have all sorts of aprons, but I find that my kids are most comfortable in my old t-shirts. If we’re working with really wet stuff, a waterproof apron is still the best way to go. Little R was interested in holding a brush, but this became a fingerpainting/pick-the-paint-cakes-out-of-the-case project for her.

Ahhh, a lovely quiet moment of art making. Circling back to the wax resist part of this post, I imagined that N would be enthralled by the magic of it, especially since she initiated the candle drawing in the first place. But she wasn’t all that impressed and turned her watercolor painting efforts toward other things in subsequent paintings. It was still an afternoon full of passion and industry, so no complaints here! And while our final product didn’t turn out so “spectacular,” I urge you to give this project a go if you think your child will enjoy it.

How do you respond to self-initiated art activities?

Halloween Tree

Are you getting into the Halloween Spirit? At the first site of Halloween costumes (um, I think it may have been in August), my older daughter was overwhelmed with excitement to pull our decorations out of storage. I made her wait until September, which also seemed ridiculously early but at least it wasn’t August! We’ve already tackled at least five Halloween-related projects, so I have plenty to share with you in the next few weeks. If you’re looking for process-based Halloween projects, definitely check back soon!

One of the things I dug out is a glittery, black Halloween tree. We had orange, black, and green paper on the table from a collage project, and N decided it would be fun to make ornaments for the tree. Ha! I never would have thought of this, and adore how inventive children can be. Two of my favorite things about this project: it’s low-cost (assuming you already have the tree) and it’s a great way for little ones to work on cutting, stapling, and decision-making.

Materials

N had a plan to cut shapes out of the paper, staple small pieces on top of them, and color some of them with markers. I loved it! When her ornaments were ready, she told me where to poke the holes and then I strung them with partially opened paper clips. Do you know this trick? Someone recently told me how you can use paperclips as ornament hangers in a pinch, and I had no idea that this random bit of knowledge would come in handy so soon!

And there it is, our Halloween Tree. What do you think?

Think Different

“Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently.” – Steve Jobs

I never met Steve Jobs, but his life’s work has influenced me in multiple ways, both subtle and overt, and it’s impossible for me to pass up the opportunity to acknowledge my gratitude for his attention to detail, user experience, and life-changing technological inovation. I’m writing this post on my Mac while downloading photos off my iPhone, and I can think of a million ways in which these tools have altered my life’s work and interactions. The phone, for one, has kept my brain occupied in the middle of the night during some of my hardest nights of early motherhood, connected my children with their grandparents who live miles away, enabled me to snap impromptu photos and videos of milestone moments (or not) when I left my real camera at home, helped me find my way to restaurants/baby showers/weddings/mechanics/airports/towing companies (not a favorite experience, but thank goodness for the phone!).

By some error of craziness, I happen to live near Steve Jobs and paid my respect by lighting candles in a touching street-side memorial in front of his home. The memorial grew by morning and it’s more than apparent that his influence reached so many.

One of the main reasons I write this blog is to prompt, suggest, and gently push parents and caregivers toward raising creative children. This isn’t a soapbox, and if you’re here it’s most likely because you also see the importance of creative thinking, but I also want to stress the point that we have to grab the one chance we have to raise children to be their own true selves, to follow their big ideas, to test juxtapositions that may turn into something entirely novel, and to think different. I’m inspired by Steve Jobs’ life — his strong inner compass that directed him to follow his wild ideas despite convention and the allure of an easy road to success.

I found this video from Apple’s Think Different campaign, and it happens to be the only one narrated by Steve Jobs himself. It never aired. And it’s short. If you’re like me, you’ll enjoy hearing the voice of what many consider the Thomas Edison of our time.

And I’d love to know: How has Steve Jobs’ influence changed your life?

Bean Bags for Babies

I mentioned in yesterday’s post that we made these sweet little pyramid bean bags, courtesy of The Artful Parent. I filled ours with buckwheat (picked up in the bulk section of Whole Foods) that I had to fill those lovely hot/cold therapeutic eye pillows, so I knew it would work well for these too. These little bean bags would be wonderful for all sorts of things, and in this case they were perfect for fostering hand-eye coordination and the age-old favorite of filling and emptying a container.

While I’m not a professional stitcher, I was able to crank out a full set of bean bags for my one year old during her nap. For full disclosure I’ve been sewing since I was young and studied costume design in college, but my machine has been gathering yards of dust since my kids were born. (Shhhh…if you look closely you’ll see that I made a mess out of my stitching.) If you’re a sewing veteran you’ll crank them out too, and if you’re new to sewing this is as easy as sewing gets — just give yourself time to make these and you’ll zip them out in no time.

My older daughter passed this great Melissa and Doug toy down to my one-year-old, but by the time it got to her we didn’t have all the pieces. Frustrating!

But it turns out that it’s a spectacular tool for babies to sort these small beanbags. If you don’t have a similar toy in your home, you could also try this DIY baby bucketmade from a yogurt container.

Where did they all go?

Wouldn’t these be lovely gifts for babies? It’s not too early to start thinking about the holidays, is it?

This post shared with It’s Playtime

Machine Sewing with a Preschooler

The other day my 3-year-old asked if we could “look on the computer for an art activity” which I suppose says a lot about what computer time looks like in my house!

So I opened up one of my favorite blogs, The Artful Parent, and saw that our friend Jean was sharing simple pyramid-shaped beanbags. N was intrigued and immediately said that she wanted to make some beanbags too. In my mind, child-directed projects are often the most successful, so I took the opportunity to pull out the sewing machine and began to teach my daughter how to sew.

I invited N to choose the fabric from my stash, and then she cozied up with some remnants and my gigantic scissors while I cut the pattern.

To begin our sewing lesson, I propped the foot pedal up on a couple of thick art books (see, they ARE good for something!) and explained how it worked.

She helped me fill the bobbin with red thread and got the hang of the pressure surprisingly quick. Good practice! She stepped aside to watch me sew a few beanbags together, and then wanted her own turn to sew her remnants together.

I helped her sew three sides together, flip it inside out with a pencil, and she was BEAMING when she discovered that she had sewn a “pencil cover!” Of course!

And these are my completed bean bags. They were a snap to make and have brought so much joy to my one year old. But more on that tomorrow!

If your child isn’t yet ready for machine sewing, check out how I started my daughter off with hand sewing. 

This post shared with It’s Playtime

 

 

Fabric Stamping and Painting

Despite our vast apron collection, one of my daughter’s favorite dresses was splattered with blue paint stains. I tried to casually brush it off (no pun intended), but she was keenly aware of those stains and wouldn’t wear it. So we came up with a plan to cover the little blue dots with fabric paint, and it worked! I lined the dress with a piece of foam core (cardboard would also work), and we were ready to go.

To make the paint, I added Textile Medium to acrylic paint — the textile medium thins the paint so that’s it adheres nicely to the fabric. N mixed it up and applied it to a large foam stamp, and then pressed it on the dress. Not on the blue paint stain exactly, but there’s time for that.

The fabric medium is awesome because it can be added to any acrylic paint and makes painting on fabric much more economical than buying individual bottles or tubes of fabric paint.

The large scale of these foam stamps worked well with the goopy paint.

At some point, N decided that sidestepping the stamps and going straight for painting on fabric was the way to go. Hello, Project Runway moment! Do you think Michael Kors would say it looks like unicorn crashed into a Kindergarten cotton candy factory? I was actually surprised that she left a fair amount of the dress unpainted. And, she painted over those blue stains…not that it really mattered at this point!

My daughter was so proud of her mad fabric painting skills that she requested MORE CLOTHES. But not hers…MINE. I should have seen this coming. I found a pair of yoga pants that needed some embellishment.

After it dried and took a spin in the washing machine, the new dress was good to wear. I was taken by how proud she was of it when she wore it to school later that week. If you want to empower your children, “making” their own clothes could be a good way to go. Or, with Halloween right around the corner, maybe painting on clothes could be incorporated into your costume-making plans.

Have you ever painted clothes with your kids? What did you do?