Why Our High Schools Need the Arts

Why our high schools need the arts

“A must-read for anyone who cares about dropout prevention, Dr. Hoffmann Davis’ latest book is laid out like a map of the developing teenage psyche, leading the reader to a clear understanding of why learning in the arts is critical to adolescent development and engagement in school.”

Kristen Paglia, Executive Director, Education and Programs at P.S. ARTS


 

It’s my great pleasure to be joined today by my graduate school mentor and founder of the Arts in Education Program at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, Jessica Hoffmann Davis. For anyone lucky enough to know Jessica in person, she’s a dynamic individual with a talent for breathing life into difficult topics through her easy manner and accessible conversation points.

In her most recent book, Why Our High Schools Need the Arts (Teachers College Press, 2011), Jessica argues that the arts “can give high school students a reason to attend and to stay in school.” If you know anything about the growing number of high school dropouts, this is a solution worth considering.

This book is a must-read for school administrators and education policy makers, but it’s also a call-to-action for concerned parents who hold the direction of a child’s future in their hands.


 

Why our high schools need the arts

Thanks for joining me today! Your book is full of descriptive narratives that capture the importance an arts-rich high school education. Can you share a favorite story from the book that exemplifies this point?

The story of a student coming out in a visual arts class is a great example of how the arts enable students to give shape to emotions and ideas that may be otherwise difficult to express. A fledgling visual art teacher had a student who was hiding her drawing all through the class. It was the drawing of two young women kissing. Finally, the student “meekly asked” if the teacher would allow her to continue the drawing. He was completely taken aback and replied, “I’m really not sure why you’re asking this question. It’s two people making out. They’re kissing. It’s a beautiful moment. So you want to know what I think? You need to punch up your shading around the jawlines if you want more drama. Those shadows should be directing the viewer’s eyes to the areas of the picture YOU want them to go to. Does that answer your question?” And with a big toothy grin, she just said, “Yes.”

As the parent of two small children who will one day become teenagers (eek!), I got a lot out of this book, particularly how to frame my passion for arts education for school administrators who have the power to make change. How do you hope parents, teachers, administrators, or policy makers will use this book?

I have been working the last several years on putting into words the things that make the arts essential to our children’s education AND (and this is important) what makes arts learning different from what students learn in their other classes. In this new book, as I did in an earlier one called Why Our Schools Need the Arts (2008), I delineate concrete aspects of the arts that give way to particular learning outcomes.. I hope this framework will help arts education advocates launch focussed and effective arguments. The arts are not frills. They are necessary in our children’s development and learning. For adolescents who are struggling with the difficult passage from childhood to adulthood, this is poignantly true. The arts give these students a reason to come to school and therefore, as I say in the book, can help reduce the drop out rate in our struggling high schools.

jessica hoffman davis and her grandson

Jessica watches her grandson paint

You’re the parent of THREE creative kids (now grown up). Can you tell us a little bit about how you raised your own children and what their high school art experiences were like?

I started early and introduced my sons to many hands on arts experiences and trips to art museums before they entered first grade. Although only one of them, my youngest, grew up to be a working artist, I do believe all three have a comfort with and love for art and a strong sense of the aesthetic. They also all had meaningful (if not extensive) arts encounters in high school. My oldest son, Josh eagerly performed in high school theatrical productions and I believe those experiences informed his love for public speaking—his debating in college and law school, and the presentations he does now as a lawyer, teacher, and talk radio guy. My middle son Alex, now an investment advisor, was very engaged in high school sports, but he loved the ceramics he got to do and he shows his little boy the pieces we have around the house with affection and I think still some real pride. My youngest, Benjamin, has always adored the arts and especially theater. He went to a high school where he had the chance to engage deeply in the visual arts and in theater and I think his role as Tevya (Fiddler on the Roof) senior year helped launch his career as an actor and master class teacher in L.A.

What books or websites are inspiring you right now?

One of the things that interests me at this stage of life is getting to know better the young person that I was. Perhaps by more than coincidence, since I’ve been studying high school aged students, I’ve been revisiting some of the books that I loved as a teen ager. I’ve been reading the work of F. Scott Fitzgerald (Tender is the Night, and the Far Side of Paradise) which I adored at that age and it’s been a very dear experience. As much as I enjoy these works in a different way now, I vividly remember falling in love with the writer, feeling I was the person for whom Fitzgerald wrote these books. I’ve also been excited and inspired by the work of some of my former graduate students. For example, Deb Putnoi has a great new book that’s just out called The Drawing Mind: Silence Your Inner Critic and Release Your Creative Spirit and Caleb Neelon’s The History of American Graffiti is wonderful as is Jim Daichendt’s Artist-Teacher: A Philosophy for Creating and Teaching
.

High School Jessica plays guitar with friends

You conclude the book with the idea that if you ask any high school graduate what they remember from high school they will “tell you of the time they played Captain Hook in the school musical or the day their poem was read aloud in assembly…” A couple of my own strongest memories are of playing flute for the musical Guys and Dolls and painting in the art studio long after class was over…so this definitely rings true for me. When you think back to your own high school memories, what has stuck with you?

I remember profoundly the production of a play that I’d written in high school through which I learned a great deal about a friend of mine whose role (which of course I played) was at the center of the story. It was thrilling to hear the words I’d written spoken by the other students who acted in my play and exciting to have created an artistic whole with so many parts. I haven’t done anything like it since except that two summers ago here in New Hampshire where I live, I wrote and directed a play about a group of women going back for their fiftieth high school reunion and the excitement I felt as the audience laughed at the lines I’d written brought me back to that moment of theatrical excitement so many years ago.

Is there anything else you’d like to share?

Tinkerlab is wonderful. Congratulations. I’m delighted to be featured here. Thank you Rachelle. Also, if anyone would like to be in touch with me around my writing and/or any of the issues I address, please contact me via my website: jessicahoffmanndavis.com

Thank you so much, Jessica! It’s such an honor to share you and your work with my readers and I hope you’ll come back and talk with us again soon.

Giveaway!

One lucky reader will be randomly chosen to receive a copy of Why Our High Schools Need the Arts. To enter, please leave a comment with your own fondest High School memory/ies by Sunday, May 6 at 9 pm PST. Prize recipient must have a U.S. address. Good luck! A winner has been selected. Thanks to everyone who entered.

Outdoor Body Painting

body painting

My kids are generally happiest outside, which I imagine is the same for most kids. The air is heating up and we’re looking for more opportunities to step outside, and I always love it when I land on ideas for combining my love for the outdoors and art (the perfect combination if you ask me).

The other day my 3 year old wanted to paint a big, smooth river rock that mysteriously turned up in our driveway, so I filled an old ice cube tray with non-toxic, AP certfied, washable liquid watercolors, and placed it outside with a few watercolor brushes. N got in a bathing suit and little R was happy in a diaper cover.

Go at it, kids! (This is where I step back and enjoy the sunshine and a cup of coffee).

rock painting

I had dinner with a friend about a month ago, and when the topic of my blog came up she said, “I love your blog, but you’re so messy!” It’s true, I’m not afraid of a mess, and for the most part my kids aren’t either.

Messes aren’t something I go in search of. I’m actually pretty wary of them because it generally means more cleaning work for me, and I really do hate cleaning. But mess-making and kids often go hand-in-hand. Because it’s important for children to experience feelings of flow with their creative energy, it helps to have some strategies for managing the mess.

body painting

Tips for Outdoor Painting with Kids

  1. Choose a warm day when everyone is happy to be half naked outdoors.
  2. Use washable paints. We used liquid watercolors, but tempera paint works great too. You could also add a little bit of dish soap to each color to help expedite the clean up. You don’t want to yell “stop” every three minutes, and the washable paint will let you breathe easy.
  3. Offer them something to paint: Rocks, logs, grass, and sidewalks are washable or can withstand a layer or two of paint. An old table? A wooden apple crate? Cardboard boxes? Extend the painting experience by offering different substrates.
  4. Hose off, sit in a wading pool, or have easy access to a tub or shower.

Although this began as a rock-painting activity, my 19 month old discovered that her skin was an empty canvas.

body painting

When they were done, I carried my youngest inside and plopped the two of them in the tub for a quick rinse off.

More Outdoor Painting Ideas

6 Ways to Take Art Outdoors

DIY Crushed Chalk Painting, The Chocolate Muffin Tree

Outdoor Water Painting: All you need is a tub of water and a brush for this clean painting activity

Painting a Pop-up Tent, Filth Wizardry

DIY Outdoor Easel Painting (and a clever idea for storing paint pots), Filth Wizardry

Brilliant idea for setting up an outdoor studio with Spray Painting Canvas Patio Walls, made from painter’s drop cloth, The Artful Parent

Where (and what) do your kids like to paint? How are you getting outdoors this summer?


 

I’m excited to share that I’m partnering with GoGo squeeZ as a Playbassador, which means that I have more excuses to get my kids outdoors for imaginative and unexpected outdoor play. GoGo squeeZ makes yummy applesauce for healthy, easy, on-the-go snacking, and I look forward to sharing some fun outdoor posts over the next few months that celebrate the spirit of this playful and easy-to-transport snack.

 


Check out GoGo squeeZ for more fun activities and tasty treats to take outdoors. My kids love every flavor of their applesauce, and it’s the easiest thing to take along with us to the park, hikes, beach, or backyard. It’s gluten-free and Kosher, and I’m impressed that they partner with TerraCycle to recycle their packaging into things like bags, pencil cases, and playgrounds. If you save your packaging, you can send it to TerraCycle free-of-charge!

Interested in more on the fun new GoGo squeeZ packaging? Get a first look here.

All ideas expressed in this post are my own.

Word Drawing Game

drawing game preschool

Do your kids like to draw? Do you ever play drawing games?

The other day my kids and I were cleaning out the garage. Well, really it was me while they loitered, moved things around, and made a lot of noise.

My 3-year old found an old, but never-before-opened game of a Cranium. She adores opening new packages and ran into the house for a pair of scissors.

Once the box was open and she was done exploring its contents, she asked if we could play. I love how open-minded and full of enthusiasm children can be.

If you look at the packaging I think it recommends this game for age 18 and older, so it wasn’t exactly age-appropriate, but we played a version that she enjoyed and I think it could work in some capacity for kids of all ages.

drawing games preschool

I searched through the deck of cards for something that she had some chance of drawing (and understanding). Which meant “no” on Devil’s Food Cake, Card Shark, and Wicked Witch of the East, and “yes” on Mermaids, Bubble Bath, and Potty (short for Potty Training).

My daughter can’t read yet, so this is how we played…

I pulled out a card and read it to her while she looked on (and maybe picked up on how letters form words). Then she drew it, to the best of her ability.

This part was the most fun for me, and in some cases frustrating for her. In the picture above, she was challenged to draw a mermaid and asked me if she could look at a picture of one. I pulled up a drawing of Disney’s Little Mermaid, she gave it her best effort, exclaimed that it looked nothing like a mermaid, and this exercise ended with, “it’s your turn.”

Then I drew one (a potty) while she guessed what I was drawing. Despite years of drawing classes, my drawing barely looked like a potty and it took her forever to make a correct guess. I think it helped her to see me struggle, showing that we can’t always create the things that our brains envision. At least I hope that’s what happened.

Back to her…she got to draw bubble bath…

drawing game preschool

Again, I was so curious to see how she would tackle this challenge. She chose a blue crayon….

drawing game preschool

Drew some water along the left side of the paper and bubbles on the right side. Ah, a bubble bath! We played a total of about 5 drawings before she was done.

If I were to do this again, I’d make my own cards with words of things that are in her drawing vocabulary: flowers, people, rockets, and rainbows. And I’d include a few things just outside of her drawing ability: house, bike, tree, bunny.

But venus flytraps and Hawaiian shirts may have to wait another 15 years.

More drawing games

Art Dice: A fun tool for creating randomly-created art. Also good for teaching shapes, colors, lines, etc.

Slide Drawing: A roll of paper and some crayons turn a slide into more than a downhill ride

Drawing Shadows: Play with sidewalk chalk on a sunny morning or afternoon

Organic Shape Monsters: You just need some string, a drawing tool, and a big imagination.

Hole inspiration: Draw around holes cut into a sheet of paper (The Artful Parent)

Challenge Drawings: Cut out shapes of paper and see what you can turn them into (The Artful Parent)

Pick and Draw Art Game: A deck of drawing cards reviewed by The Chocolate Muffin Tree

A simple way to learn how to Draw Circles from Lessons Learnt Journal

Stuck in a waiting room? Save this fun waiting room drawing idea (Mama Smiles)

Do you have a favorite drawing game or post about a drawing game?


Sensory Activity: Wheat Berries

sensory activity

Could your child spend hours sifting flour or scooping sand? Sensory activities like these can fully absorb the minds of young children as they test the limits of materials and build imaginary worlds through pouring, filling, and building.

This sensory activity is so easy, it doesn’t require a lot of materials, and the process of exploring tactile materials through hands-on play is good for growing brains.

But why wheat berries? Like rice or sand, wheat berries are fun to scoop, but the larger, rounder size has a different tactile feeling than these other materials. I’m not advocating for one over the other, but presenting this as an option that came on like gangbusters with my kids.

And you can grow or cook this nifty grain after the playing is done…scroll down for more on that.

wheat berry sensory activity

Materials

  • Wheat Berries*
  • Large Container
  • Small toys, bowls, and scoopers

* I found our wheat berries in the bulk bin aisle of Whole Foods, and used a full bag for this project. You can find wheat berries in most bulk bin aisles and online. I spotted this organic 25 Lb Bag of Hard Red Wheat Berries on Amazon and there are plenty of other choices there.

sensory activity

I poured the wheat berries into the tub and placed a few plastic eggs, a couple homemade paper funnels, a couple bowls, a scooper, and an egg carton next to the tub. My kids dropped what they wanted inside and started playing.

sensory activity

They came up with all sorts of ideas that surprised me, but perhaps the biggest surprise was watching them play alongside one another (well, across the table, actually) in total harmony.

The other surprise: This activity went on for days. Each night I would clean everything up, put the lid on the tab, and tuck it away under a cabinet. And the next day my toddler would ask me to pull it out.

sensory activity

The only mistake I made was setting this up over a shaggy carpet. It was such a mess, but nothing the vacuum couldn’t take care of. On a nice day, this would be fun outside, but I would caution you against setting this up over any dirt or land that you wouldn’t want wheat grass shooting up in.

They also brought dollhouse furniture and little action figures over to the tub, where they ran them through various adventures. My three-year old built a paper canoe (seen above), to fill with berries and take Strawberry Shortcake on rides down the river.

I loved watching how inventive they were with this simple grain as the backdrop for their creativity.

sensory activity

And suddenly the tub doesn’t seem so big anymore! When they exhausted all of their play options, walking right in the wheat berries, and eventually sitting in them became a game in itself.

More Wheat Berry Fun

wheat berry

Wheat Berry Gardening (above), Tinkerlab

Wheat Berry Salad with Dried Cherries and Walnuts, Ellie Krieger on Food Network

Wheatberry Salad with Bell Pepper and Red Onion, Barefoot Contessa on Food Network

A nice explanation on why wheat berries are good to eat, and a recipe for Greek Wheat Berry Salad, A Life Less Sweet blog

Have your kids played with this fun sensory grain?

Making Paper with Kids

how to make paper with kids


Easy step for making paper with kidsHave you ever made your own paper?
  It requires some patience and preparation, but it’s not tricky and the process is worth exploring with children or anyone who’s curious about how to make paper.

After my toddler, Baby Rainbow, created a sensory bin full of paper and water, I saw an opportunity to upcycle that mushy paper pulp into some new-to-us paper. We had most of the materials handy, but had to make a trip to the hardware store to buy a small screen.

The hardware store happens to be across the street from an ice cream parlor, so my kids were okay with that.

Two ice cream cones later, we returned home, put my youngest down for a nap, and got busy with some paper-making…

Let’s start with the materials (full printable recipe at the end of this post):

 

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Screen (we bought a $10 sliding window screen)
  • Large Tub
  • Washcloth/rag/burp cloth/large piece of felt
  • Water
  • Torn paper from newspaper, tissue paper, magazines, etc. Be sure that it’s staple and tape-free
  • Blender
  • Small seeds (optional)

how to make paper with kidsWhile Little R napped, big sister N and I talked about how paper is made while we shredded the paper up into little pieces (roughly 2″ square). She was non-plussed by the texture and asked me to finish the job.

how to make paper with kids

To get into the spirit and expand our knowledge of paper making, we watched a Mr. Roger’s episode about paper making. If you like this video you’ll also love learning about how crayons are made. Alternatively, here’s the video-free step-by-step (all from PBS Kids).

how to make paper with kids

After watching the film, N messed around with the supplies, inventing her own way to use them. We also picked up the gloves for gardening, and I suppose they were part of the paper-making costume.

I enjoyed watching her imaginative game, but back to paper making…

how to make paper

We added paper to the blender, covered it with water, and ran the blender on a low speed. Since we’re about to squeeze all the water out of the paper pulp, you can’t really have too much water, so if the blender doesn’t move easily, add more water.

how to make paper

Run the blender a little bit faster until you get the paper mixture into a nice, smooth pulp. Ours is kind of chunky, mostly because Baby R was sleeping and I didn’t want to push my luck!

She woke up anyway.

how to make paper with kids

When Little R woke up, she wanted to play with the pulp right away. She squeezed it, scooped it, and carried bowls full of pulp into the living room.

how to make paper

Once she was done playing with the pulp, we spread it thinly and uniformly across the screen and then layered a cloth diaper on top to absorb the extra water, while also pushing the water through the screen into the tub.

how to make paper

I placed one hand firmly on top of the cloth diaper while I flipped the screen over onto a work surface. 

how to make paper

I removed the screen and put the cloth with paper pulp in a spot where it could dry, undisturbed, for about a day. The thicker the paper, the longer it will take to dry.

how to make paper

Later the next day, this is what it looked like. Not your typical paper, but beautiful nonetheless. We haven’t done much with it yet, but I’m thinking some Sharpies or watercolor paint might be a good fit. And with the seeds embedded in the pulp, we could cut these up and give them away to friends, with the invitation to plant them in their gardens.

How to Make Paper with Kids
Author: 
Recipe type: Sensory, DIY
 
Making paper teaches children how one of our most ubiquitous materials — PAPER — is made, and it’s also a fun sensory project for kids of all ages.
Ingredients
  • Screen (we bought a $10 sliding window screen)
  • Large Tub
  • Washcloth/rag/burp cloth/large piece of felt
  • Water
  • Torn paper from newspaper, tissue paper, magazines, etc. Be sure that it’s staple and tape-free
  • Blender
  • Small seeds (optional)
Instructions
  1. Shred the paper up into little pieces (roughly 2″ square)
  2. Add paper to the blender, cover it with water, and run the blender on a low speed. Since you’ll squeeze all the water out of the paper pulp, you can’t really have too much water, so if the blender doesn’t move easily, add more water.
  3. Run the blender a little bit faster until you get the paper mixture into a nice, smooth pulp. Add more water if your pulp is still chunky.
  4. Spread the pulp in a thin and uniform layer across the screen
  5. Cover this with a rag or cloth diape to absorb the extra water, while also pushing the water through the screen into the tub.
  6. Place one hand firmly on top of the cloth and then flip the screen over onto a work surface.
  7. Removed the screen and put the cloth plus paper pulp in a spot where it could dry, undisturbed, for about a day. The thicker the paper, the longer it will take to dry.

 

Any other ideas for us?

More Handmade Paper Inspiration

Allison of No Time for Flashcards used and Immersion Blender to make Recycled Paper Hearts.

Jen of PaintCutPaste made Handmade Blooming Paper.

Rebekah of The Golden Gleam made Recycled Paper Ornaments for Christmas, but you could easily make these with ornaments of just about any shape.

Kristi of Creative Connections for Kids made Wildflower Paper Ornaments (using the same screen as us!).

Melitza of Play Activities made Earth Day Seeded Paper.

Sensory Activity: Wet Paper

sensory activities

paper sensory activityDoes your toddler enjoy squishing play dough, scooping rice, or dumping buckets of sand? It’s widely recognized (read here and here) that sensory activities play a central role in infant and child brain development.

This is one of those amazing activities that just “happened,” invented by a toddler who was curious about the combination of paper and water, and could be easily replicated in a home or school.

Clean up was a snap!
sensory activitiesI placed a towel on the kitchen floor, and filled a tub of water with a small bowl and ladle for water play. My three year old was building things in the other room with paper, and little R toddled and selected these two pieces of polka dot paper. Pretty.

sensory activitiesBut that wasn’t enough, apparently. She kept walking back and forth, grabbing small handfuls of paper to fill her tub.

sensory activitiesIt seemed that the challenge was to gather paper and squash it as deep into the water as possible.

sensory activitiesI thought I’d help her out a bit when I noticed the slippery trail of water from the kitchen to the dining room.

sensory activitiesAnd then I foraged the recycling bin and tore this magazine apart for her.

sensory activitiesShe finally sat down to work through the big magazine pile, happily engrossed in this meaningful activity.

sensory activitiesAs a last step, I handed her a pair of kitchen tongs for picking up pieces of paper. She’s not quite ready to use them for picking objects up, but she enjoyed snapping them and poking at the paper.

And just so you don’t think this all went to waste, it inspired me to turn the soggy paper mess into a paper-making project the next day. Stay tuned for that!

More Paper Sensory Activities

sensory activity shredded paper

Sensory Activity: Shredded Paper (above), Tinkerlab

Papier Mache as a Sensory Activity for Autism, Sharon’s Creative Corner

Sensory Tub with Shredded Paper, I Can Teach My Child

 

Creative Challenge: Egg Carton

nature collection in egg carton

Do you enjoy repurposing and upcycling materials into new things? Do you try to instill your children with the ability to be resourceful and mindful of their footprint on the environment? Then here’s a challenge for you!

Every two months I host a Creative Challenge with the introduction of a new material and an invitation for children to create something from it. The objective of these challenges is to encourage children to trust their own ideas, build creative confidence, and envision new purposes for common objects.

The rules of the game are simple: projects must include the challenge material, they should be be child-directed, but grown-ups are welcome to join in the fun if the mood strikes.

For this ninth creative challenge, children are invited to transform an egg carton into whatever they can dream up.  To participate, all are invited to add a photo to a comment or add a blog post to the Linky at the end of this post. Over forty bloggers and readers let me know in advance that they would participate and I hope that this will be an inspirational space for parents and caregivers who want to encourage creative thinking in their kids.

And, the fabulous kids’ activity crate subscription service, Kiwi Crate, is gracious enough to offer a free crate to one randomly selected winner. Read to the end for details.

Painting Egg cartonWe’ve been staring at egg cartons for weeks now, and my three year old hasn’t been too excited to manipulate this object. Yikes.

So I set up an invitation that she was eager to accept: Six small bottles of acrylic paint, a paper plate (palette), three brushes, and an egg carton.

She squeezed the paint onto the palette in rainbow order, and then painted each cavity a different color. A few minutes before I snapped this photo she mixed all the colors on another palette together and made the putty grey color you see on the right side of the crate.

She loved the name “putty grey” and made up a little song about it as she painted. I used this as an opportunity to encourage her to invent her own color names, but she didn’t bite.

nature collection in egg cartonI thought it could be fun to fill the holes with objects and natural materials that corresponded to the paint colors. She was less than enthusiastic about this idea and asked me to throw everything back into the garden.

Right.

As we developed a new game plan, a couple of her favorite friends stopped by and invited us to make lemonade with them.

But they didn’t have any lemons. How did they know that we did?

Cue: lemonade diversion…

squeezing lemonade with kids

A few hours later my toddler and I found a fun way to use the carton, and it reminds me of a baby version of that shell game you sometimes see on street corners of Manhattan. But no gambling here, I promise.

play baby gamesAfter noticing her interest in filling the egg carton with small toys, I filled each cavity with a plastic egg shell and then poured some glass bead treasures in a few eggs.

The treasures are great for burying in the sand box to dig up and discover, sprinkling around a garden, or pouring into a water table. You do have to be careful with small children who like to mouth little objects, and because of that we haven’t played with these for a while. But when you can confidently play with them, they sparkle and make everything more spectacular.

I loosely covered each egg and then my 1.5 year old had to find the treasures. She loved this! When she opened an empty egg she’d say, “Not there!”, but would shriek with laughter when she opened an egg filled with treasure.

This carried us until bath time, and I then I packed the game right up in the carton, ready to play again tomorrow.

play baby games

Thank you to the following blogs for participating in the challenge:

Child Central Station,  Red Ted ArtSun Hats & Wellie BootsTeach PreschoolThe Chocolate Muffin Tree The Educators’ Spin On It The Golden GleamGlittering MuffinsInspiration LaboratoriesKitchen Counter ChroniclesLiving At The Whiteheads ZooMake, Do & FriendMama Mia’sheart2heartNurtureStorePlayDrMomRainy Day Mum,  The Imagination TreeToddler ApprovedReading ConfettiKindergarten & Preschool for Parents & TeachersRainbowsWithinReachMommy Labs,  Green Owl ArtReusecraftsThe Outlaw Mom BlogHappyLittleMessesExperimenting-MomDuck Duck OctopusPaintCutPasteTrain Up a ChildGrowing A Jeweled Rose Coffee Cups and CrayonsReady. Set. Read!Scribble Doodle and DrawCarrots Are OrangeJDaniel4′s MomQuirky MommaA Mom With A Lesson PlanGood Long RoadTwo2Read

Check out their posts here, or add your own:

 

 



Thank you to our lovely sponsor, Kiwi Crate, for their ongoing support and generous giveaway. One lucky Tinkerlab reader will receive a free crate.

To enter to win, please leave a comment by Sunday, April April 15, 2012. And if you have material ideas for future challenge, I’d love to hear them.

Winner will be selected by random number generator and must have a U.S. address. Good luck!

A winner has been selected! Thank you to everyone who entered.


 Tinkerlab

 

Spring Art: How to Make a Bunny Garland

spring art bunny garland

Yesterday I shared how to make watercolor paintings with kids. And from those paintings, I cut out these cute little bunnies.

bunny garland

This was all my daughter’s idea.

She mapped out a plan for Spring decorating, and one of the things on her list was “a bunny garland, with bunnies that are the same shapes as the ones in in the mobile in your bedroom.” She tends to cut right to the chase.

spring art bunny garlandI asked for some advice here and on Facebook, on how we could turn our watercolor cut-outs into a garland, and you came back with some great ideas. Jen from the amazing blog, Paint Cut Paste, shared a Pinterest Board dedicated to all-things-garland, M Wall suggested that we use small clothespins, and Megan S. gave me the idea to add small paper clips and hang them from baker’s twine.

When I was out in the morning I did a quick hunt for tiny clothespins with no luck (that would have been cute, eh?), but I like how the colorful paperclips that I found ages ago at Daiso helped pull this together.

spring art bunny garlandI clipped them all up, leaving a few inches between bunnies, and then strung them in the garden.

The very windy garden.

And they lasted about three minutes before they were scattered all over the lawn and plants. Hmmm.

spring art bunny garlandSo we brought them inside where they’re safe and sound, helping us welcome Spring on this cool and windy Spring day.

To those of you who celebrate, Chag Pesach Sameach and Happy Easter!

 

How to Watercolor Bunnies with Kids

how to watercolor with kids

Watercolor is a medium that can be as demanding and temperamental as those who choose to paint with it. But it is a colorful and exciting medium all the same – well suited to describing the many moods of the subject, as well as those of the artist wielding the brush.

–Jean Burman

how to watercolor

Do your kids like to paint? Have you had success with watercolors? Traditional dry paint palettes of color are what most of us purchase for first watercolor experiments, but my go-to supply, and one of my favorite kid art supplies period, is liquid watercolor.

Watercolors are one of my favorite mediums to paint with, and somehow I forgot about that. I became an acrylic painter in high school, and then an oil painter after college. But the immediacy of watercolors — the flowing of colors from one into another and their quick-drying quality — makes it so appealing to the parent of young children who are equally quick and impatient.

I don’t have days to wait for paint to dry and I don’t have to worry myself over toxic paint stinking up my house. But watercolors are perfect and my kids adore them too.

how to watercolor with kidsTo set this up, I removed the usual plastic sheet that protects our art table and replaced it with red rosin paper. Red Rosin Paper is heavy sheathing paper usually used as a first step to cover new roofs, and you can find it in hardware stores. It comes on a huge roll, it’s economical, and it was perfect for absorbing the watercolor paint that didn’t make it onto the art paper.

Materials

  • Table cover
  • Watercolor Paper. This paper from Seth Cole is what we used. It’s 140 lb. (it’s thick and heavy = good), professional grade, acid-free, archival, and economical.
  • Liquid Watercolors. We like Sax Concentrated Liquid Watercolors from Amazon.
  • Assorted small paintbrushes (sable or synthetic fibers)
  • Container for watercolors — I like to use an ice cube tray. A styrofoam egg carton also works well.
  • Water cups or cans
  • Cloth or Paper towels

We filled our ice cube tray with every color we own (except black). I avoided black because if it’s not used with discretion it quickly muddles up all the colors. We talked about warm and cool colors, and divided our colors into these two camps: on one side there was red, orange, yellow, and sparkly red. The other side held lime green, turquoise, blue, sparkly blue, and violet.

Set up your towels next to the paint and brushes and use them to absorb extra water or paint of the brush.

how to watercolor with kids

I like to paint across from or next to my daughter because I find that her own ideas expand when she sees me work through my ideas. I never paint on her painting, but I may test some ideas out on my own paper that can help her come up with her own solutions.

We explored two kinds of watercolor painting: wet on dry and wet on wet. Wet on dry is the process of painting on dry paper. And wet on wet is the process of painting on wet paper. She painted a little wet on dry, and then I demonstrated wet on wet for her. She’s done this before, but seeing it again got her excited and she wanted to see the colors expand on her paper. You can see the wet on wet blue dots on the left side of her paper.

how to watercolor with kids

I also experimented with tapping the side of my wet, paint-loaded brush to create dots of paint all over my page, and she did the same. She loved this, actually, and thought it was hilarious when the paint splattered her face. Good lesson in paint control!

If you’re new to watercolor painting, it helps to talk with your child about gently dragging a loaded (full) brush against the edge of the paint container before painting. This helps keep paint puddles to a minimum and also teaches your child how to control the amount of paint that goes onto the paper. I wouldn’t worry about this too much with really young children, but be three or four, your child should be able to grasp this concept.

how to watercolor with kidsAll along, her plan was to make a bunny garland to hang in our window, so we let the paintings dry and I made  bunny template that she was happy with.

how to watercolor with kidsWe placed it over the paper to see how it might look. Love it!

how to watercolor with kidsAnd then I traced them on the back of the paper. The hardest part of this process was cutting the bunnies out. Not hard, exactly, but just to warn you, this step took a fair amount of time.

how to watercolor with kidsAnd there’s our first batch of bunnies, waiting to be strung up in the window.

I’m not sure exactly how we’ll hang them. Any ideas for us? I was thinking about gluing baker’s twine to the backs, but I’d like them to be somewhat archival so that we can use them year after year.

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If you enjoy watercolor painting, you’ll want to bookmark Spiral Watercolor Streamer, Straw-blown Watercolor Painting,and Candle Wax Watercolor Resist and you will want to check out The Artful Parent’s great list of 11 Fun Watercolor Projects for Kids.

 

 

Mining the Garage for Toys

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Did you ever play with a Lite Brite? How about Star Wars Action figures? We dusted off some old favorites and have breathed new life into these throw-backs to my own childhood and beyond. Classic toys have a simplicity to them that can generate creative thinking. And although they may be old to us, when they’re new-to-kids they have a freshness to them can can build imagination skills and encourage exploration skills.

Lite Brite

I couldn’t believe my luck when I found this vintage Lite Brite, in perfect spic-and-span condition, at a second hand store.

The mechanics of the toy are so outdated — the tray lights up with the power of one very strong lightbulb, which assaults your eyes if you look at it from the wrong angle, and the heat of the bulb left me wondering how long I could safely leave it on this rug unattended. Not to mention the itsy-bitsy pieces that are clearly choking hazards.

However, with close supervision, once they’re done fighting over the who gets which game piece, my kids LOVE this toy.

Lite Brites have come a long way, and now you can buy the Lite-Brite Cube (Amazon). And Slinky came up with the Slinky Hall of Fame Toy Pack, a smart little all-in-one pack that includes an original Slinky, Duncan yo-yo, Crayola Crayons, and Silly Putty. Oh my.

Vintage Typewriter

I was on the hunt for a vintage typewriter for some time, and came across this beautiful machine on Craigslist. My computer-savvy kids like plucking away at the keys (no finger swiping here!), and I adore the quality of the type-written word. It’s beautiful, and comes in handy if you like scrap booking or adding a handmade look to letters, cards, or gifts.

Overhead Projector

I recently posted about our new-to-us Overhead Projector. My daughter had no idea what this object was, and before we played with it we had a fun discussion trying to figure it out. Once we set it up, we made light patterns with transparent tangram tiles.

One reader suggested that we could add transparencies of artworks or objects, and try to guess what they are as they are slowly brought into focus. Another thought is to draw on transparencies or paper-thin plastic with Sharpies. Lots of opportunities for discovery here.

Where to hunt

More 0f our Vintage Favorites

  • Playing with dad’s original Star Wars action figures and space ships. You can find new Millennium Falcons here, although there’s nothing like the original!
  • Music Boxes like these Fairy Jewelry Boxes.
  • Playing with mom and grandma’s costume jewelry.

What were your favorite childhood toys and what blasts from the past have been revived in your home?