Circular Patterns + Creative Thinking

paper plate mandala

Despite the thousands of ideas you’ve seen floating around the internet, do you ever feel like you’re at a loss for an art activity that your kids will enjoy, while also challenging them to think?

mandala

Children get excited about solving real problems, and the problem in this project lies in figuring out how to circumnavigate a paper plate with color and patterns. While tackling the challenge of working in the round and developing a series of patterns, you can also feel good knowing that this helps with spatial reasoning and math skills too!

Further, this project is great for building creative thinking skills and the imagination.

Oh, and did I mention that the set-up and materials are ridiculously simple. You don’t need a lot of art know-how to make this work for you.

Materials

  • Paper Plates
  • Markers or Paint

paper plate mandala

We cleared off the coffee table and I gave each of my children (Nutmeg is 4 and Rainbow is 21 months) a paper plate and a caddy of markers. Simple, right?

I started by talking about how we were going to draw around the plate in circles, and then began by drawing on my own plate (in the foreground). I started with a small green flower, and then surrounded it with a circle, another circle of dots, a circle, and so on.

Nutmeg quickly caught on and plotted her own take on a circular pattern. Baby R didn’t draw in circles, but happily did her own thing with plates and markers.

paper plate mandala

Most likely because I initiated my own plate with a flower at its center, many of N’s designs looped around a flower too. The power of suggestion is strong, and I think children can learn a lot from their parents and teachers, but it’s smart to be mindful of this phenomena.

paper plate mandala

Later in the day while Baby Rainbow napped, Nutmeg wanted to try this project with paint. So I set her up with yogurt containers filled with a little bit of Liquid Watercolor Paint (such a great product, from Discount School Supply).

All in all, we created about 12 plates this day. Because they were all colored on the back side, I saved them and we’ll use them on a picnic one day soon.

paper plate mandala

What do you think? Do you have a stack of paper plates that could use a little bit of color? Or maybe you could try this on your next picnic?

More Circular Challenges

Tracing Circles, Tinkerlab

Painting Around the Hole, The Artful Parent

Leaf Mandalas for the Wall, The Artful Parent

Spirograph Mandalas, Paint Cut Paste

Easy Art for Kids – Circle Printing, Picklebums

 

Easy Peasy Rock Painting

rocks rock painting

rock painting

This is such an easy project and my kids (almost 4 and 20 months) have gone crazy for it. And I have to confess that I really enjoyed it too. Very addictive. I chalk their enthusiasm (and mine) up to a couple things:

  1. Painting or drawing on a 3-dimensional surface is a fun challenge
  2. The colors of the paint markers are vivid and opaque (i.e. pretty), and very easy to use.

rock painting

There are lots of ways to paint a rock, for example, we recently painted a big rock with watercolor paints. But the method I’m sharing today is so easy and the mess is minimal.

Materials

  1. Selection of smooth river or beach rocks
  2. Paint markers. We used Elmer’s Painters Pens
  3. Covered table (the markers leave a mess on the work area that you’ll be happy that you prepared for it).

rocks rock painting

If your markers are new, you’ll want to shake them a bit and depress the tips until the paint starts to flow. Just follow the directions of your paint. 3-year old N wanted to make each of her rocks unique.

rocks rock painting

And her sister, Baby R, enjoyed the challenges of learning to hold the marker and controlling the lines as they hit the rock.

rocks rock painting

N was so proud of her creations, and actually hid her favorites (not seen here) in a closet for Father’s Day. Phew, guess I’m off the gift-giving hook.

The rocks really are spectacular and seeing them makes me so happy.

A small clean-up caveat: the ink will get all over your kids’ hands, but don’t fret. The mess would have been much worse if you’d given them a bowl of acrylic paint and brushes. And it will all come within a day or two.

More Rock Painting

rocks magnets

Jen at Paint Cut Paste shows you how to make thumbprint rock magnets. Tweet Tweet.

rocks rock painting

This is one of my first posts: Rolling Rock Painting. It’s like rolling ball painting, but a little bit more unpredictable.

rocks rock painting

I love homemade games, and this rock domino set from Martha Stewart would make me so happy.

Have you or your kids painted rocks? If you’re a blogger, feel free to share a link in your comment.

DPS Sketchbook Challenge, Made Easy

Double page spread sketchbook challenge

Double page spread sketchbook challenge

Are you participating in the DPS challenge? You can join at any time and your sketches can be as basic or complex as you like. My friend, Aude, told me that some of the entries I shared last week intimidated her. These weren’t her words exactly, but that was the gist of it, and I thought I needed to reset this challenge since that wasn’t my intent at all. I love how the honesty of good friends can help me grow and and hope you’ll also tell me if I get off track.

If you felt the same way or felt discouraged by this challenge, I hope you’ll consider giving it a try. The idea is to show up — FOR YOURSELF — and make something almost every day.

So I’m sharing some of my quickest, simplest DPS entries as examples of how easy this can be. The threshold for joining isn’t that high and the time commitment isn’t too grand.

In the picture above, my kids and I painted on a piece of paper that I later glued to my sketchbook. When it dried I added some glitter glue and white reinforcement stickers. It’s simple and didn’t require a lot of special talent, but it works.

sketchbook challenge

This challenge isn’t for everyone, I understand that, but if you’re the least bit interested in charging your creative batteries, I hope you’ll consider giving it a go. The process has done tremendous things for my own creativity and my kids’ as well. As I sketched over breakfast the other day my daughter said excitedly, “can you get me my sketchbook? You gave me an idea!”

sketchbook challenge

The other wonderful part of this project is the growing community of enthusiastic and supportive #tinkersketchers. If you’re on Facebook, you can see some of the images that readers have added on my wall. And if you’re on Instagram, you can search for #tinkersketch where you’ll see the full gallery of participants’ posts. We comment on each other’s images and provide each other with the motivation to keep going.

I have to share this comment from Angalata in Spain because it summarizes the spirit of this project so well:

“I feel so lucky… I found people who look what I do and who wants to share with me what they create (and nobody judges nobody creations), I can express myself, I delight with beautiful sketches, collages, compositions, paintings… I think about what (or most important… HOW) can i create something… some days it takes me 5 minutes and other days I spend about an hour… I create with my kids, alone, or with my dear husband playing his guitar… and because create something is the ONLY WAY to create. Maybe some of our #tinkersketch creations ar imperfect, as you say, but I love them because they are a present for myself. I am a proud confetti owner (and, al last, I recive free english lessons, too ;-D) So… thank you, Rachelle and my lovely #tinkersketchers.”

This week’s DPS prompts:

I’ll post prompts on my site at the beginning of each week. Some of you requested them, others did not. Feel free to use them if they work for you, or ignore them completely.

  • Copy a pattern from a towel, dish, napkin, etc.
  • Doodle with your eyes closed
  • Write words that your children say and circle your favorite ones
  • Make another picture with those favorite words
  • Rubber stamp it
  • Paint with red wine vinegar
  • Listen to a song and draw doodles along with the movement of the music

Do you have ideas for prompts?

The more ideas, the better! I’d love to share them, so go ahead and add them in a comment

 Share

  • Facebook: Upload a photo of your DPS directly to the Tinkerlab Facebook page
  • Instagram: Upload a photo of your DPS with the hashtag #tinkersketch. My username is tinkerlab, in case you’d like to follow me
  • Google+: Upload your DPS photo to your own page. Tag me @rachelle doorley  and/or @tinkerlab. Add the hashtag #tinkersketch
  • Twitter: Add the hashtag #tinkersketch

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?


Chalkboard Painted Canvas

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“Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.” – Pablo Picasso

Chalkboards…I love them. You? The texture, the dust, and contrast are oh-so-appealing.

When I started to see them disappear from classrooms in favor of dry erase boards, I was a little bit shocked. Dry erase boards are wonderful too, but they’ll never have the same rustic appeal as a chalkboard.

This project began when I found a $3 canvas at a thrift store back in September (it had a print of a cow on it — truly hideous), and painted over it with a few layers of black chalkboard paint. Since October, it’s been filled with these house “rules,” and while I enjoyed looking at them, and even managed to inspire a neighbor to add some chalkboard quotes to her own kitchen, I was ready for a fresh start and enlisted the help of my crew to come up with something new.

And maybe I was feeling a little bit guilty on those days that I just ate buttered toast and wanted to spit. Maybe.

So I pulled the canvas down, wiped it clean with a damp rag, and let the kids go to town.

They loved it.

This is how it looked two weeks ago, and then this week we started all over again.

We also have a chalkboard that’s painted right onto part of our kitchen door, and it gets a lot of use for everything from chicken scratches to make-shift calendars to homemade infographics.

We collaborated on this one: the bunny is mine, the yellow is N, and the pink is Baby R. Funny thing, at least for me, is that back when I was brainstorming names for this blog, I called it Chalkbunny for a couple months before landing on Tinkerlab. So here we have a real, live chalk bunny, which is what we decided to call the little character in my new banner.

Do you have a well-loved chalkboard? What makes it special? And how do your kids use it?

 

Organic Shape Monsters for Halloween

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When I saw this idea over at We Heart Art, I loved it for its open-ended qualities and simplicity. Joanna did this project with Kindergarteners, but it was adaptable to my 3-year old and could easily scale up for older children. Plus, the monster theme played out so nicely with Halloween right around the corner. Grrrrr….

And, are you ready to hear how easy this is? All you need are about 20″ of yarn, paper, and some markers or crayons. 

We talked about witches, ghosts, and jack-o’-lanterns all morning, so when I asked if N wanted to make a monster she was game. In general, she hasn’t drawn too many realistic drawings, so I was curious to see where this experiment would go. We each started out with a piece of yarn. I moved the yarn around my page to make an organic shape, connected the two ends to close it, and then traced an outline around the shape. N took note and did the same. So far, the process intrigued her.

We removed the yarn and I invited her to turn it into a monster. And this is what’s so cool about this project: There’s no expectation and the outcome is totally up to the child’s imagination. The red apostrophe shape she’s working on is a little baby monster. Awwww. At first glance I thought it was the mouth, which is a good reminder on why it’s best to never make assumptions and ask the child about their work without making interpretations!

Okay, now you can see the mouth. Ferocious!

She also added some arms, eye lashes, a forehead, a belly button, and fur. It’s kind of Jabba the Hutt, no? And despite it’s obvious scariness, I love it!

Have you ever heard that people learn as they teach? (In case you’re wondering, it can be credited to the Roman philosopher, Seneca — I had to look it up, and subsequently learned about it so I could share it with you!). Well, N’s friend came over the next day, and at one point in the afternoon the two of them sat down at the art table and she independently showed him how to make a monster! You can imagine my surprise and delight — I guess she really embraced the concept and thought it was worth sharing.

Have you witnessed your child teach someone how to do something?

Do you have a have a favorite Halloween project?

This project is shared with It’s Playtime, Sunday Showcase, TGIF

Pop-up Paper Zoo

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I love collaborating with my three-year old, so I was thrilled when she came up with this idea for me to draw animal shapes for her to color in. We don’t have coloring books in our house (aside from a mandala coloring book suggested by Jen at Paint Cut Paste), so maybe this fed some deep seated need to color in the lines? When I drew the outline of the first animal I wasn’t sure where this was going, but N started coloring away with a clear vision in mind. She’s a true director, putting me to work on the the details while she masterminded the big picture. When she came up with an idea to make the animals stand up, we cut them out, cut small slits in the bottom of the animals and a matching slit in the opposing “stand,” and we suddenly had the makings of a zoo!

Materials

  • Card stock
  • Favorite mark-making tools: Markers, crayons, colored pencils
  • Scissors
After working on the bee, N worked on which way she wanted it to stand.

And she even made her own animal shape. I tried to pin her down (in the most open-ended way possible) on a name or type of animal, but she kept me guessing. I think it was just a shape, but you never know!

She colored both sides of the animals, making them truly three-dimensional. She’s just started to draw with representational marks, and I love seeing how faces and other recognizable objects emerge through these marks.

Our zoo family!

Would you make a pop-up zoo?

After making these I thought some of you might like to have some animal templates to print out. If you do, let me know and I’ll make a PDF set that you can download.

This post is shared with It’s Playtime, World Animal Day Bloghop

Cookie Sheet Monoprints

drawing patterns on ink for monoprint


When I discovered printmaking after college, I learned how to make everything from intaglio prints to screen prints. I simply adore working in this medium!! Children and printmaking haven’t been an easy combination for me — the inks can be toxic and the materials can take over a space, but I’ve been taking every opportunity I can to bring printmaking down to my child’s level, and each of our printing sessions has been engaging for both of us. There’s so much magic in pulling prints — if you haven’t tried it yet, I encourage you to give it a go. I’ll add links to our other printmaking projects at the bottom of this post.

Monoprinting is a lovely combination of printing and painting. Printmaking is usually defined as a images made in multiples, and monoprints are the exception as each “print” is one-of-a-kind (“mono” meaning “one”). These prints are ridiculously easy to make — you just need a little bit of table or floor space to store the drying prints.

To make these prints, we started with:

N chose a green and blue paint combination. I squeezed a little bit onto the cookie sheet (you can always add more if it’s needed) and she moved it around with the brayer.

I placed a cup of Q-tips on the table for easy access.

Then she used a Q-tip to make marks in the paint. I’m interested in giving my daughter full control of her art-making experiences, and would only step in to smooth the paint or help remove/add paper. I believe that taking on the role of facilitator encourages her creative confidence.

She pressed paper down to pick up the print.

And peeled it back to reveal some printing magic!

So many patterns and shapes were explored.

And of course, no painting activity is complete without the requisite hands-in-the-paint experience!

I often get asked “what do you do with all that art after your child makes it?” If only we could keep every piece! But my house is small and I can’t keep a lot of stuff around for very long. A lot of it gets recycled, a few key pieces are saved in our archive box, most of it is photographed, a few pieces make their way onto our fridge or walls, and the rest gets turned into gift wrap, presents, or cards. Because we used thin paper to make these, they were perfect for cutting up and glueing onto thank-you cards with a glue stick.

More printmaking projects on TinkerLab

Bubble Wrap Prints

Sweet Potato Prints

Abstract Prints using Foam Trays

Sink Mat Prints

Printmaking around the Web

Nature Prints in Sculpey: The Artful Parent 

Leaf Print Garden Flags: Paint Cut Paste

Printmaking with Toys: Childhood 101 

Pool Noodle Printing: The Chocolate Muffin Tree

Watercolor, Leaves, and Saran Wrap: A new way to Make Leaf Prints: The Artful Parent

Glue Prints: The Chocolate Muffin Tree 

This post is shared with It’s Playtime 

Blending Chalk Pastels

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We started with a box of chalk pastels and construction paper. I happened upon this amazing box for $5 at an art studio sale. They’re wonderful, but really, any chalk pastels will do. I’m not  inclined to recommend construction paper because it’s not at all archival, but its toothy nature makes it a good substrate for chalk pastels (as long as you’re not planning to keep these forever).

After mentioning to N that I like the look of bright pastels against a dark paper, she asked for a piece of black paper. It’s a striking contrast, no?

I explained that one of the unique properties of chalk pastels is that they can be blended, and that we could try blending ours with a tissue. N remembered a bowl of cotton balls that we used to make  our Glittery Cotton Ball Collage, and wanted to use those instead. Good idea!

She found this process exciting, and was in a big hurry to put chalk on the paper for the express purpose of wiping it away.

This was followed by a series of mini blended chalk drawings. We went through a lot of cotton balls, and now I think she has a pretty good understanding of how chalk pastels work!

Do your kids like to use chalk pastels? When I was teaching, there were always a few kids who didn’t like to use these because they didn’t like the dust or the texture. Something to keep in mind if your child doesn’t take to it. And while it’s not quite the same, oil pastels are a nice alternative medium…they can also be blended, only with a little more effort.

This post is shared with It’s Playtime

Drawing Under the Table

creation

I placed a large sheet of paper and a bucket of markers under my daughter’s art table, and left it there with the hope that she’d discover it and fall in love with the idea of drawing in this unlikely art-making location. In reality, I had to lure her to the spot, provoke her with all sorts of silly comments such as, “I wonder what’s under your table?” and then suggest that she could actually draw in this spot if she wanted to.

As you can see, she humored me, but for only a handful of seconds. While this was still a good exercise in creative thinking, it wasn’t the lasting activity that I’d imagined. Well, come to think of it, most of our projects don’t sort out in the way I imagine them!

This seemed like a good provocation, but my thought is that the timing wasn’t right, I could have done a better job setting the stage, or it wasn’t her cup of tea. What do you think?

Related Activity

Here’s a fun factoid and extension for children older than mine (N is almost 3). Michelangelo spent four years on his back painting the Sistine Chapel in Rome. Four Years!! Show children pictures of the Sistine Chapel ceiling and then invite them to draw angels or any image of their choice on paper mounted underneath a table.

And please let me know how it goes — I’d love to try this again one of these days!

Drawing Shadows

chalk shadow

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

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