Pop-up Paper Zoo

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


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

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

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

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

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

Art Dice

Art Dice from Tinkerlab

I’ve been saving these wooden cubes for the just the right project, and it recently occurred to me that they could be repurposed into Art Dice: a fun tool for creating some randomly generated art. Every flip of a dice becomes an opportunity to explore art vocabulary, drawing skills, color recognition, and shape identification, to name a few. If you have any spare blocks lying around, you might want to consider repurposing them into a new life as tool for art making!

For children older than mine and/or adults, these could be used to chase away writer’s or artist’s block: Simply roll the dice and draw or write about what pops up. Combine a few dice together and rise to the challenge of combining disparate ideas into a cohesive whole.

While this project comes a bit premature for my daughter, I made three dice based on the Elements of Art for us to play with: Shapes, Colors, and Lines. You could easily replace these themes with characters, places, textures, moods, architectural elements, etc.

We started with the line dice and I shared that after rolling the dice I would draw the line that randomly appeared on top . My daughter watching me do this for a few rounds of polka dots, spirals, and circles, but she didn’t make a move to jump in. Instead, she scribbled on my drawings, picked up her trusty scissors, cut the drawings into a handful of pieces, and collaged them into a picture. But this was wonderful — the dice sparked a game that led us in a new, fun direction!

She finally picked up the dice and kept rolling it until the circle showed up on top, which was what she REALLY wanted to draw all along, I suppose. And she proceeded to draw a page full of circles. Awesome!

Ideas for Game Rules:

  1. Each player has a piece of paper. Players take turns rolling the dice, and each player draws what they see after the dice roll. Decide how many times you’ll roll the dice before sharing your pictures with each other. Marvel at the similarities and differences between artworks.
  2. Players share one piece of paper. The player who rolls the dice draws their interpretation of the shape/line/color on the paper. They pass the dice to the other player who does the same. This continues for a set number of turns.
  3. Try either of the above games with more than one dice.
  4. Any other ideas? Please share!

If you like this idea, then you might also enjoy Keri Smith’s Dice walking game, as explored on The Artful Parent

Buy Art Dice

You can buy TinkerLab’s popular hand-painted art dice here.

Valentine’s Day Shrinky Dinks

Do you remember Shrinky Dinks? I loved loved loved these as a child, but I wasn’t sure if my 2.5 year old would be ready for them yet. We happened to find ourselves at a Hanukah party in December where a bunch of craft tables were set up, and my child gravitated to the Shrinky Dink table. Why, I’m not sure, but the mountain of Sharpie markers may have had something to do with it. We had a really good conversation about how plastic melts with heat (in this case, in a hot toaster oven), and I’m impressed that my daughter can now articulate a wide range of melting things including snowmen, ice cream cones, and now shrinky dinks!

Materials

  • Shrinky Dink Refill kit – I ordered these from Amazon
  • Sharpies in a variety of colors. The Shrinky Dink company also recommends Prisma Color pencils or non-water based crayons. We used Crayola Twistables and Crayola washable markers for this project.
  • Oven or Toaster Oven
  • Hole Punch (optional)
  • Scissors (optional)

I cut one of the sheets in half, and my daughter drew all over them with Sharpies, markers, and crayons.

We’ve been revving up for Valentine’s Day, so when a request for a heart shape came in I was ready! I made a little heart template on green paper, traced the shape onto the plastic, and then cut it out. You can get a sense of the scale reduction in the picture above. I punched a hole near the top, so we could add these to a keyring or necklace later on.

Heat the oven to 325, then bake! The plastic curls as it heats up, and it’s really fun to watch. If there’s ever a time to use the oven light, this is it! This step takes less than 30 seconds, so watch it closely.

And there you have it…Shrinky Dinks just in time for Valentine’s Day.

Resources

  • The Shrinky Dink company put this handy little idea and cheat sheet together
  • Our friend Chelsea shares these instructions from Curbly for making your own shrinky plastic pictures from #6 plastic (polystyrene). It’s brilliant: resourceful, inexpensive, and recyclable! We will most definitely be trying this out.