Easy Art: Air Dry Clay

creative kids clay

creative kids clay

Material: Air Dry Clay

Have you ever noticed that kids don’t need a lot of bells and whistles and fancy stuff to get creative, have fun, and feel on top of the world? Yesterday we foraged some cardboard boxes from a neighbor’s move because 4-year old Nutmeg has a vision of building a space station.

Today I’d like to introduce you to ONE material that helps build creative thinking, and share some tips on how to use it. The idea is to keep your life simple while supporting your child’s curiosities.

creative kids clay

Crayola makes a wonderful product called Air Dry Clay. You can buy it in 2.5 or 5 pound containers. The 5 lb. container is about $10, and if you store it properly it will last for ages. I’ve had our 2.5 lb. tub for about 5 months, we use it about once/month, and it’s still in great shape.

But why buy clay, if you have play dough?

I’m an enormous fan of play dough (here’s the BEST play dough recipe if you’re looking for one), but there are some unique benefits to clay:

  • In terms of squeezing, building, and inventing, clay and play dough serve similar purposes, but the texture of clay gives children a different sensory experience.
  • Kids will enjoy learning that clay is a special kind of dirt that can be molded and dried at high temperatures to create dimensional objects
  • Clay is more dense and requires stronger muscles to mold it and work with it.
  • Adding water to clay creates a slippery material that many children love to play with. In the real “clay world” a mixture of water and clay is called “slip” and it’s used to attach one dry clay piece to another.
  • Clay can be molded into sculptures and objects that can be saved and later painted: pinch pots, bowls, alligators, rockets, etc.

How we use it

We always pull all the clay from the bucket and divide it in two, so that each of my kids has a hefty piece. Our table is covered with a plastic table cloth,, and at the end of the project clean-up is easy with a few wipes of a rag or sponge.

To begin, I usually give my kids a pile of clay…and that’s it!

I like to scaffold my projects, meaning that I’ll slowly introduce materials to them. I do this because I find that extending a project like this improves their ability to fully explore phenomena and keeps them from being done in 3 minutes flat. You’ve had that happen right?!

Once that runs its course, I’ll give my kids a small bowl of water so that they can add it to the clay to moisten it. Older children will probably dab the water with their fingers and add it to the clay as needed. My monkeys, on the other hand, are champions of bowl-dumping. And that’s fine. If the table is getting too wet I’ll limit them to “x” number of bowls. They love playing with the clay when it’s wet…it’s a totally different sensory experience.

creative kids clay

And finally, I’ll introduce them to a simple tool such as popsicle sticks, toothpicks, wooden knife, glass marbles, etc. Again, I usually try to keep this to one material so that they’re not overwhelmed by choices. Having one material to add to the clay invites them to push their imaginations and test multiple solutions to problems.

When they’re done, the clay goes back into the container. While this clay is designed to “air dry” we solely use it for the purpose of sensory play, fine motor development, and imagination-building.

Clean-up

I wipe the table down with a clean, damp terry cloth rag. Any clay that gets on the clothes should wash right out. Put clumps of clay back in the container or in the trash. It’s important that clay doesn’t go down your sink, or it will clog your pipes.

Other Materials

I’m planning to write about other art and exploration materials: is there anything that you’d like to see me write about?

Resources

mr. rogers celebrates arts

Mr. Rogers Episode 1763: Celebrates the Arts. Mr. Rogers meets potter Dolly Naranjo who forages clay from a hillside, mixes it with volcanic ash (with her foot!), and shows us how to make a coil pot. If you have Amazon Prime, you can screen it for FREE by clicking on the link.

Clay and Children: The Natural Way to Learn. By Marvin Bartel at Goshen College Art Department. A wonderful resource by a potter on teaching children about clay.

What is clay? on KinderArt. Kid-friendly definition of clay, words used in the pottery studio (wedge, kiln, slip, glaze, etc.)

Make Air Dry Pendants, from Melissa at The Chocolate Muffin Tree

How to Make Paint: Sweetened Condensed Milk

milk paint.032

sweetened condensed milk paint diy from tinkerlab

This recipe is a keeper because it comes together quickly, uses ingredients you probably have on hand, and it expands the way children think about art supplies. When children have the opportunity to invent things and imagine new possibilities (in this case, making their own paint, inventing colors, and imagining what they can create with the paint), opportunities for creative thinking are greater.

Not to mention, both of my kids (21 month Rainbow and 4 year old Nutmeg) enjoyed painting with it, and, um, eating it too. Once dry, the paint has an attractive shiny coat to it. Because there’s sugar in the milk, I’m not going to guarantee its archival quality, but after we’ve had our paintings for a month they still look brand-new.

I get a lot of questions about activities that can be enjoyed by kids of multiple ages. Generally, my opinion on this is that children will adapt the materials in front of them to meet their own level of ability. This project will work for toddlers on up to adults; just expect that the results will vary.

how to make sweetened condensed milk paint

My 4-year old’s completed paintings.

how to make sweetened condensed milk paint

Materials

  • Sweetened Condensed Milk
  • Food coloring
  • Small mixing bowls
  • Paint brushes
  • Tea spoons for mixing
  • Card stock or other heavy paper for painting on

how to make sweetened condensed milk paint

Pour a little milk into a bowl, add a couple drops of food coloring, and mix.

how to make sweetened condensed milk paint

My 21-month old got into the mixing action too.

how to make sweetened condensed milk paint

Our painting set-up: I have a big, clear plastic tablecloth that covers the art table. It’s perfect for sticky + wet projects like this. I taped my toddler’s paper to the table to keep it from slipping.

how to make sweetened condensed milk paint

These paintings takes some time to dry. Rainbow did not have a delicate painting hand and her paint went on quite thick. The painting on the right had a deep puddle on it that took a good day to dry. And when it finally dried it caked up a bit and had a nice crackled effect to it. Just something to keep in mind in case you’re looking for a quick-drying paint…this is not it!

Have you tried this before? What kitchen supplies have you tried painting with?

And be truthful, aren’t you just a little bit curious about what it would be like to paint with sticky milk?

This post has been shared on It’s Playtime

DIY Masa Play Dough

masa play dough

masa play dough

What? You’ve never heard of Masa Play Dough? Oh yeah, me either! The dough has a crumbly texture and leaves your hands oily, although they felt more moisturized than greasy (the base is coconut oil, which is used in beauty products). The dough also has a lovely tortilla scent that I really enjoyed.

Are you ready? Follow me, and I’ll show you how it’s done.

colorful tortillas

I live in California where there’s no shortage of Mexican food, and we happened to visit one of my favorite Mexican markets last week where I spotted these colorful beauties! My toddler was racing toward the bananas with her mini shopping cart, so I barely had a chance to snap this shot, but I’m really curious to find out what makes these colors so brilliant! Next time I’ll look.

While I was there I grabbed a bag of Masa Harina, a special corn flour that’s prepared with lime and used to make corn tortillas. I was invited to join the Play Dough Pledge (with The Imagination Tree, Nurture Store, and Sun Hats and Wellie Boots) this week, and thought we’d give masa play dough an experimental whirl and see how it holds up against my favorite play dough recipe.

masa play dough ingredients

After a long search for masa play dough turned up absolutely nothing, I realized I’d have to figure this out on my own. Eeeek. But this experimenting mom wasn’t fazed.

I adapted what follows from my play dough recipe and a few others I found online. Because this recipe calls for corn-based flour, I’m not sure if cream of tartar is necessary, but I was too chicken to leave it out. If you have a thought on this, I’d love to hear from you.

Directions

This was a test, and I’d encourage you to try your own recipe, or play off of ours. This is a cooked play dough, which means that it should have a longer shelf-life than the uncooked varieties. If you’ve ever made corn tortillas, the dough has a similar texture to tortilla dough. And you could just make tortilla dough if you didn’t want to go to all this cooked trouble, although the oil that’s added to this dough keeps it from quickly drying out and will give it a longer life-span.

  • 2 cups Masa Harina
  • 2 cups Salt
  • 1 tbsp Cream of Tartar
  • 5 tbsp coconut oil
  • 2 cups of water
  • food coloring or liquid watercolor

Mix masa, salt, and cream of tartar in a large pot. Put it over a low heat and add in the oil. If it’s solid, allow it to full melt into the dry mixture. Slowly add water until the mixture is smooth. Play Dough will be ready when it pulls away from the sides of the pot and is somewhat dry in appearance. If the dough turns out too dry, add more water and/or oil. Squeeze small amounts of color into the dough and mix until you reach the desired color.

I added an additional tablespoon of oil at the end because it felt like the dough was drying out.

When you’re done with the dough, store it in a sealable plastic bag or food storage container.

masa play dough

I removed our dough from the pot before the color was fully mixed in because I knew my kids would enjoy hand mixing it. My toddler loved the warm dough and the sensory experience of repeatedly poking her hand into it.

masa play dough

I pulled out some play dough tools and she covered the dough with a mountain of cookie cutters.

masa play dough

Then we made cupcakes and snacks with a wooden knife and ice cube tray.

masa play dough

And I tested out the dough with cookie cutters too. The texture is grainier and more crumbly that our favorite play dough, but my children played with it for close to an hour, if attention span is any test of it’s success.

And I’d say it is.

So there you have it, Masa Play Dough. You heard it here first!

 

Cooking with Kids: Butter and Rosemary

butter and rosemary.022

Do you like to cook with your kids? It’s not always the easiest thing for me to do; we have a tiny kitchen and limited counter space, but I try to find ways to integrate my kids into the kitchen routines when I can.

Why? Because cooking, experimenting, and learning about the interaction of ingredients builds creative thinkers, gives my kids a solid footing  and confidence in the kitchen (hey, I’m priming them to cook for me one day!), and it’s a wonderful way to bond and share stories about family traditions and food adventures.

20 month old Baby R (who’s hardly a baby anymore) likes to spend time in the kitchen, but she’s not the best helper in the world. So I try to drum up activities that will keep her hands busy and her mind engaged while I cook.

The other day we were baking bread and the recipe called for rosemary and a pat of butter. As I pulled the flour, yeast, maple syrup, milk, salt, and butter together, I also cut two tablespoons of butter off the end of the stick and chopped it into rough pieced for R to handle.

The slippery texture was captivating.

I handed her a few sprigs of rosemary to handle and poke into the butter.

cooking with kids

After squishing the butter for a bit she really wanted to cut the butter like me, so I gave her a small butter knife and showed her how to hold it. She cut butter for about fifteen minutes before tiring of this, which gave me just enough time to pull the bread dough together.

I’m not one for wasting food, but we did throw the gooey mass of butter and rosemary away when we were done.  I suppose I could have saved it, but there was a lot of finger licking going on and I wasn’t ready to go there. However, I liken this experience to playing with play dough (made from flour and oil) or dry beans, both materials that we use for imaginative and sensory play. When children learn to handle real food they build a relationship with it and gain a stronger understanding of its properties.

So, the next time you’re in the kitchen, if you don’t already do this, look around for something sensory for your toddler to explore. You might also enjoy reading Cooking with Toddlers, where I share a few tips including our favorite kid-friendly knives.

If you have a preschooler or school age child, you might like this fun post on how to invent a recipe with kids, where I share some ideas on how to foster a spirit of experimentation by building a pancake recipe from scratch.

And when my kids want to play in the kitchen, but they’re not interested in helping, I often slide this big tub of wheat berries out from under a counter for them to explore. It often makes a big mess, but it keeps them entertained while I cook and it’s easy enough to vacuum up when they’re done.

What do your kids like to do while you cook?

Explore Modern Artists: Paint like Jasper Johns

kids art jasper johns

Today on Explore Modern Artists, we’re taking a close look at the work of American Artist Jasper Johns.

Explore Modern Artists with Kids : series of projects on Tinkerlab

For the art historians out there, Jasper Johns is technically a contemporary artist, but the piece that my four-year old and I looked at falls into the time-frame of modern art. I spent years working in modern and contemporary art museums, but love this kind of art because it breaks rules, the materials are often surprising, and the work is often as much about ideas as it is aesthetics.

Explore Modern Artists with Kids: Jasper Johns

I flipped through a 20th century art book in search of something that would appeal to my preschooler and had a feeling that Jasper Johns’ White Numbers would do just that. My daughter is obsessed with writing letters and numbers, which helped her dive into this project, and ultimately made it her own.

Materials

  • Image of Jasper Johns’ White Numbers
  • Acrylic Paint (FYI: acrylic paint will stain clothes so wear a smock or nothing at all)
  • Paint brushes: Flat, Foam, Make-up sponges
  • Paper Plate
  • Stick-on foam or paper letters and/or numbers
  • Foam core, wood panel, canvas or other substantial surface to paint on
  • Paper to cover work area

Jasper Johns. White Numbers. 1957. Museum of Modern Art. Encaustic on Linen. 34″ x 28 1/8″.

Art Looking

Begin with a short discussion about the artwork. Try to use open-ended questions, although this can be more difficult with preschoolers who are just getting their bearings with vocabulary. These are some of the questions I used:

  1. What’s going on in this picture?
  2. What do you see that makes you say that?
  3. How did the artist organize the numbers? Are they in order or random? What do you see?
  4. What colors do you see?

Through this line of questioning, my daughter was able to figure out that Jasper Johns created a random series of numbers in rows and columns.  She concluded that Jasper Johns may have been trying to confuse people with his meaningless series of numbers.

peeling stickers

After about five minutes of this, we talked about the materials that we would use, and I asked N if we should use numbers, letters, or both. I also asked if we should use the same palette of paint as Johns. She chose to use numbers and letters, and requested “all the colors.

preschool jasper johns

As we peeled them, my daughter wanted to sort them by color.

Despite Johns’ neat rows of numbers, N also wanted to place her’s randomly on the board “to confuse people.” And then she walked all over them to make sure they were stuck down properly.

We added paint to a paper plate.

This whole activity was set up on the floor, which I highly recommend as it gave N a lot of freedom to move around.

And then we painted. I offered her three different brushes and we talked about which one she preferred (foam brush).

We worked on this together and she really enjoyed the camaraderie. When the painting was dry we hung it up to enjoy. The foam core buckled a bit as it dried, which is something to consider if you’re thinking of hanging this in your home. Wood or canvas would be a far better choice.

More on Art Looking

If you’d like so tips on how to look at art with kids, you can check out one of my more popular posts: Five Easy Steps for Talking with Children about Art.

I’m also a huge fan of an in-school program called Visual Thinking Strategies (VTS), which helps children build visual literacy and critical thinking skills through the process of looking closely at a work of art. A facilitator sits in front of a group of children and leads an interactive discussion about one work of art. I’ve led many of these discussions myself, and the energy around these conversations is palpable. To see VTS in action, there a some great videos on the Visual Thinking Strategies website. 

More from Explore Modern Artists

 

DIY Water Wall

collection of water wall materials

Does it feel like summer in your part of the world? It’s heating up here, and my kids have been enjoying this easy and inexpensive new backyard water feature. All you need is a nearby water source and a wall to attach it to.

I’ve been inspired by Let the Children Play once again! Last summer Jenny gave us the idea for our mud pie kitchen (and here’s her mud kitchen), and other outdoor hands-on activities that get my kids thinking and building in the fresh air. Her water wall post (full of water wall inspiration from around the web) has been sitting in my mind since she posted it in October (she’s in Australia where it’s bloody hot in October), and it’s altogether responsible for the hours of fun my kids and neighborhood friends had with our newest backyard water feature. Thank you, Jenny!

My older daughter helped me build this one afternoon last week while my toddler was napping. She loved the responsibility of holding the bottles steady while I drilled and took a lot of pride in our finished water wall. It’s not gorgeous, but it’s a lot of fun and an upcycler’s DIY dream.

water wall build

To replicate this upcycled playscape in your own garden or patio, I’ll break this down into some simple steps.

collection of water wall materials

Four Basic Materials

  1. Plastic bottles
  2. Screws (this nifty kit came from IKEA)
  3. Drill
  4. exacto knife

With the exacto knife, cut a hole in the side of the bottle. The hole will be large enough for you to fit your hand into it so that you can easily position and drill in the screws.

score bottle and add screws

Using the exacto knife, score an “X” on the side of a bottle and push a screw through the “X” from the inside. Repeat one more time so that you have two screws poking through the bottle.

Screw the bottles to a fence or wall. Tilt them slightly downward to help the water pour through. You might have to shift the bottles around or cut the holes a bit more to make the water wall work properly. Test as you go.

water wall testing

Test it out to make sure it works. Add a bucket at the bottom to catch the water, which can then be added to plants or returned to the top of the water wall.

Invite some friends over to play.

water wall play

Set up a water-filling station and add some pitchers, watering cans, and cups.

And be prepared for eye-opening, open-ended fun.

 

Painting Birdhouses

toddler painting birdhouse

The last time my in-laws visited, they left my girls with these cute little wooden birdhouses. I tucked them away to paint on their next visit, but my 3 year old couldn’t wait that long. In fact, about a month after I stored these, and an hour before leaving the house to meet friends in the park, my daughter suddenly remembered the birdhouses that were, as far as I could tell, out of mind.

“I want to paint birdhouses today!” she said. After explaining, for the 80th time that starting a sentence with “I want” isn’t okay with me, I further shared that there was no way we could get the materials out, set up, paint, clean up, and be out the door in time.

Well, in case you ever find yourself in a similar situation, it can almost be done. We were ten minutes late.toddler painting birdhouse

Materials

  • Wooden birdhouses. My MIL found these at Michael’s, and I think they’re very reasonably priced.
  • Acrylic Paint
  • Paintbrushes
  • Paper Plates
  • Bird seed
  • Funnel or paper + tape for a DIY funnel

toddler painting birdhouse

Paint

Squeeze paint onto throwaway paper plates. Paint as desired. The challenge of painting a 3-D thing is entirely different from painting a flat surface, and there’s something magical about it. If you have a child who doesn’t normally enjoy painting, I’d suggest you try painting something with width and depth and see what happens.

By the way, acrylic paint will almost never wash out of clothes, so be sure to cover up properly.

birdhouse materials

Fill with Seeds

Unless the paint is quite thick, acrylic paint dries really fast and you could move on to this step within an hour. When the paint dries, the bird house is ready to be filled. If you don’t have a funnel, you can easily make one by spinning a piece of copy paper into a cone shape and taping the side shut.

filling birdhouse with seed

Hang

The last step is to hang it. If you have squirrels be sure to hang it somewhere that squirrels won’t reach it. Our squirrels are sneaky and go almost anywhere birds go, so unfortunately our seed has been poached…once again. But I’m determined to attract some cute little songbirds around our house one of these days.

More Bird Feeder Inspiration

Juggling with Kids made these cool cookie cutter birdfeeders

If I were a bird, I’m not sure I’d venture close to this feeder

Biodegradable Orange Bird Feeder from the lovely Rhythm of the Home

Recycled bird feeder, made from a plastic bottle and a couple wooden spoons, over at Heck Fridays

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.

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.