Face Collage for Scribblers

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When I was an art teacher, the youngest age group I worked with was Kindergarten so I rarely had the chance to witness a child’s transition from scribbling to representational drawing. My three year old daughter is at the precipice of representational drawing and it’s an exciting place to be, but she can get frustrated that she can’t create what she imagines (which is often!) and frequently asks me to draw things for her. This can be tricky because it goes against my belief that children should find their own way with visual representation and I’m often reluctant to draw things for her.

This project was born from a need to manifest her vision while also matching her abilities, and would be appropriate for children on the verge of creating representational drawings as well as those who draw realistically. Links to information about stages of artistic development at the end of this post.

I cut circles, rectangles, half circles, and some organic shapes from colorful recycled pantry boxes and spread them out on the table for my daughter to choose from. N chose a light blue oval for the face shape (also pre-cut), glued it to a 9 x 12 sheet of paper, and selected pieces to represent the parts of the face.

Facilitating and Asking Questions

I acted as a facilitator and if she seemed stumped I would ask questions such as, “What part of the face is next to the eyes?” “Ears? Okay, can you find a shape that could be an ear?”

I tried not to guide her decision-making and made room for her to adhere the pieces in the way she envisioned it, even if I didn’t think it was “accurate.”

She added the eyes (on top), nose, ears, orange cheeks, a mouth, and an aluminum foil philtrum (the area between the mouth and nose!). Did you know it’s called a philtrum? I didn’t!! I thought she was adding a mustache on top, but she explained that it was just a ribbon! Always ask before making assumptions!

She wanted to make curl the ribbon into a circle and I helped her glue it together. I enjoyed watching her vacillate between reality and imagination in one sitting.

When she finished the first picture she moved on to the next one (after a costume change, of course!), and this time it was all about the imagination — no faces involved!

Resources

  • For more on the developmental stages of children’s drawings, Viktor Lowenfeld is the last word on this topic and you’ll learn a lot about it here.
  • For even more from Viktor Lowenfeld, you could read this seminal book from him: Creative and Mental Growth. I just bought a used copy for myself for just $7!

How did your children make the transition from scribbles to representational drawing?

Six Ways to Take Art Outdoors

Image: Saltwater Kids

The weather is heating up over here in Northern California, and we’re spending most of our time outdoors. If you’ve been following my dilemma about coaxing my daughter into our garden, I’m thrilled to share that we spent about an hour puttering and potting out there this afternoon, and this was after we spent three hours on a hike through the forest!! In this spirit, I’d like to share some of my favorite outdoor art-making finds, which I hope will inspire you as much as they inspire me! And if you have a favorite artsy outdoor idea, you’re welcome to share it in the comments below!

1. For all the kids who like to mix, brew, sift, and invent: Potion Making from the brilliant Jenny of Let the Children Play.

2. You just can’t go wrong with a vinegar + baking soda concoction, which is why you’ll want to make up a huge batch of Fizzing Sidewalk Paint from Rachel of Quirky Momma. I’m saving this one for our annual family reunion. Fun!

3. Here’s a beautiful twist on the traditional bird feeder from Saltwater Kids. And wouldn’t these make for nice kid-made summer gifts?

4. Do you have tons of roses (and two adorable kids)? Make rose petal fairy perfume from Anna at The Imagination Tree

5. This oversized version of “marble painting” has been on my list since last summer. My daughter was barely two then, but now I think she’d love the challenge of rolling all sorts of balls around in a kiddie pool. Now we just need a pool! From the always inspiring Jean of The Artful Parent.

6. I have a thing for inexpensive, simple art materials, and this one makes me swoon. All you need is a plastic shower curtain, which can be found at dollar stores, and a laundry line or rope+laundry clips. Oh, and paint too! From Pop-Up Adventure Play (private site). Check out this post from A Mom with a Lesson Plan for another way to do this indoors.

What are your favorite outdoor art making ideas?

50 Art Materials for Toddlers

50 art materials for toddlers

About three weeks ago I asked my Facebook friends to consider a list of essential toddler art materials, and I received some wonderful responses and additions to the list. Thank you to Linda, Di, Miranda, Sally, and Tina for sharing your thoughts with me. Fifty is a big number, so don’t fret if you can’t gather all of these supplies or if you don’t have room for them (I know that I barely do!). Instead, think of this as an art pantry, similar to your kitchen pantry. Sure, it’s nice to have extra jars of pasta sauce or beans “just in case,” but you could also gather these ingredients as needed.

So, what do you think is missing? And which of these materials do you think are essential?

+++++

  1. playdough
  2. washable markers
  3. tempera paint
  4. white paper
  5. white glue
  6. collage materials
  7. sand
  8. colored construction paper
  9. chalk
  10. water
  11. safety scissors
  12. easel
  13. roll of paper
  14. chalkboard
  15. cornmeal
  16. pom poms
  17. big paper
  18. stickers
  19. yarn
  20. beads
  21. tissue paper
  22. pipe cleaners
  23. paper towel tubes
  24. things from nature
  25. paper plates
  26. ribbons
  27. pasta
  28. beans
  29. balloons
  30. paper bags
  31. plastic bags
  32. felt
  33. buttons
  34. eye droppers
  35. colored tape
  36. flour
  37. stencils
  38. pencils
  39. feathers
  40. glitter
  41. chunky paintbrushes
  42. liquid watercolors
  43. chubby crayons
  44. dot dot makers
  45. play dough tools
  46. coffee filters
  47. oobleck
  48. popsicle sticks
  49. glue stick
  50. clear contact paper

This post was shared with Craft Schooling Sunday

Flour Sifter

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We have a make-shift sensory tub that often makes its way into the middle of our kitchen where we conduct experiments, make “cakes and pies,” and mess around with the feel of stuff. Some of the things we’ve filled it with are dry beans, oobleck, jello, vinegar and baking soda, and rice.

I’m always on the lookout for neat-o objects that might challenge and delight my child, and when I saw this flour sifter in the market I had a feeling she’d love it. And she does. Loves it. I’ve used it maybe once (I guess I’m not picky about eating lumpy cake), so if we were to mark ownership based on usage, it’s definitely hers!

I set her up with a couple plastic containers full of flour, a measuring cup, measuring spoons, a soup spoon, and a crank-style sifter. Once she got to work, she poured a few cups of flour into the sifter and started cranking away, making some great crusty ol’ noises.

She dumped out the flour dregs that didn’t spin through.

And then she had a pile of flour ready to mold into a tiny mountain. This process repeated a handful of times, just long enough for me to do some dishes and start dinner.

What other kitchen tools do you play with?

This post was shared with Art for Little Hands

Creative Challenge #5: Plastic Bottles

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Make something with Plastic Bottles

In honor of Earth Day, I’d like to raise a little awareness toward the enormous amounts of plastic bottles used around the world, coupled with some thoughts on recycling and upcycling those bottles into creative products. My family is hooked on bubbly water, and while the number of bottles we go through each week is staggering, each of these bottles gets recycled…and occasionally upcycled into art (our Recycled Sculpture project can be found here).

Sobering Statistics

The Challenge

Make something with plastic bottles! Have you cut the tops off to use them as funnels, added them to a marble run, used them as sand scoopers, or turned them into something surprising? The project should be executed by children, but adults are welcome to facilitate or collaborate if the mood strikes!

To join in

  • Use plastic bottles, along with any other materials of your choice.
  • Attach a link to your blog post, a YouTube video, or photo of the experiment along with a description of what you and/or your child/ren did in the comment section below.
  • There is no deadline for this project.

Inspiration

Instructions for adding an image file

  • Click on the “Choose File” button (below the “Submit” button)
  • Choose a JPEG file from your computer
  • Type in a description of your experiment into the comment text box
  • Click the “Submit Comment” button
  • Grab the Creative Challenge button and add it to your site, or copy this text into your HTML.
  • For more Creative Challengesclick here.

    How are you celebrating Earth Day?

Growing Big Ideas

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“Ideas aren’t self-contained things; they’re more like ecologies and networks. They travel in clusters.”

-Kevin Kelly, Futurist and Author of What Technology Wants

We had a big pile of CD cases, just waiting to be repurposed into…something! BioColors paints are known for their plasticity (they don’t crack like tempera), and I thought it we could have some fun squeezing them into the cases, sealing up the holes, swirling the paint around, and then maybe peeling the paint out. That’s where my idea began, anyway. But this isn’t about me.

N loves to squeeze stuff, and enjoyed pouring paint onto the plastic jewel cases.

We worked with limited palettes to avoid that big mushy mix of brown that comes when all the beautiful colors get mixed together.

N asked for “just red and white, because it makes pink,” and also wanted to add some sequins to the mix. Pretty.

We put about five of these painted jewel cases up to dry, and then N revisited them the next day — on her own accord — with fresh ideas in mind.

Like grown-ups, children need time for their thoughts to muddle together, brew, and then emerge into something bigger. It’s important to keep in mind that good ideas have long incubation periods (see Steven Johnson’s TED Talk, below) and we shouldn’t expect kids to come up with big ideas on the spot —  these things often take time to grow. And to properly give children opportunities to innovate, it’s helpful to present them with open-ended activities that can blossom beyond an initial plan.

If you’ve been following along, you may remember N’s growing interest in pitched roofs from when we made Gumdrop Sculptures and created a cardboard Pitched Roof for a water-flow experiment. The next day…

She opened a case, spotted the pitched roof connection, and said she wanted to make a house. I recently noticed that she’s had a hankering for building things, but this blew me away and was a far cry from where we started the day before. She needed some structural assistance from her handyman/contractor/dad, who was happy to cut tape and generally hold things together. Over the past few weeks, we’ve talked a lot about the teamwork involved in building structures, and it seemed that she enjoyed the real-world connection with her own team of workers holding up windows and such.

She then requested some siding material, which her handyman cut to her specifications. And thank goodness, or else the squirrels might come in! As my daughter approaches her third birthday, it’s amazing to see her mind take on more complicated tasks and ideas, and I look forward to seeing further down the path of discovery through her eyes.

Resources:

Author Seth Godin created this loooong list called Where do ideas come from? It’s brilliant and easy-t0-read.

Author Steven Johnson talks about how ideas are networks in his TED Talk: Where Good Ideas Come From

Steven Johnson writes about the importance of open innovation platforms in The Genius of the Tinkerer in the Wall Street Journal.

This post is linked to We Play, ABC and 123, Tot Tuesday

What do you think it takes to grow a big idea?


Funnel Painting

set up

This was inspired by an idea we found in Mary Ann Kohl’s Preschool Art. I know I’ve said this many times before, but Mary Ann’s books are brimming with creative and engaging projects, and each of mine are dog-eared in a million places. We used materials that we already had around the house — low threshold projects are my cup of tea! — and the set-up is really easy. The other thing I loved about this activity is the SCALE of it — I knew my child would be captivated by swinging a paint-filled funnel across a huge sheet of paper! Now that we’ve done this, the only drawback I could see was doing this indoors, as my daughter wanted to swing paint in every possible direction, turning me into a mini-general who curbed her enthusiasm more than I like to.

To make this happen, we used:

  • A curtain rod
  • String
  • Funnel
  • Large sheets of paper
  • Paint
  • Tape
  • Chairs to suspend the swinging funnel

My daughter helped me tape a big sheet of paper to the floor. We noticed that it wasn’t long enough, so we added some more. I could tell that the paint would come pouring out of the funnel, so I taped off the bottom of it to make the hole a bit smaller. I wrapped some string around the funnel, and taped it in place. Then I looped the string over the pole.

Ready, set…

GO!

After a few easy-breezy swings, N wanted to give the poor little funnel some heavy-duty pushes, which would have been fine if we were outdoors. After mopping up the fourth or fifth puddle of paint off my floors, we called it quits, but we’ll definitely be taking this activity outside in the near future. I can also envision sand in the funnel over a sandbox, or rice over a (really big!) sensory table.

Do you have any other ideas for funnel swings?

Creative Experiment #2: Pasta

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Make something with pasta.

Pasta! It’s a multicultural food that can be found in everything from Pad Thai to Mac ‘n Cheese. Kids love to eat it. It’s got an amazing shelf life. And most of us already have it stockpiled in our pantries.

We eat a lot of it in our home, and it’s made an appearance in more than one art activity. For example: Drippy Gravity Painting

So now I ask you…what can you do with pasta? The project should be executed by children, but adults are welcome to facilitate or collaborate if the mood strikes!

To join in on the Experiment

  • Use pasta (noodles, macaroni, ramen…it’s up to you!), along with any other materials of your choice
  • Attach a photo of the experiment along with a description of what you and/or your child/ren did in the comment section below.
  • There is no deadline for this project.

If you’re looking for inspiration, here are some thoughts to get you started:

  • Take the pasta outside, and make an installation in the dirt, sand, or sidewalk
  • Attach it to another object with a glue gun. Attach it to paper with white glue.
  • Dye it, sort it, print it, make patterns with it
  • Make a batch of fresh pasta
  • String it up like a necklace or bunting
  • As a provocation, put a variety of art materials in front of your child (i.e. pasta, markers, yarn, glue), and see what they come up with

Instructions for adding an image file

  1. Click on the “Choose File” button (below the “Submit” button)
  2. Choose a JPEG file from your computer
  3. Type in a description of your experiment into the comment text box
  4. Click the “Submit Comment” button

Vinegar and Baking Soda

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Have you tried the baking soda and vinegar experiment with your kids yet? 

Yesterday N skipped her nap and requested “gooey flour and water” for her quiet time activity.  Did you hear me sighing? I sort of had “read books” or “play with a puzzle” in mind, but I guess that would be too much to expect when we rarely sit down and work on puzzles during non-quiet times, right?

I had a million little things in the hopper, but it seemed like a reasonable request. So, there she was, inches deep in flour, salt, water, and white vinegar. With its clear color and acidic smell, the vinegar gave this sensory project an elevated feeling of alchemy. She liked the smell of it, then tasted it, and then tasted everything.

As I was sitting there watching this serious game of ingredient exploration unfold, I remembered the ol’ vinegar and baking soda trick! So I brought out the baking soda and asked innocently, “would you like to add some baking soda into your cups?” Of course she said “yes,” and her reaction to the merging of the vinegar and baking soda made missing a nap totally worthwhile.

First she add baking soda to all of the cups and then she poured vinegar on top of the baking soda. We played this game in both directions: adding vinegar to baking soda and vice versa.

After depleting my white vinegar reserves, she begged me for more. (Hey! This project is a winner!) Since I was also sort of curious about how the other vinegars would react to the baking soda, I reluctantly handed over my red wine and balsamic vinegars. They each bubbled, but had slightly different reactions.

Happy experimenting!

Happily shared with Childhood 101

Homemade Paint | Salt and Flour Paint

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Making your own homemade paint with kids is a rewarding process that helps children understand that store-bought is not the only way! Homemade Paint | Salt + Flour + Water | Easiest Paint Recipe Ever!

How we made homemade paint

My toddler is at that stage where she loves squeezing paint out of the bottles. I gave into this to give her the chance to explore this phenomena, but after using an inordinate amount of paint in the process, I thought it might be more frugal to make a batch of homemade salt and flour paint for more economical squeeze painting. This homemade paint recipe is simple, non-toxic, and it costs next to nothing to make. Not to mention it’s pretty rewarding to make your own art materials. I made these while my daughter was napping, but next time I’ll include her in the process. The following recipe makes enough paint to fill 3 Nancy Bottles. Homemade Paint | Salt + Flour + Water | Easiest Paint Recipe Ever!

Recipe for Homemade Salt and Flour Paint

  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup salt
  • 1/2 cup water

Blend 1/2 cup of flour with 1/2 cup of salt. Add 1/2 cup of water… Homemade Paint | Salt + Flour + Water | Easiest Paint Recipe Ever! and mix until smooth. Homemade Paint | Salt + Flour + Water | Easiest Paint Recipe Ever! Divide it up into three sandwich bags and add a few drops of liquid watercolor or food coloring to each bag. Homemade Paint | Salt + Flour + Water | Easiest Paint Recipe Ever! Squish them up until the “paint” is well blended. Use Ziplock bags if small children are helping with this step. Add more water if you’d like a thinner paint. Cut a corner off the baggie and squeeze the paint mixture into your squeeze bottle. Homemade Paint | Salt + Flour + Water | Easiest Paint Recipe Ever! This homemade paint came out pretty thick, and was a little hard to squeeze. Next time we’ll dilute it with a bit more water. The good news is that the paint dries quickly. The squeeze paintings we made with regular tempera paint (2 days ago) are still wet, while these are already completely dry! And they have a nice puffy, sparkly texture too! Homemade Paint | Salt + Flour + Water | Easiest Paint Recipe Ever!

A question for you:

What’s your favorite kind of paint and/or painting process?

More homemade paint recipes

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Sticky Autumn Collage

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California has been hit by a heat wave, so staying inside our hot cave of a house is barely an option. Yesterday was full of swimming, a sprinkler run, a trip to the neighbor’s lemonade stand, and hitting a pinata at another neighbor’s house. So cute! Despite the heat, there’s a lot of fall madness in the air — you can’t miss the mountain of gourds and pumpkins piled up at the markets, leaves are turning colors, and my favorite…spiced pumpkin lattes in the coffee shops. Mmmmm…

So, somewhere between the pumpkins and the lemonade stand, we landed on this fall project that involves spending time outside.

We began by pulling out some clear contact paper. I encouraged my daughter to feel its tackiness, and then we discussed the process of collecting leaves and sticking them to the paper. We found an Easter basket and then took a walk around the neighborhood in search of leaves and other flat-ish treasures. This, by the way, is how we landed on the lemonade stand. It pays to get out of the house!

After collecting (and naming!) the leaves, N stuck them on half a sheet of contact paper.

Hey goofball, where did that come from?

She filled in most of the spaces…good for understanding spatial relationships!

And then we smooshed the other half of the contact paper on top of the leaves. This was followed by two more walks around the neighborhood and two more collages. In our books, this activity was a hit.

When we finally came inside, contact collaging continued with magazine cut-outs, post-its, and googley eyes.

Resources

Identification guide for  kids: New England leaves

Nature Detective Leaf Identification Sheet: UK

Leaf Identification Activities

Why do leaves change color?