Styrofoam Prints and Baby “Painting”

Printmaking is one of my passions, so we invariably make a lot of prints in my house. I was about to recycle a styrofoam tray (I think it was from a pack of corn) when N asked if we could print with it. Why yes, we can! We’ve printed with these before (Abstract Recycled Prints) and the technique is the same except this time we printed the pattern found on the tray instead of creating our own design.

I like this project because it’s inexpensive, helps children look to their surrounding for inspiration, and utilizes the pattern found in the tray.

We cut the tray into a flat piece.

My daughter squeezed tempera paint onto a cookie sheet, rolled it with a brayer, and then rolled it onto the styrofoam tray. She chose a red + white paint combo.

N moved the tray (or “plate”) onto a clean sheet of paper, covered it with another piece of paper, and then pressed it to transfer the paint.

Checking the print. Yay — it looks good.

Carefully peeling the print off the plate.

Meanwhile, Baby R, who now stands and walks along the furniture (i.e. cannot be contained with a happy basket of blocks) was desperate to join the fun and made a nuisance of herself, grabbing papers and reaching for paint . While she made the printing difficult, we wanted her to join us and came up with this alternative:

Baby Painting!

I scooped some yogurt onto her highchair tray and added a few drops of red food coloring to match our paint color. (The food coloring, India Tree Liquid Natural Decorating Colors, is made from plants and completely natural. I love that I can feel safe giving this to my kids).

While N continued to pull prints (without the distraction of baby sister grabbing her papers), R happily stirred her paint and ate away.

Prints, and most art projects for that matter, often get turned into other projects. N decided this one should be glued to a card.

And Baby R continued to enjoy the activity until is was gone.

Have you tried printmaking, and have you “painted” with yogurt?

This post is shared with It’s Playtime.

Art in the Park

Can you imagine my excitement when the folks at Elmer’s Glue asked if I’d like to participate as a blogger in their summer Kid’s Craft Camp promotion? Of course I was thrilled that they offered me a humongous crate of wonderful art supplies (featured in this post), but mostly I was thinking about how on earth I could pull off setting up an art “camp” with my three year old AND 10-month old. The crazy thing is that I’m actually a seasoned art camp teacher and spent many hot summers leading hundreds of kids in art activities at the Huntington Gardens in Pasadena. But I’d never attempted this with my own kids…who nap and need diaper changes and whine. You get the picture. But I invited a handful of forgiving friends and it all turned out great! I survived, and if you have any thoughts about setting up your own “Art in the Park,” I’m happy to say that it can be done.

One more thing in case you missed the headline…this is also a BIG giveaway! Details below 🙂

Project #1: Firework Book Bags

One of the materials that came in the crate were these ginormous double-sided permanent markers called Project Popperz. The children I invited were pretty young, and permanent markers are way far down on my list of desirable materials for this age. However, I recently saw this project on Mom’s Crafty Space and knew we had to try it. And I’m so glad we did — it was fun, a cool science experiment, and the results were stunning. **Note: This project includes permanent markers and rubbing alcohol and should be done with adult supervision.

Materials

  • Project Popperz permanent markers
  • Canvas Bag or other light colored fabric (a t-shirt a dress shirt would work nicely)
  • Board to put inside the bag to keep the markers from bleeding through. We used these Elmer’s Bi-fold boards and they worked perfectly.
  • Rubbing Alcohol 70%
  • Eye dropper

Step #1. Invite some friends to join you.

Step #2. Draw anything you like directly onto the bag. If you want yours to look like the fireworks you see up there, try making circles of dots like those that N is making.

Step #3. Once you have a design that you’re happy with, squeeze some rubbing alcohol into the eye dropper and then squeeze it out right in the middle of the circle. Watch the markers bleed and ooh and ahh at the results. Lovely.

Step #4. Admire your work! Our friend, E, not only made a firework, but she worked on her letters too. Oh, how I love children’s drawings.

Steve Spangler Science shares more about the science of how this works.

Project #2: Sand Paintings

While Elmer’s didn’t send me any of their famous school glue (why, I don’t know — isn’t that what they’re best known for?!), I really wanted to use this stuff. Kids love squeezing the bottles and I knew it would make them all so happy. And since we were at the park, I also wanted to include some sand in a project. At first I envisioned that the kids could just hunker down right in the sandbox to make these, but the artsy side of me opted to color the sand ahead of time. Here’s how we did it…

Materials

    • Colored Sand. Scoop some dry sand into a bowl and squeeze in a healthy amount of liquid watercolors or food coloring. Mix it up until the sand is covered and then spread it out on a paper plate to dry. I let ours dry overnight. Pour it back into the bowls.
    • White Elmer’s Washable School Glue in bottles
    • Colored Card Stock or Sulphite Construction Paper (what we used here — I love this paper. The colors pop and the weight is like construction paper).

Step #1. Squeeze glue into a design on the paper. Encourage children to squeeze it thinly (rather than in one huge pile) to help it dry more quickly. If they just want to squeeze, squeeze, squeeze, I say let them do that instead. It should be all about the process.

Step #2. Sprinkle a handful of colored sand on the glue. Repeat until done.
They all come out completely different, just like the kids who make them.

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Giveaway!

One lucky friend of TinkerLab will receive one adult and two kid craft kits, which amounts to a whole lot of art supplies! Kits include X-Acto scissors, Craft Gel pens, Painters pens, glue sticks, Craft Bond tape, Project Popperz, Bi-Fold Bords, etc. (Sorry, I didn’t get a photo of all the materials that will be included, but it’s more than what you see here!). Packaging will also differ.

To enter

  • Leave a comment here
  • Extra entry: Leave a comment on my Facebook Page
  • Extra entry: Tweet about it. Tag me, tinkerlabtweets, so that I can see it 🙂
  • Shipping address must be in the U.S. (sorry to all my International friends)
Submissions accepted until 5 pm PST on Friday, Sunday, July 31. Winner will be chosen by Random Number Generator.

Good luck!!

 

Taped Trees from Observation

My older daughter, 3 year old N, likes to look through my library or “read” blogs with me and pick out activities for us to work on. I love it when this happens because then she’s self-motivated to work on a project, it supports my philosophy of educating children through an emergent curriculum, and cuts back on those “failed” activities. I was doing some research for a project I’m working on and stumbled upon a British early childhood education site when N spotted this activity (I want to give credit, but the link was lost). This is a wonderful exercise in observation and it doesn’t require a lot of materials or set-up…my kind of project!

Materials

We began by looking at a tree outside the window to observe and discuss the lines and scale of the trunk and branches. I loved how N’s eyes continuously darted back and forth between the tree and her paper. I suggested that she start with the trunk, so she chose black tape to make two vertical lines. I thought she might be representing the width of the trunk in relation to the branches, but I asked her about it before jumping to conclusions.

She responded that there were actually *three* trunks and still had one more tape stripe to make. Our little tree is propped up with support posts — she was so observant!

Her eyes moved back to the tree so she could take in the branches and leaves. At this point we went outside to get a closer look before returning indoors.

She added leaves in a bounty of colors, saying, “I bet you’ve never seen PURPLE leaves before!” As an aside, we went to the plant store later that week and bought a plant with purple leaves. She was impressed.

This project worked especially well with my daughter because she was able to articulate an image of a tree without having to draw one (something she’s not yet able to do). And it would be an appropriate project for older children as well.

Do your kids like to play with tape too? What kind of tape do you like to use?

Photo Documentary with Kids

Taking time to look closely at the details of life is a skill that comes naturally to many of us, and worth fostering in children who can run like the wind. When we pay attention to details, we develop a healthy curiosity of the world that surrounds us, make comparisons, and notice nuance. And all of these good things contribute to creative and critical thinking. If you’d like to help your child sloooow down, pay attention to details, and smell the flowers (literally!), you could try this fun and interactive photo documentary activity. Your child could take all of the photos or direct an adult to, as mine did!
A few nights ago, the girls and I walked around the neighborhood just before bedtime while my husband cleaned up the kitchen. Lucky me, right?! N, my oldest, truly stops to smell the flowers (it’s a skill we’ve been working on!) and collected all sorts of treasures along the way. When we finally arrived home, we were welcomed by a joyful sidewalk chalk drawing. What a surprise! N and her dad talked about the ephemeral nature of the drawing and how it would probably be gone in the morning, a victim of the sprinklers. So, she asked my husband to take a picture of it….

She enthusiastically shared details with her dad about the walk-adventure we just took, and invited him to join her on a bike ride along the same route (a brilliant bedtime procrastination move if you ask me). And he bit!

So off they went. He brought the camera, and she asked him to take photos of things that she wanted to remember later on…

The first photo: Fuzzy Yellow Flowers

Rainbow Lantana. Did you know that Lantana is poisonous? I love this plant, but with a baby piranha in the house I recently pulled it all from my garden.

Pink Flamingos. What 3-year old wouldn’t stop to check these out?!

Garden Rocks

Green Bamboo

They circled the block and returned home. Happy, tired, and ready for bed!

How do you help your kids slow down and smell the flowers?

Do you have a favorite walk or bike ride ritual?

Mini Paintings

Do you recognize these materials?

I’m big on repurposing found objects into art, so when I found a plastic slide sheet from my pre-digital days I couldn’t bear to throw it out before giving it the ol’ arts and crafts makeover. If you’re not familiar with these, they’re essentially sheet protectors for slides. I showed the sheet to N with the suggestion that we fill it with mini paintings. She liked the idea, and got busy collecting markers while I chopped watercolor paper up into little squares.

Materials

  • Watercolor paper, cut into small squares
  • Markers or mark-making tool/s
  • Liquid Watercolor Paint
  • Paintbrush
  • Covered Work Area

N wanted to color each of the squares with red marker. Cool!

She started off slow but steady, and I think when she realized just how many squared were ahead of her, her momentum picked up and the drawings became quite sketchy.

A full tray of watercolors was left over from another project, and while there was a rainbow of color to play with, she stuck to violet. She had a plan!

I was amazed by her diligence, and thought she’d certainly make it to the end. But with two squares to go, she called it quits and asked me to help her finish. I’m partial to keeping my hands out of children’s art, but N often begs me to collaborate with her so I helped her complete the project.

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I encourage you to look around your home for objects that could be repurposed into art. My heart melts when I hear N say, “Let’s turn this into art!” And this happens often! While store-bought art supplies certainly have their place, sourcing materials from the environment is a wonderful lesson in recycling, resourcefulness, and creative thinking.

Happy Hunting!

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 

Shopping for Mud Pie Kitchen Accessories

This magnificent butterfly finds a little heap of dirt and sits still on it; but man will never on his heap of mud keep still.  — Joseph Conrad

Did you know that yesterday was International Mud Day? One of my fondest childhood memories is pretending to feed my friend Alexandra’s cat the ooey gooey mud pies we made in her garden, and my hope is to instill my own child with a similar joy for mucking around and being comfortable in nature…and mud, even!

I wrote about our new Mud Pie Kitchen two weeks ago, and since it’s still a popular place to hang out I thought we could move into phase two of our kitchen remodel and talk about mud pie kitchen accessories.

This, of course, involved an educational trip to the Goodwill for some new tools and appliances and N was eager to go.

Thrifting for Mud Pie Kitchen Accessories

My two little kids and I scooted quickly past the fragile knick knacks and dishes (phew!), and made our way to the metal and wood aisle. N picked out everything you see in the basket while I acted as her guide, making suggestions and occasionally vetoing her choices (she really wanted that pizza wheel up there, which was smartly taped off).

The biggest score was a pink and blue plastic toy called the Fluff Factory, which you can see buried in her basket. It was reminiscent of a meat grinder, and I couldn’t wait to find out what its original purpose was. It turns out that it’s used to fill teddy bears with fluff. How awesome is that? N had no idea of its purpose, but she saw potential in it and I love that even more!

 

Setting up the Mud Pie Kitchen Accessories

When we got home there was the requisite costume change into the tutu bathing suit (for her, not me) before unveiling the new pots and pans. And while these new goods were for our MUD pie kitchen, it was all water play without a speck of mud in sight. N loved her new coffee pot (just $3!), kid-sized REAL frying pan, and of course, the Fluff Factory. To accomodate our expanding collection of dishes and such, we added some more counter space, which helped tremendously.

She spent the rest of the afternoon pouring water and dropping flower petals into the little factory and turning the crank to push the water through. Problem solving at its finest. Oh, and maybe next time we’ll actually play with mud!

Mud Pie Kitchen Accessory Ideas

  • Crates
  • Old Tables
  • End tables (they can act as stoves and fridges)
  • Wooden spoons
  • Small pots and Pans
  • Shiny Dishes
  • Jell-o molds
  • Measuring spoons and cups
  • Buckets
  • Large Tub (to act as a sink)
  • Nearby hose

Mud Pie Kitchen Accessory Tips

  • Shop for materials at a second hand store. You never know what you will find, which can help you (and children) see the potential in surprising objects.
  • Involve children in the design of the kitchen. Purchasing her own kitchen supplies raised N’s eagerness to use them. She talked about playing with her new pots all the way home and couldn’t get into her bathing suit fast enough.
  • Include interactive Tools that can work like appliances

See our Mud Pie Kitchen Series

How to Set Up a Mud Pie Kitchen

Mud Pie Kitchen Ideas

 

Drippy Painting

My daughter lurves squeezing just about anything (including her sister’s “plump little cheeks,” as she says it), so when I saw this gorgeous post at Childhood 101 I was inspired to pull our squeeze bottles out for a painty afternoon. I purchased the bottles (Nancy Bottles) from Discount School Supply, but clean shampoo, ketchup, or similar bottles would also work well. In fact, a variety of bottles would be a playful painting experiment!

Our easel was set up in a funny spot between the dining table and a wall because I found that moving it around the house and yard makes it much more appealing to my daughter. Without this movement it becomes a stagnant piece of furniture and won’t draw her in. If you’ve faced this phenomena, Jean at The Artful Parent wrote a wonderful post on this topic called 6 Ways to Encourage Continued Interest in Your Children’s Easel.

Set Up

  • Cover the floor with a drop mat or large pieces of paper, taped to the ground.
  • Fill your easel with paper
  • Fill bottles with tempera, Bio Color, or acrylic paint. We used tempera, which is great for process-based work and it isn’t archival. If you plan to work on a canvas, acrylic paint would be a better way to go.
  • To create coherency, choose a palette of colors that work well together.
  • Optional: Add paint pots and brushes for adding additional mark-making

Without actually squeezing the bottle on the paper, I described the process to my daughter. I tried to be somewhat vague so that she could explore the medium freely. She’s used these bottles numerous times and got right to work.

Once she squeezed as much as she wanted, N picked up a brush and added some brown paint strokes over the drips. She seemed to enjoy the proces of blending colors to eradicate some of the drips.

And then she enjoyed the process of smearing more of the drips together into beautiful mixed up smudges of color.

Because of the splat mat, clean-up was surprisingly simple. While I should have wiped down the easel soon after the painting session, I waited half the day and our easel still sports reminders of this project. But it reminds me of a fun afternoon, and I like the way it looks!

If your children like to drip paint, here are some other paint dripping projects that we’ve tried out:

Salt and Flour Paint (age 2 1/2)

Squeezing Paint (age 2 1/2)

Sugar Cube Sculpture (age 3)

Funnel Painting (age 33 months)

Drippy Gravity Painting (age 2 1/2)

What do you think?