Paint *With* Me

DSC_0733

I picked up some inexpensive kitchen basting brushes for art making with the idea that it would be fun to experiment with various types of mark-making materials, and specifically, a variety of brushes. N picked two paint colors, red and purple, and I dropped the basters in the paint. As usual, I wasn’t sure where this activity would take us. After smooshing some paint around on the paper, she decided to paint her hand and have a go at hand-printing. And then a moment later, she asked me to join in the fun. Huh? Oh no, I thought, I’m just here to facilitate this experience. And then she asked again. “Mom, do you want to paint your hand, too?” Not really, I thought, but how could I say “no” when I’m trying raise my daughter to embrace play, experimentation, and risk-taking?

And it reminded me of a fabulous book that I use during Docent Training called Improv Wisdom: Don’t Prepare, Just Show Up. If you’re looking for a last-minute holiday gift, I can’t recommend this book enough. It’s a great read. When Ibrought it on a trip with my parents last Christmas, my mom devoured it in a few hours. And our docents raved about it too. The first chapter of the book is called Say Yes, in which the author makes the argument that we should say yes to everything and accept all offers. To quote the book, “Say yes to everything. Accept all offers. Go along with the plan. Support someone else’s dream…Yes glues us together. Yes starts the juices rolling…Saying yes is an act of courage and optimism; it allows you to share control. It is a way to make your partner happy. Yes expands your world.” The opposite of yes, of course, is “no,” which is a blocking word, and it indicates to others that we have a better idea, we’re critical of the idea on the table, or we’re simply uninterested. What kind of message would I send to my child if I said “no?” Instead, I gave her a whole-hearted “YES,” and I’ve lived to tell the story!

After making handprints, N painted in my mostly red print with purple paint.

And then added some more paint, snowflakes, and sequins. When we washed up, the red paint stained our hands a lovely pink color that reminded me of our joint effort to experiment, play, and take risks.

The YES challenge (via Improv Wisdom)

  • Agree with those around you
  • Say yes if someone asks for help and you can give it
  • For one day say yes to everything, and notice the results. (obviously, use common sense!)

If you take on this challenge, I’d love to hear about the results!

Bubble Painting

Bubble Paintings

“There are no failures, just experiences and your reactions to them.”

Tom Krause, Author and Motivational Speaker

What follows is my pitch for attempting the unknown for the sake of having a new experience, and maybe the end result will match your expectations. Or not. Either way, you’ve tried something new.

Aren’t these pretty? These are the result of a moderately failed experiment in bubble painting. The failure isn’t evident, is it?

I started with a mixture of tempera paint (red with a little silver), dish soap, and a little bit of water to make it runny.

Whole Foods dish soap is apparently great for dishes, but truly terrible for making good suds. If you’re up for this project, Dawn or Joy are most likely the way to go for a bowl full of bubbles. Mine fell flat. I’ll try this again for sure, and will be sure to share the winning recipe. That was the first failure, but here comes one that’s even bigger.

Can you guess what happened here? We poured the mixture into a little bowl, and then after a little demonstration, I instructed my daughter to blow. Out. Don’t suck it in. It’s not a drink. Don’t forget to blow OUT.

“Oh no, is that red paint all over your FACE?” I’m the worst mom ever! Wash it out. Check the bottle. Phew, it’s non-toxic. Ack!

She did great for the first five minutes of blowing, but then just forgot what she was doing. Totally understandable. She’s only two, after all. And sometimes I forget that.

MaryAnn Kohl has a good suggestion in Preschool Art, which I wish I had read beforehand: Pierce a hole near the top of the straw to keep your child from sucking paint into their mouth.

After that short, freaky interlude, we resumed Project Bubble Paint. From this point forward, I was responsible for blowing bubbles.

And they make for delightful gift tags, don’t you think?

Do you have a good bubble paint recipe?

Aluminum Foil Painting

DSC_0820

Why stop with paper when you can paint on egg cartons, fabric, and wood? I love digging around my cabinets and recycling bin for substrates other than paper, and aluminum foil became the basis of yesterday’s second painting experiment. (The first was Drippy Gravity Painting).

Foil wrapped around a piece of cardboard.

And securely taped.

N chose blue and orange paint. She has a thing for blue, so that was no surprise. After mixing the two colors she exclaimed, “I made black!” Well, not exactly, but I saw her point and didn’t have the heart to set her straight. Don’t you love the shine of that foil? Who wouldn’t want to paint on that?

We used BioColor paint, which worked nicely on the foil.  If you’re using tempera, just add a little dish soap to it, which will help the paint adhere to the foil and keep it from cracking.

But the project didn’t end there. Oh no. Once the painting had run its course, she picked up a pencil, fascinated by how it etched into the surface of the foil.

Painting on foil was an valuable exercise in working with a new material, gaining the experience of pushing paint along a super-smooth surface, and engraving pencil marks into the soft and pliable foil. Next time the foil comes out, I think we could do some cool things with tissue paper collage. Can’t wait!

Do you have any other ideas for aluminum foil art experiments?

Drippy Gravity Painting

DSC_0788

Many of you have commented that attention spans at your art tables run short. Shorter than short. Maybe almost nonexistent. And I want to support you in two ways: one is to say that this is so normal for toddlers and preschoolers to give an art project their 4-minute all, and two is that I must be deceiving you into thinking that my daughter’s interest is sustained over many moons. Not always the case. Rarely the case. Maybe never the case.

But I keep on at it. Pulling rabbits out of my hat. Introducing the same materials over and over again to build familiarity. Introducing new materials to keep the interest high. It’s a fine, fast-moving dance between me, her, and the projects — definitely more whirling dervish than Nutcracker Suite.

Case in point: this afternoon, between 3:30 and 4:30, we ripped through three completely different painting projects. Three! I set it all up during nap time, and we tore through it all in less than an hour. Drip painting: 10 minutes. Tin Foil Painting: 15 minutes.  Marbleized Paper Painting: 15 minutes. Throw in another 20 for clean-up and you’ve got an hour. What a mess!

I’ll leave you with Painting Project #1 today…the rest will follow.

Drip Painting

I added extra water to my Salt and Flour Paint recipe, seen in those squeeze bottles, to make the paint nice and pourable. I thought N would enjoy squeezing paint on the cardboard — it’s a nice strong substrate –but didn’t anticipate just how runny the paint would be. What a fun surprise!  When N saw the pools of paint, she asked for pasta to stick in the puddles, and then added marker embellishments along the right side.

Once she figured out that gravity was at play, she moved the board back and forth then side to side. It’s all about the process, isn’t it. And it’s moments like this that I think I hit URL-gold with the name TinkerLab — toddler and preschool art is so much about tinkering, experimenting, playing, and surprises. We’ll be doing this again, for sure!

What kind of tinkering have you been been up to?

Egg Carton Painting

DSC_0548

If you grew up in the United States, there’s a good chance that during your childhood you made some version of an egg carton craft: think lady bugs with pom-pom faces and googly eyes. On this page alone, I counted 47 craft projects for preschoolers that begin with egg cartons!

What N and I embarked on is more of a free-painting project, sans pom-poms, pipe cleaners, and googly eyes. It takes the open-ended painting experience from the easel to the egg carton, and offers children an opportunity to think creatively and independently. I’m big on using non-art materials for art-making, and this definitely fits the bill.  Recycling materials teaches kids that anything can be used for art, and we’re only limited by our own imaginations. In addition to all of this, the textured, bumpy surface of the carton is a new form of tactile exploration that offers new challenges to kids used to painting on 2-D surfaces. And, if you set this up on your kitchen floor, as we did, this is a flexible activity for homes with limited art-making space.

Time

10 minutes for set-up and clean-up. 10 – 45 minutes for the activity.  At 2 years old, my daughter spent about 10 minutes on this.

Materials

  • Cardboard egg carton/s
  • Tempera paint (acrylic will work too)
  • Fat brushes. We like round, fat brushes like these.
  • Palette or paint cups. I like to squeeze paints on a plastic-coated paper plate or plate covered in foil.

Steps

  1. Save your cardboard egg cartons. We eat a lot of eggs around here, so this wasn’t too hard.
  2. Cover your work surface. I covered a large area of our kitchen floor with a paper grocery bag that I cut open.
  3. Set up materials. I limited our palette to two colors, which my daughter enjoyed mixing.
  4. Give your child the egg carton, and see what he or she comes up with.

Egg Carton Extension

I found this very cool idea on Giggleface Studios for making an egg carton nature/object collecting box. While my daughter is probably a bit young to fully enjoy this, I imagine it would be a crowd pleaser for kids over 3. And you can see all of the photos that relate to this project here.

One Color at a Time

DSC_0452

I was talking to a friend at the park today about things that keep parents from setting their kids up with art projects.  The list isn’t too much of a surprise, and you might even have your own bullet points to add to this (please share if you do!):

  • The house/table/furniture could get messy.
  • Clothes will need to be changed, washed, or thrown out.
  • It requires too much facilitation.
  • I’ve seen shitmykidsruined.com, and there’s no way I’m allowing Sharpies in the house!
  • I just don’t have the patience for it.

Fair enough. Art projects are not for everyone, but after today’s convo I’m on a new mission to also share ideas that are easy on the parents’ will, time and emotions. In my own effort to tackle some of these issues, N’s little art table is always covered in plastic (our dining room table, pictured above, is an old high school table that came with expletives carved into its legs — so no worries there!), we have aprons for painting and cooking, paints and markers are usually washable, and messy projects are often taken outside.

A couple days ago we embarked on a little color-mixing activity that is SO surprisingly clean that my 2-year old asked, “Why is my hand not dirty? Is my hand dirty?” All you need are some squeezable paints (tempera or acrylic — makes no difference) and a zip-lock bag with a good seal. This last part is critical!

Steps

  1. Set out your materials: zip-lock bag and 2-3 paints
  2. Open the bag or have your child open the bag. My daughter wanted to hold the bag open.
  3. Squeeze ONE color into the bag. My daughter really wanted to do this step, so we traded bag for paint. This became an exercise in restraint (for her) when I found myself saying, “Just squeeze it a little bit…like toothpaste. Not too much.”)
  4. Zip the bag up
  5. Hand it to your child to experiment with, mush around, squeeze, etc.
  6. Once this has run its course, add another color and then zip it up again. I used this as an opportunity to teach color mixing by saying, “First we put blue in the bag. What color do you want to add next?  Okay, yellow. What color will we get when we mix blue with yellow?”
  7. Young children will be interested in the sensation of smooshing and mixing, and older children may be interested in “drawing” into the paint by pushing down on it against a hard surface like a table. We tried this, but it was a solitary sport for mom.

After playing with “clean” paint for a few minutes, N was jonesing to actually paint, so I carried the “one color at a time” idea over from the first project into what you see in the photo above. She picked the color she wanted to begin with (yellow), and then chose colors to add, one at a time.” The first painting was yellow/blue, and the second was yellow/blue/red.

After that, she was done.