Abstract Recycled Prints

Back between my careers as a movie costumer and middle school art teacher, I was once a printmaker. Anyone else have a circuitous career path like that? In any case, I have an enormous passion for making all sorts of prints. While my daughter and I have made handprints galore, we’ve printed from sink mats, and stamps are a staple of our art table, this was her first foray into real printing with a brayer. If you’re new to printmaking, brayers are simply the rolling tools that help get the ink onto the plate (printing surface), and they’re easily found for about $8 at any art supply store. And once you have one, your kids will find all sorts of fun uses for it at the art table.

A print that I pulled (left) and one that my daughter pulled (right)


  • Meat/Veggie tray or Styrofoam plate. You can also buy a 12-pack of scratch-foam for about $6.
  • Ball point pen or sharpened pencil — for engraving
  • Scissors
  • Brayer, like this one
  • Water-based printing ink. I like Speedball inks. While you can use tempera or acrylic paint, printing ink has a desirable tack to it that keeps the ink from seeping into the cracks and holes of your design. The ink is permanent, so be sure to wear a smock and cover the table well.
  • Paper to print onto
  • Paper to cover the table
  • Tray or plate to squeeze the ink onto

We started by cutting a rectangle shape from the bottom of a meat tray.

And then drawing right onto the foam with a ballpoint pen. I didn’t give my daughter any direction except to make some marks. She began by drawing some long lines and then enjoyed poking holes all over the place. Lots of little dots. It was beautifully abstract and I couldn’t wait to see how it would print.

We moved to the art table I offered her two colors of ink. White or silver. She chose both, which is probably what I would do if I were almost three. I squeezed a small amount of ink near the top of a tray and then evenly coated the brayer. After demonstrating the technique once, it was all in her hands.

The ink makes a nice tacky noise that we both enjoyed.

She inked up the plate (her foam design), and was ready to print.

She chose a green piece of paper for the first print, and I showed her how we could press our weight on the plate to push it down on the paper. She had a better idea and found her rolling pin. Kids can be so resourceful!

When we pulled the print, she remarked that it looked like grapes. I quite agree! We printed one of these on some nice frame-worthy paper and sent it off to grandma for her birthday. And she loved it!

This post is shared on Childhood 101, Skip to My Lou, ABC and 123, It’s Playtime

What kind of prints do your kids like to make?

Spring Sink Mat Prints

I spend a lot of time at the hardware store. And last week I spotted this flower mat — the Blumz Sink Mat! — I love that exclamation point! — It’s an exciting sink mat! — and it looked like something that could be fun to print with!

In honor of Spring’s inevitable arrival (yes, it WILL get warmer) and St. Patty’s Day (I married a “Doorley”, after all), we used green and yellow paint. The green is Biocolor and the yellow is tempera, for no other reason than that’s what was handy. Oh, and wait ’til you see the Leprechaun at the end of the post…

I also found a bag of ten foam brushes for one buck, so the luck of the Irish was clearly with me. I covered the work space and then my daughter painted the mat with our fresh Spring palette.

And then we added a sheet of paper, pressed it down with the palms of our hands, and pulled our first print.

Ooooooooh!! This was an experiment that worked!

We pulled three prints, which frankly was more than I had bargained for, and then the real fun began! If you followed our Jello experiment, you’ll recognize a common thread here…

And maybe you picked up on the addition of an apron. I love that focused expression.

There’s a leprechaun in my house!

What we used to make it happen:

  • Rubbery plastic sink mat
  • Paint
  • Foam brushes (roller brushes or wide brushes will also work)
  • Paper (I like the 80# sulfite paper from Discount School Supply)
  • Palette (Dinner plate covered with foil)

How are you getting ready for Spring? And have you printed with any unexpected materials lately?

Happily shared with Kids Can Craft, Made by you Mondays, Marvelously Messy

Sweet Potato Heart Prints

“A life without love is like a year without summer.” – Swedish proverb

Now that our light-up snowman and twinkly lights have finally come down (yes, we’re those people!), we’ve been talking up Valentine’s Day and all things hearts. While I see it as a holiday full of commercial hype and overpriced flowers, I’m reminded that for children it can be full of play and joy and loads of sugar. Mmmmm.

When N developed an addiction to sweet potatoes last week, I bought a five-pound bag of the little beauties only to find out she’s not eating them this week. Of course. So, amidst my plan to freeze a batch of roasted sweet potatoes I realized that they’d also be good for carving up some heart stamps.

So I cut one in half and carved out a couple hearts.

The heart shape rises about 1/2 inch off the potato base to help us get some nice, clean prints.


  • Potato Stamp/s
  • Tempera Paint. Acrylic works too, but you’ll see why I’m so happy I used washable tempera in just a moment
  • Brayer or Paint roller
  • Smooth, flat surface to squeeze the paint on
  • Paper for printing

I rolled out a little bit of paint so that N could cover the stamp in a mostly uniform fashion. And then she got stamping.

Lately, she’s been interested in figuring out how things work. And then once her curiosity is satisfied, she’ll move on to the next thing. So here she is, done stamping in about three minutes flat and apparently investigating the bottom of the stamp. I had to leave the room for five minutes to change her baby sister’s diaper, and now I see that perhaps she was actually wondering how that black paint would feel all over her hands and the table?

Wow! That was a surprise!

I calmly reminded myself that it’s all about the process. And thanked myself for using washable paints. On our old school table that has seen worse days.

If you try this project, I’ve added a new feature that allows you to leave a picture in the comment section.

Bubble Paint Recipe

The bubble recipe I used in yesterday’s post didn’t live up to my expectations, so I went back to the drawing board (paint and soap laboratory?) and came up with something that creates big, rewarding bubbles that are easy to pull prints off of. While this worked for me, feel free to experiment with your own ratios and solutions. And if you come up with something good, please share it here. Thanks to Amy for suggesting Dawn soap and glycerin in yesterday’s comments. I love getting feedback :)


  • 2 tablespoons tempera paint (liquid, not powdered)
  • 2 tablespoons dish soap. I used Palmolive. Dawn or Joy (or something along these lines should also work, but we had far less luck with all-natural dish soap).
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • Straw/s
  • Paper. I cut mine into pieces that matched the size of the bowl’s opening.


  • Pour ingredients into a small bowl. (If you decide you want more bubbles, stick to the same 2:2:1 ratio and size up).
  • Insert straw into bowl and blow.
  • Place paper on top of bubbles and you have a print!! Voila!

Printed Upcycled Circle Scarf

I have a stockpile of t-shirts that no longer have a purpose, just waiting to be upcycled into other things. After leafing through Todd Oldham’s Kid Made Modern, I got just the inspiration I needed to pull this activity off. The set-up was a bit involved, but not too crazy. The fabric we used in this project came from a 2nd hand XX-large never-before-worn t-shirt that I picked up for 99 cents. Awesome.

I started by cutting a couple potatoes into diamond

and square shapes.

We chose four colors of paint and spread them thinly on paper plates.

A colorful toddler-selected palette. A trend-setting selection, that’s sure to catch the eye of designers for next season’s fashions.

I cut two bands of fabric from under the arms of the t-shirt, each one about 6″ wide. This is scarf #1, wrapped around a grocery bag so that the paint doesn’t soak onto the backside of the scarf or table.  Let the stamping begin.

Stamping all over.

After experiments with stamping reached their pinnacle, painting on stamps and scarves was underway.

Then the request for fabric markers came in.

And finally, after adding some apple stamps on day 2, it was done!

After N wore this simple no-sew scarf for a bit, I could see that it wants to curl up inside-out, rendering the designs almost invisible. Bummer. So it looks like I may need to add a little stitching and a fabric backing to make it work better. Aesthetics aside, this was a fun activity that made us feel good about repurposing fabric and veggies into art.

Happily shared with The T-Shirt Diaries