“The painting has a life of its own. I try to let it come through.”
— Jackson Pollack, American Painter
Creating string art is a fun mix of art, creative thinking, and experimentation all rolled into one open-ended package.
If you’ve been following this blog for a while you’ll know that when it comes to children’s projects, my focus lies on the experience of creating more than the product.
My 4-year old, who has been calling herself Leia for the past month (as in Princess Leia — and yes, she’s been wearing the Leia costume she got for Christmas for the past 24 hours!), adds string to everything she makes. And my 2-year old, who we like to call Rainbow on this blog (here’s the story of how that began), said that she wanted to paint. So this experience was the perfect marriage of their interests on this rainy morning.
To get started, you only need a few simple materials.
- Washable tempera paint, poured into small bowls
- Short pieces of string
- Copy paper and/or cardstock
- Spoons to help cover the string in paint
- Table covering (optional)
- Baby wipes or a damp towel to clean hands
Without giving my children too much direction, I like to set up our projects up as invitations to create. I might make a suggestion or give a brief prompt, but I trust that the materials speak volumes to children. The less that I interject, the more opportunity they’ll have to find their own voice and make independent decisions.
With this project, Leia and Rainbow spent some time dancing their painted strings across the paper. After this ran its course I folded a sheet of paper in half and offered a suggestion that they could try pulling the string through the shut paper.
This resulted in a symmetrical mirror image painting, which inspired Leia to try pulling more than one string through the paper at once. She then tested the process of holding one paint-soaked string in each hand, and pulling them through at the same time. I obviously needed to step in an assist her on this one.
They struggled with gaining control over the string and occasionally complained about getting paint on their hands, but the complexity of working with this tricky combination of paint and string challenged them to work with familiar materials in a new way.
- Compare the effect of the painting string on different papers.
- Try holding a piece of paint-soaked string in each hand.
- Cut different lengths of string.
- Try this on a LARGE scale, with thick yarn or rope and a large tarp.
- Try one of these pulled string painting techniques from Trisha at Inspiration Laboratories
- Try string painting over photocopies.
- What else could you paint on? How about foam stickers?
Would you try this combination in your home? Have you tried it already?
Painting with string has been my all time favorite activity, esp the pulled string method. As a kid, almost all of the thankyou cards I made were using this mthod:) Putti loved it when we tried it. Its been almost 2yrs now, need to try it again, thanks for the remainer http://www.puttisworld.com/2011/06/painting-with-wool.html
You can tie the end of the yarn to a cloth pin to avoid kids complaining abt messy hands
Love your blog! Thanks for giving me some inspiration for art activities over winter break.
Thank you, Ruth! One of the best parts of blogging has been meeting kindred spirits. Enjoy your break!
I love all the ways the girls experimented with the string. I think string paintings make for beautiful art.
Their art did turn out really cool, Trisha, and they had fun with this. I tried it myself and it’s not the easiest material to work with!! ~rachelle
I love open-ended processes. I love how time flows between creation and inspiration. But beyond this benefits, paint with unusual materials let them look around with curiosity.
Oh, I love it to Angaleta. It’s great for the kids and it takes so much pressure off the parent. I hope that my children will remain curious well into adulthood. ~ Rachelle
Thank you for posting this. This is a lovely example of an activity perfectly suited to two different age groups. My two boys are three years apart so I’m always looking for activities that are (or can be adapted) to suit both.
You’re so welcome, Kylie! And thank for the comment 🙂 I’m usually willing to adapt anything to work for kids of different ages…I just set my expectations for that, knowing that they won’t have the exact same experience. My 4-year old is a whiz with scissors, but my 2-year old is just learning. Obviously they can’t both cut things up the same way, but they can do as much as they can do, at the stage that they’re in. The key, for me anyway, is having a self-serve creative area where my kids can easily gather the materials that they need and want to use. Let me know how it goes!
Great idea – I shall try this out with my 2 year old. He doesn’t like getting messy so it will be interesting to see his reaction. Great for fine motor skills.
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