Friday, March 29, 2013

Easy Art Activities For A Snow Day Or Any Day (Part 4)

This Part 4 in a multi-part series. Here are the previous posts you may have missed:

Here's The final installment of this series on encouraging artsy times when you and your children have a day off. I've encouraged you to gather supplies and ideas and let your children play with and explore the art supplies. I also shared a couple of art projects we've been doing in our house during our down times. Now, the final piece to the puzzle: YOU!

4. Stop Cleaning The House and DO ART WITH YOUR KIDS! Specifically: Origami!

I constantly struggle with this one. I have a to-do list a mile long and when the kids are home, it seems as if I clean even more! When they are home on a snow day, I am mopping up puddles of melted snow, picking up four sets of snow boots (again and again!), hanging up snow pants to dry, making cocoa, getting snacks (again?!?), etc. etc. As the day goes on, I find myself getting more and more frustrated as I try to "get stuff done" while the children vie for my attention. So, my advice for you: stop cleaning and play.

Play dominoes, build a snow fort, make a yummy treat, sit and do a craft. The dishes will wait, the laundry will be there later. You'll be spending time with your kids and, let me tell you a secret, after you spend some time with them they MAY even run off and play and you'll have time to fold the laundry. Maybe. If not, you'll relax ad have a good time for a few minutes which is better than yelling "go play!" and fuming while you do the dishes.

One type of art that is great for mommy and me time (with Kinders on up) is origami. I have done origami with all three of my boys and it is fun and addicting! You don't have to have any special paper (you can use copy paper cut into a square) and you can look up directions online for all sorts of awesome ideas! If you are interested in books on origami, your local library will probably have a few and we like the "Origami Kit" with three books from Dover Publications that I featured in this post.

I've seen this kit at AC Moore and Michael's. It is seriously the best!
So great for a holiday or birthday gift!

Here's Number 1 Son creating a sailboat and fish mobile.
Check out the post for that here.
And here's a lovely wreath that will get you thinking "Spring!"
even if it is still 20 degrees and snowing in your area!
Check out the post for this here.

I also picked up this great flipbook by Toshie Takahama called, "Quick and Easy Origami" that is absolutely great! My six-year-old can make many of the projects in the book himself, and we've spent lots of time making dozens of pieces from this book. The kit on Amazon comes with paper so you are ready-to-go when it arrives. Another lovely gift idea!

Toshie Takahama's book called, "Quick and Easy Origami"

Some ideas to go beyond just making random pieces of origami:
  • Make a scene with different pieces of origami glued to a background. Take the little doggie from Takahama's book and glue it to construction paper and add some grass, some origami flowers, an origami bird in the sky, an origami fish swimming in a paper pond--use your imagination to create an entire scene made from origami elements. How about making a spring scene? 
  • Make tiny origami, or HUGE origami. Origami is created from a square of paper. Once you find a project you like, try using different size squares of paper. We made a samurai hat from a traditional piece of origami paper and then used all different sizes of squares to see how big we could make the samurai hats--could we make one to fit our teddy bear? Yes! We used a 24" square to start with. Could we make a samurai hat to fit us? Yes! We used a square cut from a double-wide sheet of newspaper. Use newspaper or wrapping paper to create the largest squares you can and fold away! And how small ca you go? Can you make a piece of origami from a 2" square? How about a 1" square of paper? Have fun experimenting.
  • Make an origami gift. Some of your experiments from above, are great for gifts. Little origami creations make great decorations on cards (send one to grandma to let her know you are thinking about her) and super huge origami can be a gift in itself! Make a wearable samurai hat for your friend--just fold up a super-huge piece of paper into a hat and paint it with tempera paints. Awesome! For a more sophisticated gift, you can use beautifully patterned origami papers to make art that can be mounted on mat board and given to mom, dad, grandma, or a grad for a special occasion. How unique! Here are some great picts of how the samurai hats and shirts can be used to create great pieces of art. I'm planning on making the samurai hat one for my sister for her birthday--I think it looks just like a quilt and she's an avid quilter.
  • Amaze your children and make origami from money! Yep, there's nothing like grabbing a dollar bill from dad, folding it into a tiny button-down shirt, and then giving it to your kid. Not only are they amazed at your coolness of being able to make origami from money, they think it's great they tricked dad out of a dollar bill--hee hee! This kept my kiddos busy while we waited for dinner to be served at a restaurant and they had me leave the waitress' tip that way. Just do a search online and you'll see all sorts of ideas for making little creations from money.
Have fun and enjoy this time with your children! I hear this time goes by quickly--it's time to make memories...

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Easy Art Activities For A Snow Day Or Any Day (Part 3)

This Part 3 in a multi-part series. Here are the previous posts you may have missed:

So your children have moved beyond experimenting with art supplies and you need some ideas to engage them? No problem! My solution? Collect, save and access art ideas as needed.

3. Gradually Gather and *Actually Use* Easy Art Ideas

Before Pinterest, I was a ripper. If I saw a cool art or craft idea in a magazine...RIP! was torn out and filed away. But that takes up space (which I don't have) and if you are a piler (like me) I'd have to sort through MOUNDS of ideas to find the one I was looking for. If you are a filer, it would be easier, but who has time to file!?

So I love Pinterest. It allows me to pin ideas and categorize them (quasi-filing) and access them later. I rarely rip stuff out anymore (which is helping the clutter a bit).

The point is--gather ideas as you go. If you see something that you think your child may like to do in the future--grab it and file it so you can easily access it in the future. Think easy projects with supplies you are likely to have on hand. Then, on snow days or lazy days at home when you hear the "I'm bored!!" posse coming for you, whip out the ideas and look through them with your child. I often browse my "Art Ideas" board with my five-year-old in the mornings when he needs to create but can't think of something. Sometimes just looking at a picture of a project is enough and he'll run off to the art center and create-a-way. Sometimes I need to get involved and gather some special materials not in the Art Center and walk him through getting started.

We've done a TON of projects this way! It's great because we are actually doing the things I pin (my Pinterest surfing is not in vain!) and he's practicing his cutting, gluing, collage, and painting while being truly engaged since he's the one choosing the projects.

So here are a couple of pin-worthy projects for you to keep in mind for the next day off:

Aluminum Foil Quilt Squares
These are easy and addicting and all of my children were able to do them (even the 2 1/2 year old with a but of help). We mounted a few of them on mat board to protect them and make them easier to display. I found the instructions here at Piikea Street.

Chalk Shapes
This project kept my little ones busy for a while the other day. Cut a shape from cardboard (we used cereal box cardboard), put a little roll of masking tape on the underside to keep it still on your paper and then place it on a dark piece of paper. Trace around it with colored chalk or pastels, then *before you remove the cardboard shape,* gently wipe with tissue to smudge the chalk a bit. Ta-da! Beautiful!

Other Projects to Check Out:

LOVE these Magic Carpets from use materials you have on hand and who wouldn't want to make a magic carpet and go to a far off land! Where will YOU go?

And check out these Paper Sculptures from Sharpie Woman! Awesome! My five-year-old made a ton of these last week and even the two-year-old tried her hand at them. They are fun on a shelf or hung on the wall ad are a great way to use up all of those paper scraps you've been saving in your Art Center!

Other ideas to get you started? 

  • Use masking tape to "write" your name on cardboard or poster board, paint over the whole thing and then remove the tape for a great sign for your room!
  • Try your hand at printmaking using Legos or other found objects around your home (ask mom first!!).
  • Make Magic wands or fairy wands or search the web for "Notan" for some paper-cutting fun! I have an easy version of this here with my "Positively Cute I Love You Project."
  • Get out the clay and make dinosaur fossils or press found objects like sea shells into the dough
  • Make a snow sculpture outside or bring a bin full of snow inside and make a snow sculpture in your house! Or make a snow fort inside for your Playmobil guys or Matchbox cars!
  • And of course, you can always search the Create Art With Me site for more inspiration! (Hint hint!)

What are some of your go-to projects for easy fun? Anything you've done that engage your kids for awhile. I'd love to hear about them!

Friday, March 15, 2013

Easy Art Activities For A Snow Day Or Any Day (Part 2)

OK, so now you have an Art Center full of inspiring art supplies and you are raring to go! But what are you going to do with all of that stuff? Some children don't need any encouragement--they see the art supplies and they know exactly what they are going to do with them. That's great! 

Free play and exploration of supplies is so important to a child's creative, cognitive, and motor development...BUT, I have to advise are going to have to be flexible. Many children go through a phase where, to a grown-up, it looks as though they are "wasting" supplies. If you haven't experienced it--just wait! I'm talking about puddles of goopy glue, sticking every sticker they can find on their paper, whole rolls of tape shmooshed into a sticky, tangled ball, cutting and cutting until there is confetti everywhere! It's the way it goes--not all artsy activity is going to produce a masterpiece.

My youngest is just getting into the
"cutting and cutting until nothing is left" phase...

Here are my tips for allowing your child to explore the Art Center during this stage of development:

1. Relax. You've set yourself up for success by actually having art materials and tools available to your child, now you have to let them go (a bit). I'm not advocating letting them be truly wasteful on purpose, but they are going to want to "draw" with the Elmer's glue and then float scrap paper bits in it. They just are. Think about how you react to your child exploring, taking creative risks and creating. Is getting stressed and yelling really going to create good feelings about art?

2. Don't buy expensive stuff. If your child is in the "experimenting" phase, this is not the time for artist-quality supplies. Buy washable, inexpensive products when they are on sale (ie. back-to-school time) and keep the "extras" away. Buy a cheap ream of copy paper, an inexpensive sketch book, reuse scrap paper, keep those bits of construction paper and reuse them, buy some things at the dollar get the idea. You won't stress out so much of your child goes through a entire roll of dollar store tape or breaks a box of inexpensive crayons into bits--again--if you are buying kid-friendly products. There will be time for special, fancy art supplies and those fancy supplies will be even more special when your child receives them when s/he is ready.

3. Monitor what you put out. If the scissors are not being used properly (cutting the air, cutting someone's hair, running with scissors, etc.), then they go away. Crayons being broken (or eaten) even though you've explained it is against the rules? They go away too. If too much is being removed, you may need to rethink the free-spirited art center at this time. Perhaps you set aside time to sit with your child to show him/her the proper way to use the supplies. Danger = Not Good, Not Respecting Supplies = Not Good. You will have to determine what your child can understand with regards to rules and expectations for "proper use" of supplies.

4. Meter what you put out. You don't keep all four bottles of Elmer's in the Art Center when your child is going through the "painting with glue" phase. But, you can keep a 1/2 full bottle in there. I can wipe up a half bottle of glue, if necessary. Same with construction paper. If your child is going through the "cut with scissors until there is nothing left" phase, keep just a couple pieces of construction paper in the Center or teach him/her to choose the recycled paper to shred.

5. Have an open mind. What we think of as "art" is not what a 3-year-old thinks of when creating. Sure, you can do projects together, but be flexible. I have seen parents so focused on the finished product that they take over the project while their child looks on. I've also seen people literally hold a child's hand and guide them to place the elements of a project. This is not assembly-line work. This is fun, this is exploring, this is creativity.

6. Think of this as a "teachable moment." Be involved. Saying things like, "This is how we use scissors safely," "Oh, see how goopy this gets when there is so much glue?" and, "How about we use the scrap paper if you are going to cut, cut, cut it up?" It's a process, but children eventually learn how to use art and craft supplies safely and properly.

7. Be OK with throwing it away. If your child is attached to an "experimental" piece and proud of it, hang it on the wall and have him or her show it to visitors. But some of these pieces in this experimental phase get forgotten the minute your child is done with them. You'll be hanging some strange stuff on the wall during this phase, but if your child is loving the work than you should too.

None of this is rocket science, but how your respond to your child in these beginning phases of art-making and exploration is really important. Exploration of tools and media in a healthy, encouraging way creates confidence, increases fine motor control and problem-solving skills and this time will be remembered fondly by you and your child for years to come!

Here's an easy project to do with your child that will remind you to relax during this phase of your child's development. Print this little poem on card stock, add some little handprints, a photo and hang this in the Art Center to help when you are picking up paper confetti and goopy glue. The kit for this piece was given to me when I was pregnant with my first child, so I'm not able to track down the original source.

Sorry I couldn't show you the entire piece--it has my kids' names on it.
This is a lovely Mother's Day or any day project!

When I'm big you won't remember
the mud I tracked on the stairs.
Instead I hope you'll hear
my laugh that eased your cares.
The smudges that I leave on walls
will someday fade away.
But the memories of my first steps
will be cherished every day.
As for these two handprints,
Someday you'll be glad
We took the time to make a mess
That didn't make you mad.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Easy Art Activities For A Snow Day Or Any Day (Part 1)

I had originally wanted to call this post "Artsy Ways To Survive (Yet Another Snow Day) With Children" but it seemed a bit desperate-sounding...

We just came off of our Winter Break and then this past Friday the kids had a snow day. I'm a homebody (as are many of my kids) so when we have days off we hang around the house. But I'm trying to discourage the amount of screen time they have and I found out that yelling, "Go Play!" over and over at them doesn't usually work to encourage them to find something to in this series of posts, I'll share some tips for days at home with kiddos, be it a snow day, a lazy weekend or a school break.

1. ENCOURAGE CREATIVITY (Also known as "Set Yourself Up For Success")

All of my children are creative, but in different ways. One of them MUST do art every day. I used to keep all of my personal art supplies, my classroom art supplies and my children's art supplies together in my office. Problem? Well, I was constantly running back and forth grabbing supplies for my children, they were always getting into my classroom supplies and using things I had set aside for an upcoming class, and after a creative binge, the cabinets looked like a tornado went I finally figured it out. If I want my kids to be creative, they need access to supplies and they need to be able to put them away themselves. I want this to be 100% access all the time. So, where do they work? The dining room. Where are their art supplies? The dining room.

Our house is small and this set-up isn't going to earn us a spot in Better Homes & Gardens, but this works right now for us. I suggest setting up a temporary art center in a corner of your home and trying it out and making adjustments before buying fancy organization "stuff." See how your children work and do what works for your family.

Here's a tour of our ART CENTER:

LEFT DOOR: Restickable hooks hold regular scissors ad decorative scissors, the red thing is a apron.
TOP SHELF: Elmer's glue, glue sticks and tape such as masking, electrical, duct, and clear tape,
there's a bin for watercolors with brushes, watercolor paper and a water cup, old yogurt bins hold colored pencils and markers.
BOTTOM SHELF: a bin of assorted punches, Twistables, a sketchbook for each child, and a slot filled
construction paper, a bin of crayons with a crayon sharpener.
RIGHT DOOR: rulers hanging on restickable hooks
My kids usually prefer to work at our dining room table, but we're
trying out this table-turned-desk. There is a roll of IKEA paper on there
(which they actually never use)
This ain't pretty, but it is a repurposed bookcase with a place
for "How-to" books o drawing and origami and coloring books,  along with
bins for clay, recycling and interesting bits for sculptures, etc.
along with our scrap paper bins organized by color
(I know that seems a bit weird, but it actually works well so you
can find the paper color you need fast).

Other things that are not shown here but are available to them, on an as-needed (mom-involved) basis:

Tempera paints
Acrylic Paints
Hot glue gun and glue sticks
Higher quality watercolors and paper
Higher quality paint brushes
Craft stuff such as beads, pipe cleaners, craft sticks

I keep the above items high up on a shelf in another room. Every once in a while I take a handfull of crafty supplies and leave them in their art center as an invitation to create, but I wouldn't leave the whole box of craft stick or pom poms out--they'd be gone in a day (or more accurately strewn all over the house)...if they decide they need 100 craft sticks I can always bring the bin out and they can use however many they need.

I must say that I've tried MANY versions of an art center with my kids over the years and usually I have to pack most of it away once I have a new baby and they start walking (and putting the art supplies in their mouths), but at this moment, we are out of the baby phase so I can keep this stuff available all the time.

The addition of an art center to our home has increased creativity for all and I see the children choosing to "do art" more often and it is a cinch to clean up (for both the children and me) because everything has a place.

So, take the plunge and create an art center for your home today!

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Faith Ringgold Story Quilts

I had been planning to create story quilts inspired by Faith Ringgold's "Tar Beach" with my homeschool students, but couldn't think of the right angle for it. I didn't want to have them spend a class writing a story--we are too limited on time. Then I saw the post for Story Quilts done by Ms. Gram. She posed this question to her students: "If you could fly anywhere in the world, real or imaginary, where would you go?" Ah-ha! Just what I needed! 

Our completed quilt (I have a much smaller class this semester,
check out Ms. Gram's site to see this on a larger scale).

Check out the specifics for her lesson, here.

Here are our quilt squares...

I'd fly to a meadow; I'd fly to Cabela's

I'd fly everywhere; I'd fly to outer space ad touch the stars

I'd fly to some random Tokyo mall; I'd fly to L.L. Bean

I'd fly to Moscow, I'd fly to Australia to see bats
And here are some other books you may find helpful for a project like...

"Cassie's Word Quilt," by Faith Ringgold (The main character of the "Tar Beach" book stars in this picture book full of words).

"Dia's Story Cloth: The Hmong People's Journey to Freedom," by Dia Cha (This is more of an embroidered quilt, but it chronicles the journey of these refugees from Southeast Asia and their search for freedom).

"Talking With Tebé: Clementine Hunter, Memory Artist," Edited by Mary E. Lyons (the quilts and paintings of this self-taught African American folk artist pair well with Ringgold's textile art).

"Tar Beach," by Faith Ringgold (this was the specific book I used for this project--the children had me read it to them twice).

"The Keeping Quilt," by Patricia Polacco (this shows a quilt moving though generations of immigrants coming to the new world).


Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Printmaking: Warhol Self Portraits

For my last after school Modern Art class I wanted my students to explore the work of Andy Warhol. Last time we studied Warhol, we did the Handy Andy prints (which are a popular one on my blog and with my students). This time, I wanted to have them try printmaking so they could explore the Pop Art  repetitive printed images of Warhol's. With this project we are using foam trays to make a printmaking plate similar to a linocut or woodcut, but without the sharp tools.

This student loves to create Manga-inspired art.
I love this piece because it shows her interests and
is definitely a POP art piece--Warhol would be impressed!

This was a great first "real" printmaking project and the results are always so bright and fun. Some children really embrace this technique and I had one student complete TWO projects with the class time since she was having some much fun. I also did the project one-on-one with my Kindergardener and he loved it too. Clean-up is great since I used water-soluble printmaking ink (although I would love to try something in the future that is more permanent so that the kids could add color with watercolors afterwards...).

This might be a bit of an expense to buy the roller (brayer) if you are doing this project at home, but once you have the supplies on had you ca make a bunch of great prints for gifts, stationary, etc. Give it a try!

Faux Linocut Warhol Self Portraits

Supplies Needed:
Adjust the dimensions of your supplies based on the size of the foam trays you are using...

  • A few 4" x 5 1/2" pieces of white paper for drawing your design 
  • Pencils and erasers
  • Foam trays or styrofoam plates
  • Masking tape
  • Hot glue gun and glue sticks
  • A scrap piece of cardboard or mat board slightly larger than your foam printing "plate"
  • Water soluble printmaking ink
  • Brayer (I use the Speedball 4" soft rubber brayer)
  • A few 5" x 7" pieces of colored paper (smooth paper with bright colors work well)
  • Glue stick
  • Large piece of construction paper to mount the finished prints on

1. Use the pencil to draw a simple self portrait on the white piece of paper. Make it unique--just like you, but don't get too detailed. 

2. Place the drawing onto the foam tray and tape down. Trace the lines of your drawing with a dull pencil. Press down enough to leave an impression in the foam tray, but not hard enough to poke all the way through the foam or shred the paper drawing. This takes some practice...using the pencil at a slight angle helps. Once you've traced the drawing, remove the drawing and go over the lines you made in the foam tray to make them a bit deeper.

3. Mount your finished foam printing plate to the cardboard using hot glue.

4. Squeeze some printmaking ink onto a spare foam plate or foam tray. Use your brayer (roller) to move the ink around, coating the roller with ink. You don't need it gooping with ink--a nice even coating works best. Roll the inked brayer over your foam printing plate. Lay a piece of colored paper o top of the inked printing plate and press gently with your fingertips. I had the children use one hand to hold the paper still while the other rubbed the image. Remove the paper to see the transferred image. 

5. Repeat as may times as you wish. I had the children make at least four copies of the image ad the they mounted them onto a larger piece of construction paper once the prints were dry.


This guy is super-cute, too! 

Love the freckles!

And this piece is super-sweet! It makes me smile!

Monday, March 4, 2013

Lung Project Done

Many of you read about my experience watching my son make a 3D plaster cast of his body for a science project on the respiratory system...well, the project is done (and he got an A+!). This was a great project from a mom point-of-view: the supplies were cheap, it allowed for TONS of creativity on my son's part, and he could pretty much handle the whole thing himself--oh, and it didn't chew up a entire weekend! He worked on it one Saturday morning (taking breaks to go sledding and visit with company). And he was super-proud of it! That's my kind of project!

So here are the finished picts. Hopefully it inspires you to try something new!

The details of the project (in case you were wondering):

The plaster cast was made using three packages of plaster tape bought at Michael's. The strips were about 4" wide and 8' long--we cut them to size (some 4" strips, some 8" strips and some 12" strips), dipped them in warm water, and then applied them to my son's body (make sure you coat the model's body with petroleum jelly before putting the strips on).

The dried cast was painted with leftover house paint my son found in our garage (I am worried I needed that paint, but c'est la vie!).

The red stuff (used for the nasal cavity, mouth, trachea, and bronchi) is model magic--I think he used one standard size package.

The lungs are sponges that he used scissors to cut into lung shapes.

The bronchioles are made from some leftover moss we had that he sprayed with red and blue spray paint (which he also found in the garage).

The whole thing is mounted on foam core (from the Dollar Store) that was covered in leftover colored paper. He also went crazy using the hot glue gun on this project.

Fun Calder Fish

One of my private art students is open to any art project...while we work I talk to her about all sorts of art and artists and I've been letting her interests guide our studies. She had done the Calder Monogram Mobile project I posted here, but one of Alexander Calder's sculptures I showed her inspired her. of our next sessions, I got out some wire (in a variety of guages and colors) and lots of different kinds of beads and I let her go to town! 

It was great talking about Calder's work with her and then watching her make choices for her fish mobile. This was also a great project for problem solving (How do you get the beads spaced evenly along the wire? And, How do you keep the vertical rows of beads still within the fish "frame"?). 

When she was done, we created a stand for her mobile using a cork with a clothes hanger stuck in it, glued to a piece of mat board (this is my standard mobile "base").


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