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Styrofoam take-out containers are essentially unfriendly to the environment and I try to avoid them as much as possible. Recently I did bring home the pictured container from a restaurant with my uneaten portion of eggplant parmesan. When I noticed the design on the bottom I saw a printmaking opportunity. I cut out some lettering from the middle of the container leaving that small rectangular cut-out. I got out some oil based printing ink and a rubber brayer to print this child's tee shirt.
Since the ink is not water based, you will need some mineral spirits or turpentine to clean your brayer. I also plan on letting the Styrofoam printing plate dry so that I can use it again.
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Pinch Pots The pinch pots were made with preschoolers. They are imprerfect, yet so charming because of the imperfections. We can literally see their little finger imprints preserved forever. We started by rolling the clay into a ball. Think of making snowballs. They pressed their thumb into the center and then pressed the clay outward to form the shape. It is a quick process, and easy enough to scrap your pot and start over again if you are not happy with the result. After the pots had dried the children painted them with acrylic paint, and I coated them with an air drying polyurethane to add the shine.
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I pressed these flower petals way back in the winter. Since it wasn't exactly the growing season here in New Jersey, I bought a couple bouquets at my supermarket. I pressed the flowers in between the pages of books after first laying them out between sheets of copy paper. I placed 12 pound weights on top of the books. This, of course, removes the moisture from the petals. I would not recommend using valuable books as the dampness may damage the pages. I left the petals alone for about 10 days. I simply used a glue stick to attach the petals to the blank greeting card. I applied the glue to the card surface since the petals are delicate, and gently pressed them into place. I liked the wat they turned out, so now I'm ready to go out on a nature walk and gather some interesting leaves and wild flowers.
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Three and four year-olds made these magnets for the fridge. We started with wood shapes, and added the little buttons with the checkered pattern that they decided to refer to as "bug eyes". I gave them paint trays with blue and yellow acrylic paint. When the paint dried I used a glue gun to add magnets to the back.
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For Mother's Day the Kindergarten teacher asked me to help the children create a special gift for their moms. I wasn't sure how this project was going to go, but I really found that the children did a splendid job. I bought 8x10" wrapped canvases that were a very good deal. They came in a package of 24 and cost only about a dollar each. We painted from the actual bouquet instead of using photographs for reference. Tulips were my choice since they are a nice simple shape, and a blue mug was used for the vase. I did a quick demonstration on a table easel. Acrylic paints were squeezed onto a large plastic lid that substituted for a palette. You want the palette to be large enough for the children to have room to mix colors without everything turning murky. I started by sketching in the basic shapes with a small brush and blue paint. We talked about the different shapes and fitting everything onto their rectangle of canvas. Once they started to paint with larger bushes, I only intervened if they were making the mugs or the flowers too large or too small for the canvas. For the acrylic paint a stiff bristled brush is required as opposed to a watercolor brush. Acrylic paints are not your typical paint medium for children as they will not wash out of clothing. However, they wore oversized tee shirts for smocks. The paint is great since it can be layered and "mistakes" can be corrected.
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A group of preschoolers made these little robots. I had found a box of vintage building blocks at a garage sale and had seen posts for robots made from household objects on Pinterest. This project did not allow for much experimentation for the children; we basically worked on them very methodically step by step so that their finished robots would be able to stand when finished and not have parts falling off. I used wooden spools for the legs. They must be centered on the blocks so that the robots will stand and not topple. I did this part for the children ahead of time. Each child worked on a piece of cardboard that was covered with a plastic bag. The cardboard allowed me to safely move the robots after class, and the plastic prevented the glue from oozing out and permanently sticking to the cardboard. We just used a white glue. The arms (or ears, depending on your perspective) are miniature clothes pins, the eyes are buttons, the belly is a washer, and on top of the head is a thimble. Of course, you can use other objects that you have on hand.
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When I found a bag of building blocks at a garage sale I knew that I had the makings of sculptures. I collected some wooden clothes pins, corks, popsicle sticks, and wooden beads that I had left over from other projects. I put wood glue in a plastic container with a beat up paint brush. My group of four year olds were enthusiastic about creating height and balance so that their pieces would not collapse. It became as much of an engineering project as an art project. As you can see from the photo, they used a wood base to keep the work somewhat contained.
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All that you need for this project is some colored sand, white glue and some sponges, plus a sturdy substrate such as corrugated cardboard. The black substrate that I used was a piece of rigid plastic. I put the sand in salt and pepper shakers that I picked up at a dollar store. I dipped the sponges into the glue and applied it to the substrate. The white make-up sponges made the little triangles and a round stencil sponge (not pictured) was used for the large yellow circle. The small aqua hastags were made with the end of the clothes pin. Obviously the sand is messy, so hold your work over a bin or garbage can as you shake the sand onto the glue. I think that the colors look sharp against the black. Beads were added for a bit of extra decoration.
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I use this non-toxic homemade cleaner to wash off tables after class. No, it won't work as well as a cleaner with bleach, but I find it to be effective and it is friendly to the environment. The best part is that I keep using the same plastic bottle over and over again. Oh, and it is also inexpensive.
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This is a simple collage project that works well as a Mother's Day card. I purchased a pack of 50 blank cards since I will be making these with a group of children. I used a large circular craft hole punch to cut the centers from scraps of decorative papers. I cut the petals and stems from card stock. I think heavier paper is a little easier for small fingers. The children will draw their own leaves.

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