Art Spaces, Kid's Art Project, Preschool Art, Process Art

Tips for setting up a kids Makerspace

For the past 5 years I have taught art and managed art studios and makerspaces designed with kids in mind. One question I am asked frequently at my job is,

“How could I set up a small makerspace for my kids at home?”

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Well today I thought I would offer a few tips to get you started. First off there is no correct way to do this. Makerspaces will be as different as are the individuals who use them. Think about your kids. What are their interests? Do they love to paint or do they prefer to build things? Do they enjoy using new tools? Drawing? The main goal is to spark their creative interest so beginning with something they are already familiar with can be a great place to start. New items and supplies can always be added or changed out as time passes. In fact changing out items can lead to new challenges, keeping the makerspace fresh and interesting!

My Favorite art supplies to begin with:

colored pencils

  • Tempera paint, I love Blick student grade paints. They are bright, offer great coverage, don’t crack, and are some of the more washable paints I have found.
  • Watercolors. I enjoy both liquid watercolors and pan watercolors. I have linked to some reasonably priced favorites.
  • Good paper. Thick nice mixed media paper is great for most painting. I prefer SAX  80# or higher grade paper. Watercolor paper is great but a bit pricier.
  • basic crayons, Crayolas are great
  • Colored pencils, Crayola work well but there are many great choices and the quality varies. Prisma Colors are my favorites but are a bit pricey.
  • #2 pencils or drawing pencils.
  • Water soluble markers, Crayola work fine for kids and are washable.
  • A black sharpie. They are great for line work and for drawings that you want to paint since they don’t run when wet.
  • Elmer’s school glue
  • Craft glue sticks
  • Low temp Hot glue guns

Recyclables to collect for repurposing:

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  • Toilet paper or paper towel tubes
  • Old Magazines
  • Small boxes
  • Flat cardboard (cut up amazon boxes work great!)
  • Tin cans without sharp edges
  • Interesting plastic, metal, or cardboard bits and pieces…
  • Corks and bottle caps
  • Other interesting tidbits, pretty much anything that can be glued to something else is fun to explore!

Nature Items to collect:

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  • Sticks
  • Pinecones
  • Acorns
  • Pebbles
  • Flat rocks
  • Seed pods
  • Flowers and grasses
  • Leaves

Other Favorite Items to add in here and there:

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  • Oil Pastels
  • Chalk Pastels
  • Buttons
  • Beads
  • Fabric
  • Yarn
  • Wire
  • Other interesting craft items, the possibilities are endless!

 

Storage Solutions:

supply storage

Your storage is going to be dictated by the space you have available and by your collection of supplies. If you have a whole craft room to dedicate great, but don’t feel that you need that much space. All of the supplies do not have to be available at all times. A small shelf can be a great place to house a smaller makerspace! You will also need a table or a desk for your child to work on (floors can work as well if tablespace is not available.)

I suggest getting a vinyl table cloth or place mat to protect and designate your child’s work space. I also enjoy having a collection tray on hand. Trays are great to hold the small items while your child work so that beads and such don’t just roll away.

Small baskets are a great way to organize kids materials on the shelf. Civilware trays work well to hold small tinkering items and loose parts. Larger boxes and wood crates are perfect for storing the larger items such as tin cans, small boxes, and cardboard items. Papers and magazines can be kept in a paper stacker.

Remember that all items do not need to be visible at all times. They can rotate in and out on the shelf if you have limited space. A storage tote can hold any excess until needed. I would recommend rotating interesting items every couple of weeks. You will always want to have paper, some type of paint, glue, and drawing materials available, but the other items can come and go as they are available or as older supplies begin to lose interest.

Note on art displays:

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If your kids are anything like mine they will make a ton of art in their awesome new makerspace! Art display and storage can get to be a bit of an issue…

Here are some ways that I have found helpful in handling this little problem.

  • Flat art like paintings, drawings, or collage can be pinned or taped to the wall or fridge for a period of time. One favorite display method is a clothesline approach. Simply hang a piece of twine and use clothespins to hold up art. Old art that has been on display for a while can be replaced as new art is made.  Old art can be stored in a folder, given away as gifts to family and friends, or photographed and then recycled.
  • Larger sculptures need to have a designated display shelf or stand to display them. Display space will likely be limited so talk to your kids and make sure they understand the size and quantity limitations for these types of projects. We display them for a week or two and then they are photographed and dismantled. Many of the parts used can go right back into the art bin for future use!

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I hope you have fun setting up and using your very own kid’s makerspace at your house. If you have any questions or comments, feel free to reach out. I would also love to see pictures of your spaces as they are set up!

Signiture

Adult Art Project, Art Project, Kid's Art Project, Messy Art, Process Art

Sometimes Art Is Messy

Charcoal cloud low res

So one thing that I find I am constantly saying is, “Sometimes art is messy.” In our culture we tend to have a fear of mess. This fear can act as an inhibitor to our creativity. We tell our children, “Don’t make a mess.” We tell ourselves, “I can’t do that it is too messy.” Sometimes though it is good to embrace the mess, to let it in. When we let go of all that control we can begin to feel free to be creative. In my last post I wrote about sensory art play for infants and toddlers. It is probably the messiest class that I lead. It is a ton of fun. In order to enjoy it though one must let go of the need to be tidy. It is a pretty easy sell for infants, toddlers, and preschoolers, It is somewhat acceptable for very young kids to get messy. They after all are messy with pretty much everything they do! It is a much more difficult sell for older children,  and even more difficult for adults. My argument though is that there is a time and a place for being messy, and that it can be quite freeing to our creative nature to allow ourselves and our children to embrace the creative mess on occasion. After all, “Sometimes Art Is Messy!”

messy hands collage
Messy hands of all ages enjoying the process of art.

Some of my favorite projects are the result of messy art. Once you let go and embrace the process of messy art, some really cool things can happen. For me this is where art meets mindfulness.

  1. You get in the flow. You become in tune with the moment.
  2. You let go of a need for control. You let the process unfold.
  3. You have fun. When you are not so worried about controlling the art, you are able to just enjoy it.

Fluid Acrylic Art

 

Fluid acrylic or ink pours like the one in the video above are a perfect example of letting go and embracing the process. This is a very messy technique and it is quite difficult to control the outcome, but if you can embrace the mess and let go of your need to control it then you begin to realize just how interesting and enjoyable it is to watch paint move! Sometimes you love the finished painting, and sometimes you don’t. Not all art is meant for a gallery wall or even the refrigerator. I find this method of creating to be quite therapeutic. For me it allows me to become present in the moment. It gives me a reset and a change in mindset and attitude.

pour collage
Fluid Acrylic Pours

String Painting

A favorite messy art project of mine is string painting. I have done this project with preschoolers, school age children, and adults. This method is always fun, always messy, and always satisfying! I love how they turn out. They remind me of my favorite flowers, the calla lily.

string art collage

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Shaving Cream Marbling

Who does not love playing with shaving cream, right? It has a pleasant scent, and fluffy texture, and best of all it is so much fun to use as a marbling medium. Once you have marbled your papers you can use them in so many ways. They can become collage papers for future projects or backgrounds for more detailed paintings, or even journal pages.

paper marbling collage
Shaving cream marbling is fun for all ages.
finished marbled pages
Finished Marbled page and a collage using marbled papers.

Scrape Painting

Scrape painting is a favorite of mine for younger kids. I use this a lot for preschoolers and elementary age children. It is a great way to explore color mixing. It is quite messy but I love how these turn out! I could see adults having fun with this as well, I sure do!

scrape painting collage
The scrape painting process is super messy, but fun!!
scrape painting finished art collage
Finished scrape paintings always remind me of the art of Eric Carle.

Blow Painting

I have written about blow painting before here.  It is a super fun messy art project that is worth mentioning again. It is absolutely something that you have to let go of expectations and control to be able to enjoy. Young kids are really good at that. Older kids and us adults, well sometimes we need a bit of help in that area. I typically do these types of projects with preschool and elementary age children. Sometimes we turn our splatters into more “refined” art such as paint monsters or flowers. With adults I mostly have done blown paint with alcohol inks, but the idea is the same and te results are similar!

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Preschooler blowing paint splatters.
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Flower blown paint art by elementary age kids.
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Flower blown art by me! Made with alcohol inks

I hope that you and the kiddos in your life will try out some of these fun messy at projects at some point. Yes they are very messy, but the mess is worth the experience.

A fun little bit of info: The name of this blog Art-Breaks, came from some of my experiences with messy art! Last year, when I still had my art studio, my friend used to pop in on her lunch break for art time. We made some huge messes during these short little art breaks. We experimented with acrylic pours, and string art mostly. Several of the photos above are from those little breaks. I wish we were still able to do them. I miss it so much. Anyway these little breaks were so important to me that I named this blog after them!

Feel free to leave a comment, question, or little story about your experiences with messy art!

Signiture

Kid's Art Project, Messy Art, Preschool Art, Process Art

Sensory Art Play

Messy Baby Art

I was first introduced to the idea of Sensory Art for kids when I lived in Portland, OR. The class was offered at an art studio called Art A La Carte that I frequented with my kids. Though my kids were too old for the class I fell in love with the concept. When I moved back to Knoxville in 2015 and opened my studio,  I felt like such a class would be great fit here in Knoxville. I first began offering sensory based art classes at my studio, The Basement Community Art Studio back in 2015. Messy Baby Art Classes were geared to infants (Sitting-24 Months).  Since 2015 the class continued to grow and grow in popularity. I have had the privilege of working with so many infants and toddlers through this program. When I accepted the Job at the MUSE Knoxville  in 2018, I added a similar class there, Mess Maker Mondays. Though this class is slightly different, it has continued to offer a sensory based art experience here in Knoxville.

Messy Baby 1
Sensory art can be a full body experience.

Sensory based art is something that I am deeply passionate about. I believe that fostering this type of experience from a very young age acts as a building block to support creativity and creative play as a life long habit.  So that begs the question…

What is Sensory Art?

Child development experts agree that young children learn best when their play appeals to their senses. When children engage their senses during play, they build powerful cognitive connections. They begin to learn about the world around themselves. Young children and infants uses all of their senses to take in stimuli from the world. When they are provided with an environment rich in sensory experiences they are able to make more of these types of connections. Being able to explore this way stimulates movement from the child and strengthens their motor skills and coordination as well.
As the child plays you can add language to their experience. Give the proper names of the tools they are using. As they reach for a tool, name it. “Sponge.” or “Feather.” You can also name the colors they are using. Simply say “Blue.” when they use blue paint… Keeping the language short and clear allows them to begin to make associations between the language and the object. It is much more clear than saying something like, “Yes, you found the blue paint. Can you use the feather to paint blue on the paper.” Simple language is best.

messy collage
Sensory art play is fun for infants, toddlers, and preschoolers!

Setting up a Sensory Based Art Experience at Home

During our sensory art classes we like to offer a variety of tools and materials for the child to explore. Basic everyday household objects make great painting tools! Possible ideas include:

  • Wooden spools
  • Toilet Paper tubes
  • Bits of Yarn
  • Corks
  • Sticks
  • Pine cones
  • Leaves
  • Food (potato, celery, apple) all make fun prints
materials collage
Using a variety of materials provides diverse sensory experiences. 

Look around your home and find items with an interesting texture that are safe for the child to explore. Try to offer them a variety of different shapes and textures to explore during their art play. Be sure to use child safe, non toxic art materials. I love Blick Student grade tempera paints, they are non-toxic, gluten and peanut free,  and washable. Using a variety of tools offers the child multiple sensory stimuli, plus it provides opportunity for further language acquisition when you name the tools as we discussed above.
There are wonderful art products out there for young children that you can purchase through stores or online if you wish, but you don’t have to spend a ton of money. You can find some amazing DIY art supply recipes for tiny artists online. From craft dough to edible paints and more, the internet is filled with great ideas you can make at home with common ingredients found in most kitchens! Have fun exploring and setting up your child’s sensory art projects (This can be a great creative outlet for you too)!

Where to create?

 

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Standing at an easel or wall can be a fun way to explore paint for toddlers and preschoolers. 

Provide your child with a variety of ways to explore the art materials as well. Once the child can stand consider painting at an easel. If you don”t have an easel you can tape paper to a wall at their height. You may want to use a drop cloth or larger paper behind the paper they are painting to contain the mess and make clean up a bit easier.
If your child is not yet standing simply spread out paper on the floor for them to paint on. Remember older children also enjoy working on the floor from time to time as well! Working on the floor can give them the opportunity to work much larger, using large motor movements which can be a nice change for older children.

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It can also be fun to involve your child in the clean up!

If you are concerned about the inevitable mess consider working outside on a nice day or use an old sheet/drop cloth on the floor under their work. When the art time is over simply fold away the drop cloth and store it for next time! Another fun place to create art is in the bath tub. When art time is over just clean the baby and the mess up at the same time.

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Working at the table, splattering paint on rubber bands. 

Tables are always a great place to explore art materials, but try to provide variety for your child with their art play. If you usually paint at the table, consider trying a new spot. Often as children get older, most of their art is done at a table. This limits the size of their art as well as the motor movements they use to create their art. An occasional change in location is always exciting and keeps their art experience fresh and new!

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Large sheets of paper on the floor are always fun!

 

Keep in mind that art is messy, and the mess is part of the fun! Learn to embrace the mess as your child creates. With a little planning the mess can be easily contained and relatively easy to clean up as well!

 

Prepare for a mess

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Crawlers enjoy exploring the slippery textures.

Sensory exploration in art is often very messy, so be prepared. At the studio we recommend letting our youngest artists paint in their diapers or an old onsie. Older toddlers and children we recommend wearing old clothes paired with an art smock or apron. Most children’s art supplies are considered “washable” however, I have noticed that they do not always wash completely out. So, it is best to dress in clothing you are not too worried about. Adults facilitating messy art should also dress in clothing that can get painted…because it very likely will, lol.

Drop cloths such as a painters tarp or old sheet can help protect the ground or table around your art area, making clean up a bit easier.

Most importantly have fun and embrace the mess!

Check out this fun little video from one of my classes!

 

Signiture

Adult Art Project, Art Project, collage, Kid's Art Project, Preschool Art, Process Art

More fun with collage, part 2.

prompt 8 collage

In Fun With Collages, Part 1 we looked at torn paper collages, cut paper collage, and vision boards. The post was getting long, but I felt like there was still so much more to cover! So today we will look at recycled art paper collages, cardboard collages, fabric collages, and found object collages.

Just a reminder of the supplies you will need for your collage work:

  • Old magazines, Papers, Cardboard or even Fabrics
  • Glue (Glue sticks work well for lightweight papers, Mod Podge for fabrics, or a stronger craft glue for cardboard.)
  • Scissors
  • Something to glue your collage to. If you are working in a sketchbook or journal great, if not any piece of plain paper or cardboard will do.
  • Found objects and a low temp hot glue gun for our final collage project!

 

Recycled Art Paper Collage

old art collage
Old art from several different activities with kids between preschool and elementary age. I cut both geometric shapes and more organic shapes out. In many cases I let the shapes on the painting dictate what I cut out.

So in the last post we were mainly using magazine pages and other decorative papers such as scrapbook papers. Today we will be focused on recycled papers and repurposing old art work for our collage purposes. I enjoy doing a lot of process art with kiddos and myself, but you end up with a lot of art papers that really don’t have a function. So what are you to do with the ever-growing stacks of paper? Well collage of course!

 

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A quick little playful ocean life collage made from the fun shapes found in abandoned process art which was left unclaimed.

I often will cut up old art papers into fun shapes to reuse at a later time either myself or with a kid’s art class. I like to keep fun cut up papers on hand in a collage basket for kids to experiment with.

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This beautiful landscape collage was done by an elementary aged child using several of their own process art pages we had created in class throughout the year.

 

Cardboard Collage

Cardboard is a great medium for collage. Shapes can be cut and arranged on a larger sheet of cardboard to create a new image. Paint can also be used to unify the piece of art created. You can play with texture by peeling the top layer off a piece of corrugated cardboard to reveal the fun rigid texture! I recommend using either a craft glue such as Elmers or even a low temp hot glue gun as the cardboard will need a bit more sticking power!

cardboard collage

 

 

Fabric Collage

Another fun twist on collageing is using fabric scraps instead of paper. For fabric I like to use Mod Podge instead of glue sticks or craft glue because it dries flat without any ridges.  I usually will use the Mod Podge both under the fabric and as a top coat to make sure it is sealed. I usually will use cardboard for my backer but you could experiment with other substrates as you wish.

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A quick little landscape that I created one afternoon.
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Some fabric collage landscapes from a summer camp I ran. The kids were elementary aged.

Found Object Collage

The final style of collage that I want to discuss today is found object collage, sometimes refered to as assemblage art. For these projects you will need the low temp hot glue as many items are too bulky for craft glue. You will also need a sturdy backer or substrate. I often use wood or corrugated cardboard.

bird collage 2
This fun little bird used both old cut up pieces of art work and various found objects!

Quick tip: When working with children always be sure to use low temp glue guns. Point out the hot parts and let them know to place the glue on the backer surface and then add the small found object to avoid holding tiny items in their hand to glue which could lead to a burn. Show them how to use a small popsicle stick or some other stick like object to pres into the hot glue instead of pushing the object with their finger.

clooage mandala 1
A foun object mandala from a yoga and art camp I helped lead.

Kids love to use the hot glue, and it can be done safely even with very young kids as long as you pay attention to safety measures. Yes, small burns do happen from time to time but small injuries are a valuable learning experience. It is worth the small risk to see the sense of wonder and excitement in the face of a child who has acted independently with a tool!

bottle cap art
Remember incorporating a bit of mixed media is also a fun way to unify found object collages as is the case with this awesome flower vase with bottle cap flowers!

I hope you have enjoyed this series of collage projects as much as much as I have. I love to both make my own collages and teach collage workshops and classes! They are so much fun and the possibilities are limitless!

Signiture

Adult Art Project, Art Project, collage, Kid's Art Project, Preschool Art, Process Art

Fun With Collage, Part 1

making collages collage

Collages are some of my favorite projects to do. There are so many ways to collage making this such a diverse medium. I have done colleges with children as young as 3 yrs old and I have done collages in my adult classes. You can go as simply or as intricate as you want. I encourage you to play with different papers and fabrics in your collage work. Below you will see some examples of my favorite collage projects from many of the classes I have taught throughout the years. These have been classes both for kids and adults…collage is for everyone!

For these projects you need:

  • Old magazines, Papers, Cardboard or even Fabrics
  • Glue (Glue sticks work well for lightweight papers, mod podge for fabrics, or a stronger craft glue for cardboard.)
  • Scissors
  • Something to glue your collage to. If you are working in a sketchbook or journal great, if not any piece of plain paper or cardboard will do.

Torn Paper Collage

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Try tearing your papers instead of cutting them. There is something about tearing little bits of paper that is quite therapeutic! The above rainbow color collage above was a simple little project I did with bits of torn paper. It was a quick and playful little collage that I did as part of a yoga and art class I was hosting one time. Plus, there is no right or wrong way to tear paper, simply start with colors, pictures, or words that resonate with you. Any size or shape will do. The idea is to overlap your torn pieces of paper so that you cover the entire page you are working on.

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This collage was part of a vision board workshop I hosted for women. I combined the torn paper with a cut out image and a bit of wet on wet watercolor play.

Cut Paper Collage

If tearing is not your thing try cutting out images and or words that resonate with you. Cut paper collages, just as torn paper collages can be done with many age groups. For the very youngest children I sometimes provide a series of already cut shapes (both geometric shapes and more organic shapes). If the child has scissor skill though it is better to let them cut their own shapes!

Cut pieces can be arranged in any way you wish. They can be layered over one another, used to create a new picture, or simply collaged to highlight the specific image or word chosen (Think Vision Board).

cut paper collage
These landscape collages were done by elementary age children. For this project they focused on using colors and textures to create a new landscape.
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This landscape collage was completed by an adult student, again they focused on colors and textures to create the sky and water, but they highlighted a chosen image for the flower field.
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The child who completed this collage was about 3 years old. This is an example of a collage using pre-cut shapes. For this project we were focusing on the gluing skill, so we isolated that aspect of the collage by eliminating the need to cut shapes.  A large variety of shapes, colors, and patterns were offered for the child to choose from.

Vision Boards

Vision boards are collages that focus on a goal or idea that you want to focus on. They are a very useful tool to help you keep your goals in mind as you strive to reach them. I have done vision boards with children and adults. They are useful, fun, and therapeutic! I like to start off my new year by creating a vision board for the year.

vision board collage
Three examples of vision boards. The far left was done by a child, we started by tracing her head then she collaged her interests and desires inside! The middle was in an adult board from a self-care class focused on intrinsic goals. The third was a board focused on life goals using a combination of words and images.

This should get you started with some fun creative collage ideas for yourself, or your kids. Try using collage as a group activity in a class or with a scout group, women’s circle, or club! Most of all have fun!

For more fun collage check out part 2

Signiture

Adult Art Project, Art Project, Kid's Art Project, Process Art

Abstract Watercolor Project

 

Abstract watercolor

Check out this is a fun and easy project to get your creative juices flowing! This project is geared towards adults, however I have done this with kids as young as 9 before and it has gone really well. Children just need to be old enough to follow instructions and patient enough to work through the many steps.

Here are the supplies you will need for this project:

  • Watercolor Paper: I like 140# paper but you could use a 90# paper as well. This project does work best with paper made for watercolor paint.
  • Watercolor Paints and Brush: I used prang student grade watercolors and they worked fine. Just note that the better quality watercolors you use the more vibrant your painting will be!
  • Painters Tape
  • Rubber Cement
  • Black Ultra Fine Tip Sharpie
  • Hair Dryer (If you are impatient like me)

watercolor resist supplies

Step 1

Use Painters tape to tape your paper to your work surface. This will help keep your paper from warping as much, and it will create a nice finished looking border edge around your final piece.

Now drizzle rubber cement across your page. Let it dry. Rubber cement dries pretty quickly but you can use that hair dryer to speed it along. It does need to be fully dry before moving on to the next step.

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Step 2

You will be working with three colors for this project. I would suggest using colors in the same color family to avoid mixing brown unintentionally.

  • Warm colors: Red, Yellow, Orange
  • Cool colors: Blue, Purple, Green
  • Analogous Colors: (Colors that are next to each other on the color wheel) such as Blue, Green, Yellow

Tip: Colors that are opposite on the color wheel tend to make a muddy brown hue such as red and green or purple and orange…

Begin painting with the lightest color of the three you have chosen for your piece. So if you chose blue, yellow, and green, begin with the yellow.

Paint with your first color across part of your page. Leave some white space for the other colors later. Allow the paint to dry (Use a hair dryer is desired). 

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Step 3

Drizzle more rubber cement across your painted surface. Allow to dry completely.

Step 4

Paint with the second color. Paint across some of the white space you left previously but leave some white space for your third color as well. With the second color paint over part of your first color, allowing the two colors to mix and layer. Dry.

Step 5

Drizzle more rubber cement across your newly painted surface. Dry completely.

Step 6

Paint with your third and final color. Fill in the remaining white space. Paint over portions of your first two colors allowing the colors to mix and layer. Leave some of the colors unmixed as well. Once your are happy with your composition allow your work to dry completely. You can use the dryer for this as well, but make sure to dry it completely before you move on to the next step. 

3rd color

Step 7

Using the pads of your fingers rub off all of the rubber cement, revealing the colors/white page beneath. This process takes a bit of patience and elbow grease!

rub off rubber cement

Step 8

Use your sharpie pen to outline some of the shapes created by the rubber cement resisting the paint. This will simply highlight some of those shapes. You do not need to highlight all of the shapes. Simply pick a few of the most interesting to you! Be creative and have fun! You can also doodle in some of the shape if you wish…you are only limited by your imagination.

Watercolor restis play pen

Step 9

Pull up the tape revealing the crisp edges of your finished piece of abstract art. Enjoy your masterpiece!  

I hope you enjoy this playful project as much as I did! I would love to hear your thoughts or see what you came up with if you feel like sharing! Feel free to leave a comment below.

Watercolor restis play
My finished piece. It looks like some sort of space dog I think, lol!

Signiture

Kid's Art Project, Preschool Art, Process Art

Simple toys for creative play.

Simple Toys for

Back in 2011 Jonathan H. Liu wrote an article for wired.com called “The 5 Best Toys of All Time” The title is linked to the article if you wish to read the whole thing. Here are his selections:

  1. Stick
  2. Box
  3. String
  4. Cardboard Tube
  5. Dirt

This article got me thinking about kids and creative play. As we enter this holiday season, our minds are focused on the next great toy. Each year there is that special coveted toy that makes every child’s wish list. It is usually flashy and colorful with buttons and noises. So much fun, right? Well yes, it is fun for a while… but have you noticed that once your child has played with it for bit they tend to lose interest in it?  That flashy, great, must have toy usually ends up in a corner somewhere collecting dust when the child loses interest and moves on to something else. Why is that? Well I believe that it is because children’s interest is better served with much more open ended play things. Toys that allow for creative play and thought. Toys that can be used in multiple ways and for multiple purposes tend to stand the test of time. Often times those toys are much more simple in nature, such as the box or the stick. They can represent many things at many different times. They grow with the child’s interest and knowledge of the world. They are  as dynamic as the child’s own brain. 

Found Object Sculpture collage

I am not saying that these fancy toys are bad or that you shouldn’t provide them for your child. I am only suggesting that they be balanced with simpler more open ended play things. Items that last beyond the lifespan of a battery.

I am reminded of two of my very favorite toys from childhood.

toys

  1. A wooden rope spool
  2. 2 pieces of plywood hinged together.

These toys were given to me and my brother for Christmas one year by a dear family friend and they provided hours of entertainment throughout the years…Yes I said years. I still had them when I went away to college! When we received these toys we were quite young. I do not remember exactly how old, but early elementary school anyway. At first the hinged wood became a fort/tent  to play in. We would set it up and hide inside. Sometimes it was a doll house of the cave for a stuffed animal. The spool was often used as a car or a wheelchair. Sometimes it was a tower as we built with blocks. I used to even pretend that it was a two story condo for my barbies.  I loved to try to walk on it, pretending I was in a circus act. Both of these toys provided hours of endless entertainment. As I got older the spool became a seat in my room or a night stand. The hinged wood became a table top, or a hard surface to draw on. These toys grew with us and allowed for many uses as we grew up and our interests changed. I can tell you I do not remember many of the toys I played with as a child. There are only a few that have remained in my memory, but these were two of them. These two simple yet creative and open ended toys remain as fond memories of childhood.

nature art collage

Throughout my work with children, I have seen the toys listed above turn into magnificent creations. When a child’s imagination is at play wonderful things happen. Creative play allows the child to process their own unique ideas and thoughts. It allows them to problem solve, to discover new ways to do things, and to build confidence in their own ability. 

bottle cap art

So with all of that in mind I would like to expand the list of toys to include a few more items that allow for creative play and foster the child’s imagination and creative minds. 

  1. Sticks of all sizes.
  2. Cardboard boxes, and sheets of cardboard.
  3. String/yarn/ribbon
  4. Cardboard Tubes (Toilet paper tubes , and sturdy mailers)
  5. Nature Item: dirt, leaves, pine needles, pine cones, acorns, seed pods…
  6. Corks
  7. Bottle caps, both plastic and metal
  8. Tin cans
  9. Wooden Spools, (both large and tiny!)
  10. Scrap wood (Large and small pieces, perhaps with a hinge!)

These are simple toys that are readily available to just about anyone,  they provide hours of creative play, and are engaging to all ages! Children of all ages can enjoy playing with these items. The photos throughout this post have been made by preschoolers, school age children, teens, and even adults! So go ahead raid your own recycle bin or collect some items from your yard.

What can you create out of these items when you allow your imagination to run wild?

cardboard tools

Consider the following tools to use with your creative items when playing:

  1. Low Temperature Hot Glue Gun
  2. Scissors (Sharp enough to cut cardboard)
  3. Tape (Try out different kinds!)
  4. Sharpie Markers
  5. Paints
  6. Simple hand tools (hammer and nails, drill…)

child with hot glue gun

Note: All of these tools can be used with children, however adult supervision is necessary to prevent possible injury with some of them. Just remember not to take over if you are assisting a child. Your job is to assist them in creating their ideas… even if you can think of a better way to accomplish the task. Failure is ok in creating…it provides opportunities to problem solve and to learn perseverance. Most importantly it shows the child that you have confidence in their ability and that their thoughts are valid. And always, remember to have fun!  🙂

creative play art collage

box costume

Signiture

 

I would love to see what you create leave a photo in the comment section or on Instagram with the hashtag #artbreaks