Monthly Archives: April 2011

Painting the Driveway

Earlier in the week, I showed the two younger kids painting the driveway with some sidewalk chalk they’d soaked in a puddle of water. And I’ve mentioned how much G likes spraying the water bottle. So when I read about fizzy sidewalk chalk (link via Not Just Cute), well, it was a done deal. We had to try it!

I approximately halved the recipe in the original post, but then dumped in some more cornstarch (just because it looked a little off). I think G enjoyed making the paint as much as anything else. It was her job to  mix the dry ingredients together. While I was measuring out the cornstarch, she said she wanted to taste the baking soda. “I don’t think you’ll like it,” I said, “but go ahead.” So she dipped her finger in and licked it. Not surprisingly, she didn’t like it.

Once the dry ingredients were mixed, I gave her the measuring glass of water and she poured it in slowly, a bit at a time while I mixed, until we decided it looked like paint. Then I separated what we had into two clean glass jars and she added food coloring to make pink and purple.

Then we painted!

After she seemed about done with the painting, I told her it would fizz if she sprayed it with the vinegar–did she want to try it out?

Look at that satisfying fizz!

Just one part of a full and happy spring toddler day, which also included visiting the playground, playing in the sandbox, taking a walk to see the neighbor’s cows and even feeding them some grass. Yay, spring!

Guest Posting

I was delighted to be asked to contribute to the “I Was That Kid” series at Sunflower Creative Arts, and you can read my guest post there today. It’s challenging to try to isolate a few things from childhood that most shape the adult you become. I’m not sure I managed, but it’s definitely a more personal peek into who I am.

And if you are visiting here from Sunflower, welcome! I hope you have some fun looking around.


Spring has finally decided to make an appearance here in Southern New England–the wind stopped and the sun came out all at the same time, and while I’m sure we’ll get into a groove of inside/outside and art activities suited to the out-of-doors, right now we’re too busy just plain being outside without coats on.

There are rocks to turn over

And critters to investigate

(that’s a red-backed salamander, in our yard)

and the driveway needed to be painted with sidewalk chalk soaked in a puddle.

Dear Spring, we hope you stick around for a while!

Field Trip: Boston Museum of Science

This was not a destination focused on art and creativity, like the other field trips I’ve posted about. And yet, when we took in the newly redesigned area around the Planetarium, I was struck by this close-up image of Jupiter’s Great Red Spot.

It looks like art, doesn’t it? Maybe a bit Van Gogh-ish, with his wonderful swirls and bright colors? The beauty of the natural world–and the worlds beyond. Love it.

Free-Range Creativity

It’s school vacation week. The weather is meh. I’m not sure my toddler slept at all on Monday night. As a result, I wasn’t up to even getting out of the house yesterday. Before much of the morning had progressed, N had created this:

The people and animals are crossing the bridge. There’s water under the bridge–see the boat?

See the waterfall, cascading from the couch into the stream?

That’s another view of it, as it flows over some rocks. The stream then continues into a river (using larger blankets) into our blue circle rug, which became the ocean, complete with a whale.

This isn’t the first time he’s done this. Once again, we left it up all day, so Daddy could see it when he came home from work. Periodically he’d add to it, until there were gnomes and hamsters also crossing the bridge, along with a chicken and another pony. (The felt board was his second try at a bridge, after the pillow kept falling.)

I’m a big proponent of kids amusing themselves. This blog shows just a snapshot, of art activities that we do together, but, like most blogs, it doesn’t tell the whole story. My kids spend time filling their own time, too–an ability that I think is a crucial component to becoming a successful adult.

While I’m here, I keep meaning to share these photos, of V excitedly taking apart a small kitchen digital scale that ceased to work. I handed it over to him so he could explore it.

We have a small space heater that no longer shoots out warm air. It’s next in queue for V’s screwdriver. 🙂

Painting Eggs

Materials: Wooden eggs (we used these); paint of your choice; box frame (if rolling the eggs)

Since we’re not sure if G has outgrown her egg allergy or not, dyeing traditional Easter eggs isn’t really an option for something we can all do together. So instead, I ordered some wooden eggs and decided we’d decorate those. We had so many options–we could paint them, or paint coffee filters and then collage, or try dipping them in liquid watercolors… we settled on using acrylic paint, for the most part.

The studio became a busy egg-painting factory!

I put a piece of paper into a 9×12″ box frame, squirted in some tempera paint, and began rolling an egg around. The boys liked the looks of that and both wanted to try, too. Definitely not something that can be done with a traditional hard-boiled egg!

G stuck to liquid acrylics (warning: acrylics won’t wash out of clothing). If we wanted to, later we could brush on a coat of Mod Podge to give the eggs a bit of shine.

Daddy always colors eggs with us, and this year was no exception. He taped a stripe onto his egg, and when the paint was dry, peeled the paint off and painted the middle. N decided to follow suit. Both boys also experimented with wrapping rubber bands around eggs before painting.

These are the prints we created by rolling the eggs around on the paper. They’re too interesting to discard; I’ll save them for future use in some project or other.

And this is where I’d normally put the photo of our finished eggs, but it was so pretty, it had to lead the post! A little egg allergy can’t stop us from creating beautiful eggs for Easter!

ETA: We gave the eggs a brushing with Mod Podge Gloss and they look fantastic! Just a little shine, and a seal for the paint.

Watercolor Crayons + Spray Bottle

Materials: Watercolor paper, water soluble crayons, spray bottle with water

My daughter loves using a spray bottle. She’s washed the slider window using the water-filled spray bottle and paper towels (some cloth diapers absorbed the inevitable puddles on the carpet). She’s washed the kitchen floor the same way, until the ratio of spraying-to-wiping got out of whack and the floor became too slippery for her. We have a set of watercolor crayons that’s been knocking around since my oldest was a preschooler, so I thought G would love the idea of drawing with the crayons and then spraying it with water to “see what happens.”

Then she decided to see what happens when you use the watercolor crayon on paper that’s already wet.

Then she sprayed my hand…

and her hand…

…and the table.

This was all about process and experimentation. Fun! As the weather begins to warm up, I’m sure we’ll be bringing the spray bottle outside–spraying the deck, the driveway, chalk drawings… spraying liquid watercolors onto a big sheet of paper… any other ideas for spray bottle activities?

Rolling Pin Prints (II)

The materials and method are the same as before, but this time, the boys gave it a try. They were really wanting to do this since G and I told them about it.

They each chose to print one color at a time, and I only have one rolling pin (a deficit, clearly, but they were mostly patient). N printed his paper every which way, going for a Jackson Pollock effect. (“Who’s that guy with the splatter paints? That’s what this looks like!”)

V was very deliberate (which is no surprise by this point), changing the direction of his paper with each color so that the lines of the rubber bands criss-crossed.

They decided to wait until the blue, green, and red were fully dry before adding the yellow, which I think was smart–otherwise, I think the yellow would have gotten muddied up.

They’re not sure what they’ll do with these–keep them as is, or use them as patterned paper in another project? I think it could go either way; they stand alone just fine. I might need more rolling pins, though.


I came across this activity in a book geared towards toddlers, and yet it was easy to see how and why my older children would enjoy it, too–as did I! If you have older and younger children, do you have any tried and true art activities that are enjoyed by all?

Poetry Painting

(The break between posts is because I took over the studio table to do some sewing. You can see what I’ve been up to over here.)

Materials: Imagery-filled poem; mark-making materials of choice

April is National Poetry Month, which makes me happy head to toe. I looked through some of our poetry books and decided to choose a William Carlos Williams poem for this activity, because he is so good with the small, image-filled detail. I settled upon Primrose. (Follow the link to read it, as I don’t want to violate copyright by reproducing it here.) Before reading it to the kids, I told them that after they heard it, they would be making a picture in response, and that could mean anything–how the poem felt, or what it talked about–whatever they decided. I love reading poetry aloud; it’s just better that way.

I waited a few minutes after reading it, and then I asked them what materials they wanted for their artwork. V began with oil pastels, and N and G (who of course wanted to be at the table painting, too) went right to watercolors. (Other possibilities: colored pencil; drawing chalk; tempera cakes.) V used watercolor along with the pastels. And here are the results:

V really keyed into the exuberant “Yellow!” that began the poem, along with, I think, a general mood of happiness.

N tried to include some details–the purple grass, for instance–that  he remembered from the descriptive language.

G was quite pleased as she painted a purplish line along the bottom, just like her older brother was doing. (She also added some oil pastels in between using the watercolors.)

This was such a wonderful, open-ended (my favorite kind!) activity. The boys listened closely to the poem, they thought about their artwork, and they produced such different pieces–as is appropriate, given they are different people.

Do you have a favorite poet or poem?

Rolling Pin Prints

(Inspired by First Art by MaryAnn Kohl.)

Materials: Rolling pin; tempera paint; piece of Plexiglas or old plate (for the paint); paper; rubber bands

I finally got a new wooden rolling pin, which means my temporary one was available for the art room. (I got rid of my old wooden one when I was diagnosed with celiac, and it took me a while to replace it with a proper one. Not sure why it took so long!) This was exciting, because I’ve been wanting to try using it for printmaking with G.

She was excited about putting the rubber bands onto the rolling pin (with my help).

She chose the paint colors, and I squired them onto a piece of Plexiglas (it’s from a box frame).

I was going to use that foam brush to spread the paint out a bit on the Plexiglas, but G was having none of that. I tried to show her how to cover all the sides of the rolling pin with paint, but she “do self.” Then it was time to roll on the paper.

And then she got fed up with it all and asked for the foam paintbrush.

Painting is, after all, what G likes best. To be fair, she was really tired that morning and she took a really long nap that afternoon–and she usually doesn’t nap at all. When she was done painting, I used the extra paint to make some prints with the rolling pin myself.

I thought it looked kind of like seaweed.

A few days later, G asked to paint with the rolling pin again, so we gave it another try. This is the result from a less-tired G.

She didn’t quite get the hang of rolling the pin in one long motion, and instead was going back and forth. But you can still sort of see the marks from the rubber band. I’m sure we’ll revisit this and find other things to put on the rolling pin to get different effects. Meanwhile, I used up the extra paint again, so we have several sheets of printed paper for use in future projects.

So tell me, what have you used a rolling pin for, besides rolling out dough?