Yearly Archives: 2011

Kid Photojournalism

G has been asking for a camera for a while now, mainly, I think, because I have one. (She’d also like a cell phone–not that I use mine much–and a car.) I told her she could have one when she was five, which was a purely arbitrary number. Meanwhile, my old digital camera, which I sometimes use as a backup, is in plain sight on the table. It works perfectly fine, but at some point the latch that holds the battery door closed broke. For months I used it with a rubber band wrapped around it, and then all sorts of tape, but eventually it became too unreliable. If the battery compartment door isn’t sitting just right, the contacts don’t touch and the camera doesn’t work. So, for want of a tiny plastic piece that has nothing to do with the camera’s actual function, we replaced it.

Mama driving, viewed from the back seat

G got tired of waiting to be five and took the camera one day. She asked me how to turn it on, I thought, What’s the harm? and showed her. I also showed her how to see what you’re photographing by looking at the screen on the back first. That’s the extent of my help. G likes to do things herself. For a few months now she’s been walking around the house snapping photographs–digital is a wonderful thing! The memory ran out the other day so I finally took all the photos off the camera. I found 184 taken by G.

Out the window

It’s a fascinating look at the world from about three feet up. There are many, many photos of my legs and feet, usually standing in front of either the stove or the kitchen sink (sigh, the life of a mom, hmm?). There’s a series of photos of the inside of her oldest brother’s mouth, which I’m fairly certain was his idea. (I can identify the mouth because his has metal in it!!) One of my favorite sequences was taken in the car, and I chose to share a sample of those here.

More out the window

When the boys were smaller, we got them “kid” digital cameras, which were nothing but frustrating. The picture quality was abysmal. This is a far more satisfactory solution for everyone, and although she’s dropped the camera a couple times, she hasn’t done any more damage than I did when I owned it.

A self-portrait

So how about you–have you handed over a camera to a young child? What did you think of his or her view of the world?

After the Color Mixing

Last week I posted about a color-mixing activity G, age 3, did. When she was done mixing the colors and exploring the corn starch, she began painting with the leftover colored water. “I’m painting a cave,” she said as she began. After she’d applied all three colors, she asked for some salt.

I poured some into that cup for her, and she sprinkled it on with her hands. And then she asked for more, and more, until she had piles of salt on her paper. Then she decided to see what would happen when she painted on top of the salt.

Kind of interesting, no? More salt and more paint…

“Mud in the cave!” she exclaimed.

Experimenting…always a good thing!

Preschool Color-Mixing Activity

{You may also be interested in this color-mixing activity using tempera paint in squeeze bottles.}

(Source: The “cornstarch and water” activity in Ann Pelo’s The Language of Art: Inquiry-Based Studio Practices in Early Childhood Settings.)

Now that G is three, we suddenly have a preschool-aged child in the house instead of a toddler. This is exciting, as different activities are opening up for us. At our latest parent-child art class, N and I did some color mixing. (If you’re interested, you can read more about that class–although not the color-mixing–in my post on my other blog.) G asked to do some color mixing of her own, so I set up the activity using the one in Ann Pelo’s book as a guide.

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Materials: Red, blue, and yellow colored water (I used very watered-down liquid watercolors; you could also use food coloring in water); a dropper for each color; white mixing tray (white shows the colors better); cornstarch

First, I showed G how to use the droppers–squeeze the end, put it in the color, let go of the end, and then squeeze out the color where you want it.

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She mixed all three colors in the first cup, first making purple and then, “Brown!” Then she mixed the primaries individually, eventually creating purple, orange, and green.

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Mixing colors is really magical, isn’t it? G has done it before, with paint on paper; this was just a different way of seeing it. As each color was created, she delightedly named it. When she’d mixed some colors, she said she was ready for the cornstarch.

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According to the book, the cornstarch will separate the colors out again as the individual colors adhere to separate grains (bits? granules?) of the cornstarch. Erm, not so much, at least not for us. We mixed it up, but still, the purple cornstarch looked purple; the green, green; and so on. G decided to mix colors on top of the cornstarch and see what happened then.

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Then it became obvious to me that she needed a bigger mixing area, so I offered a bowl.

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Ah, much better. So much more space! I scraped the cornstarch she’d already colored into it, and more colors were added. Then more water, then more colors…

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Then more cornstarch, and more water, until she ran out of room.

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She had a fine time with her concoction-making, watching the colors mix and periodically dipping a hand into the very watery ooblek she’d created. When she was done (when the foil container was full), she used the remaining colored water for some painting…but that’s another post.

*Note: Don’t rinse your cornstarch down the drain, in case it decides to firm up on you down there. Throw it in the trash instead.

 

Autumn Window Leaves

(Inspired partly by the Artful Parent’s Autumn Leaves Stained Glass and partly by Fall Leaves and Mod Podge at Gingerbread Snowflakes, via the Crafty Crow; this is a sort of hybrid.)

Materials: Colorful autumn leaves, Mod Podge, brush, double-sided tape

This isn’t art and it isn’t craft either, really. It’s more like kid-friendly DIY home decor. But I include it because G (age just-3) helped with it all and our windows look really pretty and seasonal now. I wasn’t quite up to applying contact paper to our windows (as in the Artful Parent link above), but that’s due to my own struggles with any piece of contact paper larger than my hand. So I thought we’d just skip the middle step and tape the leaves right to the windows.

I don’t have photos of the process because it’s so easy I didn’t think to take any! These leaves were pressed for varying amounts of time. The leaves we only pressed overnight kept the most color but weren’t flat. The ones we pressed for longer seemed to lose a lot of color, although they became more vibrant once sunlight was shining through them.

After they were pressed, G and I brushed one side of each leaf with Mod Podge. When that dried, I put a coat of Mod Podge on the other side of the leaf (just me, because G was in bed). Then I put pieces of double-sided tape on the window and we pressed the leaves onto the tape.

There are so many great art activities out there using leaves, but my kids balk at anything that involves covering up the inherent beauty of the leaf. A walk from the car to the door invariably results in every kid handing me at least one leaf and asking, “Can we press this?” I like that they’re looking so closely at the leaves and finding so much gorgeousness in them. It’s good to be able to display all these small pieces of nature-made artwork.

Do you have some great ideas to share using colorful autumn leaves?

The Importance of the Proper Tools (II)

My first post on this topic discusses my then-two-year-old daughter’s desire to cut fabric, and my search for proper fabric scissors that would be safe in her hands. (I’ve since shown her the business end of a pin and how to use them safely, since naturally, after cutting a bunch of fabric pieces, you want to pin them together.) I didn’t necessarily intend this subject to become a series, but here’s another post in the same vein nonetheless.

N (age 7) and I signed up for a parent/child art class at a local museum. We both like art, and art museums, and I think he, as my middle child, is really in need of some one-on-one time with me. This class seems like a great way to do that. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but it seems (we’ve only had one class) that we’ll be working on one collaborative project over the five sessions. The first day, part of what we needed to do was sew the shoulder straps that will connect to the rest of the project. Rectangles of craft felt were pre-cut, and we were to choose two rectangles, and fold each in half and sew the two halves together, to make two straps. Easy enough. N and I looked around for needles…

…and all they had were tapestry needles. Those are the large, blunt-tipped needles you use, generally, with yarn, which is exactly what we were to use them with too. But they don’t pierce felt, so we were supposed to punch holes in the felt with hole punches first, and then weave the yarn through the holes to “sew.” Which is a pretty good method, except that anyone who cuts fabric knows never to use your fabric scissors on paper because it dulls the blade, and boy did it look hard to punch holes through craft felt!

N really wanted to use a “real” needle, which I thoroughly support. I don’t know if the tapestry needle/hole punch/yarn method was chosen out of expediency or safety. I got the sense it was safety, but the class is geared for kids ages 6-9, and any six-year-old can use a real needle if shown how. And I’ll be honest: I really didn’t want to try to punch holes in craft felt with a paper hole punch, so we took our pieces of felt home to sew.

Here’s N, using an embroidery needle and floss to sew his felt.

(That is a rare TV-on sighting in our house! It was Sunday afternoon–football was on.)

N used the chalk that you see in the photo to draw a line of what he wanted to sew, and then he followed the line. I showed him how to backstitch and helped him around the corners and sorted it out when he forgot and sewed around the edge of the fabric instead of back and forth. After a few times, he figured out himself how to fix that, even re-threading the needle himself. Since this is a collaborative project, we each sewed a strap. Here they are together (click to embiggen).

N’s is on the bottom. He backstitched that zigzag himself. With a real needle. And he is pleased. And yes, he poked himself once or twice with the needle, but he didn’t even bleed (so he’s doing better than I am; I usually draw blood from my thumb at least once per embroidery session).

Kids are so capable.  Let them prove it to you!

(PS: We also made the shirt he’s wearing, many years ago. It’s printed using a vinyl fish replica and liquid acrylic craft paint.)

Chalk-o-Lanterns!

(Inspired by Pinterest.)

Materials: Pumpkins, chalkboard spray paint (we found ours in a craft store), damp rags for cleaning, chalk for playing!

G has an October birthday, and while her parties are still simple family gatherings, I like to have something for her cousins, who range in age from three to fifteen, to do. October, of course, makes me think of pumpkins, but I didn’t want to have the kids paint pumpkins, mainly because the last time we tried that at a party (many years ago), none of the pumpkins were dry by going-home time, and we had to figure out how to transport wet, painted pumpkins home in cars without accidentally pumpkin-printing everyone’s upholstery. So I hopped onto Pinterest for no-paint decorating ideas and eventually decided on spray-painting them with chalkboard paint.

Eleven-year-old cousin~doesn't he look comfortable?

So last weekend, the kids and I picked out seven small pumpkins at a nearby pumpkin patch and brought them home. First, we cleaned them in the yard. I gave G the spray bottle, which is one of her favorite things to use, and she sprayed the pumpkins while the boys and I used rags to rub the dirt off. Really get as much as you can–I used my thumb nail to work the rag right down the crevasses. Once they were clean and dry, my husband spray painted them (not a kid’s job–it really does smell unhealthy–and he did it outside).

He gave each pumpkins two coats of spray paint, and once it was thoroughly dry I primed it according to directions (rubbing the side of the chalk onto it, then erasing). On party day, we invited the kids to decorate their pumpkins, erase, decorate again as much as they wanted, and bring them home too, of course.

Four-year-old cousin, drawing on her pumpkin

I know my fifteen-year-old niece isn’t really a child, but we painted one for her, too, and she drew on it too. Truth be told, I wish I’d gotten one for myself!

G drawing on her pumpkin during her party

N and V

We learned that if you use the sharp edge of brand-new chalk, a bit of the paint would scratch off, which wasn’t the plan but of course made me think of sgraffito. I wonder what paint might work best for that? I’m thinking kids’ tempera would probably flake, but maybe liquid acrylic or regular acrylic would work. You could paint a layer of paint onto the pumpkin and then scratch your design on, lightly enough to expose the orange but not pierce the pumpkin itself. I’m thinking that might look pretty cool! If you try it, let me know.

If You Build It, They Will Come

Tuesday was a quasi-sick day here, the sort of day where the kids are home because a full school day is a bit too much, but they’re not sick-in-bed sick. (That’s my favorite kind!) At some point in the morning, G asked to paint, so I set her up with the liquid watercolors. N decided to experiment with bleeding tissue paper. Based on some of the comments to my first post about it, I gave him pieces of tissue paper, watercolor paper, a paintbrush, and one cup of water and one of vinegar.

The colors were definitely more vibrant than when G used a spray bottle, but there were still some white spots left behind under the squares–it makes it look like a resist, almost. Do you see that blue blob up towards the top corner of his paper? He accidentally wrinkled up a square (“it looks like blue spinach,” he said) and wondered if it would be okay. Of course! It left an interesting splotch behind, and I’m thinking next time we experiment with the tissue paper, we’ll go for a scrunch-and-stick technique and see what happens.

While his younger siblings painted, V hit the writing center and began writing a story in a blank book. N and G joined him when they finished their paintings. N decided to draw a story, and G, after making some marks, dictated her story to me.

I love this picture! Three kids in jammies, working on stories. If you build it, they will come.

Building a Writing Center

Towards the end of the summer, I ordered Playful Learning. While I’ve gone through and marked numerous pages with sticky notes, this was my first goal: to set up a little writing center. We have loads of materials in our art area, and the kids can get to lots of them on their own, but I wanted one place that held a variety of paper all in one spot. I loved the hanging thing that’s pictured for the writing center at the beginning of the book, but the book didn’t seem to say where it came from. I Googled for a while and eventually found it–The Container Store! We don’t have one near to us, so I had to order that too. But look!

It’s a canvas magazine holder, and a perfect solution for storing paper vertically, something I’d been trying to figure out since we put together our art/craft area. The table takes up most of the space, so anything that allows me to use the walls is great. From top to bottom, I have card stock of various colors, plain copy paper, lined writing paper (it’s that thin brownish stuff, so I put a piece of card stock in front to help prevent flopping), some letter paper printed out from the Playful Learning website, some alphabet stickers, envelopes and index cards, and a bunch of blank books, waiting to be filled with stories. Most of these I made using plain paper, but some I alternated sheets of lined paper with the plain*. I added some pencils (nobody can seem to find one when they need one) and some colored pens. The kids can reach other supplies–colored pencils, crayons, scissors, hole punches, paint–on their own, and they’re stored in other areas.

The sheet on the right is this one, found via Pinterest. I plan to add and/or rotate what hangs there. At the same time I ordered Playful Learning, Rip The Page! fell into my cart, and I’m thinking the best way to use it may be to simply leave provocations up near the writing center. I’m going to have to wait and see if writing is something the kids want to do all together, like we often do with art experiences, or if it’s a more solitary activity. (Can you tell, for me it feels better to write on the sly and then, maybe, let it see some light?)

I’m not quite done here–I’d like some better alphabet stickers, for instance, and some shape stickers for my youngest. (Any source suggestions? I’m not finding any locally.) I also want some lined paper more suitable for my nine-year-old. I hope it evolves through use, that it shapes itself according to what the kids need. My oldest, especially, seems excited about it.

I’ll keep you posted!

*To make simple blank books: Fold copy paper in half for the inside and card stock in half for the outside. Staple close to the edge (middle, top, and bottom). Cover the staples with duct tape. I had some sheets of it, so I just cut off strips that were four squares wide (there’s a grid on the back) and used that.

Experimenting With Bleeding Tissue Paper

Materials: Bleeding tissue paper (we used Spectra), water color paper, spray bottle

I’ve been wanting to play with this product for a while now, and during our last trip to the Eric Carle Museum, I saw some in their bookstore (which is an absolutely fabulous place) and picked some up. And then it sat in the studio for a while as we squeezed out every last drop of summer, outside! The other day, G and I decided to experiment with the bleeding tissue paper.

I cut out some squares and spread them on the table, and then gave G half a sheet of 12×18 water color paper. She began by arranging some squares of tissue on her paper. Before she began spraying, I cleared the leftover tissue out of the area.

Then she began to spray.

And spray. The girl loves to use a spray bottle!

The colors began to run off the paper and mix in the puddles. Isn’t that pretty? As she sprayed, G commented on the colors she saw and how they were mixing. (As you can see from these pictures, if you don’t have an anything-goes art table, you probably want to do this in a shallow plastic tub or something similar, to protect your table.)

There was so much water on the paper, G decided to add some dry tissue on top of the puddles to see what would happen. Then she asked for a big sheet of paper to lay on top. I thought she wanted a big piece of tissue, so I asked what color, but she said no, she wanted the other piece of white paper–the other half of the water color paper I’d cut in half.

Carefully, we laid it on top of the wet paper and tissue.

She wanted to make a print–and I love that she both knows the process of making a print and recognizes a good opportunity to give it a try!

From the start, G had said she wanted to color on the paper once it was dry. So the next day, after it had dried and the tissue paper shook off, that’s what she did.

Our colors came out very muted. (I experimented too, on another small sheet of paper.) I’m not sure if this is because we overlapped so many colors and they all bled together, or because we used a spray bottle instead of a paintbrush, which I imagine would keep the water more in one place, or perhaps a combination. I plan to experiment with this paper some more, both with G and with the older kids. We certainly have enough of it to try all sorts of methods.

Have you used bleeding tissue paper? What did you find worked best?

Scented Play Dough

The idea of adding scent to play dough isn’t new; I’ve seen it scented with peppermint more than once. N’s teacher let me know on Sunday that he’d need some play dough for a class activity on Wednesday–we keep him on a gluten-free diet, and even though he’s not eating the play dough, there’s something about having him play with a ball of wheat that seems not-so-smart. He only needed a small amount each of three colors, but of course it’s made in batches (I used this recipe). I also wanted to double the recipe so G could play with some at home and there was extra to keep on hand in school for next time.

I placed all the ingredients for a double recipe in one pan. When it had warmed and mixed to reach the consistency of pancake batter, I added a couple drops of lavender oil–such a calming, soothing scent. Then I ladled some of the batter into two more pans, and then I added the food coloring, one color per pan. The beautiful (and beautifully scented!) result is in the picture above.