Category Archives: all ages

Rubber Cement as Masking Fluid

(Note: The rubber cement bottle is full of warnings. It contains chemicals and latex. It smells bad and the fumes can be hazardous. It’s flammable. It can cause allergic reactions because of the latex. I decided I was comfortable using it with my three-year-old for a short amount of carefully supervised time in a controlled environment. You may decide differently based on your child’s age and temperament. Please use common sense, okay?)

Materials: Rubber cement, watercolor paper, liquid watercolors

Rubber cement can act as a frisket (masking fluid), protecting part of the paper from paint to create a resist effect. G and I tried it out first, but we’ll be sharing with the boys, too.

The bottle comes with a paint brush, so G wanted to paint with it.

I experimented as well, both by trying to paint an image with the brush on one small square, and by drizzling it onto another. I wasn’t ready to sacrifice a paintbrush to create fine, controlled lines, but I may do that with the older kids. When you’re done applying the rubber cement (and more on technique in a minute), you need to let it dry.

While we were waiting, G painted a picture with the watercolors on another sheet of paper.

When the rubber cement was dry, we painted over it with liquid watercolors. “Look!” exclaimed G.

You can see how it’s resisting the watercolor. G really spread her rubber cement thin and over a large area; this probably isn’t the way to go for a striking resist effect. I’d recommend drizzling or applying in a more blobby way (we’re so technical here!), because spreading it out makes the next part difficult.

When the paint is dry, you can rub off the rubber cement to reveal your resist. We had to work hard to get all of the rubber cement off of G’s painting!

G’s painting is the large one on the left. On the right are my two experiments–for the top one, I used the brush that came with the cement to try to paint a snowflake. It worked well enough, but the brush is big and smears the glue around. For the bottom one, I mostly drizzled (I used a wooden clay tool because it was handy). That’s my favorite–the glue drizzled thickly enough to get a strong contrast between white and color.

I’m thinking next time I might remove the brush entirely and offer something else, to encourage drizzling. Hmm, I wonder what would work best? Ideas?

Cut Paper Snowflakes

Materials: Scissors, various papers

Yesterday’s countdown calendar activity was to make snowflakes, so when the boys got home from school, this is what they found.

A basket full of pre-folded paper, ready for cutting into snowflakes. I used a variety of paper–coffee filters (which we’ve used in the past), vellum, and magazine pages, inspired by Pinterest. Earlier in the day, G chose pages from magazines and I cut them and the vellum into squares, then folded everything. (You can see how I fold here; I like six-pointed snowflakes because that’s how nature does it!)

When the boys came home, we cut.

And cut.

The vellum was hardest to cut, and the magazine pages, the easiest. (You might want to keep that in mind if you’re cutting snowflakes with young ones!) While I thought the coffee filters would be easiest, because they’re so thin, they are, of course, tough, as they’re meant to be, and it wasn’t easy for G to get her scissors through the fibers. She mainly cut the magazine pages, and because she was doing it herself (as if there could be any other way?!), she made lots of six-sided shapes by cutting the tips off at angles. We like these snowflakes just as much as the others.

V, being the oldest, did the most experimenting with different types of cuts to see what sort of patterns would emerge. The fun lies in the cutting and unfolding!

This morning, G and I took down our autumn leaves and hung up our snowflakes. (It is a grey, wet day outside that window.)

The magazine page snowflakes are very pretty in their randomness.

This window has some of each–both white and natural coffee filters, vellum, and magazine pages:

I’ve promised to refill the basket with snowflake blanks whenever I have a some spare minutes.

Do you have a favorite material with which to make snowflakes?

Painted Collages (TinkerLab Magazine Challenge)

Tinkerlab Creative ChallengeMaterials: Illustration board, old magazines, glue or paste, scissors (of course!), acrylic paint–the kind in tubes, not the liquid kind.

Once again, Rachelle at TinkerLab invited us to participate in a materials challenge, this time using magazines. So I brought it up with the kids, who are now 10, 7 1/2, and 3. Did they want to do something? Sure! So we brainstormed. Although there is a lot of making going on in our house, especially as Christmas approaches, my kids didn’t look at the magazines as raw material for some thing. I suspect this is because when we get together to do art projects, we are usually focusing on exploring and experimenting. It’s very much about the process.

So although my kids have used paper to make all sorts of items, from super hero rings to dice for homemade games (and since I always have to think really hard about making a cube out of something flat, this impresses me every time!), they viewed the magazine as canvas. The ideas they finally settled on, which we combined, were cutting and pasting the magazine, and painting right on the page.

We started, of course, by selecting and cutting. G’s cutting skills have really taken off lately, because she’s been happily working at cutting paper just about every day (her idea). As a result, she didn’t need my help at all while everyone was cutting. After gluing down the images and letting them dry, we moved onto painting.

Note the mug of coffee to the right; mama runs on caffeine!

V decided he wanted to paint his board first and then paste his images down, so he’s using tempera here.

The rest of us are using acrylic after having glued down the images and then brushing a layer of glue over the image, as well. We used Mod Podge paper with mixed results; I was hoping to get a good surface for applying paint, but I don’t know if we wouldn’t have been better off just using a glue stick.

N and I enjoyed mixing the acrylics (the basic set of primaries with black and white) to get new colors, and we used a variety of brush sizes. He’s getting detailed in that photo.

G decided to paste down one full magazine page, with one tiny image glued down on top of it. Then she began painting.

Eventually she covered the entire image. Then she lifted some off using a cotton swab.

Here are N and G’s finished pieces (whoops, I photographed G’s upside down):

And here is V’s, although the images and text aren’t pasted down yet. He also has plans to paint the other side and glue down even more images. I guess I should have left one piece of illustration board full size!

He really likes Legos!

Thanks again, Rachelle, for inviting us to play along. Here is the full list of participating bloggers; click on the links for some more projects featuring magazines!

Child Central Station , Teach MamaThe Imagination Tree,Childhood101Teach Preschoolhands on as we growArtful ParentPaint Cut PasteA Mom With A Lesson PlanToddler ApprovedKiwi CrateArt 4 Little Hands,  Red Ted ArtThe Chocolate Muffin Tree,  Imagination Soup,Michelles Charm WorldMessy PreschoolersTinker LabMommy LabsPutti Prapancha, Sun Hats and Wellie Boots

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Marble Painting, Traditional and Magnetic

Materials: Tempera paint, magnetic marbles, magnet wands, foil cake or pie pans (I used cake because the edges are slightly taller), paper cut to fit the pan, small cups and spoons for the paint

After our magnetic painting activity at the science store, G and I bought some magnetic marbles to take home so the boys could experiment too. Marble painting isn’t a new idea, but amazingly we hadn’t tried it yet. I can tell you that the big kids enjoy it as much as the younger kids.

We decided to use primary colors, so I set out three small cups–each with one color of paint, three magnetic marbles, and a spoon. We started with white paper and added paint-covered marbles.

N wanted to try his hand at controlling the marble with the wand from below. He experimented to see how far the wand could be from the pan and yet still cause the marble to move.

V mostly rolled.

N really got into the color mixing, working a bit on creating green.

That’s two marbles, zipping right along. Because they’re magnetic, they stick to each other, too. What would happen with three, he wondered?

They stuck in a line, so you could only roll them in two directions. Interesting!

G kept working on one sheet of paper, trying to cover the entire sheet with paint. As a result, she began getting a really interesting marbled effect when the marble rolled over thicker areas of paint.

On his second sheet, V tried to quite deliberately control the marble.

At the end, G just couldn’t resist touching all that paint.

And so she ended by making hand prints.

We did this on a day when the boys were home sick from school. Given some options, they both really wanted to experiment with the marble painting. The magnetic wands add another element of experimentation–there to use, or not. Before I cleaned everything up, I got a chance to play too. Fun!

(This project uses a chokable item–the marbles–so use your own judgment, yes?)

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?

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.

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.

Field Trip: Explore This Museum!

Yesterday we all visited the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) Museum of Art for a family open house. Various activities were going on throughout the afternoon. When we arrived, a Tours for Tots group was just gathering. G noticed the assemblage of people her size and went to join them, so her dad went on the half-hour tour with her, and the boys and I headed to the classroom (which is right off a gallery, not isolated from the exhibits) to see what the day’s activity was all about.

Immediately upon seeing those books, I thought of How To Be An Explorer of The World by Keri Smith. (My husband did, too; we own a copy.) But this booklet was written specifically with the Museum’s current exhibit, Made in the UK, in mind. So the various explorations are keyed into specific works of art, asking us (of course I took one too!) to look closely at, for example, the Roger Hiorns sculpture (number 6 on this PDF image sheet). “What do you notice about the piece?”

Says N, age 7: It has pompoms. It is made up of sticks.

Says V, age 9: It is three metal poles. The blue is pom-poms, but far away it looks like flowers or torn-apart balls. The pom-poms look like they are hanging off strings. Crystals on pom-poms.

Says me: Looks like rock candy. Crystals. Rusty in spots. Coral. Organic. Upside down. Blue, green. Grown on wood? Looks grown, not made.

Turns out the artist dipped dried thistles in a solution that grows crystals, then attached the thistles onto the poles. (I found this page that explains more. It’s similar to what we read at RISD, but I wasn’t taking notes then!) I would say we were pretty observant in our investigation!

The green postcard in the photo above has tips for closer looking on the back.

It starts with “Look: What do you notice? Draw: Find a line within the artwork, trace it in the air with your finger. Draw: Draw that same line on your paper.” And it goes on from there. We didn’t have time to use the postcard today, but I think it’s fabulous.

I also think the construction of this book is fabulous. The cover is cardstock, a piece a bit longer than the page pieces, so that the back cover can be folded over a bit and stapled, forming a flap to tuck the front cover into. The pages are held in with a rubber band, and when we were finished exploring the exhibit, we went back to the classroom, where tables were set up with pieces of paper and tape so that kids could add more pages to their booklets. V added pages, plus a pocket.

(We love pockets in our notebooks.) The simple construction means this would be easy to do at home–in fact, think of the possibilities of creating one of these yourself, catered to your own surroundings. It doesn’t have to be for works of art in a museum. You could make an Exploration Book for a walk in the park or your neighborhood, with activities to help you and your children stop and observe (I definitely recommend the Keri Smith book for inspiration). Making some of these is now on my (long) list of Ideas to Try.

N was happy to find a selection of colored pencils back in the classroom, because he’d been a little frustrated about drawing what he saw in the gallery, using only a regular pencil. He was anxious to add some color.

He then went on to make a tape sculpture and several 2-dimensional tape drawings and then a drawing on vellum with pastels, because vellum is so cool (I think so too).

G, of course, knew exactly what to do with all that colored tape.

The colored tape we have is all the same width, and how exciting to have a variety of lines to work with! We might need to expand our supplies.

RISD is making a great effort to make families feel welcome and engaged in the museum. It can be a bit of a challenge for us to get there–it’s about 45 minutes each way, and parking is always tough in the city–but it’s well worth the effort. I’m still trying to figure out a way to get G to more Tours for Tots, because they end at about the same time I need to be picking up my big kids from school, but N and I are planning on taking a class together, which I think will be fun for both of us.

What sort of Explorer book might you create? Does your local art museum support families? If so, how? (And if not, could you suggest some ideas?!)