Category Archives: preschool & up

Fairy House Festival

You may recall that 5yo G has an interest in fairies. Yesterday we visited the Botanical Gardens at Roger Williams Park in Providence, on the last day of their “fairy house garden days.” This was something that came across my computer screen via a local homeschool email group, so it’s not a field trip planned by G (which is really how PBL field trips should go). I’m the one who heard about it, but G was in charge of the experience. We left the boys at home and went for a mama-daughter date with fairy gardens.

I didn’t tell G that the website invited visitors to dress as fairies–who needs to tell a 5yo to wear wings? She independently chose her outfit. Obviously one visits a fairy house garden wearing wings, a flower barrette, a poufy skirt, and sparkly shoes. Once there, she asked if she could take photos of her favorite houses. YES. I handed over the camera, and she took more than 70 pictures.

documenting fairy houses (PBL) at amyhoodarts.com

We weren’t just viewing, you see. This is also research, because she plans to continue building her own fairy houses (more on that in a minute). All the photos of fairy houses in this post were taken by G. This was one of her favorites, a seaside getaway for fairies who need a vacation.

seaside fairy house at amyhoodarts.com

fairy house at Roger Williams Park Botanical Gardens, Providence, RI.

She wanted to take a photo of this twisty ladder because it “looks like DNA, Mama!!”

fairy house ladder at amyhoodarts.com

Part of a fairy house at Roger Williams Park Botanical Gardens, Providence, RI.

A scavenger hunt had been set up, and while usually I’m not a fan of those at museums because they tend to cause visitors to focus just on the items on the list, that wasn’t the outcome here. It was quite well done–some fairy house displays had explanatory signs, which were clever or interesting, along with an item to look for in the display. G was looking very closely at all the displays anyway, whether it was a scavenger hunt stop or not. So this particular activity added to the experience. She took this photo at the display of hanging fairy house spheres because she was asked to find a bench and she did! (I didn’t spot it at all.)

hanging fairy house at amyhoodarts.com

Part of a fairy house display at Roger Williams Park Botanical Gardens, Providence, RI.

Part of the special activities for Sunday was making a fairy house. She picked up a bag of collected nature items and some dirt.

fairy house-making supplies at amyhoodarts.com

However, she was having a hard time figuring out how to construct walls, so I asked if she’d like to bring the items home and use them to build a house in the yard–where we have trees and rocks and shells to add to the materials. She said yes. On the way out, we were asked if we’d like to take another bag (they must have had extras), so she picked out more supplies. There are wonderful things in there, things we wouldn’t necessarily be able to easily collect on their own. The URI Master Gardeners were a big part of this event, and the Master Gardeners themselves all collected items (legally and carefully, I’ve no doubt, as the back of the scavenger hunt list had cautions on being careful collectors). I suspect that most of the effort to create this event was by volunteers.

A couple of days before Easter, G decided it was time to build a fairy house in the yard. She’d been waiting patiently all winter for spring. Easter was in two days; we were into the second part of April. Surely it was time, never mind that the temperature was in the 30s. Spring may be wavery about committing, but G was not.

5yo's fairy house at amyhoodarts.com

5yo’s G first fairy house in our backyard.

The table! Set with acorn cap bowls! With her 70-odd photos of inspiration, and her memories of all we looked at and talked about, G has lots of ideas for building more fairy houses. (She also has a new fairy wand. It goes fetchingly with the wings and sparkly shoes.)

Puppets in the Style of Paul Klee

Puppets in the Style of Paul Klee at amyhoodarts.com

Materials: Sculpey or air-dry clay; paint; yarn/other scrap materials for decorations; fabric for body; glue

Not long ago, we read quite a bit about artist Paul Klee. I considered him for the featured artist for Art Together: Printmaking (I went with Hokusai), but in the meantime, we really enjoyed learning more about him. Of course, as we read about some of his techniques, my kids said, “Can we try that?” This is one of the can-we-try-that projects, completed by me and my 5yo daughter.

In Paul Klee for Children by Silke Vry, we learned that Klee created puppets for his young son, and we saw a picture of them. This set on Flickr has images of them, and there is a book about them as well. (We didn’t read that book, but the cover shot is a photo of the puppets.) The Vry book contains Klee-related activities at the back–the sort that leave the product wide open. (That is the sort I like!) It suggested using clay for the puppet heads. We have both air-dry clay and Sculpey, but the latter was much easier for 5yo hands to mold, so we used that.

Child's puppet in the style of Paul Klee at amyhoodarts.com

G’s puppet.

Mold the heads so that your finger fits inside the neck–this is how you’ll control your puppet. After molding the heads, we cooked them according to directions (I burned my puppet’s nose and chin!), then painted on their features using liquid acrylic paint. We attached yarn hair using craft glue–G wanted beads in her puppet’s hair–and then sewed their clothes. The shirt/dress is a simple template–make sure the top opening is big enough to fit over your puppet’s neck, and keep the neck hole and the bottom open. Finally, we used craft glue to attach the neck opening of the shirt/dress to the neck of the puppet.

Adult's puppet in the style of Paul Klee at amyhoodarts.com

My puppet.

The ribbons are there to cover up the join between the cloth and the head and because, as G says, “They’re so pretty.” We are rather chuffed with our puppets.

Child-Led First Hand-Sewing Project

Child-led first hand-sewing project at amyhoodarts.com

This looks like it was planned by a 5yo because it was.

One afternoon while I was working (publishing that zine from my dining room table, like you do), my daughter got out her fabric scraps box and got to work. She’s had her own pair of fabric scissors since she was two, and I’m quite comfortable by this point letting her use them without hovering over her the whole time. So she sat at coffee table nearby, and I sat at the dining room table, and we worked.

When she was finished, she showed me what she’d done. She’d cut out pieces to make a “Super G—,” complete with a drawn-on smiley face and a “G” on the felt body. She’d pinned the head, arms, and legs to the body piece. It just needed to be sewn, and I helped her a bit with that part, as this was her first time using thread. (She embroidered her initial not too long ago.)

She is so happy with this creation. And I adore it, not that it matters if I do or not. But what I adore about it is that it contains so much of her. It shares the style of her drawings and her paper collages. She sat down with fabric and scissors, cut out pieces, no-one hovering to tell her how Things Ought to Be when it comes to sewing. Of course the edges will fray. Of course all the knots are visible on the back. These refinements will come in time, if she continues to be interested in sewing. The most important thing right now, though, is her passion–that, and her utter delight in her finished work.

Making + Listening::3/2014

Sunday at the grocery store, the kids and I bought flowers. Cheerful flowers are one of the small joys of life, no? We finally settled on delphiniums (blue) and tulips (pink). I decided to use the flowers as a drawing practice subject. I found it was easier, at first, to draw the delphiniums. I suspect this is because I have an idea of what tulips look like, but I’m not familiar with delphiniums. My brain couldn’t try to take over with preconceived ideas, in other words. With the delphiniums, all I could do was look at what was there and draw it.

my sketch-delphiniums at amyhoodarts.com

delphinium sketches

Sigh, it’s so hard to photograph pencil sketches. At any rate, of course I asked the kids if they wanted to draw the flowers too. And they did. My 9yo received a nice set of colored pencils for Christmas, and he uses them every chance he gets (I would too!). So his sketch of the tulips in their vase is in color.

N's drawing of tulips at amyhoodarts.com

G, like me, sketched in pencil.

G's drawing 2 at amyhoodarts.com

delphinium sketches by 5yo

G's drawing at amyhoodarts.com

I gave the tulips another go and quite liked the ones on the right, which I went over in Pitt pen.

my sketch-tulips at amyhoodarts.com

tulip sketches

Rather a long time ago, I decided I wanted to figure out linocuts, but it sort of settled to the bottom of the list. However, we’ve been looking at lots of examples of woodcuts and block prints lately, and I’ve been trying to get a handle on what decisions the artists made, and why. I thought I could try to translate the tulip sketch into a linocut. I worked on the carving a bit at a time over several days, and I’m pleased with the result. This is a test print I just pulled today.

linocut of tulips at amyhoodarts.com

Actually, I’m going to rephrase that. I am not just “pleased” with the results. I’m really, really happy. I look at this and I am proud of it. Pfft on the understatement. I am all WOW! I carved this!!

Creating is just so fabulous.

I’m linking up with Dawn again this week for Making + Listening. As for the listening part, I found some Pete Yorn on my computer and enjoyed listening to that. Otherwise, it was a lot more of the 80s station to get through the work trip, which ended up lasting nearly two weeks thanks to cancellations and delays. He finally got home yesterday, two days late, and we were all so happy to see him.

{PBL} The Fairy Project

It began late last fall. Gradually, a list of questions grew.

list of questions for fairy project at amyhoodarts.com

We went to the library to look up books in their computer, as you do, and came home with some that day and requested many, many others. Shortly after Christmas we were excited to find this book in a used book store, because we’d kept renewing our library copy:

fairyopolis

I need to compile a list of books my girl has found so far for this project so I can share them in another post. Our library search led us to The Fairy Ring, which I read aloud to both my homeschooled kids. My 9yo is just as interested in the magical and mythical, and fairies and their cousins the elves, goblins, etc, qualify, so he’s interested to listen along. The Fairy Ring is a nonfiction book that reads like a novel and tells the story of two cousins in early 20th-century England who posed a photograph with fairies. The younger cousin maintained all through her life that she did see fairies, but at the time, they were simply trying to get their parents to stop teasing them when they claimed they saw them. Word of their photographs gets around, and the situation becomes larger than they expected.

A Midsummer’s Nights Dream was mentioned in the book, so it’s been added to the reading list. That’s the way things go with projects.

G has lots of ideas relating to this project. She’s making a fairy comic, would like to plan a butterfly garden (in hopes that fairies are also attracted, since they favor the same habitat as butterflies), and she’s been looking through a book of fairy houses. She tells anyone who will listen about her project, and when she tells librarians, they often have books to suggest or, in one case, a friend who builds fairy houses on her front porch. That librarian said she’d see if her friend would mind if we visited.

G has also been taking notes. Sometimes, if she wants to record a lot of information at once, I write it. But mostly, she does.

taking notes for the fairy project at amyhoodarts.com

(toes!!)

I’ll keep you updated on this project, definitely. Just as I thought with my son’s monster project, this project is proof that project topics don’t have to be “real” or close by in order to provide huge opportunity for learning. She’s writing and researching, we’re reading, she’s drawing. She’s planning a garden and wants to build fairy houses in the spring (nature). We’ll be reading Shakespeare again soon. If a child is interested and curious, a topic is rich and can lead anywhere.

Her First Embroidery

My daughter, who recently turned five, has been cutting fabric with real fabric scissors for two-and-a-half years now. She has a box that holds her scraps, scissors, and a few pins, because when she cuts the fabric, she wants to pin pieces together. Naturally, she recently asked how to sew the pieces together, so I taught her the running stitch, using a large needle, the full six strands of bright embroidery floss, and some white felt.

sewing practice by 5yo at amyhoodarts.com

“I can’t believe you’re letting me use your materials!” she exclaimed, even though, of course, we share materials in the art room all the time. But up to this point, hand-sewing and embroidery is something she has watched me do, and I took needle and floss for her to use out of the zippered pouch that holds my embroidery scissors and needle case. Kids notice what supplies they’re given, and handing over the “real” supplies for her use demonstrated that I was taking her interest seriously.

After she sewed around all the edges of her practice piece, she decided she knew enough to embroider, so I taught her how to back stitch. After practicing that, she decided she wanted to embroider the first initial of her name. I drew it onto the felt to her specifications, and she set to work.

back stitch embroidered "G" by 5yo at amyhoodarts.com

Those are careful, attentive, small stitches right there–she was working quite earnestly, and she can’t wait to start another project. This piece is now hanging up on her bulletin board in her room. She has always had excellent fine-motor coordination, so I’m not surprised she was able to do this. I also started her with a full thickness of embroidery floss, which is less likely to tangle than sewing thread, and a larger needle, which is easier for smaller fingers to hold. Felt is stiffer than regular cotton and doesn’t require a hoop (although you can certainly use one). Contrasting floss shows up well on the felt, so she can see where she’s sewing or stitching. And I was on hand to quickly help with confusion or mistakes.

I’m pretty impressed with her first embroidery, but more importantly, she is delighted to have learned something new that she wanted to do.

Color Round-Up

(I’ve announced the winner on the giveaway post and emailed her. Thanks to all who entered, and if you still want a chance to win a copy, head over to Jen’s…her giveaway is open through Thursday!)

Issue One of the Art Together e-zine is all about color, and I love color. Playing with color makes me very happy! As you might guess, we have plenty of activities on the blog exploring color as well; I wanted to gather some of the best in one place as an extra resource.

Make A Simple Color Wheel from the Art Together series: We do this two ways, using circles of watercolor and using acrylics (shown to the left).

Preschool Color Mixing Using Colored Water: There’s nothing quite like watching colors mix yourself at this age. It’s magical, and the best way to learn about color mixing is doing it.

Preschool Color Mixing Using Tempera Paint: This activity incorporates squeeze bottles, experimentation, and stirring. It’s a winner for preschoolers.

Tints and Shades from the Art Together series: This activity uses one shade of color plus white and black to make monochromatic paintings.

O’Keeffe Leaves: Using Autumn leaves for inspiration, we drew really big leaves and filled them in with color.

colored eggExperiments with Natural Dyes: One Easter we did just that to color our Easter eggs (left), getting some really interesting colors.

Experimenting with Bleeding Tissue Paper: This type of tissue paper “bleeds” out its color when it touches water, which can be an interesting way to play with color blending, make prints, and investigate.

Tissue Paper Painting: Using Eric Carle’s method, we painted tissue paper with brightly colored designs.

Color and Texture: Using primary colored paint and a variety of textured objects, we created our own bright decorative papers.

You don’t need to buy the zine in order to join the Flickr group and share work by you and your kids–New Flickr makes my eyes hurt but I promise to be over there more often; I’d love to see what everybody is working on!

Announcing Art Together E-Zine and a Giveaway

I’m really excited to announce and share with you the first issue of the Art Together E-Zine. I’ve been thinking about doing this for a while now and working on this issue over the summer. My plan is to offer a quarterly magazine, each with a focus; Autumn’s issue investigates color. Each issue will include a Featured Material and an Artist Spotlight, as well as plenty of resources, activities, and ideas. The two book lists–one on color and the other on van Gogh, the subject of this issue’s Artist Spotlight–are annotated, which means I give some information on each book to help you decide if it sounds right for you and your children. You’ll also find plenty of encouragement and, hopefully, inspiration within these pages.

You will not, however, find craft projects. The activities within firmly support my belief in the importance of open-ended, process-oriented art. Because there is no right or wrong way to do these activities, you and the children you’re working with can approach them from wherever you are right now. The only necessary quality is a willingness to explore and experiment. My hope is that artists of all ages will find something within these pages.

My 9yo working on an activity from Issue One.

I wrote this for parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, babysitters–anyone looking to explore art with children they care about. The idea of art together–parents and children side by side–is so important to me because, for a long time, that was the only way I could find time in my day for my own creative outlets. If you’ve always thought you couldn’t “do art;” if someone along the way made you feel shamed or less-than when it came to art or creativity; if you’ve always kind of wanted to try something artsy but thought it wasn’t for you; if your child loves art and you’re just not confident in your ability to sit down with him or her–I especially wrote this for you. Playing and experimenting with art is for everybody (yes, you too). Whether or not you buy the zine, I hope you hear me whispering encouragement to you, because I am really passionate about helping people gain confidence in their creativity. (Encouragement is always free of charge. Email me anytime!)

Drawn and painted still life, acrylics, 11-year-old.

You can find all the details about this first issue, including the “buy now” button, here. This issue is 27 pages and $5, but because it’s my birthday on Saturday, you can use the code BIRTHDAY for 20% through the end of September. And because the best way to celebrate is by giving, I’m offering a free copy to a reader. Just leave a comment on this post letting me know you’re interested (make sure to include your email address in that field in the comment form). This giveaway is open to anyone, worldwide–aren’t digital giveaways so easy that way?! Comments will be open until midnight EST on my 40th birthday, Saturday, September 21. And stay tuned–a few other bloggers will be hosting giveaways over the next couple of weeks as well.

I had a great time creating this magazine, and I hope you enjoy it too.

**Drawing results: Random number generator brought up Jen as the winner. Congratulations, Jen!

Setting Up An Outdoors Painting Area

My kids and I are trying out activities from the first Art Together e-zine issue, which I plan to have available for you next month. Today was not too hot or humid, so I decided to set us up to paint outside, and I wanted to share with you how easy this can be.

We have some basic plastic deck furniture–nothing too fancy or precious. The brown boards are masonite boards from Home Depot, cut to size–the same thing drawing boards are made from, but much cheaper. I’ve brought out our paints, brushes, glass rinsing jars, and a pitcher of water–this way, it’s easy to refill the rinsing jars without running back and forth into the house. My kitchen is on the opposite side of that wall, so it’s not that hard to refill the pitcher, either, when necessary.

That’s it! It’s that easy. Fresh air on a not-too-hot day and painting. Two good things together.

Summer T-Shirt Round-Up

Decorating our own t-shirts is a summer staple here. These range from simple (printing with leaves) to more complicated. I’ve gathered up the ones I’ve posted about here, in case you’re looking for ideas.

glue batik

Several years ago we each designed and decorated our own t-shirts using a glue batik process. I posted about it at Kidoinfo here.

sun print shirts

We experimented with sun printing right on t-shirts, with variable success. We learned cheap watered down liquid acrylics worked best for this. The full post is here.

freezer paper stencil

A favorite technique that we’ve used over and over–freezer paper stencils. The shirt above still gets worn regularly and complimented. The full post is here.

scratch foam shirt

Because my daughter was a bit too young at the time to design her own freezer paper stencil shirt, I helped her print a shirt using scratch foam. Our full process is described here.

The kids and I haven’t yet discussed what this summer’s shirts might entail. We’ll keep you posted!