Category Archives: toddler/preschool

Patterned Paper Bag Heart Banner

Since November, I’ve been decorating our big sliding glass door to the deck with a seasonal banner of some sort. Our thankful banner was even created from paper bags! So when I saw that TinkerLab’s paper bag challenge fell at the beginning of February, I figured it was a great opportunity to get the kids involved in creating this month’s banner—but with a lot of open-ended process to balance out the product.

Materials: Paper bags (I used brown lunch bags, which are thinner); paint; scissors; materials to create patterns (ie, sponges, cork, pom-poms…whatever your kids want!); heart template; glue or glue stick; yarn for hanging; mini-clothespins (optional)

First I cut open the paper bags and cut off the bottoms so we could lay them out flat. Then we painted them in layers. We covered them in a solid color and then let that dry before going back in to make patterns.

V used gesso on one of his bags because he wanted to use watercolors on the second layer, and we weren’t sure how the watercolors would get along with a layer of tempera paint. G added all her colors of paint pretty much at the same time.

Making the patterns was so much fun! I gave G one of the bags I painted so she could use the sponge to make sponge prints.

She also used the sponge roller to layer some more paint on her own bag. V dropped red liquid watercolors onto the bag he painted with gesso, and a really fun polka-dot effect resulted.

Both boys also used the sponge on one of their bags, and on his second, N made dots with a wine cork and a big pom-pom. We ended up with a pile of colorful paper!

Once the bags were dry, I cut a heart out of cardstock so that all our hearts would be the same size (more or less). We traced hearts onto our bags and cut them out.

The boys were very specific on which parts of their patterned paper they hoped to get on their hearts, so they mostly traced on the painted side. G isn’t quite up to cutting on a line yet, so rather than have her end up frustrated with this part of the project, we gave her the scraps and a heart paper punch.


When the hearts were cut out, we glued them together in pairs so whichever side you see, it’s patterned. Because the watercolor soaked through the bag, V decided not to paste those together—one side shows white with red, and the other is paper bag color with red. G, of course, could participate with the gluing. We thought about gluing the hanging yarn inside the middle, but with so many of us gluing, and at different times, in the end we decided it would be simpler to hang them off the yarn with mini-clothespins.

And what about the hearts G punched out with the scraps? I added some more to her pile and sandwiched them again, this time with a length of perle cotton in between, to make a sweet little hanging string of hearts.

If you’d like to add your project to the link-up, you can do that below. If you’d like to enter to win a $100 Visa gift card and 3-month subscription to Kiwi Crate, make sure to add a link to your project at either TinkerLab or the Kiwi Crate blog (all particulars can be found here). And be sure to visit these other creative bloggers to see what their kids created out of paper bags for the challenge:

Paint Cut Paste, Imagination SoupHands On: As We Grow, Child Central Station, Putti Prapancha, Irresistible Ideas for Play-Based LearningTeach Preschool, The Chocolate Muffin Tree, Nurture Store, Small Types,Make Do & FriendThe Imagination Tree, Toddler Approved, Red Ted Art, Kids in the Studio, Rainy Day Mum, Glittering Muffins, Sense of Wonder, Mom To 2 Posh Lil Divas, Come Together Kids, My Creative Family, Kitchen Counter Chronicles, A Mom With A Lesson Plan, Angelique Felix, The Golden Gleam, Clarion Wren, Living at the Whitehead’s Zoo, Let Kids Create, De tout et de rien, PlayDrMomCreativity My PassionKiwi Crate, Tinkerlab

Happy Valentine’s Day, and have fun!

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Spin Art {A Review, of Sorts}

The kids received a spin art contraption for Christmas, so over break we played with it. I didn’t realize, when ordering, that it was the Melissa and Doug brand, which has gotten not-so-great reviews over on Amazon. But it was, and while I can see why it’s gotten not-so-great reviews, we played with it quite a bit and had success after all.

One of our favorite parts was watching it spin. The stopped card often looked very different from the card in motion, and really, we were all mesmerized by the way our eyes saw the paint as it spun. From a more experimental standpoint, it interested me that the card reversed with each crank. This set is powered by moving the hand crank–if you pull it toward you, the card spins one way; push it away, and it spins the other. So you’re alternating directions, and I kept trying to figure out if that changed the nature of the design a lot, a little, or not at all.

Some practical points–no matter what I did, I couldn’t get the suction cup to stick to our table surface (which is just melamine, nothing fancy), so I held it down while the kids cranked. The cards that came with the set were too small to fit into the slots without slipping out; things worked better when I cut our own, slightly larger than 4″x4″ on all sides. And the designs came out much better when we squirted the paint on while it was spinning, instead of before.

The very first one we tried is in the top left corner, and that’s the one we squirted the paint onto before spinning. Really, not at all impressive. The thin circles in the one next to it were made by drizzling paint on as it spun. N liked to squirt lots of paint, and he got big cool-looking splotches that took a while to dry.

V started wondering, What would happen if I poured the paint in the opposite direction of the spin? And How about if we draw on the cards before adding paint? So we definitely have some room for experimentation, once we figured out the best way to work with the set-up. I haven’t ruled out a salad spinner for the future, though!

What’s your favorite spin-art method? Do you have any tips to share?

Doodle Rocks

Materials: Rocks; liquid acrylic craft paint; brushes of various sizes; permanent markers, including metallic

We love to collect rocks. Not too long ago, after seeing beautifully painted rocks at Jen Muna, I decided I wanted to try it myself. And then I figured the kids could give it a try, too. This is an extremely open activity. I spread out the materials (having previously rinsed the rocks and let them dry) and we each took our designs in whatever direction we chose.

That is a busy table! Even dad participated in this activity. I think all of us used a combination of paint and markers, sometimes on the same rock. Here are the results.

G's rocks

Most of G’s are painted, in colors of her choosing, of course. The lighter orange one is permanent marker. On one of these (I’m not sure which) she colored with marker and then painted over it. (Warning: Acrylic paint will not wash out of clothing.)

N's rocks

On some rocks, N used marker and paint together. The bottom ones were drawn on with metallic marker (he decorated both sides of some of his rocks, so some images aren’t shown). The flower in the top middle was created using paint (and a thin script brush) over metallic silver marker, and the ones on either side were drawn after seeing his dad’s rocks, below.

V's rocks

V spent quite a bit of time experimenting with different brush sizes. He also likes to add his initials and his name (blurred out) on most everything!

My husband and I also played with the materials.

Parents' rocks

The top four are mine, and the bottom two (the ones that inspired N) are my husband’s. I experimented with stamping on the rocks (which worked so-so, since the rocks weren’t perfectly flat).

This is a relaxing, open-ended activity that is easily adjusted for all age levels. And if you and your kids are compulsive rock collectors (as we are!) it’s a fun way to turn your finds into creative canvases.

Favorite Projects of 2011

I hope plan to get back to regular posting after my big kids return to school in January, but meanwhile, I wanted to share some of my favorite projects from this past year. Looking through the posts reminds me of all the neat things we tried!

In January, we tried our first tape resist project, which led to many more experiments with resist, including scribble resist (scribbling is so much fun!). We also tried shadow drawings for the first time.

In February, my then-toddler got sticky hands with yarn art, and the following month, we tried to paint like Monet after digging into some art books.

April is National Poetry Month, so we made some paintings in response to a poem. In May, we had a ball with scratch foam printmaking, and we got outside to draw the irises once they bloomed.

1. shadow drawings 2. yarn art 3. Monet painting 4. poetry painting 5. scratch foam printing 6. iris study

In June, inspired by an Eric Carle book, we made peek-a-boo paintings, which were so much fun to plan, execute, and view. We also oohed and aahed as we colored on hot rocks with wax crayons.

Summer, finally! In July we played with sun print paper and began designing and decorating t-shirts in various ways. Two of my favorite methods used freezer paper stencils and scratch foam printing.

Heading into fall…I liked my daughter’s painted jar-o-lanterns and her color mixing adventures. And, of course, we celebrated the winter solstice with homemade lanterns.

1. peek-a-boo paintings 2. hot rocks 3. sun print paper 4. freezer paper t-shirts 5. scratch foam t-shirt 6. jar-o-lanterns 7. preschool color mixing

What an artful year we’ve had! I wish you a happy, creative, and inspiring 2012!

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?

Maps, Drawn + Painted

Materials: Watercolor paper, permanent markers, watercolor paint, painter’s tape (optional)

On a recent sick day, when my boys were too sick for school but they’d temporarily perked up enough for a project, we drew and painted some maps. I left this completely wide open, with the only guideline being that we’d draw the map first with permanent marker, then add color with watercolor paint. I’d had in mind using black Sharpies, but N and G wanted to use colored markers along with the colored paint. Sure! Why not?

I also left the subject wide open. I sketched out a map of favorite places, but I figured N would want to draw a map of a made-up place (he did). V chose to draw a map of New Rome (from The Son of Neptune) as he pictured it in his mind, which was, he told me, completely different from the map included in the book.

The boys also chose to use painter’s tape to create a tape resist effect on their maps. Once everything was in place, we painted.

Above, N adding paint. Below, a detail of his cacti.

G chose to draw with colored permanent markers (yes, I give my 3yo permanent markers! under supervision, though) and then cover her paper with red paint.

For quite an interesting effect! Below, V’s finished map of New Rome. He used the tape to mark off roads.

He’s quite pleased with the Fields of Mars in the lower right-hand corner. He applied yellow, green, and brown paint, some with the brush, some with the tip of a narrow piece of sponge, then lifted some off with a paper towel. It looks like a place of battle, doesn’t it? His map also includes quite a bit of detail, as he consulted the book and labeled places before adding color.

Below, N’s finished map. He used tape resist to represent snow (piled up on the side), and when his painting was dry, he added a 3-dimensional temple using colored tape.

This was a very open-ended project; I had nothing in mind besides introducing the kids to using permanent marker and watercolor together–and even in that, they took it in different directions by using colored markers. By simply saying “let’s draw a map,” the boys were free to draw the type of map they each like most–V, a detailed map of a real place (in this case, real in the sense that someone had already described it in detail), and N, a map wholly out of his imagination. And I just doodled.

One of my favorite places: my love-filled home!

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?)

Simple Chromotography and Magnet Painting

A local science-oriented toy store has a “kinderscience” program once per week for kids ages 2-5. I’ve taken G a few times. It’s a good way to get out of the house and, since it’s within walking distance of the car dealership, it was an excellent place to pass the time with a three-year-old last week while the car was being serviced. The activities in this session were art-via-science, so I decided to share them here. In general, I’d prefer it if the instructor spent less time talking (there is a lot of “this is what you’re going to do and this is what is going to happen”) and more time just setting out the activity and letting the kids explore. But of course, as soon as the materials were available, that is exactly what I encouraged G to do.

The first activity involved coffee filters–such a favorite! The kids were to color on the filters with markers, then drop water onto it with a dropper. G was excited to see the droppers, as we’d just used them the day before for an activity at home and she already knew how to use them herself. Because the trays were red, it was a little hard for her to tell where her color was going.

The instructor ripped some filters so they lay flat in a butterfly shape, too. On this one, she decided to see what would happen if you drew some more on the wet filter. I think we’ll try this activity again at home on the white table, to eliminate the background color confusion.

The second activity was a version of marble painting, but instead of rolling the marbles around in the pie tin, the kids were to use a magnet wand, from the bottom, to drag painty magnetic marbles over the paper.

After a bit of this, G decided to simply roll the marbles around the old-fashioned way, as it was easier.

We already have three of the magnet wands–we used them over the summer to collect iron filings from beach sand (which is super fun and, quite frankly, very cool to do)–so I bought a small bag of magnetic marbles so my older kids (who were in school) can try this as well.

All in all, much better than sitting in the car dealership’s waiting room for an hour!

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!