Category Archives: toddler/preschool

Rainy Day Open Studio

We’ve had very few rainy days this summer. We’ve spent our time at the beach and exploring tidepools; riding bikes and scooters; finding critters in the yard and digging holes. We’ve been picnicking at the playground and visiting local museums. In other words, we are enjoying the outside while we can. Sunday, though, it poured. It was so unfamiliar and even welcome, and I pulled some rainy-day ideas out of my virtual hat. I gave the kids some choices, and as per usual, they all chose different things, so I’ll actually be splitting this into two posts.

V decided to start with artist trading cards, and that’s where he ended–he never moved on. ATCs can be intricate and involved, but I decided not to show V examples. I told him they were the same size as baseball cards and he could draw whatever he wanted on them. (He was using the Bristol board, so dry media only.) He chose to make a collection of super-hero symbols. He’s not done yet.

Here’s a close-up of a few of them.

He started with the ones he knows best, but eventually books, posters, and even the Internet were consulted.

N decided to start with the sheet I offered on how to draw a pirate ship, from Zenobia Southcombe‘s site. Here is his drawing, complete with “Blow the man down!”

When G finished her first project (the subject of the next post), she wanted to draw a pirate ship too. So I handed her the instruction sheet and some drawing paper, and she got to work.

Do you see that yellow circle in the top left-hand corner? She carefully drew a circle and colored it yellow, to be the moon. (Her brother’s drawing has a moon, too.) I didn’t even know she could draw a circle that well. She’s not even three. I can’t help it; I’m impressed.

When N finished his drawing, he asked to do the third item I’d mentioned, creating a color wheel using these instructions at That Artist Woman. I thought this would make a good tool to have around the studio, and in the future I think we’ll each make analogous and complementary paintings. Our color wheel–we did it together–is not as neat and tidy as Gail’s, and it’s also not in a sketchbook but just floating loose.

Still, it will come in handy, and we enjoyed mixing the colors. (We always enjoy mixing colors around here!)

The rain stopped in time for the kids to have a damp water fight in the yard with their dad. I have more rainy-day ideas, should we need them, but we’re happy to be outside as much as we can.

**

How has your weather been? (If you’re in the northern hemisphere) are you making the most of the outdoors while you can?

Scratch Foam-Printed T-Shirt

Materials: T-shirt, scratch foam, textile paint (or liquid acrylics); brayer or foam paint brush

After we made prints with scratch foam, I had the idea in the back of my head that it would be cool to make t-shirts with that method. When the boys began talking about their ideas for shirts, though, it became clear that their ideas were better suited to a different technique–so I’ll talk about their shirts in the next post. Meanwhile, G wanted an orange butterfly on a yellow shirt. On the one hand, I always, always want my kids to reach for their vision themselves–if they’re making the t-shirt, then they should make the t-shirt. On the other hand, I didn’t want G to be disappointed if she didn’t end up with a butterfly.

After thinking it over, I asked her what she thought about this: I could cut a butterfly shape out of scratch foam, and she could draw on the inside to add the decorations. She agreed to that, so after consulting her on how big the butterfly should be, we got to work.

My camera had a hard time figuring out what to focus on, with that white butterfly against the white table! But here, G is scratching into the cut-out foam butterfly. She started with a bone folder and a wooden tool for sculpting clay. Then we went hunting around the house and came back with a comb and a boomerang. She also tried a toothpick. She worked on the foam for quite a while–close to a half hour, maybe?–making her marks.

Then we set the butterfly aside and mixed the paint. We used Speedball textile paint, but liquid acrylics would work as well (and don’t require heat setting with the iron). Our set has red, yellow, blue, green, black, and white–but no orange. So we mixed some.

Mixing paint colors is just a delight, isn’t it? “Orange!” exclaimed G. We adjusted until she was happy with the color.

I protected the inside of the shirt with some freezer paper–I just placed it inside, no need to iron it on–so that the paint didn’t bleed to the back of the shirt. Then we rolled the brayer and inked the plate. Except I’ve been having trouble with both my brayers this week–they roll just fine on some surfaces but not others, and the combination of the textile ink and the foam wasn’t working too well. (Does anyone have any idea what the problem might be?) So the paint more smeared than anything, and G used a foam paintbrush to even it out–so you can see some brush marks in the finished print (as always, you can click to embiggen the photos a bit).

I don’t have pictures of the actual printing, because I was helping. You don’t want the paint to be too thick, because then it will smoosh. Pick up the plate, place it paint-side down on the shirt, and gently but firmly smooth down the back. I placed the plate, but G helped with the pressing. “I want to see what happened,” she said. When it comes to printmaking, the reveal is always so much fun.

An orange butterfly on a yellow shirt–a collaboration that quite pleased the not-quite-three-year-old.

This project is easy–just remember that anytime you’re painting or printing on textiles, the paint won’t wash out of the clothes you’re wearing, either. I keep wet wipes handy, too, since any paint on fingers will transfer to the shirt you’re making. I haven’t quite made up my mind, but I think plain old liquid acrylics might be even better for this kind of printing on shirts (that’s what we’ve used in the past for making fish prints on shirts–with fish replicas). So don’t feel like you need special supplies–a plain t-shirt, some scratch foam (or a new¬†Styrofoam¬†meat or vegetable tray), a 59-cent bottle of paint and a foam paintbrush, and you’re ready to create some wearable art!

Making Prints While The Sun Shines: T-Shirts

As always, click to embiggen all photos!

Materials: White t-shirts (the kids’ shirts are white undershirts–they’re great for dyeing); liquid acrylics; sponge brushes; leaves or other objects of your choice; sunny (but not windy) day; optional but helpful: a piece of Plexiglas to place inside the shirt, unless you don’t mind the paint seeping through to the back

I read lots of art/craft blogs, because the Internet is filled with great ideas, and often I find ideas on non-kid blogs that I can use with my children. One such ideas is sun-printing on fabric, which I first saw on Mary and Patch. I was surprised to see that it didn’t require any special sun-reactive paint, so I decided we’d give it a try. We actually gave it two tries, and as I go I’ll share what we learned during our first, semi-successful attempt.

First, I wanted something firm under the shirts, so I slipped some Plexiglas into mine and my oldest son’s shirt, a piece of glass into my younger son’s, and the box part of a box frame into my toddler’s. We learned the first time that using cardboard will leave the texture of the cardboard on the shirt, so either put something smooth in there (like a file folder, if you don’t have Plexiglas) or accept that the paint will soak through–which isn’t a bad look either.

Next, spray the shirt with water to dampen it. This photo is from our first try; the second go-round we just moved the entire operation to the deck. I have one of our watercolor painting boards inside the shirt, which is another option.

I watered down our liquid acrylics, but I wasn’t exact about it. Liquid acrylics are the paints that you can find in craft stores in the little bottles, about $1 per bottle (for the big size!). They come in all sorts of colors, they don’t wash out, and we’ve used them successfully for printing and painting on shirts for years. So, squirt some paint into a jar, add some water, mix it up, and cover your shirt. We learned that if you want to mix colors, do it around the edges–if you overlap colors where you try to make the print, the print sort of gets lost.

Paint quickly! Spray some more if you have to, because you don’t want the paint to dry yet. Place your leaves and put the whole thing in the sun.

I sprayed our leaves with a bit more water to hold them in place, and then I thought later that we could have weighted them with small rocks. We learned it’s best to use full leaves. Ferns make really pretty sun paper prints, but they didn’t work so well on the shirts. Our shirts dried in an hour or less.

V’s shirt, which was mostly blue, didn’t show the prints much, so we decided to try overprinting. We could see some prints in the center, so he left those alone and added green around the edges. He followed the same procedure: he sprayed with water, painted, and then lay down the leaves.

It worked! Overprinting was successful:

Once the shirts were dry, I rinsed them out and washed and dried them like I would any laundry, in cold water. I’d do this first wash with something you don’t care about too much (like towels), but when I rinsed, the paint stayed put. From this point on I’ll wash them with the regular laundry with no worries.

N’s shirt came out really well. His was the only shirt from our first try that came out really well, too. His is on the left, and G’s is on the right. You can see her prints in person, but faintly. For some reason, blue paint didn’t make the best prints.

Although mine was blue, and it worked okay. One leaf blew over halfway through, so I’ve got a mutant leaf print on the lower left there!

For our first attempt, we used textile ink–specifically, Speedball screen printing inks, because we plan to print on t-shirts at some point too, so I bought some. It really didn’t work for this project. I’m not sure why I was seduced by the special textile paint when we’ve been using liquid acrylics for painting shirts for years and liquid acrylics don’t require me to heat set the shirt by ironing 3-5 minutes per side times four shirts–that’s a lot of ironing on a hot day!

Luckily, applying the paint with a brush created a sort of tie-dye effect, so even though the sun-printing didn’t work the first time, as V said, “It’s a nice red and blue shirt, anyway.” And N, especially, was interested in what we were figuring out as we went through the process–what colors worked best, what sort of leaves, what to try next. Because we generally approach art in a spirit of discovery, the kids weren’t terribly disappointed that it didn’t work the first time. We simply tried again, refining our process a bit until we got it right!

Making Prints While The Sun Shines: Paper

Materials: Sun print paper, various items, Plexiglas (optional)

The other day, G and I experimented with the sun print paper that recently arrived. (I couldn’t find it locally, so I ended up ordering some.)

Buttons, maple leaves, fern

It’s really simple to use, and reminds me of my first darkroom assignment, aimed at getting us used to using the enlarger: we scattered various items across some photographic paper, exposed it in the darkroom, and then developed it. This works the same way. Inside, we arranged some items on the paper, blue side up. Because our items were flat, I sandwiched the paper between two pieces of Plexiglas before bringing it all outside. The sun was so strong that the paper paled within a minute or so, and then we dunked it in water to stop the reaction and “develop” it.

(I found the Plexiglas in a box of old darkroom supplies when I went looking for the piece of glass I used to use for contact sheets. I thought the glass would be handy for this, and ended up finding the four sheets of Plexiglas I used to use to cover the trays of chemicals. I cleaned them all off and have been finding uses for them ever since!)

Today, we got the boys involved. These are N’s papers:

Pattern blocks, Lego pieces, Hero Factory pieces

These are mine (the skate egg cases) and G’s:

Play pasta, pattern blocks, mermaid's purses (skate egg cases)

These are V’s and more of G’s:

Look closely--Lego figures!

The Plexiglas came in really handy–we arranged our items on the paper, which was on the Plexiglas, in the hallway inside, which, if all the doors are closed, doesn’t get much natural light. Then I was able to carry the Plexiglas outside without disturbing anything. We did this in the morning, and you might be able to see that shadows were cast. That made for some interesting prints, because the shadows also show up, but lighter. (Click to embiggen the photos a bit.)

V's prints on left; N's on right

N really liked how the sun shone through his Hero Factory pieces a bit, so those images weren’t as sharp. I love the Lego figure print on the bottom left.

G's (mostly) & mine

G was so deliberate in placing the pieces. The boys were, too, but G really took quite a while in arranging her blocks, pasta, and buttons. We like how she put one of N’s Hero Factory pieces half off the paper in the top left print up above there.

Remember my mermaid’s purse print? I didn’t realize I had two pieces of paper stuck together. (Note: Make sure your hands are completely dry from rinsing the last batch before you grab more paper!) We ended up with a ghost print, as N identified it–and although the term “ghost print” comes from monotype printing I’d say he used it correctly here:

Pretty cool and completely unexpected result! And also–phew, the sun beats on our deck pretty strongly in July!

As you might be able to tell by the title, we experimented with other forms of sun printing as well…more to come, as long as the sun keeps shining!

Hot Rocks

Our tray of cooling hot rocks

(I’ve seen this on the web here and there, but I first saw it in the fabulous book Summer Crafts by Marjorie Galen, which I bought in a used bookstore two years ago. The book was published in 2005, and Galen says as far as she knows, her friend Elizabeth’s family invented hot rocks.)

Materials: Rocks–larger and flatter are easier; peeled crayons; oven; nearby bucket of cold water (my plan-ahead self decided this was necessary, in case anyone accidentally touched the rocks)

Following the directions in the book, I preheated the oven to 350, lined a cookie sheet with tin foil, and set up my rocks (I did 8 this first time, two for each of us). Meanwhile, the kids began to peel some of our older crayons–I gather this is so as they melt against the rock, you’re not running up against the paper. Once the oven was hot, I baked the rocks for 15 minutes while we continued to peel crayons. When the rocks were almost done, I sent the kids outside with the crayons–I’d already brought a bucket of water to the patch of shaded driveway–and I met them with the tray of hot rocks. (Obviously, you want to place the rocks on a surface that won’t get burned.)

The rocks are hot. I made sure all my kids understood that they’d get burned if they touched them. G is two, and she did fine, but really, use your judgment with your own children.

I had the kids sit down, with the crayons in the middle, and using my oven mitt, I placed a rock in front of each of them. Then the magic begins.

“It’s melting!”

“This is so cool!”

“This is so cool!!!”

I agree. I colored two rocks too, and it is so cool. And you can just keep adding wax and layering. Our rocks didn’t lose their heat before the kids were done experimenting.

The bucket of water did get a few uses, when fingers accidentally (or not so accidentally) bumped (do you see that inquisitive finger in the photo above?), but nobody got seriously hurt. It was definitely handy having the water there, though.

Look at those gorgeous rocks!

Peek-a-boo Paintings

Materials: Drawing and/or painting materials of your choice; drawing or watercolor paper, depending; acetate the same size as your paper (we used this); tape; paint for the acetate–this can’t be too watery–we found liquid acrylic and gouache worked well, tempera not so much

The first day of summer vacation dawned grey and misty, giving us the perfect opportunity to get into the studio after breakfast and add one more activity to the Eric Carle birthday celebration. Several folks have created beautiful painted tissue paper collages. We painted tissue paper many months ago, but my boys really didn’t want to cut their creations. We are acquiring a nice pile of textured, painted, and printed papers for collaging with some day, but meanwhile, I knew our Eric Carle-inspired activities would go in another direction. Earlier this week we were inspired by Dragons, Dragons, and today we looked to Mr. Seahorse.

Mr. Seahorse is another of our favorites. If you’re unfamiliar with it, it follows a seahorse as he interacts with other underwater species in which the males help care for the offspring. But what we really like about it is that some of the pages are transparent, so you’ll have a fish that’s hiding, and then you turn the clear page and see him in full.

From Eric Carle's Mr. Seahorse

I was reading it to N earlier this week and I thought, Hey, we could do that! As I explained the idea to the boys, though, I realized it’s a rather complex idea. You need to think about your artwork in layers–what will be underneath? what will be on top? It’s a different way of looking at it, to separate the full idea into parts. But the boys were ready to try.

We knew the top picture, on the acetate, would be painted, but we had to think about how to do the underneath. V wanted to do watercolor resist, but I thought oil pastels would smear against the acetate, so we used good old-fashioned crayons.

V decided to draw fish, and N wanted to draw a monkey–he used some of our story books as a reference.

After we worked with crayons, it was time to add liquid watercolors.

Then we let the bottom layer dry. Next, I placed a sheet of acetate on top of the first picture and used a couple pieces of clear tape to hinge it on whatever side the kids chose. This way, we could paint our covering picture while it was lined up with the bottom image–much easier that way.

Here, V is checking on his work in progress. He chose to use gouache paints on the acetate.

G joined us too, of course. She loves to paint. N, G, and I used liquid acrylic.

So as not to completely overload the post with photos, I put all our finished-piece photos together–click to embiggen. (And even though I didn’t use flash, the ceiling lights are bouncing off the acetate–so sorry, but it was wet outside!) From left to right, we have V’s ocean scene (seaweed for the top layer), N’s forest scene (that’s a big leaf), G’s, um, lots-of-paint, and my big flower.

And now the peek-a-boo: V’s fish, N’s monkey, my bumblebee, and G’s fish.

I completely loved this project, and I’m not sure why we didn’t think of it sooner, except maybe because we haven’t had the acetate in the house all that long. It was so much fun to do, and the results are pretty fun, too.

Check out more Eric Carle-inspired activities at the link below!

(Also included in the Read, Explore, Learn link up.)

Inspired by Mr. Carle

Kate at An Amazing Child is hosting a week-long celebration of Eric Carle‘s birthday. We are lucky here not just to own and have read many, many of Eric Carle’s books, but we’ve also been to visit his fabulous museum of picture book art several times. I’m not sure what I like best about the museum–that it includes a great Reggio Emilia-inspired studio, that it contains a wonderful bookstore, that it has the best story-time (in its on-site library) that I’ve ever attended, or that it places picture book art in its proper place as a valid art form, not just there to prettify the words but to truly be part of the story. Isn’t it good I don’t have to choose?

(Oh! Look what I just found! The Carle Museum’s art studio blog is finally up! I’d heard in the fall they were planning on starting one and here it is!)

So, back to our Carle-inspired project. If you’ve visited here before, you know my kids range in age from two to nine, our projects are open-ended, and I try to make art alongside them whenever I can. So when we thought about Eric Carle, we thought about one of our very favorite books–and yes, we enjoy the caterpillar book, especially G, but it’s very much a toddler book. Dragons, Dragons, though, is a book for all ages, full of vibrant Eric Carle portraits of mythological animals to go along with a selection of poetry on the same. He also has another, Animals, Animals, which we haven’t read yet, that contains animals you can more easily see. (We don’t like to say that mythological animals aren’t real; just because you’ve never seen one doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist!)

So our thought was to collage and/or paint an animal–mythological or not–and perhaps (this part was my idea) write a poem or find a poem to go along with it. The boys liked this idea, so I gathered my scraps of colorful paper, glue, paints, paper, and we got to it.

V wanted to paint a hawk, so he found our Peterson Bird Book and looked up hawks. G selected a field guide, too, ending up with the one on rocks and minerals. (It’s a first guide, and I think she feels like the smaller field guides are clearly hers.) N decided to look at the phoenix page in Dragons, Dragons, and I was inspired by the snake that lives under our front step.

G tore up some paper and used her glue stick to stick them to a large sheet of paper, then asked for some paint and picked up this scrap paper that had some holes punched out of it and used it as a stencil to paint a scrap piece of vellum underneath. I was pretty impressed that she had this idea on her own. When she was done with that, she painted another large sheet of paper, telling me the right side was the rock, and the left was the mineral.

N wanted to collage and then paint.

V painted one hawk with liquid acrylics and the second with tempera. He struggled, and I reminded him that he was using a scientific illustration as his guide, and it was going to be challenging to copy that exactly. I also pointed out that my snake did not at all look like a field guide-worthy illustration of a snake! I’m pretty impressed with V’s finished paintings, and he got the field markings in there, too.

V's red-tailed hawks, acrylic on left & tempera on right

My collage & gouache snake

V declined to write a poem. Here’s my snake poem:

The snake
Takes a break
A slash
In the grass
Flash
He disappears
Under the stairs

N decided he needed a whole story to tell about his phoenix, pictured here with the page he referred to in Dragons, Dragons.

His phoenix is holding a treasure chest, saving it from the burning castle that has been attacked by knights–I think. The story is in progress.

And here are G’s finished works, first her rock and mineral painting and second her vellum piece (which got thoroughly soaked–on purpose–with painty water, and I’m surprised it ever dried!) and her bits of collage.

All in all, I think Mr. Carle would be pleased with the various approaches! We have one more Carle-inspired project in mind; if we have time to do it before Saturday (my kids are STILL in school, so we might not) I’ll post it as well.

Thanks, Kate, for inviting us to the celebration!



(Also included in the Read, Explore, Learn link up.)

Process to Product: Bookmarks for Teacher Gifts

We’re not all about process around here. Sometimes, we need a handmade gift. I do try, though, to include as much chance for open-ended creativity as I can, and I like for the boys to give their teachers something a little personal to go along with the gift card. Many, many people contribute to my children’s day, so we also need an item that we can make many of. For the holidays, we made ornaments, and for the end-of-year gift, I had the idea of making bookmarks.

Materials: Watercolor paper, liquid watercolors, salt, hole punch, stamp (optional), ribbon

I explained my idea to the boys first–they could paint a background on the watercolor paper, sprinkle salt for that neat textured salt effect, and when it was dry, I’d cut the paper into bookmark-sized strips. Then, they could stamp the bookmark with the school logo (I detail how I carved the stamp here), we’d punch the ribbon holes, I’d get them all laminated at Staples, we’d add the ribbon and tra-la, handmade and school-oriented bookmarks.

They both said this was fine. If you’ve read my manifesto, you know I don’t believe in altering someone’s artwork in any way, so I was very clear–we’d have to cut the painting, were they okay with that? It’s meant to be a background sort of painting, not a specific image, but still, it will be cut. Okay? Okay, they both said.

G, of course, joins in on all the projects, so she’s painting with liquid watercolors too. I gave each of the kids a 12×18″ piece of watercolor paper, which is a good thing. (A bit of foreshadowing there!) When the paper is fully painted and still wet, sprinkle some salt. As little or as much as you’d like–anything that doesn’t dissolve will brush off when the painting is dry. G made sure we had no salt leftover from what I’d poured into the dish.

Once the paintings were dry, N became adamantly opposed to cutting his up.

V’s salted painting

Tears were shed. Right away I said we didn’t have to cut his up, but then he decided he didn’t want his brother’s cut up, either. V, on the other hand, was laid-back about the whole thing. I kind of enjoy cutting up things like this, because then each piece becomes its own smaller, unexpected, found composition. Luckily, cutting a 12×18″ piece of paper into 2×6″ bookmarks leaves several left over.

N’s salted painting

Once they were cut, V inked up the stamp I’d carved and stamped each one, and after they were laminated, I gathered all my ribbons and he selected which color would go on which bookmark.

Who can’t use a bookmark? Well done, V. N has decided to draw a picture for his teachers (they’re getting bookmarks too; we have enough), and I respect his refusal to cut up his artwork, even if it was originally made with that purpose in mind. Becoming comfortable with giving your art away is a process in itself.

The Importance of the Proper Tools

I’ve always believed that kids deserve as good-quality art supplies as we can manage. This doesn’t mean the most expensive, but the tools and supplies we provide for our kids shouldn’t lead to frustration. The pencils and crayons should draw smoothly, the pastels should feel good against the paper, the paper itself should hold up to whatever’s being applied to it, and for goodness sakes, none of the teeny tiny paintbrushes and the watercolors that stay dry and colorless no matter how much water you add to the measly little block. (I always wondered, as a kid, how famous artists created such amazing watercolors. Learning about tubes of watercolor paint was a revelation, I tell you.)

Many products and supplies geared towards children are just not up to the task of carrying out the child’s ideas. But when I notice I need, I try to fill it; when a child has a desire, I try to make sure he or she can carry out the task. I don’t want an idea to fail simply for lack of the proper tools.

Not too long ago I decided to try sewing while G kept me company at the art (and sometimes sewing) table. I hadn’t tried this in a while, but I was making an apron for her and she was invested in the success of the experiment! She played with buttons, looked at some sewing books, and then wanted to play with, and then cut, some fabric scraps. I have a pair of fabric scissors set aside for this use, but they’re much too large for small hands, so I gave her some scissors from the art table. But cutting paper dulls scissors, and it was hard work to cut the fabric. She was very patient with it, but I decided I needed to get her scissors with blades that were sharp enough to meet her needs and desire.

After some research and asking around, I decided to try to find Fiskars 5-inch blunt-tipped scissors. Unfortunately, my local Joann’s (where the scissors were 50% off this week!) didn’t have those exact scissors, so I bought a 5-inch pair with slightly sharper tips than I wanted, and the 7-inch student scissors, which are also blunt-tipped. I’d thought the 7-inch ones might be too long, but they actually are just fine.

Can you see the small smile on G’s face? When we tried the scissors and she realized how easy it could be to cut fabric, she was so, so pleased. So satisfied. Like I said, she’d shown remarkable patience with the dull scissors, but I have a feeling using scissors that cut so easily was a revelation akin to my watercolor discovery. It is amazing to realize that something you want to do doesn’t actually have to be difficult.

We worked on how to safely hold the fabric and the scissors. (Her fingers are a little closer than I’d like here, but she was careful the whole way through.) I made sure she was always cutting away from herself, not towards her fingers or her body, and I didn’t take too many pictures because I was more concerned with holding the fabric to make her cutting work easier. She was intent on cutting small pieces, and then she needed a place to put them.

She was happy for quite a while, cutting up scraps and putting them into a glass jar. I think I’ll keep the smaller, sharper scissors for me and the student scissors will be hers. They enable her to do what she wants to do.

In the course of asking around to figure out what sort of “real” scissors would be appropriate for a two-year-old, I know I ran into some who disagreed with the idea outright. Here are some things I considered:

* This is not G’s first experience with using scissors. She’s been experimenting with cutting paper for a while now.

* The desire came from her–she had a plan and a need, and when a child (or anybody else) wants to do something, that person is likely to be invested in learning how to do it safely.

* I’m willing to sit with her and take the time to show her how to use the tool safely and supervise her at all times.

And, of course, respect–I respect her needs and desires and recognize it’s my job to help her fulfill them to the best of her ability. G, being the youngest of three, has always done things a bit ahead of schedule, and I’m not saying every 2 1/2 year old is ready to cut fabric with sharp scissors. I am saying that it’s so important to know the kids we are working with, provide them with the best and most appropriate tools that we can, and never underestimate their abilities.

(G, happily modeling her new apron!)

Seaweed Printing

N wanted to try printing with crabs and seaweed, remember? So we gave it a try before the crabs completely decomposed–as it was, they were pretty stinky! (I’m going to repeat this here: The crabs were dead when we found them, I said we shouldn’t bring them home, but somehow, a few ended up in the bucket.). We were using Irish Moss, which has a definite shape which seemed conducive to printing (versus some of the grassy spready kinds of seaweed). I gathered some copy paper, small squares of watercolor paper, and large, heavy drawing paper, so we had some choices. The kids decided on liquid acrylics, and we began to experiment.

Somewhere under G’s hand is a piece of Irish Moss! I was the only one who had consistent success printing the seaweed. V tried printing the crab, but it really didn’t work (and then it began falling apart, ew!). G enjoyed just painting the crab without printing it, and I tried to print the underside of the carapace, but as I was painting it, a leg fell off. (It’s best to be amused by these occurrences…) V continued to work on printing with the seaweed, but N moved fairly quickly into using a large piece to apply paint to the paper.

The end result was very interesting:

V also decided to make some paintings that way:

I had the most luck with making actual prints:

I chose flatter pieces of Irish Moss and, after placing the painted side on the paper, I covered it with a piece of copy paper and smoothed it quite flat. I think we may have more success with this if we press the seaweed first; Action Pack 4 has simple instructions to make a flower press and I think we’ll bring one to the beach with us and see if it works with damp seaweed.

There’s nothing wrong with experimenting to see what happens, and we’re open to trying things out without being sure of the final result. Using the Irish Moss as a sort of paintbrush was satisfying in itself, and we’ll carry over what we learned if we try to make prints with seaweed again. We’ll keep our eyes open for large, flat pieces, too.

Have you printed with seaweed (or any other challenging items)? What did you learn?