Wednesday, March 25, 2009


My art class with Leah is finished for now but I had promised my niece that I would post one more article about the class. There was one activity that I thought was the most age appropriate. STRINGING MACARONI NECKLACES. This requires some prep work before the child can get started but it is an activity that a young child can do with very little supervision. Stringing beads helps to develop fine motor skills and eye hand coordination, both of which are essential pre-reading and writing skills.

Step One: Preparing the Macaroni

You will need to purchase some macaroni. You need to select pasta that has a hole like penne. Try to avoid the kind that has too many bends like elbow macaroni. There are so many shapes out there so be creative. Secondly, you need to have rubbing alcohol, food coloring and some large empty plastic containers. I used a large yogurt container.
Pour a half of cup of the alcohol in the container. Squirt in a generous amount of food coloring. I used red. Did you know that food coloring now comes in neon colors? Add approximately 2 cups of pasta. Cover and set aside. I let mine sit for about a week because I was too busy to check on it but overnight is probably long enough. Drain off the alcohol and spread the macaroni out on newspaper or paper towels to dry. They will look lighter in color and the pasta will be soft. Don't worry! The color darkens as it dries and the pasta gets hard again when dry.

Step Two: Beading

You will need some string for the necklaces. Shoelaces work great! You can use cotton crochet thread or yarn but you will need to tape around the end to make it easier for the string to push through the pasta.

Remember that plastic tray I suggested that you use for finger painting. Well, it would be great for this project too. Spread the different colors of pasta out on the tray or a cookie sheet. Show the child how to put the pasta onto the string and then watch. Once the child masters the stringing part, you could start suggesting different ways to string the "beads". Here's one suggestion. String a pattern like "two red, one blue, two red" or "one round shape, one tubular shape, one long shape." Lay it in front of the child and ask him or her to copy your pattern. This is a pre-math skill called sequencing.

When it is time to clean up, have the child sort the different colors into containers. Sorting is a great skill. This promotes color recognition and naming.

Have fun!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

melted crayon stained glass effect

Well, I promised that I would work up the idea that I was thinking of for the melted crayon sheets.
This first set of pictures shows the steps to creating the wax paper sheets.The next photo shows you the finished product. You have to admit that this would hold very little attention for young children.

My idea is to surround this paper with a black paper frame and then have the children glue strips of black paper to the black paper to create the stained glass window effect. I did not take much care in cutting my frame but I was thinking you could have the frames be a variety of shapes (like ovals for Easter eggs) depending on season or use. The materials needed would be a glue stick and some black construction paper. Young children like too use the glue sticks and there is very little mess.

The rest of the pictures are self-explanatory. Did you notice how much brighter the colors became once they were surrounded by the black paper?

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Last class

Today was the last of this series of art classes. What a dud! While she was telling us that new classes were starting next week, we were working on the worst project yet. (I did not take pictures, sorry.)

Today we took old broken crayons and crushed them with a rolling pin. A great deal of adult strength was required to accomplish this. Then the children took the pieces and sprinkled them on a piece of wax paper. The adult then carried the wax paper to an alternate work space where they placed another piece of wax paper on top of it, sandwiched it between two piece of newspaper and then ironed it. This melted the crayons. The results are quite attractive but the lesson fell flat with the children. Once the crayon breaking was done and the crayon bits were sprinkled the children had no interest in the project. After one Leah said, "Okay, all done!"

I definitely would have added another piece to this. The paper is quite attractive when held up against the window. Why not take advantage of that and create a stained glass look from the melted crayon paper? Using a folded piece of black construction paper, the children could have cut into the paper removing bits and pieces of the black paper. I know, most two year-olds are not very good with scissors but why not help develop cutting skills while making this a more complete lesson. When some holes have been cut into the black paper, open it up. Tape or glue
(tape would work better) the melted crayon paper to the black paper. The results would be a stained glass window effect that could be hung in the windows of the child's room or some other window in the home.

The day wasn't a total loss though as Leah and I made a day of it. First, I took her to the school where I used to teach art and visited with my friend Gail. The children were thrilled to have a little visitor and I think Leah enjoyed her first glimpse of a big school. Then we had lunch at IHOP and went shopping for an Easter bonnet. Of course, we also bought a pocketbook and just for fun a dance costume. Life is good.

While I was writing about shopping, I came up with another way to create the stained glass look.
I want to make one first so I will write about it tomorrow. Have a great day!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Yet Another Idea for Printimaking

I was looking at some samples of student art work that I had accumulated over the years and came across these fish paintings. The lesson itself was based on warm and cool colors and was taught to kindergarten students. It also had a science component to it as we had to look at fish and determine what parts we needed to create an image of the fish.

As motivation for the lesson I read A Fishy Shape Book by David and Joan Wylie. This book shows a fish created from a variety of basic shapes. It ask the question is it a circle fish? Is it a square fish? And so on. The illustrations are simple and it show students how to add shapes together to create the image of a fish. This is only one of the fish books written and illustrated by this couple.

After looking at the book students would draw a shape on the paper with a crayon. Then we would talk about what we needed to add to create the head, fins and tail. I would often show slides of real fish and we would try to decide what shape best represented the body of the fish to further our study of fish. The idea is to get them to think beyond the circle with a triangle fish that they are often taught to draw.

Having drawn our fishes, we then focused on color. We would divide colors into two families, the warm family or the cool family. Each child would then select a color family for there fish and paint it. To create the scales the students would use piece of cardboard stamped on to the surface of the fish. This was done by standing the cardboard on end in black paint and then pressing the painted cardboard on to the fish.

Here's a tip for painting with tempera with young children. Empty egg cartons make great paint trays. You can put some color in each of the sections. When the painting is done you simply throw it away. Makes clean up easy!

Balloons and Paste

Week six at our class proved to be an interesting experiment in how long a two year-old can spend dipping their hands in paste. The instructor decided that this would be a good time to try papier mache. So balloons in hand we began.

Of course, since the children are young, they were more interested in playing with the balloons than using them as armatures for pasting. To help with this we were each given two, one for play and another which we taped onto a plastic container to prevent it from rolling around the table while we worked with it.

For paste we used a flour paste which is simple to make and not too pricey. I prefer Pritt Paste. It is available at most craft stores for about $1.49 per box. One box makes a gallon of paste and it stores quite well if covered tightly. It does get a little more watery this way. Left uncovered it will form a crust which can be peeled off but it will last only about a week this way before it starts to dry up. The difference is that it sticks together better than the flour paste and dries faster.

Secondly, we used strips of newspaper. The strips should be torn not cut as the rough tear edge helps the pieces to blend together. When tearing newspaper, you should tear with the grain. It is pretty easy to find out f you are tearing the right way. If you tear with the grain you will get nice long straight tears; against the grain the paper tears off in small uneven tears. You should tear a good pile before you start. You will be surprised how much paper it takes! Once you have torn the long strips you should tear them into pieces about 2 inches long for easy handling.

The rest is pretty simple. You dip the newspaper strips in the paste wipe off the excess and then press it onto the surface of the object that you are using as your armature. completely cover the surface with newspaper. The more layers of paper the harder the structure when done. If you are working with more that one child, you will need to take a plain piece of paper for writing the child's name and that should be applied last. I liked to use either unprinted newspaper or paper towels for the last layer. This gives you a plain surface for finishing and also helps you see that you have put at least two complete layers on the surface. Take some paste and rub the entire surface with it to smooth out the surface. Let it dry.

When the object has dried, you can decide how you are going to finish it. I will show you what we did with the balloons after the next class.

1 cup of flour
1 cup of water
1 teaspoon of salt to prevent mold formation
Basically you need an equal amount of water and flour and a small amount of salt. Mix until there are no lumps.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Yet Another Snow Day

Welcome to March in Maine! We had 9 inches do snow last night which is less than they predicted.
I love the way the world looks after a snowstorm, the way every thing is clean and fresh and the way the snow clings to the trees. Since my house is surrounded by trees it is a good thing that I feel that way.

This morning as I looked out the window I was reminded of an art lesson that I use to do with second grade students after a big snow storm. It was always one of my favorites and could be completed in one class so the results were immediate.

  • A 12 by 18 piece of paper (not white) I preferred to use dark blue or purple because I like the way the color worked with the other colors.
  • Black tempera paint
  • White tempera paint
  • Paintbrushes, a fine one for white and a larger one for the black
The students were instructed to paint five or six black vertical lines across the paper. They could be the same length or not. It is best if they don't know what the lines are being used for when they start as they are more likely to vary the length of the lines. After he lines were painted we looked at photographs of trees covered with snow or out the window if I was at the school that had the trees close by.

The students added lines to their first lines by painting from the bottom up and out on either side of the original line, creating the branches. When the trees were complete, the white paint was added. The width of the white paint at the bottom of the page had to be as high as the bottom of the highest vertical line from the bottom of the page. White paint was brushed on the lines that served as branches. They could add snowflakes if they desired. The two picture show here are ones that were left behind when students moved away and have no name on them.

Since I live in the woods, I attempted to capture this same image a few years ago with cut paper and collage, using a variety of colors for the trees and then added white acrylic paint. I like the image but I am still drawn to the black and white paintings. I appreciate the simplicity of the students images and the silhouettes of the trees.

What do you think?