How To Incorporate Tinker & Maker Materials Into Your Art Space

Art spaces for kids are places of exploration, investigation, discovery, and creation. It’s important not to limit your materials to only art supplies (especially for kids over age 3), but to offer them a variety of materials to enhance their learning experience.

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Got STEAM?

You probably know by now that I’m all about art, design, and child-led learning, but there’s one hot topic where I feel sadly inadequate when it comes to working with kids. That topic is STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, & Math). Thankfully, the new STE(A)M initiatives have added the A for Art so I’m not at a total loss! I have been learning more about how to engage my kids in STEAM activities and am excited to share a new resource that is helping me do this.

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Reggio Inspired Art Secrets

You probably know this by now, but I am a huge fan of the incredible art teacher and blogger, Meri Cherry. I remember discovering her work a couple of years ago when she wrote a post about wood working with toddlers. I immediately felt a kinship and was so excited to find another Reggio inspired art blogger. We eventually got to meet in person over a plate of tacos and we both couldn’t stop blabbering on about Reggio and kids art. We have been friends ever since! Meri has a way of sharing her experience as a teacher that is unlike any other teacher and blogger I know. Her beautiful photos and down-to-earth voice bring you into her world and make you feel like you are being let in on a secret. So it’s no wonder she recently published an e-book called  Art Secrets Every Teacher Should Know, A Reggio Inspired Approach.

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Art Supply Organization: What’s in the baskets?

Art Supply Organziation 2

Whenever I share a photo of our art space, I often get asked, “What do you keep in the large baskets at the bottom?” As an art teacher, I became accustomed to keeping large bins easily accessible for over-sized art materials like paper towel rolls, egg cartons, scraps of cardboard, fabric pieces, or bits and bobs of broken toys. Now in our home art studio (as well as my client’s art spaces) I always include these types of items without even thinking. But, of course, these materials don’t always come to mind for most people when thinking of art supply organization or setting up an art space for kids. So thank you for reminding me of this! I’m excited to give you a peek today into our large art bins and what we do with the materials.

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Making Science Creative

This week, Karuna had the amazing opportunity to attend Camp Galileo. As her third camp this summer, I was curious to see how it would compare to the other two camps. As I mentioned in a recent post, Camp Galileo talks a big game.
During each one-week session, they hope to inspire innovation by offering opportunities to imagine, create, and test their creations. Campers work together to build on their ideas and discover new ways to re-work their designs. All of this is based around a weekly theme and infused with fun & enthusiasm. After hearing the daily reports from Karuna and visiting the camp during their “art class,” I was pleased to find that this camp definitely walks the walk!
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Beading, Building, and Messy Fun

For our beading week, we started the 2s classes off with a simple bracelet making activity with large beads and pipe cleaners. The stiffness of the pipe cleaners make it easy for the little ones to practice their hand/eye coordination. Some kids were super into the beading and finished it off by twisting the pipe cleaners into a circle to make a bracelet. Other kids had absolutely no interest in beading and preferred to go straight into painting or gluing instead.
After their beading exploration, each child was given their watercolor paintings from last week to continue their work. With the watercolors dry, the kids could now add to their paintings with markers, glue and fun Valentine collage bits. Some kids decided to use the beads for the collage instead of the bracelets… great idea!

Our hope was that the kids would use glue sticks for their collages so that they could take them home in time for Valentines day. As it turns out, 1 and 2 yr olds would much prefer to to squeeze white or colored glue rather than rub an unfamiliar clear stick onto their paper- imagine that!

For the last part of class, the teachers brought out our super fun floor painting tools and a canvas for some gross motor painting. The toilet plungers made really cool circle prints, but the child-sized broom was probably the hottest commodity.

After each class, we added painters tape to the canvas to preserve some of their work before the next class got to the painting. Once all of the classes have had a chance to add to the 2 canvases, we’ll peel off the tape and see if we can find the contrast between the classes.

While some kids got messy on the floor, the table was full of various tools for more collaborative painting.

The 3s, 4s, and 5s classes worked on an entirely different type of beading project. They began with a block of wood, markers, paper shapes, nails, and mallets to make the base for beaded sculptures. Of course they loved the hammering part!

After drawing on the wood and hammering nails and paper shapes onto their blocks, the kids attached craft wire to the nails (we used Twisteez craft wire, which is super flexible and coated with colorful plastic). Finally the kids threaded the wire with beads before attaching the other end of the wire to another nail on the wood block.

 Some chose to embellish their sculptures with glue, glitter and more collage items.

 We even had a sibling pop in to help her older sister finish her sculpture!

Don’t you love how they turned out?! Once finished, kids can experiment with bending the wire to create all kinds of new sculpture forms.

Clay: One Medium, Many Techniques

This week we explored clay in many different ways! Each class focused on a different clay technique, based on the ages of the kids. The youngest 1s class had their first clay experience- mostly poking, pinching, cutting, and getting to know the clay.

The older 1s/early 2s class started off learning about leaf prints. They used a rolling pin to press leaves into the clay to make a print. Later on, I offered them some “treasures” (buttons, rhinestones, and popsicle sticks) to decorate their leaf prints.

The 2s class started off making pinch pots. They shaped the pots by pinching with their thumbs and fingers, then they decorated their pots with buttons, rhinestones, and glitter.

They were so proud of their pinch pots!!

The older 2s/early 3s class worked on building sculptures with toothpicks and wooden skewers. I showed them how to shape the clay into balls and coils while they tinkered with connecting and stabilizing the shapes. We did this same activity a few months ago and it’s so great to see how their composition and ability to construct has evolved.

In the oldest class (3s/4s) we experimented with clay etching. This will be a three week process before the final product is ready to take home. First the children drew a design with a toothpick into a block of clay. Next week they will paint the clay and let it dry. Finally on the last week, they will sand down the top layer, leaving only the deep lines painted. I’ve never tried this before, so I’m super curious to see how it will turn out!

After each class worked on these very different techniques, they were all given new clay for the chance to play around and experiment in their own ways. Learning technique is important, but it’s not worth much if the kids don’t get a chance to mess around afterward and test all that they have learned.

 

And of course water is a very important addition to the clay free-play time!

If you ever are looking for an activity that is guaranteed to keep kids busy for at least an hour, just give them some silky modeling clay, and plenty of water. The sensory experience is addictive!