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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Homeschool & Building A Life With Intention

Did you see my post about our upcoming road trip? If so, you know that our family is embarking on new adventures and that we are opening up to some radical changes in our lifestyle. We are putting a lot of focus on our hopes and dreams for our family and are taking some big steps to build a life with intention.

One of these family dreams is to offer our kids an education that is full of incredible life experiences and uninhibited exploration. We don’t know exactly what that looks like or how to achieve it, but we know we are ready to try something new to get there.

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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 And Play

Do you ever wonder how to incorporate an art space into your child’s play space? Whether or not you have a dedicated space for either, art and play go hand in hand.

These pics are from a space I recently finished in a client’s sunroom. It used to be a dramatic play space for her two kids, but she knew they would use it more often if it was an art studio. My client wasn’t sure what to do when her 3 year old daughter wouldn’t let her move the play kitchen and “market” out of the room.

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Creating With Clay Slabs

For the second week of our sculpture classes, the children were introduced to clay slabs (which had been laboriously rolled out on an industrial slab roller prior to class). If you were going to try this at home, you could use a rolling pin to form a basic slab. Jhaya’s plan was to draw on the children’s interest from the previous session and make clay houses, like the cardboard box houses that were such a hit before. As it turned out, the children who were in the previous session got the concept right away and began planning on what type of house they would make. Some of their ideas: Barn, Pirate Cave, Fairy house, Castle, Pig house, Spider house, and Bird house.

This project was a great way to learn about making cut-outs in the clay for windows and doors. The children also learned about balance and stability in order to get the walls and pitched roofs to stay put.

 

Some of the children worked on additional items to go inside the houses, like a horse, a spider, a pig, a birds nest, or a person. When one child was trying to figure out the body proportions of her person, another child offered to stand up and model for her!

The class with all new students (who hadn’t made the cardboard houses in the previous session) decided to go in a different direction. Instead of making houses, they wanted to use the slabs to make vases, so Jhaya helped them learn how to make wall vases using two slabs of clay. To create texture, the children pressed leaves onto the clay to make prints.
Below are some photos of the children glazing their work from the first few weeks (after everything had been bisque fired).

 

 

 

 

 

Once glazed, the pieces were fired again for the final time.
Here are a couple of finished houses. The rest of this amazing work will be shown at our upcoming art show on may 19th- don’t miss it!

New Sculpture Class! Pinch Pots and “Nature”

This session we have introduced a new sculpture class for children ages 3.5-6. Taught by professional sculptor, Jhaya Warmington (one of our regular toddler teachers), this class will focus half of the session on ceramics and the other half on a variety of sculpture techniques and materials. How lucky are we to have a sculpture specialist create this awesome class for us!

The first week of the session, the children worked on some basic elements of hand building, learning about pinch pots (and elbow pots!), coil making, and how to attach two pieces of clay together.

In one class, the children decided they wanted to make birds nests out of their pinch pots and add “nature” to the nests. One child suggested they collect “nature” from the garden outside. So off they went to find some more materials for their projects. Inspired by the Reggio Emilia philosophy, we are always open to emergent curriculum and letting the children lead the project in a new direction. This way, the project takes on more meaning for the children and allows for a deeper learning experience.

Sometimes birds nests need a little glitter to make them sparkle!

The next class followed the lead of the previous class, when they saw the birds nests and natural materials drying on the shelf. They expanded on this by creating tall sculptures out of sticks and clay.

A mommy and daddy bird made by one of the students:

Leaf Prints in Clay

I wasn’t planning on doing clay this week, but of course being open to an emergent curriculum means tossing my plan out the window if necessary. Last week I had many requests for working with clay again and I wanted to honor those requests and let the kids continue to explore clay in different ways. This time I offered them a red firing clay (as opposed to the white modeling clay), which is much softer and a little grainy. I first gave them some time to get to know this clay with familiar tools.



After a bit of exploration, I brought out a variety of leaves and demonstrated how to make a leaf print (explaining that it is similar to making a print with paper and paint- which they are experts in!)





The leaf printing was very exciting for about 5 minutes! Then the kids began to gather paint, glue and other materials to use with their clay.




Eventually, the easels were visited as the kids moved around the studio.




Some of the kids brought scissors to their clay work and learned how to cut the clay!

After working with the clay, the older class decided to work with markers on the floor. When some of them began to draw faces, I offered them hand mirrors to see the details of their own faces like we did with our self-portraits.


Sometimes when we wash up outside, the kids request the spray bottles…

Some of the finished clay work

Cake-Making with Clay

After last week, when our paper mache project quickly turned into an afternoon of cake-making, I realized that this was the perfect opportunity to explore the use of an emergent curriculum in my art classes. For this group, I reflected on the children’s interest in cake-making and decided to steer the curriculum in that direction for the following week.
So rather than making suncatchers, as the other groups did, I chose to offer this group a clay medium to expand on the idea of cake-making.
I gave each child a lump of clay (and a few smaller pieces that were easier to work with) and set out a tray of various clay tools on the table. I also offered each child a bowl of water and a sponge to use for moistening their clay. We initially talked about their previous cakes that they made and how that inspired me to collect new cake-making items for this class. I showed the kids a few techniques, but they mostly experimented on their own, learning about the tools and the different properties of the clay.


After I gave the kids a chance to get to know the clay, I brought out some more cake-making items: paper baking cups, glue, glitter, sand, and little “treasures” (rhinestones, buttons and sequins).




Towards the end of class the kids began to move around the studio, working on some new easel projects. For this easel, I cut up a variety of colored tape and placed them onto the tray under a piece of paper to make a tape collage.
Another sticky collage, this easel is set up with clear contact paper and collage materials. Just press and stick- A fun way to end the day!