Being A Backyard Explorer

After 3 months on the road we finally had to give back the Airstream and head home to California. During our trip, we explored 22 states, many cities, and countless points of interest within those places. Now that we’re back home, we want to make sure we continue exploring all around us.

Why is it that we live 15 minutes from the Golden Gate Bridge and have never walked across it? We put off doing “touristy” activities here at home because we know it will still be there when we finally get around to it. Sometimes it takes traveling to other places to realize how much exploring you can do in your own town. It’s similar to the art events that I planned on the road. After 5 amazing family art events across the country, I can’t believe I haven’t done one here in the Bay Area! So I’ll definitely be planning a local art event soon.

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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┬á Art Secrets Every Teacher Should Know, A Reggio Inspired Approach.

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Summer Reading Recommendations: Learning At Home

A reader recently asked about my recommendations for books on setting up creative learning spaces. She specifically wanted to know about books inspired by the Reggio Emilia approach to early childhood education. It got me thinking that I should put together a list of my all-time favorite resources- not only for setting up learning spaces, but also for expanding creative learning opportunities at home.

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Garden Wish Flags With The Artful Parent

When I started blogging about kids and art in late 2009, I discovered my first blogger hero, Jean Van’t Hul at the Artful Parent. She was (and still is!) my go-to resource for creative project ideas and living artfully with kids. Her toddler art group was also the inspiration behind my first toddler art classes. Over the years, Jean has only become more inspiring, always delivering countless fresh ideas for engaging children in the arts.

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Wildflower Seed Bombs

It’s almost springtime, my favorite time of year. The sun is lingering around a little longer these days and delicate flower blossoms are popping up along the branches of our bare trees. As we begin to plan for our spring garden projects, I’m also thinking of ways to bring our art activities outdoors. One artful garden project that we love to do is make seed bombs. Seed bombs are small masses of clay, mixed with soil and seeds that will grow in any plot of land with a little water and sun. They are often used as a guerrilla gardening tactic to bring beauty to barren, abandoned city lots. Just toss them on top, no digging necessary!

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Heart Rock Valentine

Secret Admirer Heart Rock Valentines

Inspired by The Artful Parent’s heart rock valentine decorations, I suggested to Karuna the idea of making fabric heart rocks. We talked about what to do with the rocks once we made them. Giving them as Valentines was a definite, but since she already had card valentines that she had made earlier, we came up with the idea to leave them around the neighborhood as secret admirer surprises.
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Holiday DIY Gift- Succulent Terrarium

This holiday season, I wanted to come up with a gift for teachers, party hosts, friends, etc. that I could make in multiples without breaking the bank. Inspired by Karen Kimmel’s Crafting Community, I decided that mason jar succulent terrariums would be perfect!

As I began creating my first jar, Karuna (my 4 yr old), asked if she could make one too. Of course, why didn’t I think of that! These little layered terrariums are super easy for kids to make on their own. They always come out beautiful, which make them the perfect kids’ crafting gift for family, friends, and especially teachers.
Small succulent (garden store)
Mason jar (pack of 12 from General store, hardware store or Bed Bath & Beyond)
Decorative rocks (from garden store and/or pet store. The blue rocks are for fish tanks!)
Moss (from garden store)
Colored sand (from craft store)
Dirt (from yard or garden store)

1)Layer the rocks, moss, sand and dirt into the jar any way you want!
2)Put some dirt at the top and make a little hole to pop in the succulent roots.
3)Scatter decorative items on top if you want and drizzle a bit of water over the top.
For a gift tag, wrap some twine around the top and tie on a tag. Easy Peasy!

Art Show

We have come to the end of the school year and are excited to showcase the children’s work and the various explorations that they have encountered in art class throughout the year. The last time I attempted an art show was two years ago when the studio was in my back yard. Boy, have these classes come a long way! Not only have the projects evolved, but we now have two awesome teachers, Jhaya and Kory, who have brought their passion and skills to the table. And of course we are now located at the amazing GROW Art & Garden Education Center, the perfect backdrop for this colorful exhibition.
Below are some pics from the show.It will be up for one more week if you’re in the area and want to check it out!

Wacky object paintings, tape resist, treasure hunt collage, spin and golf ball painting:

Sand prints, collaborative watercolor/ink, collaborative plaster relief sculptures:

Collaborative pour painting:

These are two of the 5 printmaking boards… we sure do make a lot of prints!

Watercolor paintings, handmade paper:

Self portrait drawing and clay sculpture:

Skateboard shelves with foam sculptures on top:

Foam sculptures, toddler clay work:

Collaborative plaster relief sculptures:

The children showed off their work, they were so proud!

After checking out the show, everyone hung out in the garden and enjoyed the beautiful weather. We had food, a few creative activities and a gorgeous space to run and play.

Thanks for a wonderful year and hope to see you this summer!

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:

Watercolor Exploration

For the second week of art class, we focused on liquid watercolors. We began with an oil pastel/watercolor resist technique where the combination of an oil pastel drawing and watercolor painting creates a resist effect. The oil pastel resists the watercolor and shows through the painting!

The 2s classes practiced making marks and drawing shapes. Then painted over their drawing with liquid watercolors.

Of course glitter was involved and some children chose items from the shelf to incorporate into their paintings.

We also practiced more fine motor skills by using droppers to suck up the paint and drop it onto coffee filters. This type of paper soaks up the watercolor to make an interesting tie-die effect.

Finally, the 2s classes, had a super sensory exploration with white foam paint (which feels like shaving cream, but is non-toxic), watercolors, and fun tools!

For the drawing portion of the 3s/4s classes, we focused on self-portraits. Each child was given a hand mirror to study their faces before using oil pastels to try to draw themselves.

After a fun attempt at self-portraits, the kids began to explore the watercolors with droppers, toy cars, and glitter.

After class, the kids continued the fun outside- playing at the water table and spraying liquid watercolors onto a large drop cloth.

The evolving garden at GROW also proved to be a source of non-stop entertainment. The chickens and bunny were enticing the younger ones, while the older boys were engaged in some hard work… filling up a wheelbarrow with logs and straw!