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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Family Art Events On The Road

When we began planning this 3-month Airstream tour around the US, I knew right away that I wanted to host pop-up family art events along the way. I wanted to connect with families across the country and share creative activities that might inspire them to bring more art and creativity and into their lives. But how was I going to pull that off?

The best thing about being a blogger is the friendships that I have made with other art teachers and creative mamas around the world. So once we had our trip route down, I of course went straight to my community of art teacher friends along the route and asked them to collaborate on a family art event in their town.

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Make-A-Wish Collaborative Art

Last Saturday The Art Pantry team was invited to create a playful family experience for the Walk For Wishes event held at Google Headquarters in Mountain View, Ca. This was a fundraiser for the Make-A-Wish Greater Bay Area foundation to raise money in order to fulfill the wishes of kids with life-threatening medical conditions. If you haven’t heard of them, check out the Batkid wish they granted almost two years ago. Incredible.

I’m happy to say that the event raised enough money to grant 13 wishes!

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Wacky Painting To Kick Off The New Session

Our new session began last week so, as always, we started it off with a messy painting exploration. The new children got to know the qualities of the tempera paint and investigated some of our wacky painting tools, while the returning students dove right in to this familiar scene.

In addition to our textured toys and tools, the children tried painting with an onion bulb, freshly plucked from the garden outside. The long dangling roots were especially fun to use like a brush!

The 3s class also experimented with the onion and wacky painting tools, but they first worked on color mixing and creating some multimedia paintings with their new colors and tissue paper shapes.

Every spare wall was utilized this week while the kids moved around and found new surfaces to check out.
Looking forward to a great session!
If you want to try out some wacky finger painting at home, check out our Make+Believe Finger Painting Fun! Supply Kit.

Papermaking

Last week’s art class was all about paper. We played with paper, ripped paper, glued paper collages, and even experimented with making paper! The teachers prepared the paper pulp, by blending up white newsprint with water. When the children arrived they were offered a mixing bowl, spoon, white pulp, liquid watercolors and glitter to create their own unique paper pulp.

At first we tried spreading out the pulp onto a screen with cheesecloth to drain the liquid, but that didn’t seem to work well (and didn’t capture the children’s attention like we thought it might).
So the teachers adjusted their process and offered each child a tray with a towel and a piece of fabric to soak up the pulp juice. Being able to work individually at their seats helped get the kids excited about the pulp.  They used all kinds of tools to squish it, pound it, roll it and color it!

To really flatten the pulp and get the excess water out, the kids placed a piece of fabric over their pulp to continue the pressing and rolling process.

For the final step, children could shape and decorate their paper with flower petals and sequins- check out this paper pulp man!

 After drying for a few days, the papers were firm and ready to take home. They looked awesome!

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.

Exploring Circles- Welcoming the Cycle of a New Year

For our last class of the session, we explored a circular theme to represent the end of one year and the beginning of a new year. The 1s and 2s classes began with different types of ball painting. We used golf balls for children who aren’t accustomed to marbles yet, and introduced marble painting to kids whose parents felt comfortable with such small objects.

The kids used spoons to roll the balls in paint and scoop them into their trays. Next, they began to shake and tip the trays to make tracks on their paper.

Stirring the balls around and shaking glitter onto them was also a major part of the experience.

As the children began to collect new tools off of the shelf, the teachers brought out large paper to continue their exploration.

We even tried the ball painting on a large scale, where the kids collaborated to get the balls rolling.

As the kids began to move around the studio, we had some more exciting circular activities to investigate.

We tried out our new “spinner art” machine that spins the paper around really fast while the children added drops of paint to the moving paper. The machine came with squeeze bottles, but we first tried using our eye droppers with watered down tempera paint to help develop fine motor skills.

Here is an example of a finished spin art design!

While some of the children focused on the spin art, others were drawn to the pendulum painting, set up over the floor. We hung a string and plastic cup (with a small hole at the bottom) from the ceiling to act as a pendulum. The kids squirted watered down tempera paint into the cup and swung the cup around in circles to create circular and oval drip designs. The floor was covered with a painting that had been previously sprayed with watercolors, so the design overlapped the blotchy watercolor effect. One group of kids began to pass the cup back and forth, creating a cooperative painting game!

Before getting messy with the ball painting, the 3s/4s classes worked on a more crafty project for the new year… a “wish catcher.” They began by drawing a design onto a pre-cut poster board with holes punched into it. While they were drawing, the teachers asked them about what types of wishes they had for the new year and helped them write down their wishes. Some kids wished for snow, or to play with friends, and one even wished for a chainsaw (which it turns out he actually got for Christmas!)

After drawing on the poster board, the kids practiced their fine motor skills by “sewing” yarn in and out of the holes.

After sewing, the teachers helped the kids apply clear contact paper to the middle of the hoops so they could create a “stained glass” collage (they also made sure to stick their wishes into their collages).

Here is one of the finished “wish catchers” hanging in the window. Maybe they will help to manifest all of the children’s hopes and dreams for the new year. Happy New Year!!!