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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Art Workshop For Children: Self-Portraits

Let me introduce you to my favorite new book about process art and Reggio-inspired learning. Friends, meet Art Workshop For Children. Art Workshop For Children, please meet my friends. I’m sure you guys will get along really well.

Art Workshop for Children, by Barbara Rucci and Betsy McKenna, is a breathtaking book (the photos literally made me gasp when I first flipped through the pages) filled with unique process-based art activities for kids and tips on how to prepare your art space for creative exploration. I especially love the thoughtful reflections woven throughout the book by Reggio-inspired educator, Betsy McKenna, on how to raise creative thinkers and why this is important for all children.

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

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Washable Marker Experiment

I’m currently working with a client to set up an art space for her 16-month-old daughter. Whenever I’m thinking about materials for toddlers, I always think about washability, but even more so when the art space is in a central area of the home. This toddler art space is in an open family room/kitchen that leads out to the back yard. It’s where this family hosts guests and spends the majority of their time, so I’d like to help them out by stocking them with the most washable supplies I can find.

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Drawing Games With Jeanette Nyberg

If you haven’t already fallen in love with Jeanette Nyberg and her hilarious blog, Craftwhack, go check it out and I promise you will not be disappointed. Not only does Jeanette’s humor shine through in everything she does, but she is incredibly creative and has an awesome eye for design. After years of drooling over her blog, you can imagine how excited I was when I heard she was coming out with an art book for kids! I received a copy of Jeanette’s book for review and am excited to share it with you today.

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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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Secret Message Valentine Gift Experiment

Karuna recently discovered these cute mini paint sets in the toy store. I didn’t know if they would paint very well, but I thought they were the perfect size to give as gifts with a secret message Valentine (one of my many “Pinspirations“). We first cut out a heart from watercolor paper, then used a white crayon to draw a hidden Valentine message. The white crayon on white paper keeps it invisible until you paint over it with watercolor. The crayon will then resist the watercolor and you will see your message!

Karuna was so excited to find out what her secret message was, but sadly this little paint set was not up for the challenge. The small brush created scratches in the paper and the paint trays couldn’t hold enough water to lose their opacity.

So we started over and tried a real watercolor brush and some better quality paint and… voila! The secret message was revealed!

With the success of our new paints, Karuna couldn’t be stopped. If I hadn’t convinced her to take a lunch break, I think she could have gone all day making secret Valentines. I’ll remember this next time I need to do some work around the house :)
I’m still intrigued by the idea of giving a secret card with an attached watercolor set.  With a nice set, this little baggy would be an awesome goody bag, thank you card, or birthday present. Just write an invisible note and gift away!

A Little Research Project

I just finished ordering all of our products for the online shop and decided that that I’d share some interesting information. There are a lot of products out there to choose from and I wanted to make sure that I was picking high quality items that are also true to their advertising. If a paint says “washable,” is it too much to expect it to actually be washable?? As a parent, I’ve experienced first hand what it’s like when I let my daughter finger paint with “washable” paints, only to find out after doing the laundry that her yellow dress is now practically tie-died with blue and red stains. I’m all about getting messy and don’t even mind stained clothes, but I do mind when a product boldly pronounces itself to be washable when it clearly isn’t.
So here is a little research I did while choosing children’s “washable” tempera paint to sell in my shop.

After narrowing it down to two brands, I did a swatch test and painted red and blue from each brand onto pieces of white cotton. Paint A has better colors, closer to true red and blue which is good for color mixing (but the blue also had a strong chemical smell that turned me off). Both paints are clearly labeled “washable” on the front of the bottles. I let them dry, then threw them into the washing machine with cold water and regular detergent. Here are the results…

So it looks like there is a clear winner! You won’t find any of “Paint A” (Melissa & Doug Poster Paint) in my shop. Paint B is Palmer Washable Poster Paint that will be available in many colors on Make+Believe. If you’re looking for brighter, truer pigments we will also have Palmer Prism Tempera paints that are not very washable, but don’t claim to be!

Update (6/2016): I no longer have the online shop for art supplies, but you can find Palmer Washable Poster Paint here (affiliate link) as well as another great washable brand here.