My Favorite Books on Art for Toddlers Right Now

As I’ve mentioned before I read A LOT to my boys. We are working towards 1000 books by kindergarten. I keep a log and every time they read another hundred books they get to put their names up on the board at our local library. Of course I love to read to my boys about art.  I am sharing with you some of my favorite books that we are currently reading about art. Many of them are not just for babies or toddlers but could also be appropriate for elementary school age children as well.

1. Artsy Babies Wear Paint by Michelle Sinclair Coleman-this is a great all-around art book for a baby to toddler age child. It discusses the concept of creativity, has cute illustrations, and is very colorful. Children at a very young age can start to learn about media as they begin to experiment with it .

2. I Know An Old Lady Who Swallowed a Dreidel by Caryn Yacowitz -a tongue twisting story with incredible illustrations that reference famous works of art by Andy Warhol, Van Gogh, and Andrew Wyeth.  This is my favorite book to read at Hanukkah!

3. Too Much Glue by Jason Lefebvre -a fun romp through the art room turns into a disastrous mess!  I have a collage project that I do to accompany this story.  I adore this book-great for kids who go to school already.

How to Talk to Your Toddler About Art

This post was truly 15 years in the making.  I have taught children ages 0-18 art since I was practically a teenager.  In my experience, the younger kids are exposed to art and included in discussions about art, the more comfortable they are as they grow up.  Looking at and discussing art can create more visually observant children and expand their vocabulary as they are in a new place having a new experience, therefore, learning new words.  How often do you discuss texture and negative space at home?  Probably never right?  At the art museum they are exposed to these concepts and their minds are broadened.

1. Start with the Elements of Art-texture, shape, color, form, line, space, and value. A 2 year old who is learning colors and shapes can repeat the names of colors and maybe recognize shapes.  “Is that a circle or a square”? ” What color is that star?”  An older child-around 4 or 5 can perceive texture-“How do you think the painting would feel if you could touch it?  Bumpy or smooth?”  That can lead to a conversation about paint application.

met

2. Discuss the subject matter of the artwork.  Kids might see something familiar such as a puppy (portrait) or an apple (still life).  A young child can understand that a portrait is a picture of a person or animal.  Keep it simple.  A landscape is a picture of a place.  Then have the child point out all the landscapes in the Impressionist wing or the portraits in the photography gallery.

3.  Show the child how to read the placards next to each work of art-even if they can’t read.  Tell them who the artist of the work was/is, where they were born, and the title of the work. From that information alone a 3 or 4 year old can have a lengthy discussion about a work of art. Ask them why they think the artist titled the artwork with that particular title or, for example, tie in the fact that the artist is from Italy to other facts about Italy they already know.

4.  Don’t forget that looking at art can be a character building experience.  Don’t be shy to discuss the emotions behind a work of art.  Discuss how the use of blue in Picasso’s painting is supposed to convey sadness or the strong, swirling lines in Van Gogh’s Starry Night show his loneliness.  This can empower your child to feel more open with discussing their feelings with you and teach children that it’s best to look for a positive outlet to express their emotions.

Art is all around us-it’s in advertising, the clothes we wear, the homes we buy.  Everything around us was created by someone and we choose what messages we are sending to the world in our aesthetic response.  Conversations about art give children a better grasp on the messages they are being sent and will send out in the future.  Don’t be afraid to take littles to a gallery or a museum.  My last tip is to start small with a local gallery or a museum that has kids programming, to keep their interest throughout the experience.

Art History Gameboards

art-history-games2

I am truly an art nerd.  Who couldn’t be when artists have such interesting lives?  From Frida Kahlo’s bus accident and tumultuous relationship with Diego Rivera to Leonardo Da Vinci’s flying experiments kids are fascinated by the lives of famous artists.

One year I broke my art club into teams of 4 kids (I had 40 art clubbers).  Each team would research an artist in the library, come up with a timeline of that artist’s life, and create a game board game based on their research.  The school librarian helped the kids research the artists they chose and write their timelines.  When I approved their timeline they began building their game boards using cardboard boxes, duct tape and white butcher paper.  Then they had to design their game board in pencil using facts from the artist’s life, a portrait of him/her, and motifs found in works of art by that artist.  They used Crayola Model Magic to model the pieces that would move across the board and tempera paint with glue to paint the pieces. Once all the game boards were finished we had a party and the kids played the games while they munched on chips and drank soda.  We hung the game boards around the art room for years to come as they were full of factual information I wanted my students to learn.  This is a lesson I loved and would definitely do again!

art-history-games

Modigliani Self-Portraits

Amadeo Modigliani was an Italian Modernist painter during the 20th century.  He is best known for his minimalist portraits of women with strange almond shaped eyes that are completely colored in.  The faces are nearly alien and the bodies are linear.  The backgrounds are non-descriptive and surreal.    Upon looking at his art kids will often remark about how alien the women appear and how strange the portraits are.  This lesson  is an excellent introduction into basic facial proportions as the students don’t have to worry so much about the realistic shapes of the face, just the correct placement of simplified facial features.
I posted before about DBAE (Discipline Based Art Education) and this particular lesson plan has a strong art critical component that leads into an understanding of Modigliani’s aesthetic.  The students will go through with the teacher all of the Elements of Art and Principals of Design and how they relate to Modigliani’s paintings.
modigliani
Art Lesson Plan

Modigliani Self-Portrait

Grade: 3rd-6th

# of 50 minute sessions: 4

Art Resources: visuals from the Girl series by Amadeo Modigliani and teacher exemplar
Art Materials: one 11”x14” sheet of white paper per student, pencils, erasers, and oil pastels.
Objectives-
Student will:
– create a self-portrait in the style of Amadeo Modigliani.
– create a drawing using pencils and oil pastels.
– learn about the art of Modigliani.
– discuss the artwork of Modigliani according to the Principals of Design and Elements of Art.
Vocabulary: Amadeo Modigliani, Modern Art, Principals of Design, Elements of Art, and Self-Portrait.
Procedure:
Day 1: Teacher will introduce visuals from the Girl series by Amadeo Modigliani. Teacher will discuss the art criticism part of the lesson with the student and go over vocabulary. Student will view the visuals and begin discussing with students the work of art according to the Elements of Art and Principals of Design. The teacher will demonstrate how to draw a self-portrait in Modigliani’s style. Student will draw his/her self-portrait using pencil (lightly).
Day 2: Student will review vocabulary, the art critical component from the prior week, and teacher product/visual aide.Student will begin coloring in self-portrait.
Days 3-4: Student will review vocabulary and teacher product/visual aide. Student will finish coloring his self-portrait and present his artwork to the class.  Student will share with the class using the Elements of Art and Principals of Design how his self-portrait is similar in style to Modigliani’s portraits.

How to Raise a Bilingual Child

In order to take care of Ben you have to be able to speak more than one language. This was an issue for my parents who I had to give a refresher mini course in Hebrew to so I could have a date night when they visited. He communicates with both Hebrew and English. Half and half. If his nose is running he’ll tell you in Hebrew, if Ben wants something to eat he’ll ask you for “cookies.” ” Cookies” aren’t really a cookie though, I just want to clarify that, it’s more like a cracker. I’ve learned more Hebrew being his mom than I had in the six years prior being married to his dad. His Hebrew has grown organically through several different channels. I’m going to share how we have taught in both languages simultaneously. Currently he’s not speaking either in complete sentences, we recently caught up with a speech therapist that I used to work with and she advised that he has not yet picked his dominant language. He is 2 and a half-that is normal, and that is very normal for kids who are bilingual. Just because he picks a dominant language doesn’t mean that he’s going lose the other language either.


1. My husband refuses to speak English at all with him. Ben has to only communicate in Hebrew with my husband.  If Ben wants “up” from the dinner table he will be answered in Hebrew with “I don’t understand what yo want, I don’t speak English with you.”  For me, it’s easier because we are in America, all of his classes are in English, and our day to day life is in English.  So he gets plenty of English, so his dad really has to be firm in speaking only Hebrew.

2.  We had an Israeli nanny for a year.  She only spoke Hebrew with Ben and she taught him
Hebrew songs.

3.  TV!  TV is huge.  My speech therapist friend agrees.  She said to teach a young child any language put them in front of the TV.  He has always from babyhood watched TV in both languages.

4.   We took a trip to Israel for a month and all of us were immersed in Hebrew.  My Hebrew developed over there dramatically in a short time!  Full immersion is the way to go if you get the opportunity.

5. Hebrew CD’s are on constant rotation in my car.  I know every Hebrew nursery rhyme!  Ben sings along where ever we go, it’s so sweet!

6.  Reading is so important in both languages.  I honestly don’t read a lot in Hebrew to him because he doesn’t have patience for how slowly I read and loses interest.  I do read him flash cards and have a few books I’m familiar with.  Our nanny read to him in Hebrew only, and my friends who are Israeli always read Hebrew stories to our kids.

7. Hebrew toys help some, especially if they make noise and speak.  His aunt in Israel sent some learning toys that will increase his vocabulary and even increase mine.  I also turn his American toys to Spanish just to strengthen his ear for languages.

8. Lastly, our local community has a large Israeli population so there are many friends and kids for him to speak Hebrew with.

We started all of these steps from birth.  My husband has not spoken a word of English to my son ever. English is only for mommy.  This is truly a gift for Ben and it will be a gift for Adam who already has a word in Hebrew and a word in English!

 

Process Art Activity-Apple Printing

apple-printingThis is one of the first activities I did with the My Petite Picassos playgroup back in the fall. I never got around to blogging about it, though. I think when you start a blog you have so many ideas that it’s almost impossible to get all of them done. On top of that I had the holidays to craft and blog about-so here is my belated post on apple printing.

I used basic school based tempera paint in fall colors: green, yellow, red, orange, and brown. I put the colors out on a pallet for the kids to dip the apples that were already cut into halves and then they printed on the paper. For the paper I used long sheets from a role that I cut to be equal for each child. I picked up rolls of paper at Target in the fall for about $7. This is a great idea for a playgroup or a fall party. It was so easy and different. The kids really enjoyed it. All of the toddlers walked away with apple prints.  They were so enthralled with the idea putting their food into the paint and no one put the paint into their mouth! This is definitely an activity I would repeat!



Teacher Tip: Evil Eye Magnets 

evil-eyes
I recently was confronted with a Facebook memory of this photo: handcrafted evil eyes that were used as a fundraiser by my art club 4 years ago.  For many years I didn’t have much of a budget as an art teacher and I had to get creative as to how to get supplies for my 800 students.  I decided with my art clubbers we would mass produce evil eye magnets to sell in order to raise money for the clock parts we wanted to buy to make ceramic clocks. The evil eye is seen in many Mediterranean cultures of protection from negativity.  By having the kids make the magnets and sell them at our city’s monthly art walk the kids took ownership of their education, their program, instead of asking an adult to just give them the money or project components.  I think this is a very important lesson.  We are so blessed in this country to have free education for all.

To make the magnets I simply poured Plaster of Paris into old egg cartons I lubricated with Vaseline prior.  When hard, I popped them out, sanded them, and then handed them to the children to paint and we hot glued on a magnet backing.  I had hundreds of free magnets from a business that donated them when they closed.

At our local First Friday Gallery Walk we stood in front of my friend’s gallery with signs the kids created on posterboard.  People stopped and talked with us about why we were fundraising, the meaning of the evil eye, and we made over $300 in a few hours of sales!  The GATE teacher at our school sold the rest on Friday mornings with pencils.  We were able to pay for our clock parts and create our masterpieces.

Fun and Yummy Learning: Marshmallow Shapes

marshmallow-shapes

Ben knows how to sing his ABC song, count to 10 in Hebrew and English, and parts of his body in Hebrew.  Now I’m trying to teach him shapes and colors.  This is a really simple and fun evening family time activity.  I used kids’ straws from Daiso and small marshmallows to build basic geometric shapes.  We talked about the names of the shapes: triangle, rectangle, square.  We talked about the colors of the straws.  Ben asked for help to build which I was happy to hear.

I would rather he ask me or an adult for help than be frustrated and give up.  Too often as a teacher students didn’t ask for help and misunderstood parts of my lesson.  Asking for help is crucial in learning and kids should be taught to.

The activity was a hit with boys.  Adam ate all the marshmallows!  The next night they were at it again with their “Aba” who taught them the names of the shapes and colors in Hebrew.  So not only was this a math lesson, it was sculpture, and it was language development!  I’ve seen on Pinterest people use toothpicks instead of the straws.  I liked that the straws were less pointy for my littles, but for older kids toothpicks would definitely work.  This is also a great busy bag idea!

Georgia O’Keefe Unit

georgia-okeefe

Georgia O’Keefe is so inspiring as a woman and nature lover.  I did this unit as part of an Environmental Art art unit exploring the Enduring Idea of Nature and Art.  It took the better part of the spring to finish, but my students were very familiar with her work and what inspired her afterwards.

 

Art Unit: Georgia O’Keeffe

Grades: 4-6

# of lessons: 3

Art Resources: Artists in Their Time Georgia O’Keeffe by Ruth Thomson, examples of pueblos and adobe homes in photographs, photographs or actual animal skulls, examples of Georgia O’Keeffe’s flower paintings, pictures of flowers (I got mine from a calendar), and teacher products.

Art Materials:1 sheet of white 9”x12” paper per student, watercolors, water cups, pencils, paintbrushes, glue, 2 sheets of 8”x8” white paper per student, 1 11”x14” sheet of black paper, cups of glue and water mixed together, oil pastels, and 1 11”x14” sheet of white paper.

Objectives- Student will:
– create a multimedia southwestern landscape
– create an observational collage and pencil drawing of a flower
– create a painting of animal bones of flowers
– learn about the process of collaging- use various watercolor techniques
– shade using a pencil and create a grayscale
– draw using oil pastels
– learn about the life and art of Georgia O’Keeffe
– work in groups and individually
Interdisciplinary Connections: Science and Social Studies
Vocabulary: Georgia O’Keeffe, still life, landscape, Southwest, grayscale, shade, and adobe.
Lessons: The unit will consist of the following components:
A. Multimedia Adobe Landscape– Each student will paint a watercolor sunset on 9”x12” sheets of white paper. The student will then draw adobe homes using oil pastel.
B. Georgia O’Keeffe Flower Study– Each student will create an 8 square grayscale using pencil on strips of scrap white paper. Student will share a photograph of a flower with a group of 3 students and individually draw/shade a flower composition on 8’x8” white paper in pencil. Then he will redraw the outline of his flower composition on another 8”x8” white sheet of paper and collage with tissue paper scraps. Student will mat his work on 11”x14” black paper with glue.
C. Flower and Bones Painting– Student will draw in pencil on 11”x14” white paper a skull and a flower from studying photographs. Student will paint the picture using watercolors.

Psychedelic Self-Portraits

On of the most exciting periods of music and art to study when I was a teenager and pre-teen was the Psychedelic era.  It seemed radical, revolutionary, and free.  Freedom is what those pre-teens and teenagers are craving so why not peak their interest with a lesson on John Lennon and Richard Avedon?

 

psychedelic

Title:Beatles Psychedelic Self-Portraits

Grades: Gr 4-8

Art Lesson Plan-4 50 minute sessions

Enduring Idea: Heroes and Heroines

Rationale: Throughout, time humans have created or selected heroes to teach lessons that portray virtuous characteristics and noble archetypes that help an individual, a nation or a culture survive and thrive.  Artists, have often been influenced by heroes and have portrayed real or mythological heroes in their artworks.

Materials: pencils. erasers, markers, 12″x 18″ white paper

Resources: Beatles by Avedon, John’s Secret Dreams: The John Lennon Story, examples of psychedelic art (Peter Max, Richard Avedon, concert posters), self-critique form

Preparation: precut white paper to 12″x 18″, gather examples of psychedelic art, and create an exemplar, create a self-critique form students can use to check their work according to the criteria they were given to complete the assignment

National Arts Standard Anchor (s):

#2. Organize and develop artistic ideas and work.
#8. Interpret intent and meaning in artistic work.

Objectives:
*Students will learn about the life of John Lennon and the Beatles
*Students will learn why John Lennon is considered a hero
*Students will become familiar with the psychedelic art of the 1960’s
*Students will create a self-portrait in the style of Richard Avedon’s portraits of the Beatles.

Vocabulary:
Psychedelic, Abstract, Self-Portrait, Repetitive Pattern

Interdisciplinary Standards:

  • Describe in depth a character, setting, or event in a story or drama, drawing on specific details in the text (e.g., a character’s thoughts, words, or actions).

Procedures: Day 1:  S will view teacher exemplar. T will review the lesson steps. S will listen to the book John’s Secret Dreams: The John Lennon Story. T “Why did John Lennon stage a bed in?” “What did John Lennon believe in?”  “What can we learn from his actions?”  S will pair up and trace their heads on a white paper in pencil.  Day 2: T will review the lesson steps.  T will review with class the examples of psychedelic art using the Elements of Art and Principals of Design.  S will use a ruler and pencil to add a psychedelic pattern to his/her self -portrait.  Day 3: S will review the steps of the lesson and vocabulary.  S will begin coloring in his/her self portrait with bright colored markers.  Day 4: S will finish coloring in his/her self-portrait.  S will use the self-critique form to self-critique his/her project using the elements of art and principals of design. S will hand in his/her project along with the self-critique form for grading.

Assessment:

S neatly and carefully drew the outline of his/her head on the paper and added a repetitive pattern. 3/10
S neatly and carefully colored in his her self-portrait using bright bold colors to create abstraction.  4/10
S answered all the questions on his/her critique form, demonstrating thoughtfulness as to how they describe their project using the elements and principals. 3/10