Neon Trees for Tu B’Shevat Using Art Materials From Around the Home

One of my favorite art subjects to paint are trees. I love Tree of Life by Gustav Klimt and I used that curvy, linear tree he depicted to influence these three simple trees my two year old and I made this morning using materials found around the home.

For these trees I used Crayola neon tempera paint, cotton balls, white card stock, a toilet paper roll, a Sharpie marker, and a household sponge.

To start I drew simple curvy, linear trees using Sharpie marker on 9″ x 11″ card stock. I copied the tree 3 times. Permanent marker is a must as it won’t smear when paint is applied on top.

For the first tree I used a cardboard toilet paper roll and cut slits all the way around using scissors, folding the ends outward to create a brush. Then my son dipped his brush into the paint which I laid out on a plastic lid. Then he stamped the tree with it.

For the next painting he used cotton balls to “dot” paint onto the trees and for the third a piece I cut from household sponge. It’s important to dampen the sponge before painting with it.

We did these paintings in conjunction with the Jewish birthday of the trees-Tu B’Shevat. The boys have been learning about this holiday in school. I like to support their learning with books and crafts at home.

Tu B’Shevat is January 30th this year, and it’s the first of several Jewish springtime holidays. In Israel it is celebrated as also a day of ecological awareness.

Going along with that theme of caring for our planet, incorporating the concept of recycling in art, we used simple household materials for these projects. Whether you’re a mom on a budget or an art teacher trying to create an art program on limited funds-art can be an affordable, meaningful activity. You don’t need expensive materials to have fun and be creative!

Process Art Masks for Toddlers


With Halloween coming up there so many cute Halloween craps out there. I wanted to do something with these Do a Dot markers that we received in the mail recently from Melissa and Doug. I also want it to be a process art activity where the boys would have total freedom and creativity.

I settled on the idea of making masks. It could combine collage, paper crafts, wearable art, and the markers.  


I have to say I was really excited about these Do a Dot markers because not only are they easy, non-toxic, and come in a variety of colors -even silver! The green box has fruity smells to the markers! The boys really enjoyed that!

To make the masks I simply cut out a face shape from white card stock. Then I gave the boys the markers to choose colors from and they began making their dots.


After they finished making their dots I gave them red pom-poms and googly eyes to add details to their masks.  For this step I did most of the gluing, however I did allow them to experiment holding onto the glue bottle and trying to squeeze out some glue.


After that they added the hair I cut out of yellow card stock to the back of their mask.

Often times when making crafts and art projects with little kids adults feel the need to steer children in a direction towards a finished product. The great thing about process art is that there is no definitive look to a finished project. The child can create their project however they wish-this gives younger children a lot more self-confidence in their decision-making while creating art. This self-confidence can aide children in continuing to be creative down the road whether it’s in visual arts, music, or writing.

The next time you do a craft or art lesson with your child consider letting them take the reins. Maybe they’re making a self-portrait and their lips are painted on their foreheadand their eyes go on their chin, that’s fine. Pablo Picasso did that after all!

Four Fall Sensory Bags 

It’s definitely not fall here!  It’s been over 100° F for the last few weeks! Frankly, we don’t really get much of a fall in Las Vegas. My kids sure don’t experience the fall that I had growing up in Buffalo, New York!

As a child I remember picking apples, raking colorful leaves from the ground and jumping into the pile, and drinking homemade apple cider!  In Las Vegas we try to have fall by going to a pumpkin patch and farms.  With the excessive heat it makes it difficult to really enjoy the day. So I came up with these four easy sensory bags with the theme of fall in mind to allow my boys to experience fall with all of their senses. The best part is they do not require any special supplies, most likely these are items you have laying around the house!

For sight we had the colors of fall through out all of my bags. We had the sound of fall through my tissue paper leaf bag, it sounds like leaves crunching when you squish it in your hand! With every sensory bag project there’s always the sense of touch being included with different textures the children will feel from our squishier to our crunchier bags. Smell could and taste from the walnut sensory bag that we ate the contents of as we made it!

Shaving Cream Sensory Bag

For this bag I focused on the color red, however you can try a different color such as gold or orange to focus on. I filled the bag halfway with shaving cream then added red food coloring.   I squished the bag around to mix the food coloring and shaving cream together until it was evenly mixed. Then I added red glitter. This bag felt like a stress ball. My oldest child loves squishing it. He would not stop squishing it in fact this was his favorite!


Tissue Paper Fall Leaves Bag


For this bag I used half a bottle of orange hair gel that I got at the Dollar Tree. Then I added in brown, green, yellow, orange, and red tissue paper squares. You can also pick these up at the Dollar Tree. They are a huge time saver! Then I added gold glitter and strings of brown yarn. The brown yarn stuck together creating sort a viney-tree trunk effect. Once I closed up the bag and squished it and made the crunchy sound that leaves make in the fall as you walk across your yard.

Cotton Ball Bag

For this bag I again chose red as the main color. I think if I was going to do this project again I would do an orange or gold bag for the shaving cream and keep this one as my red bag. Red is so synonymous with fall. For this bag I added a full bottle of clear hair gel and I filled up the bag halfway with cotton balls. Then I added in some red Pom Poms and strands of red yarn.  Lastly,  a few drops of red food coloring to swirl as the children played with it.

Walnut and Burlap Bag 

This bag is made of used pieces of burlap that I cut into basic shapes like triangles and rectangles. Then I added in walnut halves from my pantry.  The main ingredient is steel cut oats. They look almost like sand. I gave it a nice grainy texture. With this one the children could see different shades of the same color: brown. My oldest son could tell me the different names of the shapes. My youngest son could feel the different textures from the more flimsy burlap to the very hard, curvy walnut halves.

My three-year-old and I put all of these and three bags together in about an hour one afternoon while my 20 month old slept. Both boys had a great time playing with them. In fact they’re still playing with them! One thing I like to do is use clear tape on the top of all of my sensory bags to make sure they stay shut. Another idea is taping them to a sliding glass door or a big window so the kids can look inside of them better and see all the different variations of colors.
I hope you and your children have as much fun as we did with this project. It’s a great project for kids three years old and younger.  Older kids can even make it for their younger siblings!

Tie-Dyeing Tips for Large Groups


This week at camp my boys tie-dyed for the first time. Growing up this was one of my favorite camp activities! I attended summer camp from the time I was five until I was 15, and even after that I was a counselor.  So seeing my little boys making their tie-dyed napkins at camp was definitely nostalgic for me.

In the past as an art teacher I have done tie-dying for field day. I did it with all 850 of my students! So this advice is for teachers or group leaders that are doing a tie-dye project with a large amount of kids.  I hope these tips and tricks make it easier for you!

  1. Figure out where your T-shirts are going to come from. They need to be white T-shirts. Either the kids can bring them from home or see if there is a budget for these. The PTA might be able to come up with some money for it especially if it’s going to be a huge order of 500+ T-shirts.
  2. There are all kinds of dyesavailable. I recommend buying dye in large bottles rather than small spray kits.  I used old-fashioned RIT dye from the corner market and it worked perfect!
  3. For sizing T-shirts the P.E. teachers held up T-shirt samples to each student as they did attendance and wrote down the size before ordering. This was a lot more efficient than waiting for a written slip from home.  
  4. Have large buckets, rubber bands, and rubber gloves ready.
  5. You’ll need either a tarp or deep sink to place your buckets of dye.  Another option if the weather is good is to work outside on grass.  
  6. Have samples of different tie-dye techniques ready to show the kids.  This is also really good opportunity to practice these techniques!
  7. Have the kids rubber band and fold their T-shirts on their own or with help from an adult.
  8. Place the T-shirts in the dye bath of their choice and once the dye has settled in put the T-shirts in plastic bags with the kids name on it to take home.
  9. Another option is to have the T-shirts placed in plastic bags per class and give them to the classroom teacher to allow dry or wash.
  10. With our T-shirts we used five colors of dye, however red white and blue works great or school colors is another option.  Having limited colors can simplify and streamline the process. I do not recommend asking students to choose which color of dye they want-if you’re working with a huge group like I did that would take a lot of time!

I hope these ideas will inspire other art teachers and group leaders to have fun tie-dying with their students. My students always looked forward to this every year! They wore the T-shirts throughout the year, and they were always excited leading up to this project.  Below I have included some pins for more tips, techniques, and inspiration!



Floral May Crafts for Toddlers

may flowers
April showers bring May flowers right? So this month I’ve been doing a lot of floral crafts with my boys. The first one I shared on Instagram and in a previous post which is a Monet Waterlilies craft.  Monet was a French impressionist painter in the 19 century who built an incredible garden in his home complete with a Japanese bridge and water lily pond which he painted over and over again. This is a simple process art project that then gets turned into a craft.  For more information on how to make it you can check out my previous post here.

monet 2Later on for Mother’s Day we made paper plate flowers which are also a simple process art activity. The boys use bright colors and painted paper plates. Afterwards we practiced cutting with our safety scissors little slips along the side of both plates. Then we bent the tabs that we created to resemble petals on a flower. To finish we added a green construction paper stem and leaf.  Both boys painted a paper plates, Ben helped with the cutting, and Adam helped with the gluing.

flower cardWe created some friends willows based off of a Pinterest pan I found last month. We did this project in play group along with the water lilies. For this project I pre-drew the willows on white card stock sized 9″ x 11″. Are used a sharpie marker, but any permanent marker will do. You don’t want to use Crayola markers because they will smear when the paint is applied. We then dipped hour some into different colors of paint and pressed around the flower. It’s a simple cute process project that could then be turned into a card or framed.

I did a willow, but on Pinterest it initially came to me as a dandelion.  There are so many cute thumbprint flowers on Pinterest.  I’ll share some pins below.  Let me know if you try any in the comments below.  Happy May!

Thumbprint Dandelion - Kid Craft - this idea would be a great gift for a teacher or a DIY project for grandparents!:

Thumbprint Art Project For Kids - Easy craft idea! Painted flower pots make cute homemade Mother's Day Gifts. Crafts:

Mother's day gift idea from thebubblegumtree.blogspot.com:

 

Easy and Fun Spring Craft: Rainbow Collage

rainbow

March has just finished up and this past month’s playgroup’s theme was weather!  Boy, oh boy are we having weather!  One week I’m slathering sunscreen on my kiddos and the next I’m bundling them up with hats and sweaters.  To top it off we have sunny days, windy days, and cloudy days.  The wind can be downright dangerous here in Vegas!

Believe it or not, however, most of the rainbows I’ve seen in my life have been in Vegas- I guess it can be a lucky place!  I’ve even seen my fair share of double rainbows!

To make this collage I simply pre-cut the large cloud shape from white tagboard, and I cut out the white raindrops from the scraps.  I also cut out blue raindrops and 1 inch strips of construction paper in rainbow colors.  Ben is two and a half and would like to learn how to cut, but he isn’t ready to really cut yet.  He is fairly experienced with gluing, so I allowed him to control the glue bottle while we assembled the craft.

I started with gluing the cotton balls onto the cloud, then adding the raindrops.  I helped Ben glue the rainbow strips onto the back of the cloud for a more neat result.  At playgroup we also did a multimedia thunderstorm art work and I had pre-cut lightening bolts which another child chose to add onto their collage.  I love seeing the creativity in such young people!

This is definitely an easy and fun craft for this time of year or St. Patick’s Day.  Kids ages 2-8 would enjoy making it and older kids could cut out and even draw the shapes for themselves.  This is project could easily accompany a book about weather.  It also has a simple narrative and ties into science!  We had a lot of fun making it, and hope you will too!

Patriotic Playgroup Activities  for Presidents’ Day

This week we had our playgroup on Presidents’ Day. I decided to go with the theme of patriotic crafts and I did some research on Pinterest. I found a really cool pasta sensory bin that was cheap and easy to make.  I will attach the pan below in case you’re interested. The century vent was a blast and the children really enjoyed it. It did not take a whole lot of work to make. In fact I made it just in a few extra moments that I had over the weekend. Obviously the pasta is reusable, so I can use this for future crafts to come.  Once the bin was assembled I added in some plastic cups, plastic spoons and forks, and a little car for the kids to play with.



I also did a patriotic star craft. We assembled stars using Elmer’s glue with red and blue popsicle sticks. Then we attached the start to some white card stock. The kids could use glue sticks to collage paper tissue squares in red and blue or red glitter on their star.  This was sort of a problem-solving craft in the fact that the kids had to help their moms put together a star which is not easy to do as far as it coming out symmetrical. The kids also had to learn how to use a glue stick and choose the materials that they wanted in their star.  For a two-year-old that is definitely some higher-level thinking. They are analyzing, synthesizing, and creating.


My last activity was a so-called free painting in red white and blue. This particular project has some art historical significance. The style of Abstract Expressionism  which was made popular by Jackson Pollock in the 1940’s was an exploration of paint itself. No longer was paint being used to depict a person, place or thing – the artist was just creating a painting to depict the paint.  Their style of art marks the transition of the center of the art world from being Paris to it being in New York City. This is a truly American art movement.  So as the kids dripped, swirled, and explored with paint, they were actually creating works of art that tied into an American historical style of art.


When I do my playgroup every month I like to have a variety of activities. I like for there to be something for the kids to craft or collage, something for them to model or experience such as a sensory activity or clay, and of course a drawing or painting material. At this age it’s really important that kids just experience as much as they possibly can. By giving young children art materials and allowing them to create they’re using their higher thinking skills, they are exploring their imagination, and they’re expressing their unique individuality at a very-which is a character builder.  Young children experience a level of confidence in themselves and their artwork and like teenagers who typically are shy about their accomplishments. If we can encourage  young children to to be proud of themselves and build up their confidence at a young age then hopefully they’ll be more confident when they enter their teenage years and adulthood. I hope you had a wonderful holiday and if you have any thoughts about how art builds character in kids please share them in the comments below.

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!



Galaxy Sensory Bottles

galaxy-bottles
At this month’s My Petite Picassos’ Playgroup we created projects under the theme of the galaxy. We made galaxy sensory bottles for the babies, paper craft rockets, and we did galaxy marbling papers to make valentines.


We made our galaxy bottles using cotton balls, watered down tempera paint, kabob skewers, and glitter.  I highly recommend if you do this activity you use a short water bottle otherwise you will be very busy for a long time creating your galaxy bottle!  I saw a few videos on YouTube on how to do this and the toddlers enjoyed putting the galaxy bottles together so much!

Basically it’s very simple, but time-consuming. Take your cotton balls one by one pulling them apart and placing them inside of your bottle. When you think you have a lot of cotton balls take your blue watered down paint mixture and pour a little bit over the cotton balls.  Then use the kebab skewers to mix the paint and the cotton together. The water will be absorbed by the cotton and the cotton balls will shrink up so you will probably want continue another layer or two of blue cotton before you move onto the next color.  I did my layers as blue on the bottom purple in the middle and pink on the top. As I moved up the bottle I continued putting in the cotton and adding my water. In between layers put a little bit of glitter not too much or you’ll get clumps!  We also tried doing this with food coloring and water and that turned out excellent as well as you can see from my friend’s bottle on the bottom of the page.  If you don’t have paint at your house but you have some food coloring you can do this craft easily.  My friend had a really good point that the bottles do get a little bit heavy with all of the water and so it is a good idea to keep them small even if you think a big bottle would be a stand out if you want a baby to hold it and left it with her hands and inspect it and it’s needs to stay small.

Like I said earlier the toddlers loved this craft! They were very engaged with ripping apart the cotton and pushing it through the bottles.  One of the moms made the comment that her son never does arts and crafts projects but he loved this craft.  They filled up even large bottles with cotton. You could see they were fully concentrating on the activity and they were immersed in the process.

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!