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!

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!

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.

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.

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.

Galaxy Marbled Valentines

Galaxy is been a huge DIY trend lately. We explored this with our latest play group meeting. We created three different crafts the delved into the galaxy. One project that was very popular was galaxy marbled paper. Afterwards we all took them home to create our Valentines!  This is a really easy and fun project to do with a toddler and it’s cheap using materials you probably already have!

galaxy-valentines
To start I covered a cookie sheet with waxed paper. Then I lay down a layer of men’s shaving cream. I added a few drops of pink, purple, and blue food coloring to the shaving cream and used a straw to swirl it around.



After we pressed a piece of card stock on top of the shaving cream and we peeled it off.  We ran it underwater. When the water clears off the shaving cream a marbled effect is left behind.


From there the paper can dry can then be used to create cards, hearts, artwork, and a variety of arts and crafts projects.  We had a lot of fun creating our galaxy art projects. We hope you will too!

My Favorite Tried and Tested Busy Bags from Pinterest

This past fall I had the daunting task of taking a 24 hour flight with a 2 year old and a 9 month old.  My 9 month old I figured would be happy as long as I held him, but the 2 year old would need toys.  Toys not just for the plane, but for a month long vacation on the other side of the world!  So I put together a backpack with 15 busy bags and here is a list of some of my favorites from Pinterest.

  1.   Colored crafts sticks with Velcro dots to make shapes with. Both Ben and Adam loved these and still use them for restaurants and other outings to stay occupied. From the Tip Garden.
      DIY Toddler Activities - craft sticks and Velcro dots... "Busy bag" okay weird…:

2.  My niece and nephew loved this activity which not only makes kids match patterns, but also colors and fractioned shapes.  From No Time For Flash Cards.This is a simple activity with great cognitive benefits. Matching is the…:

3. This busy bag idea came with a free printable, but I just made my own cards with a sharpie and card stock.  From Teaching Mama.Snowflake Busy Bag {Free Printable}:

4. Lastly, I’m choosing to share a busy bag idea I didn’t make yet, but will for our next trip.  Ben and Adam love building, so I think this will be right up their alley! From How Wee Learn

quiet time activities for 3 year olds:

These ideas are cheap, reusable, and easy to make.  These activities don’t need to necessarily just be used for busy bags and outings or travel, the could just be quiet time activities for a rainy day.  What busy bags do your kids love?

 

Ice Fishing Sensory Activity

ice-fishingWe don’t get a winter vortex in Las Vegas-and I don’t miss the 23 years I scraped windshields in Buffalo.  I do miss the beauty and quiet of snow.  Snow insulates sound.  I grew up next to a busy four lane street and when it snowed there was hardly any sounds from the traffic.  It’s peaceful and there’s nothing more fun as a kid than playing in the snow.  I went sledding and snowman making every winter. My friends and I threw snowballs at each other in the school yard.  My boys will be growing up with palm trees instead.

Since the boys won’t be seeing much snow or feel bitter cold I thought it was time to try some cold sensory art experiences out.


We did this activity with the My Petite Picassos Playgroup and t was a hit.  I used Swedish fish silicone trays from Ikea and filled them with water. After, I added a drop of gel food coloring.  I mixed it using a baby foods phone. You can also use a toothpick or straw.  I pop them in the freezer for about an hour and a half and they were all set. We used it on card stock so the paper wouldn’t buckle. The kids had so much fun!  One little boy painted for an entire hour!

Galaxy Salt Dough

galaxy-salt-doughWith the My Petite Picassos Playgroup this last meeting we made salt dough keepsakes. We printed our babies’ handprints and footprints in colored salt dough that we colored with food coloring. As we were coloring with the food coloring we noticed that it created a marbled effect until we blended consistently throughout the salt dough. So the other day when Ben was bored and the weather was terrible outside, I decided that he could make galaxy salt dough.  We used the leftover salt dough from the playgroup and added a drop of blue,  a drop of purple, and a drop of pink food coloring to it.  As the mixed the colors together and created a galaxy a fact. Ben played with it for two hours that morning and the following morning he played with it for two hours.

To make salt dough all you have to do is combine one part flour with one part salt and half a part of water. For a large group like our playgroup I do it in my standalone mixer. After we use it it can be kept in the refrigerator to be used again. We still have leftover from last week that is soft and malleable. For older children who want to make a keepsake or if you want to make a keepsake you can air dry it and bake it in your oven at 200°F for three hours. 

Mama Monday's Pin Party

Food Safe Homemade Paint

paint-recipe

Adam is officially a little artist.  He was so curious watching Ben paint the last few times, I could tell he was dying to try it out.  Even though I have non toxic paint, I figured the little guy would be putting a lot of it in his mouth, so I wanted to be extra safe.  img_6704

So I scoured the internet for paint recipes, and did a little tweaking to what I found.  My final recipe is:

1/2 c. flour

1 drop of food coloring-to be added later

1/4 c. kosher salt

1 1/4 c. water

I mixed it thoroughly up in a mason jar minus the food coloring with a spoon which I used to spoon the mixture into our palette.  I added one drop of food coloring to each section of my palette and mixed with a Q-tip.img_6687img_6680

A Q-tip is a great way to manage how much paint your little is using or those tiny watercolor brushes that come in kids watercolor palettes.  I would stay away from a medium or larger size brush.  Even with a Q-tip it got messy!

img_6701img_6703img_6705

The experience was overall short, but positive.  I had to show him to dab the paint on the card stock rather than eat it.  He caught on quickly but still took the occasional taste.  This is also a great idea for cheap paint in general.  There are times we can’t afford little things like paint as moms and teachers.  I’ve run art programs on literally nothing for over 1,000 students!  It’s ideas like this that make art accessible to every child no matter what their economic background is.  I kept the leftover mixture in the mason jar over night with a little added water on top.  I made sure the top of the jar was tight.  I want to try making it in soap dispensers and keeping them in the fridge with colors ready to go.  I’ll let you know how that works out in the future.