Ten Days of Art, Part 9 – Back Pack Charms

Do you remember Shrinky Dinks?  I used to love them.

Since school is about to begin and we are slowly getting in the mood, we plan to make Shrinky Dink (like) back pack trinkets.  And maybe we will even make a few extra to share with our friends on the first day!

This is my plan:

To get started you will need:

  • #6 plastic container (like the to-go boxes on the salad bar)
  • Colored Sharpie markers
  • Hole punch
  • Parchment paper
  • Baking sheet


This is a #6 plastic container.  Cut the flat sections to make a sheet of plastic to work with.

Decorate your plastic as you like with the Sharpie markers.  Be sure to remember to punch a hole before you shrink it.

Bake at 350 degrees on a parchment lined cookie sheet.  Watch carefully.  The plastic will begin to melt and curl and then lay flat.  When flat remove it from the oven and allow it to cool before handling.

If you need more specifics check out the great tutorial and photos at Rust & Sunshine.

Isn’t this great?  What will you make?

10 Days of Art, Part 8 – Textile Art For Little Hands

I really like to do my best to introduce as many different types of art mediums as possible.  It is very easy for kids to get trapped in paper and crayons and become bored with the idea of art.  This would be horrible!  I want my kids to realize art is an expression with limitless potential, no matter your skill level.

Textile art, especially things like knitting are extraordinary practices for small hands and minds to reinforce patterns and fine motor skills, two skills necessary in math and handwriting.

Take a look at this great finger knitting tutorial at flax & twine.  This is a perfect knitting project to begin with.

Another excellent project for small hands is felting.  Felting itself might be slightly dangerous with its super sharp needles.  But these felted beads would be perfect.  It will take a bit of time to make a lot of felted beads, so you may choose to incorporate a few felted beads amongst other wooden beads, or maybe use a large felted bead as a centerpiece to your beaded necklace.  Spoonful.com has provided easy to follow directions.

Roly-poly Beads

Ten Days of Art, Part 7 – White Paper Projects

Recently the kids and I on several occasions have visited one of my favorite places – the art store.  I LOVE art stores.  It is really rather ironic though because I would never consider myself an artist.  My drawings are most often unrecognizable or juvenile to say the least.  But there is something about the ability to create and the limitless possibilities in an art store that make me feel like a kid in a candy shop.  I love it.  And I love that my kids love it too.

On these shopping trips we have discovered some new products that have been really fun to work with.  In my last post I mentioned the benefit of White Paper Projects.  These products would be really great for White Paper Projects.  You should check them out and have your littles give them a try!

Watercolor Pencils – These watercolor pencils color like ordinary colored pencils.  The colors are very vivid.  After coloring you can use a wet watercolor brush to blend the colors giving an effect much like watercolor paints.  Experiment with more and less water on your brush to create different final products.

Water Soluble Oil Pastels – These water soluble oil pastels are very similar to standard oil pastels.  They too have very vivid colors and are very smooth to use.  The only caution is that these colors break easily.  Although this should not discourage you.  They are great to use and can just as easily be used when broken.  These oil pastels can be smeared or blended with your finger when dry, as well as with a wet paintbrush which creates a really nice finished project and was a lot of fun with the children.

Oil Pastels – Some may refer to oil pastels like these as “cray-pas”.  I prefer Pentel brand oil pastels.  The colors are bright, the pastels are delicate but not too fragile and they blend well.  Oil pastels are not water soluble, although they too create a very nice effect when used underneath watercolors.  This is referred to as a watercolor resist, as they are not soluble in water and will resist the watercolor paints.

These are some examples:


So get out some white paper and give it a try!




Ten Days of Art, Part 6 – Mixed Media Collage

Projects like this are some of my favorites.  I love projects with very few rules and many possibilities.  A teacher I once taught with referred to projects like this as White Paper Projects.  She always lead White Paper Projects.  This teacher was also a psychologist.


I have learned these White Paper Projects are substantial for growth and development.  Projects like this with very few restrictions force children to think in ways they are not generally used to – ways contrary to what they are taught everyday in school.  Children are taught and quizzed on the “right and wrong” or the “yes or no.”  It isn’t always an opportunity for a young person to survey all of their options and map their own choices.  Also important and not always an opportunity is the concept that there is no “wrong” approach.  For some, like my oldest, this will be a very difficult task.

You can really learn a lot from sitting back and observing how a child, or anyone, approaches art.  Some kids will dive right in, others will analyze and organize before touching their paper and some will become very frustrated looking for the “right” answer.  Regardless of what type of child you have, these White Paper Projects are an excellent developmental exercise.

This is what our project looked like at the two hour mark when Clara said, “This is so much fun!”


Last week we visited the County Fair.  While walking through the art exhibits the girls really took notice of the mixed media pieces.  So that is what we used as our inspiration.

I have mixed emotions on examples of projects.  I can understand the benefit of an example, but I also feel it is limiting for some, especially those children looking for the right answer.  Often they will attempt to re-create instead of create their own piece of art.

So instead of examples I look for what I refer to as inspirations.  And when showing these to children be sure to have several options to inspire, making certain that each piece is unique from the others.  This will reduce the chance of a re-creation.  These are some examples of similar pieces to what we saw at the Fair.

i like multi media collage canvases! tutorial for multi-media collage Multi Media Collage Art

The beauty of this project is you can use supplies you already have.  These are the types of things we chose to use for our projects:

  • Watercolor Paper
  • Bleeding Tissue Paper
  • Mod Podge or watered White Glue mixture
  • Paint Brushes
  • Liquid Watercolors
  • Watercolor Pencils
  • Water soluble Oil Pastes
  • Tacky glue
  • Old Magazines
  • Glitter
  • Newspaper
  • Scrap cardstock pieces

Other items you could use:

  • Canvas or wood instead of paper
  • buttons
  • photos
  • stamps
  • paint pens
  • markers
  • acrylic or other types of paint
  • fabric
  • embellishments
  • recycled items
  • any other item you find around the house

I decided the best approach to this project was to gather all of the supplies, have them accessible and discuss different ways each could be used.

We started first with the wet portions of the project.  First was the newspaper.  Using the liquid watercolors we painted full sheets of newspaper different colors and then set it aside to dry.


Next we worked on the base for our projects.  The girls chose to use some tissue paper and watercolors to fill their white paper with color.

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While that was drying they moved on to selecting, cutting and piecing together all of their parts they would later add to the paper.

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 The depth of this project is created in all of the many layers.  After gluing all of the many pieces the girls then chose to embellish some more with the oil pastels and watercolor pencils.

They were very proud of their final projects!

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Ten Days of Art, Part 5 – Don’t Try This At Home

Today was just one of those days.

I have seen so many different recipes for various homemade paints.  They all seem like such a great idea.  Who wouldn’t want children’s paints made with real products as opposed to the chemicals found in store bought paints?

Well, we gave it a try.  I made finger paints.


It was easy.  The consistency was perfect and it was a breeze to make quite a bit of paint.

Although, I am not certain I am sold on this chemical free alternative.  Before letting the girls stick their fingers in the paint I stuck my hand in first just to make sure it wasn’t still too hot.   After washing my hand it was still bright red.  The food coloring in the paints absolutely stains your hand.

I am all about making a mess, but the thought of red food coloring stains was not really on my agenda for today.

We will try something different tomorrow…

Ten Days of Art, Part 4 – Gratitude

As a child I recall my mother telling me that if I was not willing to take the time to write a thank you note for a gift that somebody took the time to choose for me, I might never receive another gift from that person again.   I know, harsh, huh?

When was the last time you received a Thank You note – a written note?  After our most recent birthday celebration and many days of reading “write thank you notes” on my to do list I have realized these little hand written notes are one of the things we have made ourselves “too busy” for.  And even worse, we feel as if this can be excused because we are so “busy” with so many other things.

As a society we have exhausted our tasks with all things instant.  We scan payments from our phones, receive appointment confirmations via text and invitations via email because our culture has decided one can “save time” if we don’t have to pull out our wallet, make a phone call or post something in the mail.

So today I have decided we will slow down and take the time for gratitude.  Not only are we writing our thank you notes, we decorated them too.  Each note is unique and lovingly made just for the addressee.

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To make cards like these we used white cardstock, red acrylic paint and the base of a stalk of celery.  Other vegetables like romaine lettuce or okra would work well too.  Use your imagination and have fun.

Ten Days of Art, Part 3 – Successful People Journal

Do you keep a journal?  There are so many options – art journals, written journals, smash books, junk journals.

Well if you don’t, you should.  This is a list of 100 reasons why.

As school ended and Summer rapidly approached I contemplated what activities we would work on to ensure all of our hard work the past year would not be lost amidst the lazy days of Summer.  Of course options included worksheets and flashcards, but really, who wants to do that everyday.

I decided what was really most important was to continue reading, writing, discovering and then a little math.

So, we created journals.  My plan was to allow the kids to be creative and motivate them to write a little bit while giving them a fun way to document their Summer.  And hopefully, plant a seed for success with their very first journals.

This is what we did:

Because this was a first attempt at journaling for the kids I wanted to make sure the project was as inexpensive as possible.  I bought a Chipboard Album Kit from Michaels for about $5.  The kit came with several chipboard pages and binder rings.  I only used two pieces of chipboard for each journal, one each for the front and back cover.  For the inside pages I cut an assortment of extra scrapbook pages, cardstock and white paper to fit and used the pre-punched chipboard cover as a guide to punch holes in the paper.


The girls decided they wanted to use tissue paper to begin decorating the front of their journals.  They cut small pieces of tissue paper then lightly glued the pieces to the front cover.  Using a paint brush and diluted glue (about 1 Tablespoon white glue and 2 Tablespoons water, so that it looks like milk) they brushed the tissue paper with the glue mixture.  This seals the tissue paper edges and causes the tissue paper to bleed creating a really fun blended effect.  (Art stores sell “bleeding tissue paper.”  Not all tissue paper will bleed.)  Beads were also added for extra flair.


I like to keep the journals in a Ziploc bag along with a few supplies so that it is easy to work on whenever they are ready.  Your supplies could consist of anything you choose.  Glue sticks and tape are essentials, along with some sort of pen.  Stickers, felt tip markers, washi tape or anything else you might find would work well too.


 If you are really creative you could also create a few pockets in your journal.   I did this by cutting a slightly smaller piece of paper, folding the edges under and gluing it to the page.

It is also fun to include some prompted pages.  I wrote a few prompts on the tops of a few pages like:

  • If I were an animal I would be…
  • Books I have read this summer…
  • Today I…

Be creative.  Be Unique.  And have fun!


 If you need more ideas take a look at some of these journals that inspired me:

Art Journal ideas for kids

Art Journal Ideas

Smash Books

Journals to get you started:

Strathmore Art Journal Kit

Visual Journal

Smash Book Kit


Ten Days of Art, Part 2 – The Dot…

Children’s books are an excellent way to give a little momentum to your child’s imagination.

The Dot, by Peter H. Reynolds, is a wonderful book which addresses the fear of beginning something new.  In this book the student, Vashti,  feels she cannot create art because she is not able to draw.  Vashti’s art teacher suggests, “Make your mark and see where it takes you.”  Boldly, Vashti makes a dot.   And with this dot Vashti gains the confidence and inspiration to create more and more.

So go ahead, “Make your mark and see where it takes you.”


The Dot…



Watercolor or Thick Drawing paper

Tempura paints

Paper plates

Plastic Cups (or something similar)

Corks (or something similar)


1.  Choose tempura colors of your choice.   I chose primary colors because my group was young and this easily led to discussions on color theory and secondary colors.


2.  Using items found around the house to create circles and dots, allow the children to create their own abstract masterpiece filling the paper as they please.

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 3.  And just as Vashti did, be sure to sign it!

Ten Days of Art, Part 1 – Splattered Ink Creatures

Splattered Ink Creatures



Watercolor Paper

Black India Ink (or other permanent ink)

Dropper (if not included with ink bottle)


Black Sharpie Marker

Watercolor Pencils

Watercolor Brush

Container and water

Paper Towel




1.       Randomly drop several drops of black ink onto the watercolor paper.



2.       Use the straw to blow the ink around the paper.  As you are blowing you may wish to rotate the paper.



3.       Allow ink to dry completely.




4.       Use your imagination and black Sharpie marker to “connect the dots” to create your artwork.  Add an eye if you choose.  Imaginary creatures are an excellent idea.


5.       Using the watercolor pencils add color to your creature.  Fill in the empty space.  Layer colors.  Choose bold colors to create contrast.



6.       After coloring use a wet paintbrush to blend your colors.




Move over Picasso

One thing you may not know about me is that I am a huge advocate for art, especially art for children.  I appreciate fine art too, and I love to visit an art museum or have a class full of children explain to me what it is they see in a famous piece of artwork.  But my all time favorite is to watch a group of kids work on their own interpretation of whatever project we may be working on.

There is so much pressure in our schools today to meet certain criteria and achieve certain scores in order to excel.  I often worry whether my own children are merely learning to excel or really learning to learn.

Art education and the opportunity to create enhances the intuitive right side of the brain.   Creativity allows us to understand that not everything is “right” or “wrong.”  With art the options are limitless and one is never wrong.   Art teaches there are multiple perspectives.  And that there are multiple approaches in order to achieve a common result.  This range of possibilities created in art is very encouraging to a child.  Children gain confidence when allowed to create art freely.

Unfortunately, art is an area often taken for granted in our schools.  So in our house we try to do as much art as possible, especially during the summer.

Over the ten days I will share with you some of our favorite projects.  Hopefully you will enjoy these too during these last lazy days of Summer before we all head back to school.

Day 1 – Splattered Ink Creatures

Day 2 – The Dot…

Day 3 – Journals

Day 4 – Handmade Cards

Day 5 – Failed Homemade Finger Paints

Day 6 – Mixed Media Collage

Day 7 – White Paper Project

Day 8 – Textile Art For Little Hands

Day 9 – Back Pack Charms