Classic Fall Trees

By , October 10, 2013 1:45 pm

This is not high tech.  It is not original and unique.  It requires only paint, paper, water, a sponge, and a brush.  But sometimes classic and easy is what makes a long-lasting impression.  My beloved early elementary art teacher Mrs. B did this fall project with us and I STILL remember it.  Of all the art projects from the 9 years that I had art classes in school, this one stands out and I was probably only 5 or 6 when I did it. Here it is:

Sponge painting fall trees!

Sounds kind of “ho hum” to those of us striving for complicated and original art forms, but I can guarantee that the results are usually amazing, even with really little ones.  Watch your children’s faces as they work.  There is something magical that happens when they realize they can paint beautifully with something other than a brush!

Supplies

  • Orange, red, yellow, and brown paint (I recommend a washable tempera)
  • White paper (ordinary copy paper is fine)
  • A wide brush and a small sponge (sea sponge is best, but any sponge is OK)
  • A bowl of water for rinsing the sponge between colors

Let each child draw a tree trunk on the paper with the wide brush and brown paint, beginning at the bottom and extending half-way up.  Then let them have at it with the sponge and the colors.

Be sure to teach them to lightly dip the sponge in the paint (really a tiny amount works much better) and to dab the sponge gently on and off the page.  Some will want to smear it like a paint brush.  Some will still smear it on the page like a paint brush despite the instructions, the results will still be satisfying and fine, but not as realistic.

Also, be sure to explain that before changing colors they should dip the sponge in the water to wash it off.  Demonstrate squeezing the sponge over and over to get the old paint out.  Also demonstrate how to squeeze it really hard over the bowl afterwards until it doesn’t drip anymore.  This is quite important, because some young children will be more fascinated with the whole sponge and water process and will wind up with a very wet artwork.

If you try this with a large group of young children, be prepared for a lengthy clean up in the art room, and the bathroom where they will wash their inevitably, very much paint-covered hands.

Also be prepared for huge interest (even from reluctant artists) and lots of smiles and pride in their accomplishment!

 

 

Mrs. B

By , October 4, 2013 6:47 pm

One of my earliest art memories is of Mrs. B who used to bring her lamb to school every spring for us to sketch … and take turns feeding with a baby bottle.  How cool is that when you are 5, 6, or 7 years old? Or any age for that matter.  If my college physics professor had brought a lamb to lectures I would have retained so much more information.  (Note to all teachers and professors:  Bring a lamb for greater long term retention.)

Mrs. B was my beloved art teacher in my early elementary years.  I vaguely recall that she was a very sweet, grandmotherly lady who we all loved.  She was not very tall and seemed rather elderly.  I think she had short, white hair. Maybe that’s why she seemed old, perhaps she was really 25 and prematurely grey?  I suspect not, but who knows?   It is so funny how childhood memories work.

She had a big, exciting cardboard box full of fat, paperless crayons clearly meant for little, imprecise hands.  Since they had no paper wrappings, the fat crayons had bits of all the other colors stuck to them.  Yellow, the lightest color, was particularly contaminated.  I was never quite sure how I felt about that…

We had no glue sticks back then and used to stick things with a thick white paste that smelled lovely (almost as good as fresh damp “ditto copies” smelled) or “rubber cement” that smelled nasty and rubbery and came in a glass jar that had a clever lid with a built-in brush.  The rubber cement was fun because of the cool design of the brush-lid.  Plus, you could apply it to a desk (naughty!!!), and when it was dry, you could roll it up and make a rubber ball with it.  Plus, the ball bounced really high!

A few kids in my class liked to eat the white paste.  Not me though, I swear! It’s probably a good thing that nobody ate the rubber cement.

Today I did one of my favorite Mrs. B projects with my little ones at school.  It is not original, but it is simple, and super fun when you are little.  It obviously made a big impression on me!

Thank you Mrs. B.  I think of you often and hope I will make as lasting an impression on my little ones that you made on me.  Without the lamb though…but I do have a few chickens.

PS.  This post started out as an intro to a much-loved Mrs.B project, however it turned into its own tribute to Mrs. B.  I will post the very simple project that inspired this memory in the next few days.

Watercolor and Rice Art

By , September 23, 2013 9:28 am

I LOVE WATERCOLOR PAINT!  I like being able to just pull out the cute little box and the teeny, tiny brush, grab a cup of water, a piece of paper, and voilà!  Ready to go!  Plus with watercolor, I don’t live in fear of the post-art session cleanup.

If you are bored with just having your child slap some watercolor paint on a piece of paper, check out some of the creative watercolor ideas out there, such as these from The Artful Parent, or those featured in a top ten list at KidsArt.

I decided to jazz up a recent 3 to 6 year-old art class watercolor session by trying this interesting idea from the Fairy Dust Teaching Blog that I can sum up in one word:  Rice.

The idea is to paint lots of water color on the page, sprinkle on dry rice, and let it sit while everything dries.  The rice should absorb some of the paint and produce a lovely, ethereal bubbly/frost-like effect.

I told the kids to paint whatever they wanted.  They could do one color across the whole page, a pattern, a picture or multiple random colors.  The trick, I said,  was to cover the whole page with color (this was a bit too much to ask of a few of the 3 year-olds, but that’s OK).

As they finished, I brought out the secret rice ingredient.  The kids loved sprinkling on the rice!  A few were so into it that they made big piles.

I was worried that since the children were taking so long to paint, the paper and paint might be drying out.  I resolved this by squirting each page with some water before the final step of rice application.

The results were mixed for us.  Each child produced a lovely watercolor painting to take home.  Only a few of those works really showed that rice had been present, and the effect was of rice outlines, very pretty and cool, but not what I had hoped for.

What I learned:

  • Sally of Fairy Dust Teaching used watercolor paper for her lovely effect.  I used what I had on hand, plain old copy paper (a risky move on my part!).
  • I think that the paint needs to be very richly applied and be very wet, not a technique that is natural for most little ones with watercolor.  However, this is probably much easier to achieve with watercolor paper that is more far more absorbent than what I used.
  • The effect can be cool on plain old copy paper too, but it was only obvious in the work of those children who really used a lot of paint.

My favorite painting is the one at the top of the post.  Personally, I think the copy paper effect looks a bit like a microscopic image of bacteria.  I see a science tie-in here somehow!

Bold and Positive Girl Shirts!

By , September 19, 2013 10:58 am

My 13 year old  daughter is not a “girly-girl.”  She does not like pink.  She does not like purple.  She does not like sparkles.  She even complains that the little cap sleeves on “girls’ shirts” are not as comfy as the “normal” sleeves on boys’ clothes.  My daughter reads a lot, runs cross-country, and is determined to get her private pilot’s license on her 17th birthday.  She is the perfect customer for Girls Will Be, a store for “girl clothes without the girly.”

Here you can find unique shirts in sizes 4 through 12 with positive messages.  No “Princess” or “Spoiled Brat.”  No images of boy pop bands, Angry Birds, or teenage TV “role model” actresses.  There is also a noticeable lack of glitter, sparkle, ruffles, and spandex.

My daughter chose an airplane shirt (the plane image is actually a flock of birds) and a bold but cute dog shirt. We have a “Bold Daring Fearless Adventurous” tee on pre-order!

If you visit, be sure to read the “About” page.  The store was recently founded by two sister moms (of “non-girly” girls) and their artistic brother who designs the shirts himself.  They write:  “We hope Girls Will Be helps empower young girls to be themselves and never feel like they need to conform to the increasingly narrow definition of “girl” reflected in far too many of the clothes (and other products) marketed to them.”

I also like that this cool family maintains a blog where they showcase clothing and accessories from other stores that meet their non-girly standards.

Fortunately for the Girls Will Be team, demand is high for their products (which are all made in the United States) and you might have to pre-order and wait a bit to get the shirt you want.  The wait is worth it though since the quality and comfort-level are excellent and, most importantly, my daughter loves her unique shirts and wears them often.

There is nothing wrong with being feminine, but it is important that girls have a clothing choice.  My daughter and I wish the Girls Will Be team lots of success in their very worthy enterprise!

 

A Gift of Time

By , September 5, 2013 12:34 pm

I have suddenly acquired some unexpected free time.  What a lovely gift!  I view this gift as a sign that I should not abandon Unplug Your Kids, but rather use this time to repair and resurrect it.  It is going to take a long time to track down photos and put them back on the blog, one by one, post by post, but I can do this.  I will do this!

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