Writing a blog can be really tricky sometimes. It can be easy to get caught up in how many likes and shares and comments there are and at the end of the day, that is definitely not what I enjoy about blogging. Don’t get me wrong. I love that others are finding value in what I’m writing about or sharing. It’s wonderful, actually. But it’s not the root of blogging for me and I need to remind myself of that sometimes. For me, the root is the joy I feel in sharing my family and the artful life we live. It’s having a visual diary of special moments in our lives that I can share and look back on. It’s having the courage to say, here’s my take, my idea, my challenge and for me that is where the real value is. So, my intention is to keep it simple, remember quality over quantity and to enjoy simple moments like these, with my family.
I can’t say enough about how much I love sculpey. It’s just the most awesome polymer clay for kids and adults. (Check out this collection of Alien Army figures I made one summer pre kids) It’s one of my absolute favorite art materials and though on the pricey side, I find it to be well worth it. I’ve taught a sculpey class for years at my school and always the biggest hit of the class is this seven layer cake. It’s looks really sophisticated to make, but is surprisingly simple, even for the kindergarteners. Most of the kids in my class, ages 5-12, leave with a pretty delicious buffet of seven layer cakes to enjoy.
Here’s how to make them. Start with seven sculpey balls in your favorite colors. You can do a pattern of a few colors as well. Balls are the most basic sculpey shape and usually start most sculpey projects. You can roll the sculpey on the table under your open faced palm or between your two open palms. Once you have 7 balls, you flatten them each with your thumb like a pancake and stack them one on top of the other. This is the bases of your cake. Next is the icing or “fondant,” as I like to call it with the kids. They’ve seen enough cake making shows to know exactly what I mean. I put a small handful of sculpey through our craft machine, which is similar to a pasta maker. If you don’t have one you can easily use any sort of roller or even your palm to flatten out the sculpey. The fondant is the trickiest part. You wrap the 7 layers in the fondant sort of like a wonton. Flatten it all around by pressing the fondant onto the 7 layers and then pinch or trim off the edges. Sometimes I roll the cake on it’s side to press the fondant to the cake. I have to help the younger kids with this part. The final step is to add decoration to the cake. The little kids tend to like simple sprinkles, where the older kids add more elaborate flower petals. The kids come up with some pretty fabulous ideas. When the cake is finished an adult can slice a piece with an exacto knife. If you use a dull knife, like a butter knife, it will not come out clean, like you see here, but it will still look cool. It’s more of a marbled affect. Some kids prefer it. Get ready to hear some serious oohs and ahhs.
We’ve turned some of our cakes into necklace pendants and even earrings. You can find all the necessary hardware at Michaels. Mostly, the kids just love to make cake after cake for a collection. I can’t say I blame them. They are so darn pretty! Happy cake making!
I love coming up with new, hopefully innovative, ways to use styrofoam. It’s always popping up in some package or game. I’m thinking this geoboard my almost 3 year old made for my 1 and half year old counts. Geoboards are a fantastic way to practice shapes, strengthen and develop fine motor skills and encourage design. Go team effort! And hooray for combining art and math!
I started off bringing home this real geoboard from work for a few days. Gigi was really into it. She was able to make squares and triangles, which turned into a game where I would make big triangles because I am “the mama,” and she would make little triangles because she is “a little girl.” Man, this is a cute age (when they are not freaking out.)
When this rectangular piece of styrofoam showed up in a box I thought it would make a great geoboard, plus Gigi is hardcore into hammering. I figured if nothing else, it was an excuse for her to wear her construction hat, which kind of kills me. First she painted the styrofoam with paint dots, then she went in for the tools. She loved hammering in the golf tees, which went in with ease. I showed her how to use the back of the hammer to take them out too, which was so cool. We’re very professional around here. Eventually she tired of hammering and I brought out some rubber bands. It was such a natural progression from her play with the “real” geoboard. She knew just what she wanted to do…big triangles and little triangles : )
When D woke up from her nap I set out the geoboard with some toothpicks, golf tees, rubber bands and glow sticks. I know the glow sticks are pretty random, but we had a bunch left over from our glow in the dark tutu extravaganza so I figured why not. D actually liked sticking the glow sticks in the best. Please consider your specific child when using materials like these. We feel very comfortable with toothpicks, etc. and I am watching closely, but you may not, so please use your own discretion. Safety first.
We’ve used our geoboard a bunch of times now. Sometimes it even acts as a great hiding spot for little figures. It’s a really fun addition to our play and I love that both girls can use it. I’d love to make a whole geoboard city out of big pieces of styrofoam at some point. Hmm…I may need to buy my girls a really big present stat.
We’re so lucky to live in Southern California where most days are sunny and beautiful, granted we’re having one of the worst droughts in history, but that’s a story for another blog. Here, take a look at this beautiful art we created from cactus wood, wire and beads. I’ve often walked into Reggio style classrooms and seen this kind of wood as the basis for mobiles and sculptures. It always struck me as so beautiful, so when I saw a few pieces of cactus wood for sale at the Long Beach Flea Market, I went for it. It was the end of the day so I got this long piece for 5 dollars, originally she wanted 15. Score. I love mixing art materials with nature and this beading activity is no exception.
I set up the cactus wood on our art table in the playhouse next to a shell filled with wooden beads. I had prepared some cut up pieces of thick wire and started poking them through the wood. Gigi quickly joined in. We did the beading together at first and then she just took over. The most interesting part was when she discovered she could fit the beads into the crevices of the wood. She loved that part! It was like they were hiding. Now, I’m aware that most people don’t have old cactus wood laying around their house. Please don’t dismiss this activity. You could easily substitute it with cardboard and poke some holes in it or styrofoam, or even a pile of large rocks. Anything that has little crevices to put the wire would work great.
An activity like this is beneficial in many ways. It develops fine motor skills and hand eye coordination. It introduces new vocabulary; cactus, wood, wire, nature, shells etc. It encourages decision making; Where should I put this bead? Do I want to create a pattern? What pattern do I want to create? Do these beads fit in the holes? Do all the beads fit in the holes? Also, it shows that objects found in nature are important and can have more than one purpose. Open ended art with interesting materials helps to build confidence and my personal favorite, outside the box thinking. Try it! You’ll like it.
Nature is often an inspiration in our learning and creating. If you like this idea I invite you to check out this nature wall idea that my kids loved.
A reader recently emailed me and asked if I would share how I organize our art supplies and which art supplies are our favorites. I am constantly trying to find new ways that really work to organize our supplies, so I was so happy to write this post. Plus, it totally motivated me to clean everything up for pics : ) Thank you Alexa! Your questions really helped me shape things up around here. A post of my favorite must have art supplies is coming soon!
For starters, I totally love mason jars. We have tons of them and put everything from beads to golf tees to googley eyes in them. If it’s a collection, it goes in a jar. Mason jars are great because they are really sturdy and with two toddlers around I don’t worry too much that they will break. They are also clear, which is my number one important factor for storing art supplies. If I can’t see it, I won’t use it, so I stick with clear on everything I can. We buy our mason jars in bulk at Michaels with the 40% off coupon or on Amazon.
I also love these low plastic trays from Ikea for 3 dollars! They come with lids, but I keep them open for paints and glues, which I seem to accumulate a million of and practically none of them work, but that’s another story. I love that they fit perfectly in the Expedit, which you can see below. They are really shallow, which is perfect for bottles of different sizes. I used to have my paints in a closed box but it was such a mess and I couldn’t tell what the heck was going on in there. These plastic trays works great for us!
We have a bunch of colorful baskets that are filled with different random supplies, like cardboard cutouts, tiles, blocks, etc. Since we live in Southern California, we are able to keep our supplies outside in the backyard under an overhang. I host art play groups and art classes in our backyard so I like everything to look colorful and inviting. I think I picked these yellow baskets up at World Market and some of the others I got at Home Goods over the years.
The dollar store has become my total bff. They always have little clear tubs and containers for…well…a dollar. It seems no matter how many I buy we still need more. I put anything that doesn’t fit in a jar in clear containers. Clear, clear, clear. I can’t say it enough. It’s taken me years to figure this out. I like to know where everything is and be able to stare at all my supplies for inspiration. You never know what project may be lurking in each container.
I store our ribbons and duct tape in open baskets so everything is easy to grab, since I’m usually frantically wrapping something five minutes before I’m supposed to be at a birthday party. All of our supplies are stored in an Expedit from Ikea. I LOVE Expedits. They come in all different sizes and variations so if you don’t have room or don’t have need for such a big one, you can go with a four cubby one or even a tall strip of five cubbies. They come in different colors too. My biggest challenge has been with oversized papers. I recently started putting them in a large plastic shallow tub which is working out pretty well but it’s still kind of a pain because I have no place to put it. If you have any suggestions please leave them in the comments below. I’m thinking maybe a standing poster holder from a teacher supply store may be a better fit so I can lean it up against the wall.
Unfortunately, I haven’t quite figured out the top of the Expedit situation where I keep wrapping paper, paint holders and a few random things. It kind of always looks a mess, but I use that stuff all the time and have no other space for it. As you can see, I still have a few closed baskets. They aren’t ideal but they’re good for things like smocks, tarps and table clothes. At some point I will replace them with clear tubs. If you are a label person than you can easily label any of these things. I’m not that organized and I’m always changing things around, so labels don’t work for us.
I try to keep the things that my girls can play with towards the bottom. I love that they can navigate through the supplies to find what they are looking for. This is really important to me. The other day my oldest found some white tiles and markers and totally set herself up with a coloring station, something I never would have thought of! She drew and drew and then wiped the tiles clean over and over while I cleaned. That’s exactly the kind of thinking and decision making I want to foster with all this art stuff. She even helped clean up!
It’s always the most simple ideas that are the best. This was so easy and yet so effective. I picked up some 3D shapes at Michaels recently (yes, I have a problem #cantstopbuyingartsuppliespleasehelp) with my 40% off coupon and have been waiting for inspiration to strike. We had a play date this weekend and Gigi pointed to these while we were looking through our art supplies, so I covered our art table in butcher paper, poured out some paint and let the kids go to town. It was really fun naming the shapes, squirting the paint out and stamping away. Painting with shapes is great because the shapes fit perfectly in their little hands. My 1 year old could get involved too which was great. If you ever see some shapes at a yard sale or you have some old ones laying around, pick them up and try this! It’s really fun.
Check out more awesome ideas for kids on the Rockin’ Art Moms Pinterest Board!
I’m so excited to be guest posting at Twodaloo, one of my favorite blogs today. Stephanie is amazing. She’s not only a fellow Rockin’ Art Mom, she’s also a totally knowledgeable speech pathologist, mom of twins and a total creative superstar. Please head over to her blog and check out her posts. If you have any questions about speech and language for your little ones, twodaloo is a fantastic resource. We had so much fun with this animal race track made from butcher paper, duct tape and a marker. It’s a super simple invitation to play for little kids and highly effective. Great for traveling too! Pop over to twodaloo to read more about it.