Hi Everyone! Meri Cherry has moved! Please update your bookmarks to http://www.mericherry.com. Current subscribers will receive an email notice to confirm subscription to the new web address. Be sure to confirm your subscription to my site to continue to be notified of new posts. Thank you so much for reading along! – Meri Cherry
Woodworking with little kids is one of my favorite activities. There is just so much you can do. The possibilities are endless and the process is so rich. This was so easy and so much fun, I can’t wait to do it again. Especially since we did it all together as a family. All of a sudden I feel so much energy around Family Process Art. We’ve done it countless times but I never labeled it before. Somehow giving it a name has allowed me to share it with others, which is so nice because it’s amazing! So now I am officially labeling the fun art experiences we have as a family of four, plus Billy, our dog, as Family Process Art. It totally rules. Basically, I set up some materials on a table, invite everyone in and see what happens. That’s about the extent of it. Here’s how this wood working activity for the whole family transpired.
First, I put out two bins of wood pieces I’ve been collecting from flea markets, old toys and thrift stores. If you see a bag of wood bits at a sale, don’t pass them up! Random wood pieces are great for exploration and gluing, which is what we did here. The only other material I put out was glue. A few glue sticks and eventually a glue gun when my husband Ev wanted to go hardcore, which he did. Skip to the last pic below to see what he made!
First of all, toddlers freaking love glue. I swear, it’s like guaranteed homerun every time. I knew it wouldn’t hold the wood all that well, but this was more about exploring than anything else, so I was ok with that. Plus, we had the glue gun on hand to keep anything more permanent. Gigi started by just spreading glue on a few pieces while I made a structure of sorts. By the time I got to the 2nd tier she was all about it and quickly took over my project, placing wood beads inside and then bringing it to her doll house where it now remains as a piece of furniture never to be touched by my hands again. I’ve been informed of this several times now by my little sweetheart : )
Next, Gigi began gluing her own structure, calling it first an airplane and then a helicopter. She informed me she was taking it on a trip to New York that I would not be accompanying her on. It went something like this. “Mama, this is my helicopter. I am driving to the airport because I have my license in my pocket and I’m taking a plane to New York. You’re not coming. You’re meeting me there.” Ha! Gotta love the mind of an almost 3 year old working hard to take complete control of her environment. At least she wanted me to meet her!
The play and conversation continued and then came D. Look out. This little bundle of joy thought Gigi was the funniest thing she had ever heard. She cracked up over everything her sister said while diligently gluing one piece over and over and then trying endlessly to put the cap back on the glue stick. That’s my girl.
While the girls worked and I supervised, Ev got lost in his own woodworking. He was quiet as a mouse as he sat and created. He got out the glue gun and shared it with Gigi while I played with D. We were all crammed into Gigi’s room, which was a nice treat. It’s not our usual spot for creating. Sometimes moving a little working table into an unexpected room can work wonders! Highly recommend changing it up.
Before long both Ev and Gigi were done with creations. I was so busy with the girls the whole time that I didn’t even see Ev’s work until it was totally finished. I couldn’t believe what he made!!! My husband killed it with this incredible airplane! It’s awesome and Gigi totally loves it. I think we’ll paint it in a few days. Gigi’s airplane is great too. She’s really proud of it and both are sitting next to each other in our play area. I love helping my husband tap into his inner artist. He never thought of himself as an artist growing up but now I think he’d say otherwise and that makes this mama really happy. And my girls basically have creativity pumping through their veins so here’s hoping they enjoy it as much as I do!
We do process art pretty often around here. With two toddlers, process art feels like the perfect introduction to art and materials. My girls are used to creating freely with little or no expectations besides being safe and not eating the materials. It was so nice to bring my husband into the mix this time! It didn’t happen totally on purpose but now that it did, I want to do this more often. We all sat around a table and experimented with crayons in an attempt to make a crayon art sculpture. I learned two things from this experience. 1. Glue gun glue resists wax so you can’t use it to glue bare crayons to bare crayons. Oops. 2. Creating together as a family is an awesome bonding experience that can be so much fun!
It started with this little monkey and a jar of crayons. It is so funny to see what keeps a toddler entertained. D must have dumped that jar, opened and closed the lid over 50 times. After about 20 minutes or so I brought out the glue gun and Evan and Gigi joined us. I was thinking Ev was going to make the crayon sculpture and Gigi would be his assistant, but like I said, we quickly learned the wax and glue was not the best combo for any major building. Instead, we tried melting crayons at the tip and pressing them into cardboard. It was great because D was content to move the crayons back and forth in the jar and Ev helped Gigi with the glue gun. I can hear mom’s gasp as they see my almost 3 year old using a glue gun. Everyone has their own comfort level. Gigi has used a glue gun many times, actually, and it’s never been a problem. We make sure it’s low temperature and I feel comfortable with it. So, there you go.
When the crayons melted a little, it was really cool to rub them over the cardboard. We were able to make them stick up from the cardboard and called it a city. Before long Gigi got the bag of crayon wrappers and added those to our art as well. Ev continued to experiment with trying to bind the crayons together. He doesn’t give up easily!
After about 20 minutes or so, it occurred to me that we were all collaborating on this process and it was so much fun. Family process art can have great depth to it. There is decision making, compromising, sharing and communicating happening throughout. My style is so different from my husband’s. It’s fun to see how he goes about making things. If I didn’t stop him I think he’d still be sitting at the table trying to get the crayons to melt together into a perfectly symmetrical castle or something. I’m much quicker to give up and move on. Regardless of our different styles, it was really fun working together. I love that our kids got to see us working together too, and see we all play a role in creating something. Process art would be a great way to commemorate birthdays. I’ve been looking for a tradition to start and I think we found it. Do you ever create as a family? I’d love to hear about it if you do in the comments below.
Earth Day is around the corner and in general we’re talking a lot about conserving and repurposing things. I love when Gigi opens a gift and then points to the box or bag and says “We can make art out of this, mama.” Proud moments. This invitation to paint is a great use of recyclables and really fun process art for young children.
Did you know Ikea is a great resource for art supplies? They are constantly coming out with new supplies, like these squeeze paint bottles I couldn’t resist. The colors are so pretty and the paint squeezes out really easily. The only bummer is we went through the paint pretty quickly. I’d love them twice the size. My favorite art tool from Ikea is their easel for 14.99! You can’t beat the price and they are perfect for indoor and outdoor painting.
I set out five or six different recycled materials on a tray, including an egg carton, a styrofoam ring, a small tube, half of a cut up water bottle and a strawberry container. I tried to pick things that were easy and interesting for little hands to grab. I put out paint in Ikea flat bowls that come in pretty colors and are really durable and easy to clean. At 1.99 for a package of 6, they are pretty fantastic. We use the silverware and bowls too!
The station was all ready to go when the girls woke from their naps. Their faces are priceless when they walk out into the backyard and see something beautiful to play with. Usually Gigi yells out “Oh my goodness!” and I totally melt. They immediately got to painting, trying each object in the paint. D was quick to just smoosh her hands right into the paint bowls and make hand prints. My girls are definitely not afraid to get messy! I keep a bucket on hand filled with water for hand washing.
This was a great, messy process that my girls really enjoyed. Eventually they added big paint brush strokes to their art and then sprayed it down with some water from a nearby bucket. If you like this idea, please check out some other process art ideas here and here. We are HUGE process art fans for young children. Enjoy!
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.
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!
Welcome to our art playhouse! I’ve been wanting to share it for a while and finally have the chance. It’s 80 degrees in LA so we’ve been spending a lot of time painting, glueing and spraying in the playhouse lately. I feel so grateful to have this incredible space, built by my husband and our cousin Ted from the ground up. Yup, they’re amazing. Isn’t it beautiful?
It’s definitely an anything goes space. We paint the walls. We paint the doors. We paint everything. I have a few go to art tools in the playhouse that keep everyone very happy and I pretty much keep them out year round. We love nancy bottles from Discount School Supply. They are softer than regular bottles, making them really fun and satisfying to squeeze for little ones.
I am also a huge fan of rollers. We have a ton of them. You can get them at Discount School Supply, Michaels, or if you’re lucky a local thrift store. I try to get as many art supplies at thrift stores, garage sales and flea markets as possible. I picked up some big shells on my last visit to the Long Beach Flea Market and we use them to hold everything. I love them! I also like to keep random little things in the playhouse that engage little kids. These birds I picked up in a clearance rack at Michaels are so perfect. We’ve painted them, taped them, stuck them in clay, you name it. They look really delicate but they are pretty sturdy. Love these little guys. Spray bottles are also a must in an art space. We spray constantly. Sometimes I fill them with water and a little food coloring, other times I put liquid water colors, other times just plain old water. Regardless, my girls love to spray. They could spend thirty minutes just “cleaning” the walls of the play house. Spray bottles are great for fine motor strengthening too, which is great. We keep them hanging on an easel from Ikea. They’re only 14.99 and really nice and clean looking, well, at least it used to be.
Evolving canvases are a staple in our playhouse. Every once in a while Aaron’s Brothers has this crazy sale where oversized canvases are like 7 dollars. It’s crazy. Whenever it happens I buy three or four and it’s so worth it. If you can’t find a sale, you can always pick one up at a thrift store or hang up a sheet or canvas fabric. We paint over them for weeks and it always blows my mind how beautiful they come out.
Our playhouse isn’t reserved for art only. We play drums, sing, dance, cook and clean. It’s a magical space I am so proud of. I’ve always wanted to have my own atelier, and somehow it manifested in my backyard.