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Evolving canvases are a process art staple in our house. I know for a lot of moms, process art and painting with kids can feel really intimidating, especially if you’re worried about a big mess! I am here to tell you that 1. You can do this. 2. It doesn’t have to be a disaster area and 3. It is so worth it!!! Really. You can do this. Here’s how.
First , start with a canvas. You can go big, like the one shown above, or you can go way smaller. Whatever you’re comfortable with is a great place to start. This whole process is about non judgment, so start with yourself. Don’t judge the paints you use or don’t use, the brushes you have or don’t have, your discomfort level with getting messy. Don’t judge any of it. If you can free yourself from judgment and control for about 45 minutes, you can enjoy something truly amazing with your kids and they’ll thank you for it. Process art is about the process. There is no right or wrong way to do this. So try and relax. Put on some music and let go. If you can let go, your kids will be more free to let go too. Anyway, back to the canvas. Big or small, one or three, it doesn’t matter. Just get one. Michaels is a great resource. Amazon has a bunch to chose from. Aaron Brothers has great sales if you catch them at the right time. Maybe the easiest and the cheapest way to get a canvas is a thrift store. You can find a used one and just paint over it. That’s what we did here. Trust me, your kids won’t care. They’ll actually probably think it’s pretty cool.
If you’re concerned about making a mess, definitely put a plastic tarp down under the canvas. A plastic table cloth from the dollar store works great. Maybe even put two, just so you’re not preoccupied with that aspect. Hey, put down three if you need to. An outdoor space is ideal for a large painting project. We used our backyard and put the canvas on the floor. Once you find a space, set out the canvas and a bunch of bottles of paint. I know paint has value and we want our kids to learn not to waste, but sometimes it’s really nice to let them just squeeze away carefree. You can purchase a multipack of non toxic tempera paints at Michaels with the 40% off coupon they give out weekly. You’ll have spent less than five dollars for six colorful paint bottles. To me, that’s worth a great art experience for my kids. Ikea has a great multipack as well, and if you’re lucky you might find some really cheap paint at a local yard sale. Set out the paints, some brushes, whatever you have is fine, maybe a roller and some sponges, and let your kids start exploring. If you know ahead of time that all the paint will likely be gone by the end of this activity, you won’t worry about it. If your kids have never done anything like this before, you might have to get messy with them. Show them it’s okay. This could be a new experience you enjoy more than you realized too.
One of the things I love most about process art is the conversation and communication it brings forward. My oldest, Gigi, told me a whole story about a blue flamingo she was painting. “Mama, this is my area,” she said. “I’m painting a blue flamingo. I’m putting green and dark blue to make really darker green to make my blue flamingo.” We do painting a lot. It’s really exciting to hear Gigi’s awareness of color theory start to emerge. This is a direct result of this kind of experience. We talk a lot during the process. I use words like “I wonder…” and “I notice…” to talk about what they are doing. “I wonder what color you’re going to work with next.” I notice you’re doing a lot of big strokes side to side with your paintbrush.” Sometimes my girls will ask me to join in, but mostly they are content to just explore with the materials. Squeezing out the paint is definitely a favorite.
Process art is especially great for one than one child at a time. You could do this for an art play date, just make sure to give out smocks, old t-shirts or go shirtless like my D prefers. I think the pic below sums up her feelings on her experience. Her joy is unstoppable. And yes, we got right into the bath after this.
My last tip is to keep a water bucket on hand for washing hands, bodies and brushes. If it’s warm outside the water play becomes part of the art experience. On several occasions D dumped a bunch of water on the painting. At first Gigi was a little freaked but then I tried to laugh with her and said “wow, I wonder what the water will do to the paints,” and we watched it for a bit before she went right back to painting. I think the more ok, as adults, we are with things, the more our kids can be okay with unexpected things that come up. Life lessons through process art. I’m feelin it.
Process art can definitely take a little practice and getting used to, like anything else that is new, but trust me that it is so worth it. Gigi wants to hang her painting in her room. We left it out in the sun to dry and the paint cracked a little so I think I’ll encourage her to do one more layer before we hang it. Anyway, I hope this is helpful and I hope you give it a try! Just remember to keep breathing when your child decides to sit down smack in the center of the painting and roll around in it. It’s all part of the process : )
If you enjoyed this post and want to read about more ways to experience art with your family try Woodworking with your toddlers and Spring Watercolor Flowers. Both are really fun. And if you ever want to get a book about process art for kids check out any of MaryAnn Kohl’s books. She’s the mothership of all things process art. Thanks for reading along!
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.
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 don’t know about you but I was totally blown away by the opening ceremony at Sochi last week. Granted there were a few technical problems, but overall it was bursting with creativity and just so cool. My daughter is obsessed with being a ballerina these days so when the dancers came out wearing twirling glow in the dark head gear it was pretty much all over for us at that point.
I woke up the next day with visions of glow sticks and duct tape so I headed to Michaels, and picked up some glow sticks, which are also available at the dollar store by the way. We always have duct tape on hand, because I’m semi obsessed, and I got taping. This was really really easy. Measure your child’s waste and cut the tape a little longer than that. Lay the tape out on a table sticky side up. Place as many glow sticks as you want on the tape, then place another piece of duct tape on top of it sticky side down. Cut little slats about a half inch or so around each glow stick so they can move around easily when twirling. This part is important because it gives the skirt movement. Fold over the edges onto each other so there is no sticky part and place some velcro on each end. There you have it folks.
When Gigi woke up, her eyes nearly bugged out of her head. It was still light out so we ran to the bathroom to try it out. As you can see, it works. And it was soooo much fun to watch her twirling and twirling, giggling and laughing. I am dying to have a disco party someday for one of the girl’s birthdays. These would make the best accessories for the party!
Thank you Sochi Olympic Creative Team for inspiring this idea and thank you Ana from BabbleDabbleDo for making light play seem so doable. You guys are awesome.
I was looking through some old photos today and came across this fantastic process art painting activity I did with Gigi last summer. Since I’ve been on a major process art kick I thought I’d share it. I’m all about process art for toddlers for many reasons. 1. It’s developmentally appropriate. 2. It makes kids very happy. 3. Exposing young children to different sensory engaging art materials at a young age helps with language, critical thinking skills, building confidence, decision making and a million other things you can read about here. So that’s why I do all this stuff. But mostly reason number two.
We are so blessed to have a playhouse to do all these activities in. This, I know. If you don’t have an art space, you can cover a table with butcher paper and put a plastic table clothe or tarp on the floor to prevent too much of a mess. Tempera paint washes off easily though, so, hopefully you’ll give this painting idea a try. I taped three pieces of heavy construction paper to the table. Two were white and one was black. I gave Gigi a small cup of white paint and a small cup of black paint. Then I stepped aside.
She was practically dancing as she moved from one piece to the other making marks, swirls and squiggles, first in black paint and then in white. I really think having three pieces made for a great invitation to play. She could sit or stand by each one, move around the table and do her thing.
After she had painted each paper I introduced white circles that someone gave me at work. I am very lucky to be the recipient of everyone else’s “trash” amongst my colleagues. These circles are amazing and I have tons of them. Another easy option would be cut up white and black paper, cut up tissue paper, scraps from the shredder or cotton balls. Just keep it black and white. The circles were a great extension from the painting and kept Gigi engaged for a longer period of time. I always look for ways to extend art activities, either in the moment or for a part two or three…or four.
By the end, everything pretty much looked like the pic above. I was able to grab one piece before it got totally toddlerized that looked so cool with the black and white paint and white dots all over it. I have it hanging in the playhouse. Gigi was just two when we did this. I am so excited to try this again now that she’s approaching three!