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I love creating butterfly art this time of year. This Reggio inspired butterfly art project for kids is great for ages 4 and up. In case your unfamiliar with the Reggio approach to learning, here is a good Reggio starting point. We used an old box frame found at a thrift store and paint markers to create beautiful butterfly art for my daughter’s room. My girls are too young for the paint markers but they were able to help with the collage we made for the background. Here’s how we did it.
First, I downloaded a pretty image of a butterfly from butterflyutopia.com. I placed it between the clear plastic of the frame and the cardboard insert. I traced the butterfly with different paint markers. Paint markers are so much fun! I’ve used them for tons of projects, including shrinky dinks, vases and washer necklaces. Though, they are pretty stinky, so it’s best to use them outside where there is lots of ventilation. This project can be done with sharpies as well.
Kids LOVE to trace real objects. I used to do this all the time when I taught kindergarten, using transparency paper. It was such a big hit, especially when we studied penguins. The kids felt so empowered when their drawings looked realistic. It was a real confidence booster, especially for those kids who have a harder time with free hand drawing. I used this technique for self portrait shadow boxes, my all time favorite art project for kids.
Once I completed painting in the butterfly, Gigi helped me collage the cardboard insert with blue, white and black tissue paper shapes. These can be found at most party stores and craft supply stores. You can easily cut your own from large tissue paper as well. These were precut. She glued the shapes to the cardboard using a paintbrush and glue mixed with a little bit of water. Gigi is not three yet, so she was done after a few shapes. I helped fill the whole background. Older kids will have more patience with this step. You could also just cover the cardboard with one big piece of tissue paper or even color it. After drying, simply place the plastic back over the cardboard and your butterfly art is complete. We love ours. Gigi is super proud of it and claims she made the butterfly too. Someday she will. These kids grow up so fast. Have fun!
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 am so excited to share the culmination and process behind 5 months of hard work to create this Bottle Cap Mural! This mural project is an amazing example of how capable children are given the opportunity to express themselves in new and innovative ways. I am so proud of the 208 students who collected over TEN THOUSAND bottle caps, caps that otherwise would have gone into the trash, to create this incredible ocean mural. There were so many valuable steps involved, all of which I will discuss here. I couldn’t have done this without the help and encouragement of my boss (THANK YOU RACHEL!!!) and our school community. I also relied heavily on an incredible book called Bottlecap Little Bottlecap. I am so grateful to the author, Michelle Stitzlein, who made this all seem so doable. It really is!!! If you are a teacher looking for ways to encourage your student’s to help the environment, learn new skills, take on a challenge and build community, this is an amazing project! I hope you enjoy reading about it.
We learn about oceans as a school, so an ocean theme to our mural felt like a natural fit. First every student in our school had the opportunity to brainstorm ocean ideas and sketch them out on regular 8.5×11 paper. I kept ocean books on the drawing table to inspire kids and give them ideas. We collected all the sketches and combined them into one big ocean design. I tried to use as many ideas as I could so kids would look at the mural and say “Hey, that’s my idea!” Fortunately, my intention worked. So many kids felt responsible for each design detail of the mural.
While we designed, we also counted and sorted. Our school ranges from K-6. It was fascinating to see that the sixth graders enjoyed the sorting and counting process as much as the kindergartners. We reused plastic bags collected by teachers over the years to sort the caps. I had collection boxes for caps spread out throughout the school. The first week of the project I would lay in bed at night filled with anxiety. “What are we going to do if we don’t collect any bottle caps? I’m going to lose my job!” Then I got to school Monday morning and almost all the boxes were filled to the brim! This was in ONE WEEK. It took us two months total to collect over 10,000 caps of all different sizes, shapes and colors. If there is one thing I learned from this experience, community is a powerful thing.
Once we collected and sorted all the caps, we had to get the art onto the wood panels. I had bought three 4×7 wood panels at our local lumber yard. This was a little pricey, but it was the only cost of the project in addition to the screws. You might get lucky and have a connection to a lumber yard, or hardware store. I got a great discount at the lumber yard just by telling them I’m a teacher. Thanks Anawalt! First, we painted the panels white. Different classes got to do different tasks. Not every class got to paint. Every student did get to drill, but we’ll get to that in a bit. After we painted the wood white and let it dry, we propped the panels up against a wall and projected the kids art up on the panels. This was a little tricky, getting it to fit just right, but it was more for the experience than anything else, so I felt ok going in after and fixing any areas that needed fixing. We had kindergartners and first graders tracing the projected art on the panels. It felt so Reggio and so right. I think this may have been my favorite part of the process. I can get high just thinking about it. It was really cool.
Then we painted. We used regular tempera paint. The kids talked about what colors worked best for different areas. They stretched their bodies over the wood boards to get every last spot. They collaborated and communicated. They laughed and relaxed. Painting took us almost two weeks. At first we were going to leave the boards white, but one of our amazing parent volunteers, who is also an artist, really encouraged us to take the time to paint and I’m so glad she did. This was a really worthwhile step in the process and it made the mural really pop. Some kids wanted us to leave it just as a painting because it looked so pretty. To be honest, I was a little scared myself it wouldn’t look as good once we added the bottle caps. Fortunately, that wasn’t the case.
Next step, and perhaps the most highly anticipated step, was the drilling. Wow, was this fun. Every student from kindergarten to sixth grade learned how to operate a power drill safely under a teacher’s supervision, as well as many incredible parent volunteers. They all did it and they did it well. There is a lot of discussion online about kids and tools. I am a huge advocate of children working with tools. I think children are capable way beyond our expectations and if we raise the bar for them, they will pole vault over it. I’m so proud of these kids. We did not have one accident. If ever a child was being silly with a drill, they were asked to sit aside, but really, it was few and far between that that even happened. They were mesmerized, excited, curious and engaged. They were also really surprised over how easy it was to do. If I’m being really honest, I had never used a drill before this project. (AHH! Don’t tell my boss!) I was really surprised too and now I am totally hooked. I am asking for a tool belt for my next birthday! (A really nice natural leather one, Ev, if you’re reading this.)
To say the mural is gorgeous, to me, is an understatement. It’s magnificent. It exudes joy, innovation and creativity. It even sparkles in the sunlight! Our nursery school classes have been taking mini field trips to our yard just to see it. They talk about perspective and artist’s like Claude Monet. They talk about pointillism. They discuss recycling. They ask questions. They make comments. They touch the mural and wonder who knows what. This is the part I didn’t think about. The part that keeps going. This mural belongs to the children. It’s theirs, from start to finish, though it’s really never finished. It keeps living and breathing in these kids and I am so very proud of them for accomplishing such an awesome task. And, if I’m being really honest, I’m pretty proud of myself too for being a part of it.
My husband never ceases to amaze me. Just when I think I’ve got him down, he busts out some spontaneous idea that makes me fall in love with him all over again. This time, we were all sitting on the couch relaxing, planning out the day, when Ev says “I’m going to do an art project with the girls.” Next thing I know he’s set up an entire art station for marble milk printing. I mean, is this guy for real? How did this even happen? Apparently he watched some show that did a little milk printing tutorial and he was inspired. I’ve done this a few times with my kindergarten class years ago, but if you want to read an amazing tutorial on how to make marble milk paper go see my friend Ana, over at Babble Dabble Do. She’s amazing. Anyway, we did a basic version with materials we had around the house and it was a HUGE hit with the girls.
First Ev set up some shallow white trays and helped Gigi pour in some milk. Then she squirted some drops of food coloring in the trays. Kids freaking LOVE food coloring. At least mine do. They just want to squeeze all those little bottles all day long. We’ve gone through about a million. And whoever says food coloring does not come off is wrong. If this was true my entire family would have permanently green hands. Anyway, then comes the super super fun part. Ev gave the girls liquid soap in a pump and helped them pump it onto the food coloring drops. That’s when the coolest chemical reaction ever happens. Moving rainbow magic! Seriously, I never get tired of watching the reaction. You have to try it to see for yourself but take a look below to get the idea.
After the girls had a few tries with the soap we placed some white card stock in the tray to absorb the color. The food coloring left a beautiful color rainbow on each piece of paper, which we decided to turn into a Valentine’s Day book. After the paper dries, fold it in half, gather up some pieces and tie a piece of string or ribbon around the paper to make a book. I cut out some hearts from tissue paper and let Gigi glue them onto each page. I love extending art projects over a few days. I think it’s a great lesson for kids to see that important work takes time and art is special and takes effort, sometimes a lot of effort. Besides, Gigi loves anything involving glue.
Ev totally earned his crafting stripes with this one. D’s not in the pics, but she was there the whole time trying to keep up with her sister. Ev was doing his best to move from G to D, trying to help them while preventing everything from spilling all over the place. After he finished, he turned to me and said “I don’t know how you do this. It’s nearly impossible.” I’m pretty sure he was sweating while he said it too, which made a crafting mama secretly smile ; )
Yay for my first Christmas craft! I hope you like it. I combined a few of my favorite craft techniques; tape resist and salt painting, and it was so much fun. First I taped on some Christmas trees with washi tape. I got this tape as my weekly gift from Alt Summit. Anyone else going? I can’t wait! The second step was to watercolor the whole paper. I recruited my girls for this task. I used liquid water color paints that were barely saturated with water. I just added a splash so the colors would be really vibrant. Gigi was able to paint the whole paper, while D painted her face more than anything else. This was one of the first times she was officially included in one of our crafts and she had a blast. It was a good reminder to me that it’s not just Gigi that can participate anymore. Let them all paint!
After the watercolor painting I brought out the “snow,” i.e. kosher salt. Thanks to my girl Lisa, one of the amazing nursery school teachers at Bay Nimoy Nursery School, who helped collaborate on this project and troubleshoot when my snow wasn’t showing up. It’s all about the KOSHER salt!) D skipped this part but Gigi was all about it. She sprinkled, dumped and mooshed snow till her hearts content.
Lastly, we decorated our tree! You can do this with anything from googley eyes to sequins to beads or just use plain old markers. If you leave out the glue it can also be a great invitation to play. You can decorate the tree over and over. I hope you like my very first ever Christmas craft. I think I’m kind of hooked. No offense Hanukkah.
With Hanukkah fast approaching, I busted out the Hanukkah Dreidel Garland I made with my kindergarten class a few years ago. It’s a little banged up but still going strong. I gave the kids templates of a dreidel and they traced them onto recycled shopping bags. It fees so good to reuse these paper bags. They really accumulate, especially since I constantly forget our reusable ones in the car! After we cut out the dreidel shapes I put out different scraps of paper, scissors, glue and markers to make characters from the dreidels. It was really fun and a big hit with the kids. I attached the dreidels together with the bag handles and tape on the back of the garland. Really simple. A super fun and environmentally friendly holiday craft project. Woo hoo!
Here is a list of other Hanukkah craft projects you might want to try out this year or check out my Hanukkah craft list from a few years back. You can see old pics of this garland when it was all shiny and new.
1. Make a dreidel abstract art mural from cut out dreidels and other odds and ends on clear contact paper taped up the wall. (sticky side up)
2. If you have tons of your child’s art laying around and don’t know what to do with it, you can cut it into Hanukkah shapes like a menorah, dreidel or candles and hang on the wall.
3. Make a menorah from clay, candles and different gems and feathers. This might be especially fun or Thanksgivikah this year. The feathers can represent a turkey.
4. Make a dreidel necklace from sculpey.
5. Create a felt story board with Hanukkah symbols to tell the story of the Festival of Lights.
Happy Holidays Everyone!