Yeah, we took our toddler to an art opening.

Last night we did something many parents of toddlers would think unthinkable. Most of us hunker-down in our houses after the witching hour. We all know when that time is – usually after dinner and right before bed. Your child transforms into a crazed whirligig bouncing off the walls, declaring she wants anything and everything, and demands that the same book is read over and over and over again….

Those minutes before the tot’s bedtime stretch into what seems like hours and hours as you just try to stay sane.

Our friend, Brett Kaufman, had an art opening at 5 Claude Lane Gallery and we wanted to go.

It was slated to start right in the middle of the tot’s usual temper-tantrum time.

But, we wanted to go and show our support and share the wonders of art with our daughter. Brett’s work is really something special and makes you get a little closer for a better look. His work is comprised of itty-bitty perfectly placed photographs positioned together in a dizzyingly amazing mosaic, which creates a full finished image. Really, you get sucked into an artwork and find there are so many layers to unfold.

We got all gussied up and headed out for the city. It was a bit of a rainy night, but it was still exciting and fun to be doing something different from our “normal” routine.

(I used a curling iron and everything.)

As we made our way up the steps to the gallery, it was awesome to see a packed house and all of our friend’s artwork shining in the lights. We had a few moments to chat with him, but he kept getting swept back into the crowd. And, it turned into a Dada night, which meant all the tot wanted was for her daddy to hold her while walking around the colorful artworks.

I actually had a few brief minutes to chat with other adults before the tot started her meltdown. We made it about 45 minutes into the opening, but it was enough to see our friend have great success at his opening, catch up with others, and enjoy some fun in the city.

Congratulations, Brett!

(here’s the blow-by-blow)

Fine art for kids: Collaging with Kandinsky

© Sarah Lipoff 2011

As an art teacher, I’d normally start out with some catchy information about Wassily Kandinsky, but I’ll save you all the gobbledygook. Kandinsky created colorful creations and was part of a collection of artist considered Fauvists. He also hung with some Impressionists and had his toes in with the Abstract-ers, too. He was also a long-time teacher with his buddy Paul Klee at the Bauhaus.

What I love about Kandinsky’s work is that it is really colorful, which grabs the attention of kids and gets them excited about making art. Older kids can explore the concepts of abstract and color with this activity along with learning more about Kandinsky, while the young ones will enjoy tearing, glueing, and basically making a big mess. Collaging is the art of  pasting a collection of things together to make a finished artwork – so why not use some colorful tissue paper with Kandinsky as inspiration! All you need are paintbrushes, glue, a variety of colors of tissue paper, and a paper.

Start by taking a look at Kandinsky’s work. One of my favorites (and the inspiration for this project) is Fragment 2 for Composition 7. Even if you have a wee tot like I do, they get a kick out of looking at art. You can turn it into a learning opportunity by doing some simple color recognition (what color is that?) or checking out simple shapes. For the older crew, ask engaging questions about the artwork to get kids thinking. Discussing why Kandinsky sometimes used non-representational colors might be a good place to start.

So, once you’ve had your fill of Kandinsky’s creations, get out your materials. It’s a good idea to cover your work area for this activity with a plastic garbage bag or some old newspapers – tissue paper is messy! Your child can help get things ready by grabbing some glue and a couple of paintbrushes, along with a variety of colors of tissue paper.

Slosh together equal amounts of glue and water in a small dish. Don’t go crazy or anything – about a Tablespoon each of water and glue will be more than enough. Your child can help mix the water and glue together with a paintbrush.

Invite your child to start tearing colors of tissue paper. Tearing encourages those itty-bitty muscles in your child’s hands honing her fine-motor skills. If you’ve got a young one (two to five years of age) they can go willy-nilly tearing and then coating with a layer of glue water, but for an older child (six and up) you can encourage her to think about design and balance in her artwork before gluing her tissue pieces down, motivating her analytical left brain to work alongside her creative right brain.

Encourage your child to cover her Kandinsky collage with glue to keep all those colorful tissue pieces in place. Once she’s finished, she can take a final look and decide if any additional color splashes are needed.

Once the collage is dry, you can proudly display the artwork next to a print out of your child’s Kandinsky inspiration for others to see!

Scribble scribble



© Sarah Lipoff 2010

My daughter is just about two and totally in love with coloring. She will use anything and everything to make marks and lines whenever she can. Not only is she really into scribbling, she spends good chunks of time concentrating while working – which is pretty amazing for this age! Most almost-two-year-olds have a three-second attention span.


So, for those of you out there with a wee tot about the same age, you’ve probably exhausted all patience for scribbles. You’ve put out countless crayons, markers, crayons again, and even pencils for your child to experiment with and now have a fridge covered in scribbles. The scribble stage is the first developmental stage of art, and your child’s first foray into developing his fine-motor skills, concentration, and creativity. Fine-motor skills are the ability to pinch and grasp, which builds those growing itty-bitty muscles in your child’s hands. And, yes, your child may find scribbling to be the next best thing until he’s around the age of three, or even up to the age of five!

There are lots of fun and exciting ways to encourage your little scribbler. At our house, we have some favorite go-to activities that are simple and also great for development. I think you’ll find if you take the time to play and scribble with your child, you’ll both have a rewarding time creating together!

Music and marks – Listening to music gets kids moving – and also motivates budding brains to think in mathematical ways! Tape a sheet of paper on a work surface for your child. If you have a table he can easily reach on his own, he’ll feel free to make his marks. Otherwise, set your child up in the high chair or a booster seat at the table so he can wiggle around safely. Now play some fun music! Encourage your child to move and groove while using crayons to scribble to the beat. If he seems to be losing interest, try changing the music and see how he responds!

Painting surprise – Using a paintbrush gets a bit boring after a while, so mix things up by introducing your child to something different, such as a feather, leaf, or branch! Pre-mix some water downed tempera paint on paper plates along with putting out a collection of new and interesting painting tools. Craft feathers are always enjoyable to dip and delicately make lines and sprigs from evergreen trees or long leaves from flowers are lots of fun, too! Encourage your artist to mix his paints together to see what colors he creates – introducing basic color theory concepts!

Glue mess – Glue is sticky and ooey-gooey. Some youngsters aren’t excited about getting their hands messy, so why not use a glue bottle as a mark making tool! Your child can squeeze away at a slightly opened glue bottle and scribble all over a black piece of construction paper. This project has the potential to get messy, so set your child up for success at a work table along with taping the corners of his paper so it doesn’t slid all over the place. You can help your child get started by squeezing some glue on his paper and then letting him continue to scribble and squeeze. Let the paper dry overnight and the next day, he can scribble all over that dried glue with colored chalk! What fun – and super cool!

So, what are you waiting for? Go scribble!

Fall leaf spray-painting

© Sarah Lipoff 2010

I feel like the last days of fall are upon us. As soon as Thanksgiving is over, it’s time to get ready for winter. The Christmas ornaments come out, everyone’s blaring holiday songs, and the snow starts drifting down (well, not at my house). I figured it was our last chance to do a fun fall art activity. Because, starting Monday, it’s all about cooking and cleaning (and not stressing) for turkey day!

Leaves are really beautiful things. Just like snowflakes, no two are exactly the same. They each have different little bumps, curves, colors or lines, which makes fall leaves so wonderful. The wee tot and I headed outdoors for a fall leaf hunt and selected a few to use for our project.

I helped her get started by placing some small bits of rolled tape on the back of the leaves so she could press them onto a paper. Older kids could roll the tape and position the leaves themselves, which encourages fine-motor skills and creativity!

Now, before the babe could pull the leaves off the paper and crumble them to bits, I handed her a spray bottle filled with some water-downed red tempera paint. I showed her how to press the top of the spray bottle and she kept herself quite busy trying to get it to work for several minutes. I helped her out by covering the paper with a couple of good squirts. Your child can keep spraying her paper until it is evenly covered with one color, or fill another spray-bottle with a different water-downed tempera paint color for her to use, too.

Then, the really really fun part. I saturated a paint brush with some yellow watercolor paint and let her splatter the paper. Kids of all ages love to splatter paint, which is great – but super messy. So, make sure you’re working in an area clear of white fabric, carpeting, or, you know, pretty much anything you care about.

Encourage your child to try a different color of watercolor paint to splatter all over her leaves to see how the colors blend. Not only is she having a great time making a colorful mess, she’s learning about color and how color mixing works!

Let the painting dry for a couple of hours and then gently remove the taped leaves from the paper, revealing the leaf shapes surrounded by lots of color!

Help your child find a special place to display her finished project – or make several more to use as place mats for Thanksgiving!

Fine art for kids: Mondrian art activity for toddlers

© Sarah Lipoff 2010

The days are getting shorter, but the afternoons sure seem to be getting longer. Those hours after the wee tot wakes up from nap are sometimes super challenging, with crying, wailing, foot stomping, and plain boredom (and I’m not just talking the babe). Time to get out the paints!

Young kids might not seem like they can do much more than scribble, but that’s what they are supposed to do. During a child’s first creative marks, she is figuring out how to hold a crayon or paint brush and learning what she can do with it. That doesn’t mean she’s too young to try new things, learn more about art – or look at famous art! Repetition is key, and doing the same thing over and over sure helps hone skills (such as holding a mark making implement) but can get boring for parent and child. So, why not mix things up with the help of a famous artist – Mondrian!

Piet Mondrian was an interesting artist who painted in a way no one had done before. At first he painted in a realistic manner, but later began exploring cubism, a movement in art where things were a bit more abstract and angled. This is when he discovered the wonders of squares and painted some of his most famous artworks such as Composition with Yellow, Blue, and Red. This is a simple painting focusing on geometric shapes and the primary colors, which is great inspiration for an artwork your wee tot can totally master!

Help your child get started by using some black plumbing or electrical tape. You probably have some hiding in your junk drawer or the garage or basement. Cut lengths of the tape and create a geometric design on a sheet of 9 by 12-inch white construction or drawing paper for your child to enjoy painting. Older kids can cut and position the strips of tape on their own, creating a Mondrian inspired design.

Share with your child examples of Mondrian’s artwork. Encourage her color recognition skills by pointing to each color and seeing if she can tell you what it is. For the really wee tots, this is a wonderful opportunity to build language development! And, don’t forget discussing the shapes she sees in the painting. This introduces shapes and math concepts to your child. Older kids can see if they can count all the shapes in the painting!

Now your child can use red, yellow, and blue tempera or watercolor paint to fill in the squares. Don’t worry if she’s not into staying in the lines – younger kids don’t always get that concept. Older kids can concentrate on staying in the lines and not having the same color square positioned next to each other – just like Mondrian!

Once your child’s Mondrian inspired creation is dry, it can be placed in a frame and displayed somewhere in your home showing your child how much her artwork means to you!

© Sarah Lipoff 2010

The painting

I had an old canvas lying about, and after doing our circle art activity the other day, was inspired to attack it – with the babe! I figured she’d help create a wonderfully modern art creation.

And, she sure did.

Like what you see? YOU can do it, too! All you need is a canvas of any size, some acrylic paints, old clothes (for you and the babe), and lots and lots of patience.

It also helps to have no expectations for the outcome of the painting, and let your little one go with what feels right for her. I moved the canvas around to help my daughter paint the spots that were just out of reach, and encouraged her to use big-bold brush strokes.

We had a great time working together – and enjoying a bath when we were done!

Re-using art

© Sarah Lipoff 2010

At the end of the school year, I would bundle up all the art projects that had managed to hang around the art room and send them home with their owners, or if the opportunity arose, press the collections into the hands of parents. Often, moms and dads would give me a blank stare and mumble that they already have so much artwork cluttering up their home (SUCH a shame), what are they supposed to do with these?

Old bits of random artwork can be turned into wonderful new things. It can be reinvented in ways you might be surprised with. Instead of tossing artwork into the trash (which really doesn’t send a great message to your kids) make projects re-using them and showing your kids that you DO care about their creativity.

A simple way to turn an almost-tossed watercolor painting into something unique is to cut out a selected area and glue it to the front of a blank card. Kids can create tons of these and then send them off to loved ones, or bundle them with ribbon and give as gifts. I don’t know about you, but I still love getting mail. I know grandma does, too.

Create a fun collage with kids by helping them cut out all their, and your, favorite parts of artworks. Use a large sheet of tag board to collage them in an interesting way. This way all the best bits are saved and the rest can be tossed away. On the back of the collage your child can write something special about that year of school – a sort of remembrance to enjoy later in life.

Turn old artworks into wrapping paper the next time you don’t feel like paying $3.99 for a roll of printed-paper. Watercolor paintings work really well for wrapping, especially those done on easel paper. Sometimes tempera paint can be a bit flaky, so take a dry brush to the artwork and give it a good brushing before wrapping.

Shred the artwork and use it to make paper. It’s a fun project that everyone will enjoy!

Laminate artworks and use them as place mats.

So, instead of throwing away your child’s art, make it even more memorable by re-using it. Your child will appreciate it!

Children and Their Art: Stages of Development


© Sarah Lipoff 2010

Your child just spent five minutes scribbling on a sheet of paper and then proceeded to tell you about the amazing picture she created. As you nod your head in mock understanding while she explains the dragon, castle, and trees in her scribbling, you wonder what IS really going on, and if your child ever will actually draw the things she is describing. Have no fear, scribbling is an actual stage of development in art, and in no time, your budding artist will be creating amazing abstract artworks and eventually realistic representations of the world around her.

A child’s first foray into the world of art is called the scribbling phase, because she scribbles lots – and lots. While scribbling, she is mastering the fine motor skill of holding her marking instrument of choice, whether it is a crayon, pencil, or that permanent marker you left out by mistake. Offer your budding Rembrandt lots of coloring implements along with many, many sheets of paper to help hone her skills.

Along with developing fine motor skills through scribbles, young children are making large hand and arm movements while making their marks. Children are also learning they can express themselves through lines, shapes, squiggles, and lots and lots of nothings. These short bits of coloring are allowing your little one to learn about herself, what she likes, and how making marks feel –  sometimes before she can tell you about her creations!

Once the scribbling gets old (for you and your babe), youngsters move onto the preschematic stage, or the stage of making symbols. The scribbling stage moves into the preschematic stage when children are around three years of age, but that isn’t set in stone. Some hit it earlier or later – so don’t freak if your child is still scribbling away at five. Those random marks and scribbles start meaning something – and your young artist is insistent on telling you all about it. Many times the preschematic stage evolves along with language development. Those crazy shapes become mom, dad, the dog, your neigbor… Make sure to listen carefully and ask lots of questions about your child’s artwork – she has so much to share!

After the preschematic stage, children move into the schematic stage where artwork begins to become more representational. Children around the age of six or seven start drawing objects that look like what they are, and shapes that begin to correlate with the desired outcome. But, don’t make the mistake of assuming what your child has created before she tells you!  This is a special stage of art, and young artists can easily have their delicate butterfly wings stepped on. Allow your child to lead you through the story of her art and encourage her to continue down the path she’s heading.

Most of us remember when we hit the stage of realism, or the “I can’t draw” stage, around the age of 10. This is when many children decide either they are, or are not, an artist. We remember that time someone said to us, “that doesn’t look like a ______!” and had our heart sink. Young children are going through many things during these dramatic years of their life (puberty), which can make encouraging talented artists challenging. Offer praise to your young adult and find ways to show your appreciation of her artistic skills. Showing how to praise positively will encourage her to do the same of others.

And then, your small child has progressed through her artistic development and is off to college – well, not really. But, it does seem to go by in the blink of an eye, doesn’t it? Spend time sharing your love of the arts with your child, and how proud you are of her artistic talents (whether you are super-excited about her interest in art or not). Creating positive appreciation for the visual arts helps create a well-rounded adult, with a respect and understanding of the world around her.

Art and your baby

Taking care of your baby is lots of work and sometimes finding the time to do something creative can be overwhelming. The dishes need to be washed, the laundry done and the shopping taken care of. Don’t neglect doing an educational and fun activity with your babe! Not only will it encourage your baby’s developing skills, it will help you bond with your little one!

Finger painting is a super easy way to do an art activity with your small child and also have a nice finished art product. Use red, yellow and blue finger paint on a small piece of finger paint paper taped to a table or the tray of your baby’s high chair to create a fun (and messy) art project. Protect baby’s clothes with an old t-shirt or put a bib on her. Hose baby down when you’re done or coordinate finger painting projects on bath day and toss her into a soapy tub when finished. Place the finished finger paintings in a decorative frame for an adorable display.

Create a digital picture collage with your baby. Do a quick photo shoot with your little one while they are enjoying a fun activity or eating their favorite food. Take several shots of them close up, making sure the pictures are in focus along with action shots and pictures from afar. Print the pictures out from your photo shoot and collage them on a large sheet of paper. Make sure to include a date on the collage to memorialize your photo shoot! Hang the finished artwork in baby’s room so they can enjoy looking at themselves and learning all about the parts of their face and fun expressions.

Hand and foot prints are a fun way to document how big baby is getting. Using a plain white onesie and some fabric paint, you can create a memorable print, as well as a fun outfit. Lay the onesie out flat with a sheet of paper between the front and back. Paint baby’s hand or foot with fabric paint. Press the hand or foot onto the onesie and quickly remove. Make sure to clean off baby! Allow the fabric paint to dry and then follow fabric paint directions to finish.

If you aren’t ready to tackle a full on art project with your little one, strap them into the stroller and head out to the local art museum. A walk through a gallery or art museum introduces your baby to the arts and is a great way to spend an afternoon.

No Matter what simple art projects you enjoy with your little one, know you are helping them to explore the arts and cherish them for years to come.

Is baby too young for the SFMOMA?

© Sarah Lipoff 2010

The other day some fellow friends along with my husband and I took our wee ones to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. I have wanted to visit the SFMOMA for years but for some reason,  just haven’t made it. They have a Richard Avedon exhibit right now (and only a bit longer) so we all really wanted to go. We assumed the babies did too (even though they couldn’t say so).

I loaded up the stroller (do they even allow strollers at the SFMOMA?), packed a pacifier, a collection of easy to eat foods and we headed out. At no point did I stop to think about what would happen inside the museum – what would happen if my precious baby decided she DIDN’T want to see Richard Avedon at the SFMOMA. I was only thinking of myself and how excited I was to go to the museum and hang with my friends. So selfish I am.

We strollered on into the museum, all agape at the amazing artwork and architecture. The babies were doing just fine and seemed pretty content to just roll along and take it all in. Then, we got into the special Avedon exhibit. For absolutely no reason, my wee baby decided she had had enough. The tears were streaming and the cries were loud. I waited for the upset stares and the security people to usher me out. I pressed a hand over my wailing baby’s mouth and headed for an exit. Surprisingly, a guard just smiled at me and told me to not worry about it – she is just a baby after all. Wow!

What a fabulous day we all had! It was awesome to see artwork up close and personal that I knew so well from textbooks. My baby might not be able to distinguish between a Picasso and a Rivera after her visit to the SFMOMA, but she did get a good wave in at the Magritte.