We haven’t really gotten into the whole Easter thing. Our little one isn’t begging for candy-filled baskets or mentioned the Easter bunny yet, so we’re kind of going with it. But I did have a bit of inspiration for an egg-ish art activity using my daughter’s new favorite thing — lemons. After making those tuna cakes, she’s been begging for slices of lemon to nibble on.
This is a simple project that introduces kids to pastels and ovals while creating lemon egg shapes, perfect for decorating during the Easter season. Instead of cutting the lemon in half through the middle, cut lengthwise and then trim to create an oval shape.
Fold a sheet of paper towel in half, and then in half again, and select a few bright colors of tempera paint with your child for the activity. Squeeze a few big dabs of each color on the paper towel along with a big blob of white paint. Older kids can use a paintbrush to coat the lemon sides with paint while younger tots can simple press the lemon into the paint. While your child is painting, you can chat about all the different things that are oval, like eggs, lemons, footballs…
Now your child can press the lemon egg on her paper and see what it looks like. For the next coat, encourage your child to paint or press the lemon with white paint to see how it changes its color.
Keep painting and printing until you’ve got a paper full of pastel colored egg shapes. Once dry, find the perfect spot to display the finished creation.
And we couldn’t resist a few slices of fresh (unpainted) lemon slices once we were all done with our artwork.
Earth Day is right around the corner, and with Easter just behind us, I’ve got a stock-pile of egg cartons just begging for repurposing. I had the opportunity to share my favorite ideas with Parents.com, showcasing eight fun and simple ways to transform those egg cartons into something really special. Earth Day is all about celebrating nature and remembering to appreciate the Earth by reusing, repurposing, and recycling. These egg cup activities do all that – and more!
So head on over to Parents.com to check out 8 Creative Egg Carton Crafts and get busy with your kiddies! Want more egg carton inspiration? Check out my adorable egg cup mask that the tot and I put together along with these other awesome egg carton activities.
Everyone is having fun with egg cartons!
With Easter right around the corner, I wanted to make something special with the tot to celebrate. When I think of Easter memories of candy, cookies, candy, a few Easter egg hunts, candy, and more cookies come to mind. Vanilla, lemon, sugar, whipped cream, and chocolate top my list of Easter goodie must-haves. We had some lovely fresh lemons, which were perfect for tossing together these wonderfully tangy cookies. And we topped them in a really special way – by hand-painting them with vanilla frosting.
This is just about the easiest cookie recipe to put together and inviting the kiddies to slather tangy egg-shaped cookies with edible paint is a perfect way to spend Easter together. Not up for the baking part? Simply pick up a roll of store-bought refrigerated cookie dough and you’re good to go.
1/2 c room temperature butter, cut into small cubes
1/4 c powdered sugar
1/4 c sugar
Zest of one lemon
Dash of salt
Juice of that zested lemon
1 c flour
For one color of edible paint:
1 tablespoon powdered sugar
Drop of vanilla
1-3 drops of food coloring
Simply toss all the ingredients (sans the flour) for the cookies in a medium-sized mixing bowl and give things a whir with a hand mixer. Once things have come together, slowly add the flour until it’s all incorporated.
Tear off a length of plastic wrap and smooth out flat. Spoon the tangy cookie batter onto the plastic wrap in a line. Now roll up the plastic wrap while rolling the dough, (just like you’re making a play-dough snake) and twist the ends, creating a happy log o-cookie dough, just like you pick up at the store.
Place the wrapped cookie dough on a plate and place in the fridge for at least 2-hours. Or, pop in the freezer for an hour.
Preheat your oven to 350 F and lightly grease a sheet pan – or cover with a silpat or parchment paper. Unwrap your cookies and slice on a slight bias (or diagonal) about 1/4 inch thick, and place on the sheet pan allowing about 1-inch space between cookies.
Pop in the hot oven for 10-12 minutes or until the edges start to brown.
Remove from the pan and let cool before painting.
While the cookies chill, make the edible paints. It’s as easy as mixing together the powdered sugar, vanilla, food coloring, and water for each cool you’d like to make. The finished paint should be the consistency of tempera paint. We kept things simple and made red, yellow, and blue paint. And, so things were really nice and clean, I ran our paintbrushes through the dishwasher before painting.
Once the cookies are cool, invite your child to use the edible paints to decorate the lemony Easter egg cookies. Let the frosting set and then enjoy! We piled ours up in a bowl full of green raffia alongside some plain unpainted cookies for a sunny centerpiece.
The weather outside is definitely no longer frightful. The blossoms are blossoming, bulbs are popping flowers, and the grass sure seems a lot greener. While out on a walk with the tot the other day, she got caught up admiring the fresh yellow flowers adorning the sidewalk. She picked several, positioned a few in her hair, and then proceeded to squish the rest of them up.
Oh, to be three.
When we got home, she was determined to paint a picture. While getting out the paint, I had a flash of those dreamy, romantic paintings by Monet. I grabbed the trusty laptop and pulled up a few images for the two of us to check out. Claude Monet is a mega artist – pretty much everyone has heard of him or seen his art at some point. He is considered the Big Daddy of French Impressionism, which was all about capturing the light and impression of a scene or object through small brushstrokes of color. In fact, the style was named after his painting titled, Impressionism, Sunrise 1872.
I shared a few examples of Monet’s water lily paintings with my daughter while encouraging her to comment on colors in the pictures. I gathered together the colors she yelled out along with two sheets of white paper.
This is an art activity perfect for kids of all ages. The really young can explore making marks and learning more about color theory by watching the colors blend together. Older kiddies can focus on color arrangement and creating a finished painting just like one of Monet’s.
Offer your child several different colors of tempera paint similar to the ones found in Monet’s water lilies’ paintings or colors she thinks of during spring. Along with a collection of paints, have a few paintbrushes close by, too.
Place one of the sheets of paper on your workspace. This gets a bit messy, so place the paper on a few sheets of newspaper or scrap paper. Now your child can dip a paintbrush in a color of tempera paint and dab, dab away on the paper, just like Monet.
Encourage your child to select a fresh paintbrush, dip into a new color, and continue dabbing. Keep dipping and dabbing until the paper is just about covered.
Now place the other white paper next to the painted paper. For the younger ones, offer a nice wet paintbrush to use for swirling all over the paper. Older kids can dip and paint the water around the paper until it’s lightly coated (not dripping wet…).
Carefully flip the water-downed paper on top of the dappled painting and give it a light press all around. The bit of water will help blend and swirl the dabs of paint together, giving it a really wonderful Impressionistic feel. Some of the paint might squeeze out the sides, but that’s okay.
Lift off the paper revealing your child’s watery, colorful spring impressionistic creations. Display on the family fridge or use for making bright spring cards!
We’ve had a few glorious days up here and all the cherry blossoms are out making me feel like it’s already spring. The tot and I have enjoyed getting back outdoors and starting our garden. While planting our new strawberry plants I had an idea for an art activity that might also introduce her to a few new things to eat.
Spring green veggie prints.
I dug around in the fridge for all things veggie and green, and then we walked on over to the local grocery store to pick up a few additional seasonal goodies. With some fresh asparagus and peas in our bag, we headed home. This is a fun art activity to do with kids of all ages. The really young can go nuts stamping with the veggies, creating random collections of shapes and older kids can spend more time concentrating on the creation of a unified and balanced finish artwork.
Start by gathering together all the green veggies you have. We used broccoli, asparagus, cucumber, celery, peas, and spinach leaves. If your child is old enough, allow them to slice some of the vegetables for creating better prints (with supervision, of course!). We sliced the broccoli and cucumber to reveal a flat surface to print. We also opened up one of the peas to create a unique pattern.
Get out some green paint – tempera or watercolor – and begin slathering it on with a brush. Now your child can gently press the spring green vegetables onto a white sheet of paper, revealing a fun print.
Keep painting and printing until the entire paper is covered. Once the paper is dry, older kids can hone writing and language skills by using a black marker to label one of each of the prints.
But, that’s not all – gather everyone around for a spring green veggie snack! Place a few samples of the vegetables you used for making the prints (fresh ones – not the painted ones!), and invite your child to take a taste. You can even mix up a simple dip using plain yogurt, dill, salt and pepper, or dip in one of your favorite salad dressings.
My tot gave fresh peas a try for the first time…
While on vacation (and staring at the beautiful ocean last week) I was reminded of a few really stellar outdoor installation artists and the amazing natural materials that can be used to get creative. The tot spent hours and hours finding sticks to use for drawing in the sand, and the last day of our vacation, really got into collecting rocks, checking them out, and then giving them a toss into the big collections rocks around the beach.
(which was okay because there was seriously no one else on the beach otherwise throwing rocks would have been a big no-no….)
Since we’ve been home, no one’s been really excited with our “real lives.” The beach was awesome, and who doesn’t love spending hours and hours on a desolated stretch of beach lounging about while chatting and reading and watching the tot do silly dances while loudly chanting the A,B,C’s? So the other afternoon during what should’ve been nap time (but had turned into toddler tantrum time) I got out the trusty laptop and scooped up the tot to check out a few examples of outdoor installation art by Robert Smithson.
Born in New Jersey, this American artist is not only an artist artist, but also a published author. From poems to prose to outdoor installations, Smithson was a busy guy. His famous work, Spiral Jetty, was completed in 1970, created with mud and salt crystals in Utah’s Great Salt Lake. This curving length of sometimes exposed man-made earth was one of Smithson’s final creations and took six days to complete. After the tot and I spent a few moments checking out the different images of the Spiral Jetty, I shuffled her over to the table to get started on our own Robert Smithson inspired creations.
Offer your child a sheet of white paper and a set of watercolor paints, a small container of water, and a big paintbrush. For the younger kiddies, this is a great opportunity for building color recognition skills. Invite your child to coat her paper with only blue watercolor paint. Older kids can concentrate on creating an area of blue that is representational of an ocean or large area of water, even adding details such as waves.
Once your child has finished painting, allow the paper to dry, which really doesn’t take very long. While you’re waiting you can gather what you need for creating the second part of the Smithson creation. Take a minute to discuss the outdoors and how natural objects can be turned into art – even mud! This encourages kids to think of the earth as art, developing earth science and environmental concepts
The Spiral Jetty was created using mud and salt crystals, which might get kind of messy. So, instead, gather together some glitter (I used silver and red), salt, and sand (like the stuff in the sandbox). You’ll need about 1 tablespoon of each. Have your child measure and then add the sand painting ingredients in a small bowl, which also enhances and encourages math skills.
Invite your child to get out glue and a small container. She can squeeze out a good dollop of glue and then thin with a bit of water.
Now get out that blue paper back, place a couple of sheets of newspaper underneath, and encourage your child to dip her big brush in that glue water and paint a big spiral on her paper, just like Robert Smithson’s Spiral Jetty. Invite her to sprinkle the sand mixture all over the glue water, totally honing her fine-motor skills.
Leave the creation flat on the table for an hour or so and then your child can carefully lift up her paper (which can get a bit messy – hence the newspaper to catch all that leftover sand) and reveal her Robert Smithson artwork.
Pour the remaining sand into a container for the next time your child feels like creating another sand painting and find the perfect spot for showcasing your child’s finished artwork.
Most young children are excited about doing a creative activity while others rush through the project or are quick to complain, “I can’t draw.” The child that doodles while listening to directions instead of attentively keeping eye contact frustrates many a teacher. Some adults might struggle to understand their child’s quirky obsession with wearing matching clothing at all times. This actually has more to do with the brain than one might think. A young child’s brain is simply letting her dominant side take over, and not blending with the other in order to reach its full potential.
The brain and creativity
The brain is divided into two hemispheres – the right and left. The right side of the brain controls the left side of the body, with the left side dominant over the right. The right side of the brain is in charge of creative, social, visual skills and intuition. The left sides takes over with sequencing, language, math, and rational thoughts. Deep within the brain lies the visual cortex, which is stimulated through viewing and creating visual arts. Semir Zeki writes that, “visual arts contributes to our understanding of the visual brain because it explores and reveals the brain’s perceptual capabilities.”
With most kids more comfortable using their right hand, they begin their journey as left-brain dominant not tapping into their right-brain potential. Celeste Carneiro finds that if we spent more time stimulating the right side of the brain we would “search out the integration of the two hemispheres, balancing the use of our potentials.” This is something that many adults forget, as they are left-brain dominant themselves, potentially causing a lack of creative stimulation for budding children.
Right brain/left brain
To understand which side of the brain is dominant in a child, adults can observe how the child responds to various situations. Diane Connell, Ed.D, finds children whom prefer to work alone, and find researching and analyzing facts interesting are left-brain dominant. Children whom are right-brain dominant enjoy art projects and hands on activities over writing papers and doing research.
Along with the right side of the brain having a significant role in creativity, the Neuro Psychiatry Reviews finds the “frontal lobe to be the part of the cortex that is most important for creativity, being critical for divergent thinking,” and that the ways family and friends encourage the development of the frontal lobe encourages independent and divergent thinking. Divergent thinking stimulates kids to look at things differently, use creative thought processes for decision-making, and motivates them to ask lots and lots of questions.
Encouraging whole brain creativity
So, how to encourage right-brain thinking in children? Betty Edwards, an art teacher known for her book Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain, developed ways to encourage others to tap into their hidden creativity and stop the “I can’t draw” stigma. Through various exercises, Edward’s desire was to help others train their brains to draw in different ways.
Encouraging kids brains to be more right-brain dependent can be as easy as doing some creative activities that don’t overwhelm or frustrate left-brain learners. Right-brain dominant kids might also need some assistance in getting excited about researching that essay or finding ways to organize their room. Just as Carneiro stated, finding ways to encourage the use of both sides of the brain creates a complete human, resulting in harmony and the use of its full potential. And spending time creating with your child encourages healthy bonding.
Activities for kids
Right brain (Ages 7-10)
-Find a picture in a magazine your child finds interesting. Use a ruler to section off a 3 by 3-inch part of the image and then cut away the rest.
-Encourage a child’s right-brain to take over and make creative decisions through recreating the small section of the picture. When children are not sure of what they are drawing Carneiro finds the left-brain is tricked into thinking the activity is not worth its time, and allows the right brain to take charge.
-Instead of using a pencil to sketch out the drawing first, offer your child oil pastels for drawing along with a 9 by 9-inch piece of drawing paper. Play music while she is working and offer support in creating the artwork as needed.
Left brain (Ages 7-10)
-Use various colors of construction paper to create a cut paper pattern collage, which boosts fine-motor skills and hand-eye coordination.
-Before beginning a creative project, Connell finds that spending time discussing the activity helps the child think about the big picture. Talk about what a pattern is and how they can be quite simple or challenging to create. Having your child work quietly also boosts her left-brain thinking.
-Offer your child scissors, rulers, pencils and erasers to use while creating her pattern collage appealing to the left-brain’s desire for order and linear creation.
Joining the two (Ages 4-10)
-Provide your child with finger paint paper along with a variety of colors of finger paint. Play music while she explores the finger paint and encourage her to make lines and shapes along to the music.
-Once the finger paint is dry, your child can use a black marker to create a drawing over the finger paint. Invite her to find shapes and lines to connect together creating a realistic finished drawing. Allow her to work in silence while she’s concentrating.
-After your child has completed her artwork, discuss the finished piece giving her frontal love and visual cortex a boost.
No matter the age of a child, spend time together looking at, discussing, and creating art. This will stimulate the frontal lobe, visual cortex, and help train the right and left-brain to work together.
The last couple of days have been nice and warm at my house, almost as if summer is making its last-ditch effort on some hot, sun-filled days. I figured we’d take advantage and head outdoors to use that sun for an art activity with an end result we would both love.
The sun is hot, and along with offering us warmth and energy, it also has the ability to fade items left outdoors basking it its glow. So using a piece of construction paper as a base for some flowers is a simple way to create a sun print that will remind your child of the long summer days.
This project is super easy and can be accomplished by any age level. Just offer some assistant with the second part of the project if working with younger kids. Start by heading outdoors and collecting any summer flowers that your child thinks will leave a nice print. Once she’s got a nice collection, she can place a sheet of construction paper (any color works fine) in a sun-filed spot that isn’t breezy – you don’t want everything to blow away while the sun is doing its job!
Now she can think about placement of those flowers. Sure, she can plop them down willy-nilly, but encourage your child to think about how the flowers can be positioned to create an arrangement of shapes that move the eye around the paper.
Leave the paper in the sun for at least two hours. Once time is up, your child can carefully lift a flower and check how much the paper has faded. If she’s happy with the results, she can remove, and save, the flowers and then get ready for the next step. Or, if she wants things more faded, let the paper sit for another couple of hours – if you are all that patient!
Create a fun frame for the sun print by glueing together four craft sticks into a square and then positioning and then gluing (or hot gun glueing) the flowers around the craft stick frame. Using a hot glue gun is hot, so offer adult supervision as needed with the older kids if wielding hot glue guns.
Once the frame is dry, invite your child to cut out her favorite section of the sun print and glue to the frame. Tie a length of ribbon or wire to the top corners of the frame and find the perfect place to display. Everyone will remember what a sunny summer it was when they look at the flower sun print art work!
With the weather finally seeming like spring (what was up with that rain last week?!), summer is right around the corner. I am dedicating myself to spending more time outdoors and using the grill this summer. You see, the wonderful grill was out on our newly renovated spa deck, which was great and all, until it was time to grill. The deck is right off our bedroom located down the stairs and around the corner from our upstairs kitchen. Who wants to trek raw meat through the house? Not I! So, last summer that grill sat in the corner of the spa deck collecting wasps.
After we re-did the deck, the grill ended up in a much better location, and I was ready to entertain again! When having guests over, I like to keep things light, simple, and super easy. This way I can keep one hand free for eating and the other for helping out the wee tot if she needs assistance. I found some fantastic ideas for eating nice and light from my friends over at Ladies’ Home Journal, which enticed my taste buds (and made me suck in my gut), sending me in the kitchen to marinade, get out the shish-kabobs, and heat up that grill.
But, what to do with all the kiddos when the adults are ready to kick back and maybe add something stronger than sparkling water in their fresh fruit drinks?
I figured I could have a couple of great go-to activities ready for when the kids got bored with shuffling about from adult to adult. They could enjoy some basic and engaging art activities that didn’t require lots of attention!
Head over to the herb garden and harvest some of that extra tall rosemary or basil that’s flowered. They can quickly be turned into fun and wonderfully scented paintbrushes that can be dipped and swirled in paint and then tapped, tapped, tapped on white paper! Older kids can take things a bit further with the help of paintbrushes and create prints. Encourage kids to paint over the herbs with brushes, press onto paper, and then lift revealing a cool print! Use washable paint to ensure if things get a bit out of hand, no one goes home grumbling about stained clothing…
Turn individual bubble containers into exciting art implements! It’s as simple as adding a few drops of food coloring to bubble containers, giving them a quick shake to disperse the color, and then marking the outside of the containers with a marker to show the kiddies which color of bubbles they are using. Tape large sheets of easel paper to a fence or the side of the house and let kids blow colored bubbles and watch what happens when they pop on the paper. This is a fun project everyone will totally enjoy – even the adults!
Fruit and veggie prints
Slicing and dicing for fruit salad or kabobs? Save a few for a surprising art project! Slice apples, lemons, oranges, zucchini, or mushrooms in half and place on paper plates. Cover a picnic table with a large sheets of easel paper and place the fruits and veggies on the table alongside a few paper plates with a squeeze or two of washable paint and invite the kids to gently press the items (cut side down) in the paint and then onto the paper. They can experiment with making patterns and seeing which fruit or vegetable makes the most interesting shape!
Whether it’s May Day, Mother’s Day, or someone’s spring birthday, these cards are so simple to make and are really adorable. What’s even better is the kids can help make them, too! Even my wee tot got into making lovely watercolor washes and then going on a nature hunt in the yard for any fresh spring flowers to use. What a great way to make something special and spend some quality time with your child!
Start by making the background to your spring flower cards. Offer your child a sheet of white construction paper and a small cup of water. Now encourage your child to cover her paper with the water using a big paint brush, making sure the entire paper is wet.
Time to get spring-y! Get out the watercolors and invite your child to paint over the water-covered paper using bright spring colors such as yellow, orange, purple, and green. Your child can watch what happens with the paint when it is painted over the watery paper. The colors blend and wash together, creating a really cool effect! She can use small brushes to create detailed lines and dots, or big brushes to make sweeping areas of color.
Once she’s satisfied with her watercolor creation, allow the paper to dry for an hour or so. While waiting, head outdoors on a nature walk looking for any fresh spring flowers or leaves to use for the cards. We used some lavender and some pretty-pink petaled flower for ours!
Now she can cover the flowers with black tempera paint and press them on top of the dry watercolor paper creating a flower print! After the prints are dry, she can cut around the flowers and glue them to the front of cards – perfect for giving to any special loved one or friend.
Make the finished spring flower cards even better by tossing a handful of seeds in the card before mailing!