These photos are from Sari Abram’s 3-year-old classroom at Pressman Academy in LA where I recently a led a 30 minute Gelatin Giggles activity on a corner of the playground. I took in eight blocks of gelatin, plastic eyedroppers, five bottles of Colorations® Liquid Watercolor, and an art tray with a 1” lip to contain the mess. I volunteered for this because I’m developing a new workshop called “Messy Art with 2’s and 3’s.” I had already tried Gelatin Giggles with school-age children, but I wanted to see how very young children would respond. I learned that the best way to introduce Gelatin Giggles to a group of toddlers was to have them take turns two at a time, while I managed some semblance of control over the paint. As a firm believer in messy art, I also recognize there’s ultimately an “art” to controlling the mess while allowing children the experience of freedom with the materials.
Things were pretty clean and tidy as the first two children began playing with the eyedroppers on the white art tray. I instructed them to fill their eyedropper with the color of their choice, then stick the eyedropper into the gelatin chunk and squirt the paint inside. They learned that if they didn’t stick their eyedropper in very far, some of the color would splash back out on them, surprise!
They also learned that their eyedropper would sometimes suck up the gelatin and create a colored gelatin snake, surprise!
Before they finished their turn at the sensory table, I offered the opportunity to select a second color and inject that into the gelatin. Then they could watch the colors blend and pick up a chunk of gelatin in their hands and hold it up to the sunlight. We didn’t clean up between children, so the colors and gelatin chunks accumulated on the tray as the activity progressed.
To create Gelatin Giggles, purchase unflavored gelatin (Knox makes one and others are generally sold next to the flavored gelatins at the grocery store). Use less water than called for to make your “giggles” a bit more solid than usual. Here’s the recipe:
Knox Gelatin Mold: The ratio is 3/4 cup water to 1 packet of Knox. Take the number of cups of water your container holds and DIVIDE by .75 This is how many packets of Knox you need. In a saucepan, heat the water over low heat, add the packets of gelatin. After it dissolves pour it into your container. Let set over night. **BE SURE TO USE OIL OR SPRAY YOUR CONTAINER WITH PAM FIRST! Wait for a sunny day and unmold your gelatin onto art trays or a sand and water table.
Did I talk enough about the exciting presence of light and color? Check out how this glob of green sparkles in the sun! Does it make you think of stained glass windows or a sparkling crystal? If you own a diamond ring or anything cut from crystal, bring that to class and show children how these minerals are faceted, which means they have flat planes that refract color and light. Amazingly, clear gelatin also breaks along facets in similar fashion, which is why Gelatin Giggles look like gemstones in the light.
There’s nothing like group art experiences to bring children together and create a sense of collaboration in the summer. Gelatin Giggles is a perfect way to introduce sensory art while the weather is warm enough for outdoor play and the sun can provide a brilliant light source to enhance experiments with light and color.
If you like this art idea, you’ll probably also enjoy “Ice Tunnels” and “Sand Tray Gemstones”, two of 18 Colorations® Liquid Watercolor Activities in my book Smart Art Ideas 2. Thanks for checking in, and I look forward to reading your comments. If you would like to have your own art ideas included in a future post please send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Together we can continue to build a strong art and creativity community.
From grocery store: Knox or other brand clear gelatin
* For more ideas, visit Art and Creativity in Early Childhood Education