Make Color Spray Murals this Summer!

by Anna Reyner

Welcome back to Art & Creativity in Early Childhood! I’m excited to be blogging about art activities again, after a two year writing break. Thanks for joining me!

Spray Color Mural 1

It’s summertime, and the living is easy….especially if you have cool outdoor art activities up your sleeve! Like filling spray bottles with Colorations® Liquid Watercolor™ and letting everyone have a go at it. Spray painting is quick, easy and a great group activity.

When was the last time you took spray paints outside, and invited open-ended play?

You know you want to make this summer memorable, right?

Maybe it’s time to grab your Liquid Watercolor, get your camera ready, and give it a try. After all, even the idea of a spray bottle full of color in your hand sounds exciting, or maybe even intimidating. But I know you can do it….because you have the lesson plan to print out. And the bonus is, while kids are having fun with this, the process is doing wonders for their brain development.

Spray Color Mural 2

Art activities not only stimulate creativity, they also build brain capacity by providing many new problems to solve, all with colorful materials that are safe and abundant. Fluid materials like Liquid Watercolor are particularly good for early brain development because they are easily set in motion and provide a rapidly changing experience that requires the child to actively engage. If a child is passive with fluid materials, the art making stops. With fluid paints, the image making moves forward only when the child is moving it along. That’s the understanding educators have when they say ‘open-ended art’ is a process where children construct their own learning. The more children direct their own art activities, the more learning and brain development takes place. I think it’s pretty cool that something this much fun could be so good for you too!

Spray Color Mural 3

Spray Color Mural 4

I love this snapshot of a 3-year-old boy, from Pressman Academy in Los Angeles, working on a color spray mural that other classmates participated in too. He’s clearly lost in the moment. Imagine his body and brain working together as he actively builds a new understanding of what is possible in his world.

Since this was a toddler class, I invited children out onto the playground two at a time. With older children, I invite four children to spray paint together at the same time, all facing the same direction so they don’t spray each other! But if they accidentally do…this paint is completely washable. Yay!

Spray Color Mural 5

If you’re feeling adventurous, try doing a color spray mural at your staff in-service for back to school. There’s nothing like a group art experience to bring people closer together. I bet someone at your school would be happy to lead this creative activity (maybe even you!) and help start the new school year right. Here’s a lesson plan to help you out.

Happy Summer! Anna

Product Recommendations:
Colorations® Assorted Liquid Watercolor Paints

Colorations® Classic Colors Liquid Watercolor Paints, 8 oz. – Set of 13 (13LW)

Colorations® E-Z Pull Extra Large Clear Trigger Sprayers, 12 oz. – Set of 6 (TSBOT)

Colorations® Animal Shape Stencils, 8″ – Set of 12 (EANST)

Prepare for CAEYC with DIY Fun!


We are gearing up for CAEYC, which is also known as the California Association of the Education of Young Children!  This association has an annual convention in California for early childhood educators.  Each state has their own association and there is a popular national association called NAEYC (the National Association for the Education of Young Children) This national association is the premier professional development conference for teachers who work with young children; ages 0-8.

I am sponsored by Discount School Supply which is a nationally recognized company that supplies quality school products at everyday low prices.  Each year they have a booth at the CAEYC and NAEYC convention and each year I attend and present at workshop.  At CAEYC 2016, Discount School Supply will a proud supporter of the association and has gotten “Super Star” Status through their contributions to this wonderful organization!

These conferences are so much fun! I just love to engage with all of the fellow educators that attend. Check out the PARTY at the NAEYC 2015 booth that Discount School Supply sponsored! We pulled out all the stops and engaged teachers in more hands-on creativity than ever before this year. Our goal in the DSS booth area was to provide creativity and rejuvenation, and from the looks of it we were successful. Yay! The paper Top Hats we’re wearing are fun to decorate and super easy to make with our Top Hat Lesson Plan.


Since hands-on discovery is the way we all learn best, we organize DIY experiences by offering a variety of arts materials with just a wee bit of structure and guidance. At NAEYC we highlighted BioColor® one day, and Colorations® Liquid Watercolor another day while providing how-to tips and ideas for both beginners and more seasoned staff. Teachers could sit down and play with our paints and a variety of new collage materials while combining fresh techniques in new ways onto a final craft project.


Here’s a favorite open-ended project: our papier-mâché Secret Boxes. These make wonderful handmade gifts and if you like these teacher-oriented clip art quotes, they are provided here for your use. These quotes are perfect for mixed media creations, and can turn any teacher’s Party into a creative DIY event.

Won’t you join us at CAEYC or your state conference this year? We’ll bring the party!

Materials Shown in this Post:     
Paints & Collage Materials  
BioColor Painters BMAR
Glittering Rhinestones Gem Jar GEMJAR
Iridescent Fabric Shapes SHINYFAB
Spotted Feathers SPOTTED
Printed Craft Tape FABULOUS
Projects To Decorate  
Paper Mache Secret Books PMSEC
White Paper Top Hats HATSOFF


WorkShop at CAEYC 2016 by Anna Reyner

Art, Creativity and Brain Development

Apr 1, 2016 @ 02:00 PM

Modern neuroscience has provided hard evidence that connective pathways in the brain are actually created by repeated early experiences. A child’s early engagement in art activities can help create unique brain connections that will have long-term impact on a child’s life.

Art engages children’s hands, minds and emotions and helps develop valuable cognitive, social-emotional, and multi-sensory skills. Learn to identify the many developmental skills children master through art activities, and how self directed art fosters creativity and self esteem.

“Art & Brain Development”
Repeated experiences with open ended art builds nerve circuits in the brain that influence how a child does in school, in relationships, and in society as a whole. A developmental theory presentation will discuss how art activities facilitate intellectual growth and cognitive development in early childhood. A Power Point presentation on Art in Child Development includes 20 slides of children’s artwork. Participants will review these slides and discuss how each different art activity facilitates specific problem solving, decision making and other cognitive skills.

“Art Therapy: Tools & Techniques for the Classroom”
Participants will be introduced to basic principles of art therapy and simple guidelines for understanding the language of children’s art. Through better understanding the language of art, participants will be better equipped to understand the emotional needs of the children in their care.

Session concludes with a playful hands-on art experience where participants engage with a partner and make their own art.

Discover the Pedagogical Institute in Santa Monica!


“I love this!” exclaimed Gwen Dophna, a professor of Child Development, as we learned and played together last week. I was having fun too, learning Monoprint Techniques at the exciting new facility for early childhood educators called The Pedagogical Institute in Santa Monica, California.


Have you heard about this place?  It’s a true THINK TANK environment – and if you’re an early childhood professional, you owe it to yourself to check them out. Let me give you a taste of my experience….



Last week’s Monoprint class was skillfully taught by Alexis Afaghi, a full time Atelerista at the nearby Evergreen School. We were a small but eager group of ECE professionals, learning open-ended art techniques and experiencing the unique combination of stimulation and camaraderie that is a part of every event or gathering at the Pedagogical Institute.

Alexis began the class with a brief introduction to Monoprinting, the art of printing a singular piece of art from one printing plate. Alexis taught us using small plastic printing plates which she had acquired for free from a nearby plastics shop (yay, teacher donations.)


6 7

We rolled paint with brayers onto plastic printing plates, and then removed some of the paint with cotton balls, Q-Tips, and small makeup sponges to create lines and shapes in the wet paint. Then we pressed paper onto the top and pulled it off to reveal our MONOPRINT – a fresh and original work of art.  Tah dah…..


Marsha seemed pleased with her artwork, which was gratifying since she had driven two hours to get to the Institute workshop! We traded stories about our careers in Child Development as we worked on our art, and I felt connected in a very satisfying way. It was truly an exercise in self-care to be there that evening. Teachers and directors and professors often work in isolation, and this place is a sanctuary to relieve stress.




The Pedagogical Institute had its Grand Opening about a year ago, on Sept 21, 2014. Their calendar is full of exciting, thought provoking events. They offer many fascinating workshops besides art – as well as Book Study and Discussion Groups on topics such as Boys & The Media, Building Democratic Schools & Communities, and Talking about Death with Children. They also offer museum quality installations and Documentation labs, as well as mentoring opportunities, an annual conference, and renowned guest speakers.  How can you NOT take advantage of this resource? It is in a class of it’s own.

Join them on Facebook and explore their website to learn more:




More X-Ray Handprints!

I just got back from the California AEYC Conference where I delivered workshops on “Art, Literacy & Brain Development.” The handouts from those workshops are posted here (you’ll see them on the right sidebar) for you to view or print out. To prepare for the workshops I taught several literacy based art lessons to a variety of children in classrooms that varied from ages 3-5. It was fun leading children through messy art ideas that had a literacy connection, and once again I included the X-Ray Handprint in some of the lessons. These photographs were taken from a Kindergarten class, and the video clip shows a wonderful close-up of a child doing the final phase of scraper art, which reveals her handprints. Take a look!

So many of the conference attendees were excited to learn about X-Ray Handprints, so I decided to post these new photos here. See my previous post from Tuesday, Dec 14, 2010 for more X-Ray Art ideas, or find the complete lesson plan on page 44 in Smart Art 2 (MOREART).

It’s been a busy conference season so I’m a bit late on my monthly post. Thanks for waiting! If you sign up to be an Art and Creativity Blog subscriber, each new post will conveniently come to you as an email. That makes it super easy to get a stream of new art ideas for your classroom. Please subscribe today, you’d be doing me a favor by showing your support. Thank you!

X-Ray Hand Prints!

Watch how your hand prints seem to magically jump off the page, when you make x-ray hand prints using BioColor® “Scraper Art.” X-Ray Scraper Art is an amazing process, take a moment to watch the video clip recorded live at the Discount School Supply NAEYC Math & Science Workshop.

I’ve also added a new “NAECY Handout” column at right which includes X-Ray Art as part of the NAEYC Math & Science Handout. Please consider printing out and sharing this handout at the next staff meeting! Teachers are always asking for new ideas that teach math and science through hands-on, sensory play. The handouts provided here are written with your “right-brain” in mind, they are easy to digest and rely heavily on diagrams and pictures. You’ll find the same applies to Smart Art Ideas Activity Book and Smart Art 2: More Smart Ideas Activity Book.

These photos show 3-year olds making x-ray hand prints as part of teaching nutrition & building strong bodies. This activity provides a great opportunity to talk with children about the importance of milk, yogurt and other calcium rich foods in building good bone health. With that in mind, I added my favorite new science product, the charming little skeleton man (18″ Skeleton Model), which allowed me to reference an anatomically correct skeleton model as we began the activity by discussing our bones and hands. This incredibly inexpensive skeleton model is a must-have for science centers.

I hope these photos inspire you to try x-ray hand prints with even the youngest of children. By giving the children a chance to create a colorful paint border around their hand prints, we ended up with delightful paintings that combine art and science in the best of ways.

Materials you’ll need:
BioColor® Paint, 16 oz., Black
BioColor® Paint, 16 oz., White
BioColor® Paint Scraper
Nancy™ Paint Bottles Classic Tips, 2 oz. – Set of 12

Enhance this Lesson with:
18″ Skeleton Model
More Smart Art Ideas Activity Book
Human X-Rays – Set of 18

Body Banner
Foam Skeleton Floor Puzzle – 15 Pieces

CD Photo Frames

Recycle old CD’s and turn them into colorful picture frames, using BioColor® and your favorite photos. Since BioColor® sticks to plastic and other slick surfaces, it’s easy! Simply collect used CD’s and choose photographs with images that are small enough to cut out, glue down, and still leave enough room to add BioColor® paint. This recycled art project is easy, inexpensive, and unique!

This first example shows a wedding photo created with a BioColor® design that lets the shiny CD peek through. After gluing down the picture, I used gold BioColor® to create a circular border, then I applied black and yellow BioColor® around the photo into a star shaped design. It hangs in a prominent spot on my wall at home, and is often a conversation piece. People love it when they realize the picture is simply glued onto a CD then painted. No other tempera paint will stick to plastic, so this recycled art project makes good use of BioColor®’s unique property of sticking to slick surfaces.

These next two photo frames are simpler examples of the same process and could easily be created by younger children. Apply BioColor® using pre-filled plastic Nancy™ Bottles. When making a photo frame, it’s important to have something to hang the frame from. The easiest way to create a hanger is with a loop of yarn. Slip a 12” strand of yarn through the center of the CD hole, and tie it at the top. Now glue on your photo using tacky glue, and begin applying BioColor® any way you like. It’s easy to make dots of various colors, and a little more challenging to create lines, like the blue and white heart shapes shown here. Start with dots if you want to start easy. Drag a toothpick through the dots to create little swirly designs if you like.
Apply BioColor® in dots and lines directly from Nancy™ Bottles, or use a paintbrush, or combine both. In this close-up you’ll see that dots were applied from Nancy™ Bottles first, then a paintbrush was used to spread around the paint and change the surface texture. You want a fairly thick layer of BioColor®, so make sure to lay it on a flat surface to dry overnight.

Another fun idea for Recycled CD’s is to make Dream Catchers using BioColor®, feathers, and collage materials. Traditional Dream Catchers hang over beds and “catch bad dreams” before they bother your sleep. Authentic Native American Dream Catchers can be very intricate and beautiful. These playful imitations, or what I like to call “Urban Dream Catchers,” are a fun way to imitate the real deal.

Lastly, here’s a picture of my workspace before I began making some of these samples. This recycled art idea has easy set up, and uses very affordable supplies, probably no more than 10 cents per project. And if you’re like me, you have dozens of old CD’s stacked around, just waiting to come to life as something shiny, fun and artful.

Materials You’ll Need:

CD Photo Frames:
Used CD’s
Yarn – 5LBR – Remnant Yarn, 5 lbs

Urban Dream Catchers:

For more ideas on how to use BioColor® on slick surfaces check out this video!

IncredibleFoam® Dough: Delightful, No Mess Art

IncredibleFoam® Dough is a light modeling compound (think substitute for clay) that’s wonderful to touch, squish, and sculpt into 3-Dimensional Art. It comes in dozens of colors and it’s an inspiration for creative young minds, like 4 year old Jordan pictured here. Does he look proud of himself or what? Jordan came up with this idea on his own, by pressing several colors of Foam Dough onto an 11″ x 17” piece of construction paper, then later gluing down the pieces with white glue so they’d stick.

Foam Dough also makes a great Small Group Activity, as illustrated by this collaborative artwork. A small cluster of school age students created a picture by working together and pressing Foam Dough onto the tabletop where they were seated. Each child was given a different color of Foam Dough to start, and they were asked to work cooperatively to decide on a theme and create one unified picture. I loved the result, as well as the teamwork it inspired.

Other 3-D figures and sculptures can be created in simple or more complex fashion, depending on a child’s age and interests. We’ve created them here on paper plates so they’re easier to carry around, and they can later be glued down onto the paper if desired.

Whether you apply Foam Dough to paper, or shape it into a freestanding 3-D sculpture, it looks great and is always easy and fun to work with. And did I mention it doesn’t make a mess? Foam Dough is clean, soft, and mess-free, yet it’s also completely open ended so it brings out children’s natural creativity. Plus, it never dries out, even if you forget to bag up the leftovers. Experiment with it yourself, and you’ll find that IncredibleFoam® Dough holds lots of discoveries. It even floats! Imagine making little boats for your sand and water table, or combine it with collage elements like the Shining Star Rhinestones, Sparkle Stem Pipecleaners, and Colorations® Washable School Glue pictured below.

The IncredibleFoam® Dough Classroom Pack is my favorite, since the color cubes are a delight to look at and easy to distribute. But, you can also purchase IncredibleFoam® Dough in a larger Set of 7 Basic Colors or a smaller Sampler Pack. However you try it, you’re guaranteed a lot of active learning and pure sensory delight!

Multicultural Crafts from Russia

I just returned from a family vacation in Russia and picked up some wonderful arts & crafts. Don’t you love these fabric art pictures and this sweet 14-year-old Russian girl who made them? I met her in a small village outside Moscow and her two fabric pictures were so charming, I had to buy them both. After all, how often do you run across a 14-year-old entrepreneur whose work is this original?

They are made from such simple materials: fabric scraps, markers, and glue – amazing! I just love it when I find a new form of art, especially when it’s been created by a young person. And that’s the beauty of foreign travels, they take you on adventures where you meet amazing people and discover creative new things about other cultures.

And how about this little wooden Russian Nesting Doll, which I decorated myself with watercolors and colored pencils at a cultural center for tourists. I had fun and felt right at home participating in local arts & crafts activities. They sell pre-painted nesting dolls all over Russia, but I never had to buy a set because I had the pleasure of painting my own. What an unforgettable souvenir!

If you are fortunate enough to take a vacation this summer, don’t forget to bring home local handicrafts to share with your classroom. Multicultural Crafts are one of the best ways children can share in and appreciate the everyday lives of other people from around the globe.

You’ll find plenty of multi-cultural arts & crafts projects in Discount School Supply’s section on multicultural crafts.

Or, try out my Smart Art Lesson “Native American Spirit Sticks” – attached here.

Have a great summer!

The Source of My Strength

The following is adapted from a workshop that I did for Discount School Supply customer, A Window Between Worlds (AWBW). AWBW is a training & resource agency for battered women’s shelters. AWBW serves women and children at shelters and this workshop helped their training for Program Coordinators from shelters throughout Southern California. For more information about AWBW and using art as a tool for heailng, check out

Objective: This month’s workshop is designed to engage teens in a creative exercise to identify the things about them that are strong. They will create symbols that help represent the source of their own personal strength, so that they will be able to more quickly and readily understand their strengths and access them when needed.


Colorations® Smooth & Silky Art Sticks
BioColor Paint (4 colors plus silver and gold = 6 total colors)
Nancy Paint Bottles Twist Tops (optional)
Balloons – one per person
Small paper plates – one per person
White Cardboard Pencil Box – one per person
White heavy weight construction paper (for warm-up and handmade stencils)
Paper towels for cleanup
Colorations® Glitter Paint (optional)
Paint Brushes – one small & one large
Colorations® Glue
Cups with water

Prep: Pre-fill Nancy Bottles with BioColor, filling 4 bottles with standard BioColor and one each of gold and silver, for a total of 6 Nancy Bottles full of BioColor per small group of participants. Fill one Nancy Bottle with paint for every 4 people. Try out each warm-up application before the workshop. Make yourself a sample of the Source of Our Strength Box to familiarize yourself with each stage, and so you will be confident leading the session. Create your sample box from your own voice as a healer, someone who provides healing, compassion and positive solutions for children.


1.) In the middle of the table place 4 standard and 2 metallic BioColors in Nancy Bottles, 1 Nancy Bottle of glitter paint, 1 set of Silky Sticks. Place an extra small stack of white construction paper for warm ups.
2.) In front of each seat, place 2 sheets construction paper, 1 balloon and one paper plate.


Note: During the demo/warm-up, it is useful to first do a demonstration of each step and then give participants a turn.

Art Material Demo and Warm-up #1: Balloon Printing with BioColor

Step 1: Using 4 standard colors of BioColor, plus silver and gold, place quarter-sized dots of paint in center of plate.

Step 2: Blow up balloons, not too big, so they fit into your fist or grasp (2″- 3″).

Step 3: Firmly press balloon straight down into paint palette, then “print” paint onto paper. Bounce/print balloon all over.

Step 4: Create stencil patterns. Using thick, white construction paper, tear stencils by folding the paper in half and tear out images as if you were making a snowflake. Position stencil and balloon print on top. Remove stencil to see pattern surface. Repeat. Overlap stencils and repeat with a variety of colors to create a pleasing design.

Art Material Warm Up #2: Intro to Silky Sticks

Step 1: Dry Application: Take a few different Silky Stick colors and make a simple doodle
to experience the materials, pressing hard to lay down bright pigments. Don’t think about it too much, take this time to “loosen up” and leave your critical voice behind.

Step 2: Wet Application: Dip Silky Sticks into water before making another doodle. Experience the difference in wet and dry applications.

Step 3: Wet Application with Paintbrushes: Take your larger paintbrush and dip it into water. Apply your wet brush to your original dry doodle, creating a “flow-release” effect as it releases the colored pigment into a dilution of color, like a watercolor. Next take your smaller “detail” brush and dip it into water, making more detailed flow effects. You can also use your wet brush, or finger, directly on your Silky Stick as if it were a dry watercolor cake, and use your finger or brush directly onto your paper. Set aside all the warm up creations to make room for the activity.

Introduction & Relaxation:

Ask the participants to try to relax, put down their art materials, and if they wish, close their eyes for a few minutes while you guide them through a brief period of self-reflection.

Continue with this dialogue (or change the concept to your own voice):

Today’s workshop is meant to to focus on our strengths, so that we can increase our sense of safety and well-being. We will remind ourselves today that we are each strong enough not only to survive, but to overcome and rise above what has happened to us in the past. Today is about living in the present moment of strength, community, healing and support. Our artwork will help us focus on what it is that makes us strong and keeps us strong. With that in mind, try to relax and reflect upon where it is that you find your own personal strength. In times of need, do you call upon your faith to give you strength? Or do you think of your mother, your brothers or sisters, your friends, or something else to makes you feel strong? When you ask for help, who listens? What is the source of your strength? (Give people a short quiet time to reflect on this question). Now, open your eyes and take your Silky Sticks and a fresh piece of paper, and DRAW A SYMBOL that represents the SOURCE OF MY STRENGTH. Your symbol can be made up of one image, or a combination of images. Just do what comes naturally. There is no right or wrong way to create a visual symbol. The easiest way is to simply get started and see what happens!


Part 1: Inside of Box

Take your SOURCE OF MY STRENGTH drawing and re-create it on the inside of your pencil box, using the Silky Sticks. Consider your original warm-up sketch as a starting point, and re-create the image in a more finished form on the inside of your box, adding details and embellishing it however feels right. Don’t over think it, just let it flow without being critical of how it looks or what it means. As you create your visual symbol of strength on the inside of your box, imagine you are creating this image from your source. Whatever comes of this experience will be the “right” image of strength for you today.

Part 2: Outside of Box

Now comes the time to decorate the outside of your box more playfully, by balloon printing the outside with BioColor and your own handmade paper stencils. Add glitter paint if you want to add sparkle. Create a design of your choice, so that when you place it on a shelf or dresser table where you live, you will be reminded of a pleasant time spent with creativity and community. No one but you will know that inside this box lay very important symbols, symbols that represent the source of your strength and the inner resources you call upon.
Have participants share their boxes with a partner, or with the group. If they share with a partner reinforce the importance of being a good listener (i.e. paying attention and not interrupting). Encourage the participants to look inside their “Strong Box” whenever they need to be reminded of their personal strength.
When selecting boxes to decorate, be sure to purchase ones that have an unfinished surface, like the ones from Discount School Supply. A slick, or glossy surface will not allow the paint to stick.