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)

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Finger Weaving for Fun and Math

anna finger weaving 1

I just came back from our annual sales meeting where we got to play with all our new products. The creative talents of our product development staff continue to amaze me, and I’m happy to say after 15 years of working for Discount School Supply®, I still love my job. And why not? I get to share creative ideas with people like you, and know that I’m helping make a difference in the lives of children.

Let’s talk a walk down “memory lane” and recall the simple woven “pot holders” that many of us made as children. Do you recognize them pictured here?

anna finger weaving 2

It’s a new product in our Arts & Crafts, and it brought back many childhood memories.  When I was in early Elementary School, I was obsessed with making pot holders in every color imaginable. Did you make them too? If not, it’s never too late to start this simple and affordable weaving process, typically for children ages five and up. Not only is it fun, it’s a great learning tool that exercises pattern-making skills, problem solving, critical thinking and fine motor dexterity.

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anna finger weaving 4

But with summer here, I also recalled how my own two children loved “finger weaving” with just the loops themselves when they were young.  So I grabbed my computer for a refresher course on finger weaving and started making these necklaces and bracelets.  Pretty soon my friends were learning how to finger weave too. It is contagious, calming and creative. For clear instructions on how to finger weave, here’s the perfect resource from the Internet:

anna finger weaving pinterest tutorial

click picture to see the full size

Or, check out this YouTube video for more fun instructions!

Let’s get Practical:

How many bags of loopers would you need for a group of children? Our small group made eight long loop necklaces and a few bracelets with one bag. I’d recommend ordering one bag for every six or eight students, and at $5.99 a bag that is a very good summer deal!

anna finger weaving 5

This is a perfect summer camp and vacation activity because once kids learn how to finger weave, it’s a completely self-directed and loved by boys and girls alike. Pack a bag in the car with you before you go on a family vacation, you’ll be glad you did.

PS – What about math? Loom weaving and finger weaving both exercise fundamental math skills, like these from Teacher Quicksource®.

1. Recognizes Spatial Relationships. The child is able to understand positions and direction, such as right-left, top-bottom, behind-in-front, between, under, over, etc.

2. Classifies and Sorts by Attributes. The child can classify and group objects based on the similarities and differences of the attributes of each object, such as color or size.

3. Creates Patterns by Extending and Comparing. The child can copy, extend or create a pattern, such as colored blocks: black,red, black, red, black ….

4. Understands the Concept of Measurement. The child understands that objects can be measured using height, weight, and capacity

Have a wonderful summer!  Anna

Materials Used:
Loopers – 16 oz Jumbo Bag (LOOPS)
Weaving Loom and Hook (LOOM)

* Brought to you by Discount School  Supply®

Gelatin Giggles for Summer Fun!

Outdoor art is great for summer when we can enjoy time outside in the light and sunshine. If you love COLOR and gem-like quality of the Gelatin Giggles pictured here, you will want to add this simple sensory activity to your summer plan. Because we are making memories here with our summer, right? And there’s nothing much more memorable than colored gelatin slipping through your fingers on a perfect summer day. 

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 areyner@discountschoolsupply.com. Together we can continue to build a strong art and creativity community.

Materials Used:
Colorations® Liquid Watercolor
SuperSafe Plastic Droppers (12SSD)
Brawny Large Art Tray (RECTRAY)
Smart Art Ideas 2 (MOREART)

From grocery store: Knox or other brand clear gelatin

* Brought to you by Discount School Supply®

* For more ideas, visit Art and Creativity in Early Childhood Education

How to Jump Start Summer Creativity

As the end of the school year draws to a close, we stand on the brink of summer – a time for renewal. Summer is the perfect time to get back in touch with your creativity and renew your passion for work and life.

What will YOU do to “recharge your batteries” over the next few months? Will you plan for time outdoors, time with family, and time alone to nourish your creativity? Will you make time to do what gives you pleasure, what thrills you, what makes you feel that all your efforts are worthwhile? Will you pay yourself back for all the time you put in?

I’d like to inspire you to GET CREATIVE this summer, and make a plan to do MORE to replenish your spiritual soul, your inner artist. When fall rolls around, you will be glad you did.

I have been immersing myself in my own creative process this year, as part of my “self renewal” now that my children are in college. This summer I am doing even more to nourish my creative spirit by enrolling in a few weekend art classes and reconnecting with girlfriends who like to visit art galleries and go to summer festivals. It’s building nicely, this effort to renew my creative side, and I’d like to encourage you to do the same. It’s working! My creative side was beginning to feel a bit dormant, but with small, consistent efforts, I’ve revived it again. So from my own recent experience, here’s what I’ll suggest:

How to Jumpstart Your Creativity – A Summer Plan:
1. Visit Local Art Galleries
There’s nothing like visiting an art gallery or museum to immerse you in the language of visual thinking. We use the principles of right brain stimulation in the classroom, so why not apply these same values to ourselves? Just this morning I passed the LA Craft and Folk Art Museum and noticed a new display in their window. Can you believe this “sculpture” is made entirely out of sponges? Now why didn’t I think of that? This is a great example of thinking outside of the box, and something that might spark some ideas for your own classroom. It certainly evokes the question, “What is art?” and may have you looking a little differently at foam package stuffing or things you see in the trash can.

2. Participate in Summer Festivals
Summer is the time for festivals, so make a plan to visit at least one for fun. As part of my commitment to jumpstart my own creativity, I attended The Brewery Art Walk, something I had been meaning to do for years. I was glad I went, and even my husband had fun in spite of going as “a favor.” All the adult art studios were open for viewing, but I also discovered a wonderful art studio for children called The Peddler of Dreams.

Check out these children’s art projects, all so creative and beautifully displayed. The paper bag fish were made from white paper bags, markers and watercolors and dangled nicely from dried tree branches so they looked like they were swimming. And how about these recycled plastic bottles made into bird feeders, aren’t they amazing! I was so impressed with the birdfeeders that I searched the internet later for “bird feeders made out of plastic bottles” and found plenty of tips for constructing them with ease. Check out how The Peddler of Dreams had children decorate their bird feeders with tissue paper and watered down white glue. So colorful, my inner artist was definitely tickled.

3. Renew an Arts & Crafts Hobby
Take a class in something creative; even one simple weekend workshop can revive your creativity and a few weekend workshops will deepen your sense of renewal. Check for low-cost classes with Parks & Recreation, Adult Schools, and local retail craft shops. It’s fun to do art in a group, and classes let you bond with like-minded spirits and you get to know other people in your community who value self-expression. Exchange phone numbers with someone new and stay in touch. Build your art friends contact list for personal renewal art outings.

I attended a bead convention last fall (another thing I’d always meant to do, and finally DID….geez, why does it take us so long to do things we WANT to do?). I had so much fun and signed up for a three hour workshop on shrink art. I found it so relaxing that I have been making little shrink art charms ever since. Here are some of my latest pieces; I love that they are so tiny!

At the Bead Convention I learned how to apply rubber stamps and pastels to the surface of Shrink-It Sheets so they look more “grown up” than children’s shrink art. I love the process of making these tiny little compositions, and then giving them away in birthday cards or as little tokens of affection. But what I love most about shrink art is that I can make them in a short amount of time because I’m always so busy. I like creative projects that don’t take too long. Which brings me to my next suggestion: find a place to leave your art supplies out so you don’t waste time setting up and putting away your supplies.

4. Create Your Own Art Area at Home
The most tedious part of an arts or crafts hobby is the set up and clean up of supplies. Find a table or corner of your home that you can dedicate as your art area, and let your family know it’s your personal studio space, and not to be disturbed. That’s what I did this year in my garage. You can see it’s nothing fancy but it has all the basics, and I put it together for less than $100 using Craigslist. It’s important to have your own wind-down place, your sanctuary, your place to revive your creative spirit. My sanctuary is my art area where I can drop in anytime, and not worry about having to set up or clean up. I can bring music or watch re-runs of Grey’s Anatomy on my laptop (haha), as I lose myself in right brain activities.

5. Keep a Digital Camera in Your Purse
Keeping a camera handy will awaken your visual thinking, and help you connect to the world of color and sensation that surrounds you. A camera helps you identify and capture “magical moments.” It also helps you remember things that you may want to try yourself later. Here’s a magical moment I caught on film recently that I definitely want to try sometime – it’s a community candlelight mandala made entirely from fresh flower petals. Wow. This reminds me that creative ideas surround me, and having my camera handy helps me “borrow” other people’s ideas and use them later with my own special twist.

If you investigate creative outlets in your community, you will be richly rewarded. Anything that gets your hands and heart working together is bound to jump start the creative process inside you – whether it be painting, photography, scrapbooking, ceramics or any other artistic activities that excite or delight you. 

Last but not least, if you want to be TRULY inspired, take time to watch this incredible video called “Happiness Revealed.” I guarantee it will make the rest of your day more meaningful. It is the most beautiful message of hope and happiness that I have ever seen. Have a great summer, and take time to listen to your dreams…those are the sounds no one else can hear.

Materials Referenced:
Shrink-It Sheets – opaque (SHRINKIE)
White Paper Bags (WHBAG)
Colorations® Liquid Watercolor™
Colorations® Premium Bleeding Tissue Paper (BBLTIS)

Video Clip: “Happiness Revealed” by Louie Schwartzberg
Thanks to TedxSF, an Independently Organized TED

* Brought to you by Discount School Supply®

* For more ideas, visit Art and Creativity in Early Childhood Education

What I Learned on My Summer Vacation

I just got back from a much needed summer vacation and was reminded that I need more NATURE in my life! Since I’ve attended numerous “Outdoor Classroom” workshops, and learned about the negative effects of “nature deficit” on today’s children, it was good to be reminded that I too find nature incredibly inspiring. On my vacation, I renewed my love affair with the sensory world of the forest. I fell in love with colored rocks, birch trees and waterfalls. It was all so simple, yet profoundly restorative.

As an educator, I was inspired by what I might bring back from my nature vacation to include in the classroom. There were so many things to choose from! Moreover, having this “take home task” on my mind helped me engage all the more in my natural surroundings.

Trees were just beginning to show off their Fall colors, and the white birch trees were especially lovely.

Imagine how excited I was to find this abandoned bird’s nest, all intact and perfectly formed! The woven strips of birch bark in the nest gave me an idea, and I picked up fallen strips of bark to take home and use as collage.

When I got home I tore strips of white bark and used Tacky Glue to mount it onto wooden picture frames, adding colored rocks as accents. How fun! I was amazed to find that birch bark tears along a seam just like fabric does, so you don’t need scissors to cut it. Such are the discoveries that excite me, and I bet you as well.

We also visited several lakes and found an abundance of beautiful colored rocks around the larger lakes.

Many local artisans made creative use of these naturally colored rocks that were a signature of the local geology. Here’s a large rock and driftwood mirror that I couldn’t resist purchasing. I hoped it would remind me to make nature a regular part of my life once I returned home to the city.

Later, I tried duplicating this idea of rocks as collage material on top of wooden picture frames. The rocks I brought were a little too large so I used them as accents and made a mental note to check out the Home Depot garden department for smaller pebbles. Or better yet, find a local hike where I could collect smaller rocks on my own home turf.

I was eager to make “Leaf Glitter” for a second collage project and had collected just a few Sugar Maple Leaves with tinges of red and yellow. Once they had dried, I made Leaf Glitter by simply crunching up the dried leaves, which were then glued onto the picture frame. When I do this in a classroom, I’ll ask children to sort the dried leaves by colors first, then crunch them into separate bowls so they’ll have yellow, red, brown and orange Leaf Glitter to work with.

Together these two experiments in nature collage make a nice pair, don’t you think? I realized I could extend the activity by first “staining” the wooden base frames with wet tea bags or another natural colorant before gluing items on top.

How fortunate I feel to have been able to replenish myself before the beginning of a busy school year. I hope you were also able to restore yourself, and will continue to do so on your weekend time. It’s so important.

Maybe we will run into each other at an Education Conference soon or at NAEYC where I’m presenting “Art as a Language with Children.” Please attend if you can! Most importantly, I want to thank you for reading my Blog and being a part of the Art and Creativity community. I hope you have a wonderful new school year full of passion and promise. To life!

Materials Used Here:
Colorations® Tacky Glue, set of 12 – (TCGJAR)

Colorations® Wooden Stand Up Frames – (WDFRM)

Ice Tunnels: Bring on the Summer Fun!

 

Summer is a wonderful time for outdoor art and sensory science activities you can do outside. “Ice Tunnels” combine ordinary salt, ice and Colorations® Liquid Watercolor in an unforgettable art and science experiment that costs only pennies. Try this on sunny day with lots of bright sunlight and you’ll experience amazing color, light refraction and salt crystallization with the ultimate “hands-on” experience for children of all ages.

To make “Ice Tunnels,” fill up a variety of plain plastic containers with water and freeze overnight. Dump the ice onto an art tray or sand & water table, and follow the simple directions attached below from Smart Art 2. Use ordinary table salt or experiment and find different results from using “Ice Cream Salt” which is sold in most grocery stores next to the table salt.

Get the printable instructions here!

What happens when the salt, color and ice sit out for a while and begin their tranformation? Salt is an interesting mineral with many unique properties. It lowers the freezing temperature of water, so it corrodes little crevices into the ice as it melts down portions of it. These crevices, or “nooks and crannies,” show up beautifully when liquid color is dropped into them. As the ice chunks sit in the sun, the salt will create more crevices and as it does, the liquid color moves, blends and sparkles in the light. Hold up to the sun for a wonderful discovery that looks almost like a crystal!

If you leave chunks of ice touching each other, the salt will make some of them stick together after you leave them on the tray for a while. Can you guess why? It’s the corrosion happening between the walls as they touch each other. Amazing, huh?

Here are a collection of salted ice chunks after about a half an hour in the sun. We used mostly blues here, combining Colorations® Liquid Watercolor in teal, blue and turquoise. Let children select their own colors, or experiment with the primary colors (red, blue and yellow) and watch wonderful secondary colors naturally occur. There’s so much to see as you watch the ice, salt and color transform, so bring out the magnifying wands as you enjoy this activity on a warm, sunny day.
Find more creative art lessons in Smart Art 2.

Shop here for your own copy!