A Thousand Cranes & Other Collaborative Art

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This week I had the good fortune to visit Anna Bing Arnold Children’s Center at Cal State L.A., where creative ideas are thriving. Curriculum Coordinator Alexandra Walsh and Director Patricia Ulloa have decades of combined experience and a particularly innovative staff. Like Dominic, who facilitated this brilliant collaborative puzzle piece painting with three- and four-year-olds, which immediately caught my eye. Isn’t it brilliant?

anna crane 2 anna crane 3Dominic explained how this experimental project began by cutting 12 x 18” Real Watercolor Paper into puzzle shapes, then prompting children to select a shape and paint it using Colorations® Simply Washable Fluorescent Tempera. The puzzle pieces were placed in a basket in the art area for use at any time. The intense color you see here resulted from distinct 3 variables:  (1) using fluorescent paint,  (2) mounting each puzzle piece painting onto black construction paper, then trimming a close border, and (3) by using watercolor paper instead of white construction paper. The added thickness (and spongy quality) of watercolor paper absorbs more pigment than regular paper, giving the finished paintings a visual “pop.”   Nice!

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I fell in love with this Thousand Cranes Origami project, facilitated by Jasmine Cruz and Raul Delgado, which creates a unique environment that children, parents and teachers all participated in!  This delightful classroom activity, which combines open-ended art with math foundations and collaborative teamwork, embodies the “Four C’s” which children will later address in Kindergarten and elementary school.  These “Four C’s” are the four specific skills deemed by the US Dept of Education to be the most important for preparing students to succeed in the 21st century: critical thinking, communication, collaboration, and creativity.  Kudos to Jasmine and Raul for initiating an important learning experience while adding beauty and innovation to their school.

anna crane 8A Thousand Origami Cranes is a group of one thousand origami paper cranes held together by strings. An ancient Japanese legend promises that anyone who folds a thousand origami cranes will be granted a wish by a crane. Some stories believe you are granted eternal good luck. The crane in Japan is one of the mystical or holy creatures that is said to live for a thousand years: That is why 1,000 cranes are made, one for each year. Here children decorated papers over the course of two months, while parents and staff folded them into a thousand origami cranes. Thanks to patience and motivation, the children’s parents, grandparents and teachers strung all thousand of their hand-colored paper cranes onto cord and even added pony beads for charm.

Creative art programs like this one develop over time as the result of intention and practice on the part of administration and teachers. Lots of little tips that facilitate art set-ups are learned from experience. Writing the paint color of each bottle on the top of the white lid makes identifying each bottle a breeze.  Glue doesn’t just stick things together. It can be used in unique ways and one way is to pour a thick layer of clear glue onto a smooth surface and add seed pods, ferns and natural collage elements. When the thick layer of glue eventually dries, it creates a unique semi-clear glaze which holds the collage elements together. This second collage also uses clear glue, but in this one the glue is first infused with Colorations® Liquid Watercolor, then is painted and drizzled onto butcher paper.

anna crane 9 anna crane 10 anna crane 11anna crane 12Last but not least I re-discovered one of my favorite art techniques at Anna Bing Arnold that day:  the wonderful effect of colored chalk on black paper. This black butcher paper mural has so much energy, and I love how the door handle was cut out!  It also beautifully illustrates the constructionist idea on the poster in the center’s lobby: “Inviting children to fully engage in the use of messy, unstructured materials allows them to explore freely with infinite possibilities.”anna crane 13Thank you, Alex and staff for a LOT of inspiration.  Which one do YOU want to try?  

Materials Used Here:
Colorations® Liquid Watercolor Paints, 8 oz. – Set of 18 (LW18)

Colorations® Washable Clear Glue (P4GL)

Butcher Paper Rolls (P4018)

36″ x 1000′ Dual Surface Rolls, 40 lb., black (PDSBK)

Colorations® Colored Dustless Chalk – 100 pieces (CNODUST)

12 x 18″ Real Watercolor Paper – 50 sheets (BIGMONET)

9×12″ Heavyweight Construction Paper – 50 sheets (9CPBK)

Colorations® Simply Washable Fluorescent Tempera – set of 7 (FSWTSET)

Pony Beads – 1 lb. (PONY)

* Brought to you by Discount School Supply®

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

My Top 10 Activities for Creative Family Fun

Paint BottlesWinter time feels like the perfect time for families to gather around the kitchen table to make things together by hand. This will encourage creativity and family fun as well as form a great bonding experience, and fosters giggles and smiles and all sorts of good feelings. And it’s high-touch, not high-tech, for that much needed life balance.

Many adults have forgotten the wonderful smell of a new pack of crayons, or the fresh feeling of new clay dough. Don’t miss out on the fun, work and play along WITH your children as you make things together this season.

AR Washi Tape 3My passion for all things handmade started in my own family decades ago, when we made things together for the holidays. So check out my list of FAVORITE art materials for families and get ready for some FUN.

10 Fun Things to Make:

  1. Make Your Own Tambourine – kit for 12 {JINGLEKIT}
  2. Mini Canvases and Easel – set of 6 {POLLOCK}
  3. White Canvas Backpacks – set of 12 {BACKPACK}
  4. Decorate Your Own Puppy – set of 12 {DOXIE}
  5. Decorate Your Own Vehicles – set of 12 {TRAVEL}
  6. Wooden Model Airplanes – set of 12 {JETSET}
  7. Wooden Flower Pot Frames – set of 12 {FLFRM}
  8. Whimsical Trinket Boxes – set of 12 {TRINKBOX}
  9. Super Sand Art Set {SASET}
  10. Colorations® Super Lightweight Air-Dry Putty – colors {CPUTTY }

Unique Paints & Decorations for the Above Crafts:

Colorations® Shimmery Washable Watercolors – set of 5 {ROXY}
Colorations® Glitter Glue – set of 6 {GGST}
Fantastic Foam Stickers – set of 24 {FFOAMS}
Realistic Wiggly Eyes – 300 pieces {EYESONME}
Glittering Craft Rhinestones – 570 pieces {STONES}
Printed Craft Tape – set of 10 rolls {PRINTED}
Colorations® Super Washable Classic Markers – set of 16 {LWMSET}
Colorations® Color Permanent Markers – set of 12 {PERMCLR}
Colorations® Washable Chubbie Primary Markers – set of 8 {SPONGE}
Colorations® Fabric Paint – set of 6 4-oz bottles {FABPAINT}
Colorations® Cup and Tray Tempera Cakes {CUPNTRAY}
Neon Tempera Cakes in a Tray {NEONCAKE}
Original and Flourescent BioColor® Painters – set of 18 {BIOMAR}
Three Sets of Colorations® Chubbie Markers – set of 24 {CHUBBERS}
Colorations® Jumbo Washable Classroom Stamp Pad {BIGSTAMP}
Easy-Grip Seasonal Stampers – set of 14 {EGSS}

* Brought to you by Discount School Supply®

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

Fall Art Ideas for Young Children

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Fall is here, the leaves are starting to turn and the air is becoming crisper. Hooray! It’s time for the scents and smells of autumn. Here are some fun ways to bring autumn themes into YOUR home or classroom.

Small gourds and Indian corn make great additions to your sensory bin and inspire children to observe, compare and explore nature and its many attributes. This sensory bin promotes STEM learning foundations, as does the observational painting that you can introduce with the same gourds.

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This 3-year-old is painting with Colorations® Liquid Watercolor™ as she observes and documents a gourd. Observational drawing and painting is an important way to facilitate critical thinking and brain development in early childhood. Drawing and painting from nature can also slow children down, reduce stress and promote self- regulation. These are important skills for children to learn that go way beyond the more obvious benefits of art-making.

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Leaf Punching is a great way to incorporate nature into your fall art activities. Use large hole punches that are easy for young hands to manipulate and punch shapes out of leaves that are at various stages of drying out. You can also let colored leaves dry out completely and crunch them into “leaf glitter” to use in collage work.

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Tree bark makes a good natural painting surface. Look for fallen bark pieces on a nature walk this time of year. These chunks of eucalyptus bark made for wonderful paintings by 2- and 3-year-olds. Painting on bark calls for an opaque paint, like acrylic paint.

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Don’t forget how much fun it can be to add Colorations® Liquid Watercolor™ to soil and paint with it. This Writing Center incorporates color-tinted soils to Twig Books, a variation of the Paper Bag Book lesson plan from Smart Art Ideas.

Thanks for checking in and have a wonderful autumn.

Materials Used:
Colorations® Liquid Watercolor™, 8 oz – Set of 18 (LW18)

Colorations® Acrylic Paints, 8 oz – Set of 8 (CACRYLIC)

Giant Paper Punches – Set of 8 (BIGPUNCH)

* Brought to you by Discount School Supply®

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

Toddler Art with Clara: A Child’s First Art Materials

Parents often ask me, “What’s the best art material to start with beyond the obvious crayons and markers?” I remember wondering the same thing when my children became toddlers. When they could first grasp a spoon and feed themselves, did that mean they were ready to grasp a crayon or a paintbrush? As a lifelong art teacher, I was eager to give my own children the opportunity to enjoy art AS SOON AS POSSIBLE, and begin what I considered the joyful process of messy art and sensory discovery. But of all the innovative art products for children on the market, what would I introduce first?  I learned a lot from trial and error and observation, which I pass along to you here.

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Recently my friend, April, asked me what she should get for her daughter, Clara, who is 2.5 years old. Clara already enjoyed scribbling, drawing and finger painting, but her mom wanted to expose her to more good stuff. April sent me this delightful photo of Clara in the buff, painting herself with bright red paint. The photo shows that Clara is a budding young artist and that her mom has the good sense to set her up with a painting station at home. Yay! What a great start to art.

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I sent April two of my favorite toddler art supplies – Colorations® Smooth & Silky Art Sticks and Do A Dot Art™ MarkersSmooth & Silky Art Sticks are my absolute favorite for toddlers; you see them here in yellow, blue and purple. They are so smooth, they feel like drawing with lipstick. Smooth & Silky Art Sticks are creamier than oil pastels, softer than crayons, and quickly color blend into secondary colors. Children can even add water with chubby brushes for a watercolor wash effect, or an adult can sponge down the paper first and have children draw onto wet paper for a “bleeding color” effect. They are the perfect tool for enhancing creativity.

Do A Dot Art™ Markers are another easy-to-grasp paint marker and the easiest way to apply paint without fingers or a brush. They are a similar product to Colorations® Washable Chubbie Markers, but they have the added benefit of simple labeling that reinforces language development when children are first learning colors.

One last product I suggested for Clara is Colorations® Chubby Crayon Eggs, which you see here as chunky round color balls. Crayon Eggs are a fun way to introduce another tool that facilitates gross motor skills, since they are more likely to be used with shoulder motions than wrist motions. All these materials are easy to grasp and give quick and easy feedback. That is, they do not require a high level of cognitive or motor development to respond. They are quick to show a child the delights of cause and effect – the child made a motion and caused the effect of a mark on the paper.

Early childhood art is developmentally complex, and there are reams of books written on the topic. Most parents have no idea how useful it is to give children a variety of art tools to explore their world. Nor do they know how much they could help develop their child’s brain power by introducing them to a variety of art materials. The use of tools to impact the world is something that literally distinguishes us from other animals. Even though it may seem very simple when a child makes a mark on paper, it is developmentally complex. If you want parents to grasp these concepts more clearly, consider duplicating this handout {here and here or click on the images below} and giving it to parents in their Back-to-School handout pack.

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Getting back to Clara: It just so happens that this is a PERFECT time for young Clara to be expanding her art repertoire. She is at the age when she’s exploring her impact on the physical world around her. She is beginning to separate from her parents and experience herself as a unique individual. And in Clara’s case, she is about to have a new sibling because her mother is 8 months pregnant!  So Clara will benefit from new forms of art expression that enable her to express herself and channel her feelings about having a new baby in the family.

Which makes me think of an amusing story about sibling rivalry that I’ll end with. It’s a story my husband loves to tell, that illustrates a child’s point of view when a new sibling is born. “Imagine your husband comes home and tells you he’s about to bring a second wife home, but that you should not worry or be concerned because he has love enough for two wives. Just because he’s bringing home a second wife doesn’t mean he loves you any less. He has love enough to go around. In fact, he hopes you will love this new wife too, just as he does. He hopes you will treat her with respect and not hit her or pull her hair, but love her too, as part of a beautiful, growing family.”  I love how this silly story drives home the complexity of sibling rivalry. Young Clara pictured here, delightfully exploring Colorations® Smooth & Silky Art Sticks and Do A Dot Art™ Markers, is about to realize her parents have love enough for two children. But should she have “issues” with that realization, she will have new ways to express her complex feelings through art.

What were YOUR child’s first art materials? We welcome your comments!

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Materials Used:
Smooth & Silky Art Sticks – set of 72 (SILKYPAK)
Do-A-Dot Art™ Markers – set of 32 (THEDS)
Do-A-Dot Art™ Primary Markers – set of 6 (PDD)
Do-A-Dot Art™ Brilliant Markers – set of 6 (BDD)
Do-A-Dot Art™ Flourescent Markers – set of 5 (FDD)
Do-A-Dot Art™ Shimmer Markers – set of 5 (SDD)
Colorations® Washable Chubbie Markers – set of 24 (CHUBBERS)
Colorations® Washable Chubbie Markers Primary – set of 8 (SPONGE)
Colorations® Washable Chubbie Markers Tropical – set of 8 (TSPONGE)
Colorations® Washable Sparkle Chubbie Markers – set of 8 (MESPONGE)
Colorations® Chubby Crayon Eggs – set of 8 (CHUBEGG)
Stubby Chubby Brushes – set of 12 (SPIFFY)

* Brought to you by Discount School  Supply®

Welcome Back! Let’s Start with Art

Welcome back to school! It’s a fresh new school year and the season of beginnings. Many of you already have classrooms filled with eager, bright and often shy new faces. Others are busily preparing for that exciting first day of class. All of us, whether we are teachers, parents or simply “grown ups” who love children are eagerly anticipating a year of joyful learning.

Let’s explore how ART ties in with those first exciting weeks of school.

How do YOU use art to help children engage in your classroom? Here’s a useful handout to send home with parents as school begins – it helps them understand how they can partner with you in using art to help children grow and become their best selves.

Recently I asked a group of seasoned teachers about their favorite “first art project.” Several responded with SELF PORTRAITS, I liked that! But given that there are so many drawing materials to choose from for a self portrait, where is a teacher to begin? I love the use of BOLD permanent markers for early self portraits. Here are some examples of back to school self portraits from Francine Farkas’s 4-year-old class.

Francine gives children bold, permanent markers to draw with so their portraits really “pop” on the page. She keeps these initial self portraits in her children’s Art Portfolios (more on that in a future post) and they will serve as a “baseline” drawing of each child’s development when the year began. Each portrait will be saved and shared at parent/teacher conferences and will serve as a valuable reference point for measuring developmental growth as the year goes by.

Francine mounts each portrait onto construction paper to emphasize the importance of each one and to create an “art gallery” effect. Because her classroom is not so large, she uses the supply door closet as a gallery space.

The teacher next door took a different approach to her “first art” self portraits, still using bold permanent markers so the portraits “pop” on the page, but adding a photograph of each child. Look closely at the clever use of a blank picture frame held by each child in its photograph.

This teacher’s laminated self portraits hang outside her classroom door. What a delightful way for both children and parents to be greeted at the start of each new day.

Teachers in the four-year-old classrooms at Pressman Academy often leave fine tipped, black permanent markers (PERMBLK) out for open-ended drawing, and as a result children create bold pictures with a sense of authority.

One other thing: When I asked my group of seasoned teachers for their favorite “art tip” to start the new year right, they said to offer lots of open ended exploration of art materials right from the start. This included the simplest idea of starting out with easy to use Colorations® tempera cakes (A8TCA) with Colorations® easy grip brushes (EGBRUSH).

And moved on to including unusual sensory art ideas that children would not likely find at home. Such as these rainbow striped pom pom balls (COLORPOM) in a sensory tub (TUBS) which I saw in one classroom, and those same colorful pom poms in another classroom on trays with sea and zoo  sticks (AP632J) and a variety of other pinch grippers. I loved both these applications! And I also imagined several other things we might do with these same colorful, oversized pom poms.

Have a wonderful new year, and don’t forget to stock up on fun new art materials to inspire your students and keep YOU feeling inspired as well.

Materials Used:
Sea and Zoo Sticks – set of 4 (AP632J)
* Brought to you by Discount School Supply®

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

Foam Paint Fun!

When was the last time you used Colorations Foam Paint in your classroom?  This paint is so much fun, children never get tired of it no matter how many times you bring it out.  Here’s the way I set it up for a group of 4 year olds.

Here we are using Foam Paint to decorate the cover of Paper Bag Books, which we had made the week before. Here I am introducing the idea to everyone, you can see how engaged they are.

Foam paint is so inviting, children are always eager to get started. Of all the paints I use with children, foam paint is one I can bring out again and again with any age child and they never get tired of it. There’s something magical about watching brightly colored foam spritz out of a can and pile up high on a plate! It even makes noise as you spritz in out onto a paper palette, it is the ultimate sensory experience!

Sometimes I pass out large bristle brushes and sometimes we use paper towel rags to apply the paint.   Here you see four year olds applying foam paint with large chubby brushes.  You can see the white crayon scribbles underneath the paint, if you look at the finished book on the tabletop.

And here you see a 3 year old boy applying foam paint with a paper towel. He is using the paper towel as a “painting rag” instead of using a brush. Either paper towel rags or large chubby brushes works fine, and I suggest you try both ways at different times. After all, when you vary how you apply paint, you stimulate new problem solving and a variety of different fine motor skills.

Here’s the finished result from the 3 year old class. In this particular application, the children were working on “Rainforest Paintings.” They used large write crayons to first put down lines that represented rain (scribbles, dots and stripes) then patted foam paint on top with their paper towel rags. We used foam paint that represented the colors of the rainforest. Then, for the final layer, we used Liquid Watercolor in bingo bottles to create rain “splashes” on top. The foam paint gives these paintings wonderful color and texture. For an introduction on how to use foam paint, view the video clip below. Thanks for checking in!


Colorations Foam Paint, set of all 7 colors – BFPSET
Triangular Chubby Brushes- TRIBRU
Large White Crayons – 12PCWH

Reggio Inspired Use of Liquid Watercolor

I just had the good fortune to attend an inspiring BJE Early Childhood Institute hosted by Adat Ari El Synagogue in Los Angeles. I was completely mesmerized by Adat Ari El’s classrooms, which were full of life and color, and clearly reflected engaged learners. I found great pleasure and inspiration from their use of art and the way children responded to their open ended approach to creativity. Check out these colorful examples:

Their ECE Director, Beryl Straus, explained to me that Adat Ari El has been slowly incorporating Reggio Emilio principles into their curriculum for seven years. Adat Ari El preschool is known in LA as one of the places to schedule a site visit if you want to learn more about the Reggio approach to learning. But Beryl pointed out to me that their Reggio inspired program didn’t happen overnight – that their curriculum is always in a fluid state of change, adaptation, and improvement. They have an “Atelier” (art studio) and an “Atelierista” (art specialist) – how exciting! But each of their teachers also incorporates art in their classroom daily, and they share ideas and materials with Tali Soffer, their Atelierista. Adat Ari El preschool is a truly engaging environment and I’m happy to share photos from their Atelier and classroom art here, by video clip. Most of the artwork shown here uses Liquid Watercolor, one of my favorite paints. I found Liquid Watercolor being used in every classroom, with beautiful results.

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Materials List

Colorations Liquid Watercolor – complete set of colors

Colorations Liquid Watercolor Kit

Colorations Oil Pastels

Real Watercolor Paper – 50 Sheets

Colorations® Super Classroom Paint Brush Set