Kids’ Art Center 

Summer break for a teacher means rest and relaxation, right?  Well, some of the time, yes.  This summer I am taking a couple of classes for my master’s degree, one of which will wrap up at the end of July.  In the meantime, I am finding ways to procrastinate doing the work.  Hence last night, totally reorganizing my kids’ art center, which just so happens to share space with our dining room. Up until now, it has been a disorganized mess, just like my own art room.  Gee wonder where they get that from?  However, this disorganization prevents them from making art on a whim, which is what I need more of, in order to get some of my own work done.


I made a curricular switch a few years back to Teaching for Artistic Behaviors, which necessitated a complete overhaul of the way I teach and the space in which I teach in.  I have also been in two different elementary classrooms in the past 4 years.  Thus, I have done two total reorganizations, akin to reorganizing a small house or apartment.  So, reorganizing my own house should come naturally, no?  Actually, I have found it is hard to come home and do just that.


Anyways, here is the almost done art center, located near their table in one of our wonderful built-ins.  I forgot to take before pictures, but trust me it was overflowing with things.  My almost 3-year old loves that he can get out his play dough, tools and mats all on his own.  Before, it was a hassle and he complained about lifting the box down, to get off the lid, and get access to the supplies.  Now, the bin stays put since it is open and well-organized.

Smaller items were organized into a 3-drawer plastic organizer.

Other items were organized into shoe box plastic tubs, open bins, and a large hanging file system for the paper.  By the way, all of these bins were either repurposed from other places in the house, or found in thrift shops.
The art center is ready to use, and the kids couldn’t be happier!  Now they can find everything, reach it themselves, and hopefully put it back on their own as well. I’ll keep you posted on their ability to put things away…

I added picture labels to make it even easier for my non-reader, something I have all over my own classroom.  Now it really feels like a corner of my classroom at home.

Boredom Buster Books

I finally got around to creating a set of small take-along binders for my two kids.  They are forever wanting to be busy, constantly restless in restaurants, and my eldest is always wanting to write or draw something.  Here is what my solution looks like:

A half-sized, mini binder filled with pocket dividers, page protectors with activities, and lined paper in the back for writing or drawing.

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I drew some simple, blank-ish images for the kids to creatively fill in.  My thoughts were to update these every now and then with more simple line drawings.

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We absolutely love the Crayola dry erase markers – washable, wipeable, bright, and not smelly!

My five-year old, as we speak, is working diligently on  her book, all while giving me suggestions for more pages.  I haven’t even dived into the free printable sections of the internet yet, but suspect that will be the next place I look for page ideas.

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I made quite a few simple pages with writing practice.  My eldest is working hard on learning her rather long middle name, address, and phone number.  This certainly can’t hurt!

Now I am debating whether or not to make a set of these for the drawing center in my classroom.  I could fill  it with some simple drawing ideas for the younger grades, or even with FAQ in drawing.

Valentine Cards 2015

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My hands are stained pink tonight – magenta pink.  Why? Because of my love for hand-made Valentine’s and my daughter’s blossoming creative process.

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it all started with her asking me, “Mommy, when is Valentine?”  I told her it was next weekend – 7 sleeps away and her reply was, “I need Valentine’s!”  I asked her what she wanted to have on her Valentine cards and she said, “A horse with rainbow mane and tail, clouds, and standing on a rainbow.”  Wow.  It is like I was looking at my childhood self.  I will be honest, I was kind of hoping to hear robot, frog, car, or robotic frogs in cars.  I wasn’t expecting this!  It was a few hours later I realized she was inspired by a card she received – I was slow to put the two and two together.

Anyway, I got to thinking.  I realized I had enough printmaking supplies to outfit her entire class in Valentine cards, and so decided to go with it.  I have made quite a few Valentine’s Day cards myself in the printmaking media.  Printmaking is one of the easier ways to make hand-made but mass-produced artworks, if you ask me.  All you need are linoleum blocks, a cutting tool, a brayer, and ink.  This Speedball Deluxe Block Printing Kit makes it so easy to get started on printmaking!

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Here is the almost finished linoleum block.  I kept this block smaller, so from sketch to this point only took me about an hour.  The trick is to use a warm iron to soften the block – this makes for easier carving.

inkedThe next step is to make a test print, or an artist proof.  These AP prints are crucial for finding areas that were not cut in the desired way the first time around.

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AP #1 shows a few areas to be improved upon.  Where is the eye?

Ap2Phew, looking better now (no pun intended).  After the AP, I always wash the linoleum block and pat it dry.  The leftover ink stains the block, making the correcting process that much easier. Oh, and it stains skin too, so be more mindful than I was during clean-up. However, this water-soluble ink cleans up easily in soap and water.

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The finished (for now) print.  Greta and I will be collaborating even more on these prints tomorrow – I assumed she would add her own coloring to finish the rainbows.  I can’t wait to see how she makes these prints her own, and I am excited to show you my plans for the adult version.

DIY Color Shape Magnets

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We recently made a trip to Eastern Iowa, as a family, and brought along these fun colorful magnets for car entertainment.  When not in transit, they reside on the refrigerator where they provide hours of fun during meal prep time.  The image above is a house, according to Greta.  She it recently created it from the various geometric shapes and door shapes we cut out for her to use.  Read on for the simple steps to make these.

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The inspiration came from the Des Moines Art Center and their kids’ activity area.  They provide lunch boxes filled with colorful vinyl magnets for quiet, creative entertainment for kids while in the galleries.  Greta was so enthralled with them, we knew we had to create our own.

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We ordered the vinyl magnets from Amazon.  They come in a 5 pack of 8.5 x 11″ sheets and then we cut them into various shapes using my paper cutter, scissors, and a hobby knife.

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Eric got creative and pulled out a few cookie cutters to use as stencils.  He traced around them and then used a hobby knife to cut them out.  Her favorites are the dinosaur and ninja shapes.

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Rather than the lunch box as a magnetic surface, we opted to use a cookie sheet for travel, that way she has room to create larger scenes and keep it on her lap.  The cookie sheet can also double as a lap desk for books and drawing.

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Next up: creating sets of these for my classroom to use as free time activities.

Toddler Collage Art + Strawberry Graham Yogurt Pops

Greta and I have both been busy working on collages lately.  Greta has watched me make collages countless times and I haven’t yet thought to have her make her own at home.  I know she’s made them at school, but she blew me away with her collage skills.  Little collage artist in training, I tell ya!
This particular collage was my favorite one that she made yesterday.  It was the third one in a series of four that we completed in the morning before nap time.  She was tickled at the way the holes would allow colors beneath to show through.  She quickly learned that the glue had to go on the edges and so had to slide her papers around in order to move the glue.
The large glue bottle was perfect for her little hands.  We practiced squeezing the glue out onto the paper while the bottle was just above the paper.  She enjoyed slowly squeezing out the glue and watching it pool, as it was pooling she would ask me, “Good, Mommy?” to check on the amount of her glue.  Only a couple times did I say, “Ok that’s good,” most of the time she figured out the amount of glue on her own.

Next, Greta placed her cut papers onto the glue dots.  I enjoyed watching her choose papers based on color, size, and shape.

I used the color issue of In Style magazine for all of her shapes.  Fashion magazines make the best collage magazines due to their textures, variety of color, and size of colors.  The first collage she made was full of random shapes.  For her second one, she decided she wanted mostly circles.

This is her mostly circle collage.  As she got more used to making collages, she began to request particular colors, sizes, and shapes.  Her most frequently requested were yellow circles.  As I flipped through the magazine, she would ask me to cut out certain items she liked – such as the eye.  Her final collage used overlapping pieces with small areas cut out of the middle, this is at the top of this post.

Greta has plastic scissors and we are working on her cutting technique, but in the meantime, this mommy daughter collage collaboration is a fun way to spend a morning.

We spent part of our morning on Friday making yogurt pops.  Greta helped me layer strawberry yogurt, crumbled graham crackers, and chocolate syrup to make these delicious freezer pops.  Frozen desserts are a good way to practice patience for little kitchen helpers!