Why give children “real” art supplies

Moving into another year of home education, I’ve been reevaluating our approach to the way I offer the kids art opportunities. It’s changed so many times. I’d set up an art station with everything available so they could help themselves then move things in sight but out of reach so they needed to ask me to reach them. Then I’d totally revert. There’s been paint on cushions and glitter embedded in carpet. There’ve been times when I’ve needed to ask a baby to give me a pair of scissors left on the floor by a preschooler who’s moved on to something else. There’s been a lot of frustration around the whole thing.

Lately, we’ve reached a pretty happy place with it. We have two art stations, one in the dining room and one in the playroom. Only a few things are out so the kids aren’t overwhelmed by the options and we can see clearly where everything should go when it’s time to tidy up.

Something else has changed along the way. Bit by bit I’ve been upgrading the materials they use, trading in the “kid” options for real artist quality materials. Drawing pads to paints to sketchbooks to pencils they’ve all taken a step up and we’re really seeing the benefits.

I really think giving kids real tools and materials to work with respects their artistic efforts. It sends the message that we think what they’re up to is important and worth more than throwaway materials. The artist sketchbook my six year old uses for her nature journal has become a prized possession. Given the choice between that and a notebook with lighter weight pages, the choice was easily made. And I think it told her that I felt the observations and efforts making their way into that book mattered.

Unsurprisingly, this seems to motivate children to create. Real materials yield a greater reward, the colours more vibrant and the effects more pleasurable. As adults, we know the difference a pen that writes beautifully makes so why wouldn’t children feel the same.

Related, this then helps them to focus their artwork, spending more time on their pieces, really getting into the details, experimenting and mastering the materials they’re working with. This seems to create less waste as a result, too.

It inspires them to try new things, whether it’s thinking bigger or smaller, experimenting with different tools on a different kind of paper or attempting a totally new subject.

The end result also tends to better last and I’m inspired to take greater care in storing or displaying their work, which surely reinforces the cycle of respect and encouragement.

In collaboration with Office Stationery

Summer Crafts: CD Suncatchers #CollectiveBias

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #CollectiveBias

I tried to get some bigger crafts and activities with kids in before the baby came and life inevitably slowed right down and got that bit more chaotic. As it turned out, we managed this windchime made of CD suncatchers literally just before the day Delilah was born.

As in, we started it on the due date, finished it on 40+1, I went into labour that night and she was born the next morning! I wrote the birth story that night so once I’ve reflected, talked it over with Laurence and edited it, I’ll share that here too.

cd suncatcher wind chimes - hobbycraft

Summer is all about making the most of the light. CDs are particularly effective for catching it and what I found was that their size allowed the girls to feel like they completing lots of little projects. So rather than getting bogged down in a large craft, they were keen to do another and another and another, which was particularly useful because we needed to do both sides for our chimes. It’s an ideal summer craft for families, really.

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First we went to our local Hobbycraft to get supplies. I’d forgot what fun it is in there and what good value everything is.

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I’ll need to make my way back there soon as I want to try tie-dyeing and Talitha wants to get some knitting things. Going there together meant the girls could help me choose what materials they wanted to use, giving them shared ownership of the project.

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Here’s what we used:
Music CDs for stripping
Blank DVD-Rs (blank CDs are fine too)
Dimensional fabric paint
Embroidery hoop
Indoor/Outdoor Multi-surface paint
Craft buttons
Embroidery thread
Permanent marker
PVA glue or hot glue
Glitter pony beads

Here’s what we did:

We used a couple of bases in this craft. I stripped a some CDs by making a scratch and taking the labels off with tape so they’d be clear and fully let the light through. The others were actually DVD-Rs we had hanging about that are never going to get used. Though they weren’t clear, they are reflective so catch the light in a different way.

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We picked up dimensional fabric paint in Hobbycraft’s sewing section. Using a permanent marker, we drew mandala patterns on the CDs and traced the patterns with the fabric paint.

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I was really unsure about what Talitha would make of such a tricky medium but she got the hang of it in no time. We left the patterns to dry overnight then painted them the next day using indoor/outdoor multi-surface paint.

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Others, we painted directly without any outline.

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For yet others, we stuck buttons on with PVA glue. This worked fine for mine but I should have encouraged the kids to put more glue on theirs as we needed to restick. An alternative would be to use hot glue as the result is immediate and it gives you more options in terms of where you put your finished piece.

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We decorated both sides and once everything was dry, I threaded the CDs with embroidery thread and tied them on to the embroidery hoop at varying lengths, adding glitter pony beads at the top of each CD. I also added a couple of lengths of thread to create a handle for the hoop to hang. Now it’s up in our livingroom making everything extra cheerful.

cd suncatcher wind chimes craft - hobbycraft

What do you think? Also, do you have any summer crafts in the pipeline? Anything super easy but effective I might attempt with my big girls with a newborn in tow?

Lucky fish – Chinese New Year craft

Last year when Talitha was three-and-a-half, she and I really got into Chinese New Year with lots of reading, looking and videos and, of course, crafting.

Fish appear a lot in Chinese New Year iconography as symbols of good luck. So, this lucky fish craft fit right in with our Chinese New Year wall display on the go (we need to start this year’s!) and worked those fine motor skills too.

Chinese New Year craft - Lucky Fish-2

We used:
a red paper plate
a marker
stick on eyes
glue pen
gold glitter
hole punch
pipe cleaners
a small measure of gold rick rack
a red rectangle of card (for the “luck” symbol)

What we did:
I wrote the “luck” symbol on the card and let Talitha trace it with glue pen and sprinkle glitter on top (obviously they can do it all if they’re old enough).

I drew a fish shape onto the paper plate (including the mouth) and she cut it out. She struggled a bit with this so she did some and I did some. She’d be fine with it this year, though. She drew scales, traced them with glue and added glitter, and stuck on the eyes.

Chinese New Year craft - Lucky Fish

I punched holes into the tail and she threaded the pipe cleaners through, twisting each one. I helped when she tired of twisting.

I used glue to stick the “luck” symbol to the rick rack and the rick rack to the fish.

Lucky Fish Craft - Chinese New Year

Good luck. 🙂

Pumpkin drilling and more pumpkin fun

Pumpkin day activities

Talitha is recovering from a pretty nasty cold (that’s not her ill face above; she just likes pulling faces!) so although she was in good spirits today, we opted for a quiet one at home. The fact that she neither protested nor even asked about going out tells me she really needed it.

We started off with a to-do list of things we needed to get done. She loves ticking things off a list. Just like her mama. “Bake bread, stew apples, carve pumpkin…” I realised this was starting to look like the most autumnal day ever. So, we fully embraced it.

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By the time the girls helped with the bread and the apples (I peeled, they cut – Ophelia uses a Pampered Chef safety knife while Talitha insists on using a properly sharp knife), I cleaned out the pumpkin and we all had lunch, it was time for Ophelia to have a nap. Where does the time go with children? I always overestimate how much we’re going to get done.

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As soon as she went down, I got the drill out and Talitha decided what her design was going to look like. I was surprised at how well the manual drill worked for her. I helped her to steady the pumpkin but I reckon if she were to do this again, she wouldn’t even need me to do that for her. This is definitely the way forward for little hands – much easier than wielding a knife. I only did a couple of holes. She did the rest. Then she cleared them out with a chopstick.

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We’d looked online for inspiration and she wanted to paint the pumpkin and add glitter. I think she would have been better off using acrylic paint as the tempera paint is already starting to flake off but we may just put some varnish over it tomorrow.

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No sooner had we finished than Ophelia had woken up and come down to admire the pumpkin. It was perfectly timed for the three of us to make pumpkin muffins. We used this recipe but swapped the flours for maize flour (Laurence is wheat intolerant) and used our stewed apple instead of honey. A little dry, I’d say, but everyone else seems to enjoy them.

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Some more of the pumpkin flesh went into our vegetable and bean curry for supper. I can’t believe how much pumpkin we still have left. I can’t even remember what we did with the insides last year. I may well have just thrown them away.

While waiting for supper time, we read “a story about a pumpkin” as I’d promised. I reached for the fairytale collection and Talitha put two and two together and guessed that I meant Cinderella. I don’t know if it’s my hormones or Usborne’s version but I actually started welling up while reading it!

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We also made a paper pumpkin while waiting for supper. I gave them both the same materials and it was quite funny seeing Ophelia so diligently crafting next to her big sister.

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I love that she insisted on also showing hers to the camera!

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We decided that a candlelit supper was in order so of course the pumpkins joined us at the table for supper.

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It’s not been great being ill – all of us have been to some degree – but this one has slowed us down just enough to make a day at home actually a pretty sweet one.

Coloured rice fireworks craft

We’re heading into that portion of the year again where fireworks come on the scene. I’ll be collecting a few ideas for exploring fireworks with little ones, I’m sure, but for now I thought I’d share this craft we did last year.

Just before Bonfire Night last year, I wanted to do a simple “fireworks” craft with Talitha. We were in Trinidad and Tobago for Independence Day that August so she got to see a hugely impressive fireworks display there and it was the first time we were far enough away from the action for her to admire the beauty of the fireworks without being frightened by the bang. She talked about it for ages afterwards so I knew she’d enjoy crafting around them. These photos are from when we did this craft a year ago. We might try them again this year.

We looked at a video clip I’d taken of the fireworks we’d seen launched from San Fernando hill in Trinidad for Independence Day and talked about what fireworks are and how they work in basic terms. Then I got out a few photographs I’d gathered for inspiration.

We made our coloured rice by mixing tempura paint into bowls of rice, spreading them out on a tray to dry and breaking them up a bit afterward. We then added some glitter but, actually, adding the glitter while the paint on the rice would be an idea too.

Coloured rice fireworks craft

The table was laid with different glue options – a glue pen, a pot with a spreader, and a glue bottle – so she could pick and choose and experiment with what she wanted her fireworks to look like. There was also black paper for the night sky and, of course, our glittery, coloured rice!

I left her to it and, of course, hung the results to dry.

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Fireworks feature in so many special occasions: Diwali, Guy Fawkes Night, New Year’s Eve, Independence Day, Chinese New Year and I’m sure there are more! We made New Year’s cards with our coloured rice.

It may seem early for it but we’re already looking forward to the fireworks this Autumn!

Milk bottle cap hot air balloons

With hot air balloons fresh in our minds from the Bristol Balloon Fiesta, I wanted to do a craft with Talitha featuring them. We always have lots of recycling objects around so I grabbed a few milk bottle caps and we got going.

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Milk bottle cap hot air balloons

We used:
Blue card
Milk bottle caps
PVA glue
Glitter glue pens
A toilet roll tube
A dark felt tip pen
Polystyrene packaging chips

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What we did:
Spread LOADS of glue on the bottle caps and stick them to your card. Talitha did her own, I helped Ophelia. Cut the tube into little rectangles for the basket and stick them on. Decorate the balloons with glitter pens. Stick on the chips for clouds and draw in some details with your pen.

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Talitha wanted to do another scene using green card to show hot air balloons that haven’t taken off yet so she drew some people too.

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Even Ophelia had a go. I put glue on the paper and gave her stuff to stick on it. I’d have let her do the glue herself but I could only find one spreader and it was causing a bit of a sharing issue! Once distracted with sticking the clouds she was OK.

Chinese dragon craft – Chinese New Year

We’re going to some Chinese New Year celebrations later this month and I’ve prepared Talitha by showing her pictures and videos online and reading a few stories about it. It’s a bit of an education for me too because, although I’m part Chinese, I didn’t grow up with this festival.

Anyway, Talitha has fallen in love with Chinese dragons and, though they’re usually friendly, she wanted to make a fire-breathing Chinese dragon. We were sent some bits and bobs from Bostik as part of the Tots100/Bostik Craft Bloggers Club for a Chinese New Year craft so it all fit together quite well.

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We used: a gold paper cup, a sheet of red card, foam star stickers, gold rick rack, yellow and orange tissue paper cut into strips, three lolly sticks, googly eyes, glu dots, foam adhesives, a glue gun, a permanent marker and scissors.

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I cut out the bottom of the cup and used glu dots to stick the strips into the opening. This was the fire coming out of the mouth. She stuck the eyes on with glu dots, drew the nostrils with a permanent marker and decorated the dragon’s head with foam star stickers.

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I cut the red card in half and cut one half into two rectangles which she folded into fans for the dragon’s body. I stapled one to each side of the dragon’s head. The second half of red card, she drew wings on and cut them out. She stuck these to the body with foam adhesive and decorated the body with foam star stickers.

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Since I knew she’d want to play with her dragon, I used the glue gun to hot glue the lolly sticks to the body – two forelegs on either side of the body and one backleg as she’d used a glu dot to stick the body together at the tail end. She also added a piece of gold rick rack as a tail with a glu dot.

Chinese dragon craft

And there’s our dragon. She’s a lady dragon, apparently.