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art | Atomic Bee Ranch

Tag Archives: Art

Activity: Weaving

Pipe cleaner weavingOftentimes when I sew Cam really wants to join me. Unfortunately she needs lots of help and doesn’t quite have the running stitch down. To help her develop the concept of the running stitch (where you put the needle down through the top, up through the bottom, down through the top, up through the bottom…) I set up a little provocation with plastic canvas and pipe cleaners.

I figured the pipe cleaners are stiff enough that it will be easy for her to push them through and not have to deal with a needle. The plastic canvas (which is available in all kinds of shapes and sizes) has holes all ready for her to put the pipe cleaners through. It will keep her stitches straight and she can practice not looping over to the other side (creating a whip stitch). 

I set the tray out last week and she started it, but didn’t come back to it. I decided to leave it out for another week even though I’m trying to get out a new provocation each week. Today it’s raining and I have some cataloging to do for the library so I think I’ll invite her to sit next to me and help scan barcodes and weave on the canvas. I also started a rainbow example, something I hadn’t done last week and think may have made it less flexible, but more inviting. 

This would be a great activity for kids practicing their fine motor skills as well as for patterning, counting (count the holes), and as a start to sewing. 


Summer of Mess: Tie Dye

We were going to do shaving cream paint, but at the last minute I realized I didn’t have any shaving cream. Whoops. Good thing we’ve had this tie-dye kit lying around that Cam has been wanting to use. This is not a sponsored post. Cam got into tie-dye a few months ago and I have NO IDEA how. NO IDEA. We don’t own a stitch of tie-dye clothing. We don’t have any tie-dyed stuff. I think it’s just her natural hippie personality. 

I was prepared for a total mess with this project and that’s why the kit sat around for so long. But it turned out to be surprisingly simple and, with a few precautions in place, it was SO much fun and turned out an awesome outfit for Cam. 

So the kit came with two pairs of gloves. They were enormous, but thin so Cam was able to wear them. I set up the splat mat outside and then laid paper towels down under the shirt and shorts we were going to dye. I also kept the paper towel roll outside with us. We both put on our aprons and I mixed up the dye. You just add water to the bottle and shake it up. Before getting started we had looked at a project online to see how you’re supposed to apply the dye, but once we got out there Cam started squirting the shirt and shorts like crazy and I realized that it looked way better than the project we had in mind. I did do a little demo for her first to show her not to squeeze the bottle too hard and how she could move the bottle around instead of pointing it straight down and squeezing. 

About half way through I flipped the shirt and shorts over so we were sure to get the other side (some of the dye soaked through, but it didn’t have nearly enough coverage). Cam did get a little wild at a couple points, but I reminded her that this was permanent dye and that if it got on her clothes we wouldn’t be able to get it out. There were also a few puddles of dye on the splat mat, but I made sure to mop those up right away with the paper towels so we didn’t step in them. 

When we were all done I put out some plastic wrap and laid the shirt and shorts on top, then put another layer over the top. This apparently keeps the clothes damp while the dye sets. After about 7 hours of sitting outside (it was relatively cool yesterday so I knew it wouldn’t dry out) in the shade I brought them in and rinsed them out until they ran fairly clear. Then I washed and dried them. Cam was so thrilled she put them on right away. 

Bonus, the shorts were an all-white pair (who makes all-white clothes for kids?!) that my mother in law had bought. Cam liked them and had worn them a lot so, not surprisingly, they were more gray than white. The look totally new now. You can’t tell how dingy they were. The shirt was also all white (bought by my dad this time), but Cam had never worn it so it didn’t really matter. 

This was so easy and so much fun that I want to do it again soon. Because I was worried about dye everywhere I didn’t bring the camera out so I never got a picture of the process. Next time we do it I will. If you are interested you’ll need some white or light colored clothes or fabric to dye and they I recommend the Tulip One-Step tie dye. There’s no fixer for the dye and it comes with the powder in the bottle. Just add water. The kit I’ve linked to has 18 colors, but they make much smaller kits. You can also buy refills which I assume are powdered dye you add to the bottles. You can also mix the dyes to make other colors so you could in theory buy just the primary colors, but create a rainbow. Target also sells the dye and they were on clearance recently so keep your eye out for that too. 

Summer of Mess: Paste Paper

IMG_6259This was a lot of fun, but didn’t go exactly as the Tinkerlab book seemed to think it would. The basic premise is you make a gelatinous paste with cornstarch and water then color it with food coloring or liquid watercolor. Then your child “paints” with it on paper.

Cam glopped it on and I set out a number of scrapers (no brushes, although you could put those out too). She also likened the texture to snot and poop, but it didn’t stop her from digging in. The actual art portion of the activity lasted about five minutes and then devolved into her rubbing it ALL OVER her legs. It got in her hair, on her diaper, and on her shirt. However, it was so easy to wash off. So easy. I popped her in the shower and hosed her down with the shower wand. Easy peasy. I had used liquid water color so the color mostly washed out of the clothes and didn’t stain her skin.

I was actually really impressed. Cam is a lot like me and doesn’t like to get messy, dirty, or have weird textures on her hands. So the fact that she rubbed it everywhere (and I do mean everywhere) was a big change for her. I think maybe the texture was smooth and wet enough that it didn’t bother her. 

IMG_6260If you try this…

…do it outside or on a large splat mat. Things will get messy, as they should.

…this actually makes an EXCELLENT color mixing/color theory lesson. The paste mixes together really well and makes other colors. 

…bear in mind that this is process art. It’s unlikely that you will get anything you want to frame out of this, unless your child is good with texture. 

…food coloring will stain their skin, and this could end up all over. Use liquid water color if you’re worried about it or put on old clothes that can get stained.

Summer of Mess: Marker Explosions

Our lackluster first attempt

Our lackluster first attempt

This one came from the Tinkerlab book and I wish I had been a little more strategic about telling Cam about it. She wanted to get started right away but I was busy putting groceries away. She got out markers and coffee filters and, eventually, I got out pipettes and water. It was a disaster. Her picture essentially washed away and she cried. I was also not totally ready to sit down with her and she didn’t engage fully. It was just a mess. 

The basic premise here is that you color on a paper towel or a coffee filter then drip water onto the design and watch it soak outward. It’s a pretty cool effect. A bit like fireworks which I thought was appropriate for the approaching Fourth of July holiday. One we didn’t really achieve. I plan on trying again later today.

The new set up

The new set up

If you try this…

…set up first. I suppose this goes without saying, but I didn’t do it and I regret it. 

…in the book she suggests using something like canvas (like a tote bag), I think this might prevent the marker from totally washing away if you get too much water on it. You can use coffee filters and paper towels, but we had the problem of too much water sweeping the marker away.

…try a lot of different markers out. Sharpies work. We did the regular felt tip markers and they weren’t very impressive. You can also use highlighters- we’ve done that before and it worked really well. 

…we discovered that lighter markers (like the yellow) really don’t show up well once dripped with water. Darker colors looked a lot better. 

…coffee filters, if the design stays put, get flattened out and make great window hangings once they are dry. 

Activity in the Hive: Salad Spinner Art

I am making more of an effort to really give Cam some messy experiences. I’ll be addressing this more in another post, but a several weeks ago, now that the weather has turned nice, we set up a table outside and got out some paint. 

IMG_6205IMG_6209This was a really simple activity. All you need is a salad spinner, some paper cut to fit inside the basket or coffee filters, and paint. If you have squeeze bottles that will make it easier (buy them at the Dollar Store during the summer months). I thinned the paint with water so it would flow better and as soon as Cam saw me doing that she wanted to do it too, so it turned into a paint mixing project as much as a paper painting project. That was just fine.IMG_6210 

To do it, place the paper or filter into the salad spinner. Drizzle some paint in and close it up. Spin, spin, spin. Then open it up and see what kind of pattern it made. The art it creates isn’t going up in a gallery, but you can cut it up and use it for scraps in collages, you could use it on cards or tape it up in the window for awhile. It’s process art at it’s best. IMG_6207 


The Language of Art by Ann Pelo

When children use art supplies they tend to engage in two types of art: process and representational. Process art comes first and really satisfies their urge to explore with all their senses. They touch, taste, smell, and use their hands, feet and body when creating process art. But there is no end product in process art, at least not an intended product. They are experimenting. The value and learning inherent in it comes from the process of working with and manipulating the medium, be it paint, markers, paper, wire, or clay.

Representational art is, as it sounds, when children use an art medium to create a representation. It may be a drawing of your family with markers or prototype for an invention they have dreamed up made of shoe boxes. Whatever it is, children use the art medium as a tool to make their thinking visible.

Giving children the opportunity to explore various art mediums in their process art helps them build a repertoire of tools they can draw on when they wish to create a representation or express their thinking. This is an especially useful skill for young children who may not yet be able to read and write or whose ability to write cannot keep up with their ability to express complex thinking. It’s important to note that representational art does not supplant process art, but works in tandem with it. Children can continue to add new mediums to their toolboxes and learn new techniques as they grow.

There is also a transitional phase. Even though children continue to engage in process art they make a cognitive leap into representational art at some point in their toddlerhood. This transition is called fortuitous realism. They have scribbled or drawn and shape and, lo, it looks a lot like a tree or person. They will call attention to it and name what they have drawn.

Language of Art

I have to admit, I’m terrible at coming up with art projects and letting Cam make a mess, so our art has been less than ideal in some ways. However, I’ve been watching Cam approach this transition and it’s been really fascinating. I’ve also been working very hard to give her plenty of time and space to play with art media (despite my mess aversion).

One of the best resources I have found is The Language of Art by Ann Pelo. It is so incredibly helpful in giving ideas for art set ups and explorations. She tells you everything you need, what the purpose is, how to set the studio up, even ideas for documenting the project, and how to clean up. We’ve only just begun working through it, but already we have had some incredible art experiences.

For Your Bookshelf: Push Here

For Your Bookshelf Banner

photoWe bought this book a few months back for Cam, but she’s just now getting to the point where she can appreciate the language and humor of it. This little book has a lot of good components to it. It has a humorous tone and requires kids to think about color, shape, and art. It is also interactive and requires the reader to follow certain directions (as the title suggests). The text is also simple enough and repetitive enough that emerging readers could read it.