Process Art for Preschool

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Clear glue, glitter and washable paint on canvas at 6 months old!

A phrase I find myself repeatedly saying during Together Time is “Remember, it’s about the process, not the product.” Over and over again I say this to parents, so I figured it time to give a more in-depth explanation as well as some fun ideas on how to explore process art at home!

What is process art? It is defined as ‘art created primarily as a physical record of the creative process.’ When we talk about process art as it relates to our children, it is simply an art experience where the focus is about the process and not the product. If we think about it, when it comes to children, their desire to approach art this way is innate. We as adults are the ones caught up in the product – especially in this Pinterest age.

So, what defines a process art project? First, there are no step-by-step instructions and no sample for children to follow. If you’ve attended Together Time, you will likely be used to this idea. While it might seem like a crazy ‘free-for-all’ at times, I assure you there is a method to the madness! With no sample, there is simply no right or wrong way to create the art. There is no correct or incorrect way to explore the art materials presented and no standard of perfection to live up to!  This allows focus to lie only in the experience and exploration of techniques and materials/tools.

While this idea may seem stressful to us as caregivers, it’s actually quite calming for children (and adults who participate, too).  It gives children a rare opportunity to have freedom, full control and complete ownership over an experience and their creation. If you stop to think about a toddlers day, this is something they do not have very often!

Sounds great, right? (scary and great is okay, too!) So, let’s get started. My first suggestion for home is use a tray. Any tray. Most art stores carry plastic art trays, but you can also use a baking sheet or dollar store serving tray – it doesn’t matter. Highchairs are a great place for toddler process art, as is outside or even in the bath. Wherever you feel comfortable with a potential mess (and I guarantee, your comfort level will increase with experience).

Next create a simple set-up or ‘invitation to play’, which is another phrase you may hear from educators! This is simply a presentation of art materials and tools.  Sometimes I will do this before my daughter wakes up, so she goes right to the tray instead of the tv (works every time, too). It doesn’t have to be complicated. A few plastic figures/cars, three blobs of paint on a paper plate and some paper will keep a toddler busy for a surprising amount of time! Here are some invitations for play/to create from Pinterest!

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Invitation to create with snow and watercolors!

If you are worried it could get too messy – set them up in the bathtub or on a drop cloth outside!

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Exploring washable paints outside – 6 months old.

Once they’re engaged, you can let them be or join in! If you need the time to prepare a meal, take it. But if you feel like joining in grab your own piece of paper and do so. Parallel art is a great way to bond and learn together. Try asking THEM for suggestions as to how to create – “what color should I use?” or “where should I add more paint?” and make comments about the experience “I really like making art with you!” or “I love how you’re using the brush that way!” as they work.

A while back I wrote a blog for S&S Worldwide on talking to children about art – you can read it here for more ideas!

If you want to make process art ‘giftable’, I love the wooden frames from Michael’s (they’re $1!) or keep some small canvases on sale.  Also, clear glue on a dollar store frame makes a beautiful stained glass piece!

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Clear glue, food coloring, toothpicks and a dollar store frame!
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stained glass creation

I believe that introducing art materials in this way at a very early age has instilled a sense of confidence and mastery of art materials in my now 3 year old daughter. She has a true love for all things art and writing, which I feel is partly a result of easing her frustration  and doing away with limitations or result-oriented expectations early on.

If you want some process art inspiration, check out our Process Art board on Pinterest or follow us on Facebook to keep up with our Playgroup and Together Time classes!

 

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Snow Day Play

It’s not easy being snowed in with a toddler. And if  you’re like me, you would prefer to stay in your pajamas and consume a lot of coffee on a day like this.

With that in mind, I want to share some ideas we’ve tried  for indoor snow play, so kids can get creative and caregivers can stay warm.  With a tray (cookie sheet works fine), a towel, water-resistant toys and some sand or kitchen utensils the possibilities are endless.

1) Snow People:

Making faces is a daily occurrence in our house. We make faces with ALL sorts of things (see our Making Faces Post for more ideas!). My daughter was thrilled with the idea of making faces in the snow using her Mr. Potato Head Parts.

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Don’t have Mr. Potato head parts? Get creative and gather other things. We actually prefer to use small plastic toys to use as facial features! Think Lego, plastic play foods/utensils, small toys, marbles, etc. – the possibilities are endless!

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2) Snow Art:

Let me start by saying, there is no wrong way to create art with snow. I  would simply set out paint, brushes, paper and snow and let your child explore the materials as they see fit. It’s a great early STEAM activity.

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The snow can be used to wet the watercolors or watercolors can be used to paint the snow. Either way it’s about the process, not the product.

If you have ice on hand – icicles are great, but so are ice cubes – this is another fun way to explore liquids and solids. Add salt and liquid watercolors (or food coloring) and watch a colorful ice sculpture take form.

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Ice Painting
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Ice Painting

3) Sand Toys:

Sand toys are another great way to explore snow indoors (so are cooking utensils, if you’ve packed summer toys away). You can bake a cake, scoop and mix and build with snow, just as you would sand. Again, lay a towel down and fill a large container or tray and let kids explore. Add vehicles and plastic figures to extend this activity – the possibilities are endless!

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4) Snow Hunt:

You can bury anything in the snow and have your child dig for it! It amazes me how this activity entertains over and over again. Take advantage of their interest level by hiding items for any target concepts. Above is a hunt for the /d/ and /c/ sounds, but you can easily hide letters, numbers, shapes or even sight words!

Helpful hint: Gloves are still necessary when inside! And if you don’t like messes (though it’s just water) the bathtub is a safe place to take these activities.

For more ideas, check out our Indoor Snow Play Pinterest board!

And please share with us some ideas you may have!

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The Creative and Curious Playgroup

With the buzz of back to school in the air, I wanted to share some information about the Creative and Curious Playgroup. It’s a unique opportunity for toddlers ages 2-4 years to socialize and engage in creative play, while their parents take a much needed break. This small group meets on Mondays and Wednesdays from 9-11 am in a safe, diverse learning environment with the goal of generating a self-guided curriculum that allows each child ample opportunities to think, respond and learn in their own way.

Here is a peek into what our morning looks like!

9:00-9:20 Arrival, hellos and invitation for sensory play/free play.

An invitation for play consists of materials set up at a small table for children to explore. This can be sand, play dough, water beads, etc., but each invitation is related to an interest or theme we have been exploring together.

9:2o-9:35 Morning Meeting

Together on our button rug, we sing songs, do yoga and share a story together.

9:35-10:00 Art/Free Play

Our art projects have consisted of clay, watercolor resist, oil pastel, collage, print making and much more! Projects tend to center around a story read or theme we’ve been exploring together. Emphasis is placed on the process, rather than the product and children are free to participate in the art project for as long as they wish.

As each child completes their art, they are invited to explore our playroom and sensory bins.

10:00-10:15 Second Meeting

Calendar,  music, story or discussion – depending on the day’s flow/theme.

10:15-10:45 Art/Free Play II

10:45 – 11:00 Goodbye Circle

Above are the ‘bones’ of our time together, but we are also flexible with timing, allowing the children to move and explore materials and activities at their own together.

Please check this gallery for some of our favorite explorations so far.

We are happy to answer any questions you may have about our Playgroup and Together Time, so please feel free to visit our Facebook page or send us an e-mail (wearecreativeandcurious[at]gmail.com)!

 

Me! Exploring self-portraiture.

One of the themes we’ve been exploring in our Playgroup lately is self-portraiture. The idea came about when I noticed a few children declaring, “look it’s me!” as they described their drawings. Below are some of the ways we explored the basics of portraiture together.

Books!

A trip to the library brought us Let’s Make Faces by Hanoch Piven. It’s a an excellent book with illustrations made completely of loose parts! It quickly became a favorite in our classroom, providing great inspiration for a variety of fun activities.

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Light Table

I used a dry erase marker to draw a face shape on our light table. The children then used various objects to add features. It was great practice before making our clay faces!

 

Clay Faces

This is probably my favorite projects we’ve done so far! I set out a bunch of random items and provided each child with a ball of clay. The children rolled the clay flat, using their self-portrait mats as a guide (You can download the template here from Picklebum). They then selected loose parts to personalize their faces with features. It was such fun watching them try different faces and the final sculptures were just lovely and really reflective of each child’s personality!

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The Creative and Curious Playgroup

February has been a busy month for our Creative and Curious Playgroup kids. In addition to getting to know one another and settling into our new space, we have been establishing new friendships and exploring many fun activities. Here is a peek into what we have been up to.

Through our author study of Eric Carle, we’ve been discussing concepts of print and learning important literacy skills. We’ve shared many stories together, but our favorites have been The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Brown Bear, Brown Bear What Do You See? and Little Cloud. These are stories we have retold many times through song, our felt board and in our art!

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During art, we have discussed Carle’s illustrations – pointing out the colors, textures and shapes we see within his work. Through a series of painting and collaging activities, we created our own Eric Carle inspired art.

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After reading Little Cloud, we explored clouds in a few different ways. The children were most excited exploring how rain clouds work in a fun science experiment!

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We also made our own puffy paint and created a cloud mural together.

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We have been learning about the letter C – it’s shape and the sounds it makes. Using  our surprise ‘c’ bag as a prompt, we sang about items beginning with C and even created a C shaped caterpillar!

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In the playroom, the children are most excited about the light table and having daily tea parties! We share cupcakes and tea daily as we learn about our friends. We’ve made play dough and ice paintings and much much more!

To keep up with Creative and Curious’ classes and events, follow us on Facebook!

 

Thanksgiving Picture Books for Children.

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There are so many things to be thankful for. I’m realizing just how quickly the days, weeks, and months pass, especially when you’re raising a kid (or kids!). I try to remember to look to my toddler to slow me down. My favorite, favorite time of day is bedtime when I’m trying to settle her. She always asks me to look out the window. I’ll admit, there are days that I get annoyed by this. I feel so guilty typing that, but it’s true. I’m exhausted, frustrated and I’ve been with her ALL DAY (I’m an only parent). I’ve missed some deadlines for work or didn’t get to the laundry I intended to do. I’m spent and I just want her to sleep already. But then she says, “I see a crescent moon. What does mommy see?” and I melt. Because she genuinely wants to know what I see and because I’m her world. And there will be a day when I’m a much smaller piece of her world.

So it’s November and a month for thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. I like it more than Christmas. I like it because I have really fabulous memories of my loud family talking over one another while I gnawed on a turkey leg in just my undershirt so I didn’t get my dress dirty. Family means the world to me – both my biological and chosen. The people we surround ourselves with are everything. I want my daughter to have these memories and I want her to be thankful for what she has, because (even if, as a parent I want her to have so much more) she has a lot.

I’m not sure if this intro is even completely relevant, but it is why I want to children’s books that teach gratitude and kindness. That teach readers to be thankful and appreciative for what you have and who you are.

the-big-orange-splotMy first choice is The Big Orange Splot. I have a lesson plan post in the works dedicated to this book, because I love it so much. It might be an odd or unassuming choice, but I believe that it teaches the reader to embrace our individuality. To appreciate what makes us unique – which is an incredibly important and (in my opinion) undervalued lesson and also an act of kindness. It’s at the heart of what I want for my daughter. I want her to ooze her individuality and to be surrounded by people who love, accept and embrace her for that. Families are made up of all different ‘types’ and we accept, support and love one another. It’s a valuable lesson to accept people for who they are and how they express themselves. It’s also important to let children know that they are always free to be who they are.

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The Giving Tree. I mean, come on, how could I not put this on the list! It’s a book that still makes me cry. I recently read a parenting article about carrying our kids (a debate about when is ‘too old’) and the author said to her child, “you’ll never be to old for me to carry you, just to big.” I love that. It’s such a beautiful thought and in a weird way it reminded me of The Giving Tree. A classic for children and adults.

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The Thankful Book. I love Todd Parr for his other stories, so I was very happy to stumble on the this children’s book. One of the first books I purchased for my daughter (before she was born) was The Family Book. His illustrations are simple, colorful and fun and his messages are that of kindness and acceptance. It’s a wonderful Thanksgiving choice for your little pre-schooler.

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An Awesome Book of Thanks by Dallas Clayton. Aside from it’s whimsical illustrations (what initially appealed to me) this book breaks the act of being thankful down in a very concrete way. There are so many wonderful tiny moments in this book, I don’t know where to begin! Clayton mentionsbeing grateful for “balls to kick and kites to fly and places to go when you want to cry”. But my favorite quotation reads, “It’s so easy we see these things everyday to forget to say thank you in every way.” This sentiment ties into ending each night with acknowledging the moon and stars and trees with my daughter, as we look out the window together.

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Good People Everywhere by Lynea Gillen & Kristina Swarner is an uplifting story that encourages readers to see the good in everyone. It’s a refreshing book reminding children of the kindness in the world and within themselves. Something about this book really speaks to me. Maybe it’s negativity is so often highlighted in the media and emphasis is not placed on the ‘good people’. Whatever it is, it’s a must read for families who want to pause and take in the kindness.

What are YOUR favorite books for giving thanks. I want to know!

Crafty Monday: Wire Trees

(c) 2015 Creative and Curious

Wire trees are one of my favorite art projects. I love seeing the different ideas that students come up with once I’ve given them the foundation. This project works great for both children and adults.

Here is what you will need:

  • Wire – Jewelry or floral wire will both work. I’ve found 26 gauge to be the easiest to work with. Floral wire is cheaper, but jewelry wire is prettier!
  • Buttons or beads – for your leaves/flowers.
  • Anything for a base – we’ve used spools, wood pieces, rocks, etc.

IMG_3235First, cut about 10 strips of wire around 24 ” each.

Select 10 beads or buttons to be used as your flowers/leaves. You can always do more than 10 branches, of course. But this is a pretty manageable number for a class.

To add the beads, fold one piece of wire in half and thread your bead through the open end, putting both ends through (see below). If you’re using a button, only go through two of the four holes.

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Thread the wire through until about 2-3 inches is hanging out and begin to twist – holding the wire tightly in your one hand and twisting the bead with the other. You will feel it start to tighten. Repeat this step for all of your beads.

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Once you have all of your beads threaded, group them into 3’s or 4. These will become your branches.

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Twist these groupings together to create your tree, bending the branches however you wish.IMG_3237Lastly, select your base and attach. You can wrap excess wire around a rock, hot glue it into a spool or onto cardboard. Whatever works! We happened to have a lot of wood scraps lying around the art room, so we used mostly them. Here are some student made trees featured in our summer program’s art show – both finished an unfinished.

IMG_1155 You can easily link this art project to literacy, by pairing it with a book such as The Giving Tree and a writing component.

You could also create a tree for a particular season for science or write a math problem adding beads/branches. Lots of fun academic links!