One of my favorite things about the holidays, which are approaching WAY too quickly, is the nostalgia that accompanies it. From popsicle ornaments to handprint crafts, these are the keepsakes that are valued as much as crystal and silver in the eyes of a parent. I know that my mom still cherishes each and every craft my brother and I created in preschool and daycare. I’m not going to lie, I was dying to “register” for my own keepsakes- pieces of art that I could cherish and that would always help me remember just how small T’s hands and feet used to be. But I had just one problem… T isn’t in a daycare or preschool setting to do these types of crafts with her. I realized that the parents of the boys were in the same boat, and like me, would probably be wanting these keepsakes as well. This is where Art Tuesdays came in!
It started simple, we did crafts inspired by books we were reading or the season we were in, but it has evolved over the past year, and I’m excited to see where it will go in the years to come! Honestly, I needed it to be simple in the beginning because I needed myself, and the kids, to grow accustomed to the process of creating these pieces of art. I also needed the trial and error to find the best supplies, as well as the best way to get their painted hands and feet on paper. You now get to reap the benefits of all that I have learned over the past year.
My Favorite Art Supplies
Before you can even begin to think about creating these pieces of art, you need to make sure that you have all of the supplies necessary. Over the past year, I have tried a lot of different paints and supplies, and I’m going to share the ones that I have had the best luck with in creating these masterpieces. First and foremost, here’s what you’ll need:
- Paper (I love cardstock and/or construction paper for our day to day creations)
- Plates (during the holidays we create plate keepsakes- more to come on that in the coming months. I find the best deal on plates like this for my projects at Wal-Mart)
- Mini canvases (for our art creations that are for gifts, such as Mother’s and Father’s Day, I find that the best deal to be found is on these at Hobby Lobby)
- Paintbrushes and/or sponges (I love this variety pack with every size you could ever need from Hobby Lobby)
- Paint (I use different paint depending on the craft- tempura for everyday crafts, acrylic for anything on a plate or glass, and metallic paint when we paint on a canvas)
- Baby Wipes and/or a sink nearby (we do most of our crafts in the kitchen) for easy clean up
Going into any art project, whether it is an ornament or a simple handprint piece, you need to be prepared for a mess! We’re talking about painting with babies and toddlers here, there is going to be a mess!!! Remember, you’re making memories that will become prized possessions for years to come. You can clean the mess up later! Here are a few tips that I have found to be helpful when painting with little ones…
- Get all of your supplies prepared ahead of time. The last thing you want is paint on a baby or toddler’s hand, and not have your paper. Right?!?! I always make sure that I have my paper, brushes, paint, etc. ready to go before I even get the kids ready. Some of my pieces require prep ahead of time, for instance painting a tree background, so I make sure I have that done beforehand as well. One last thing I do ahead of time is to write the date, each kid’s name, their age, and the title of the piece on the back of EVERY piece of art. Looking back, I know that I will be so glad to know exactly how old T was when she completed each piece! 🙂
- Strip the kids down! Most of the paints that I use are washable, but some are not. We tend to paint in just our diapers to be safe, because sometimes the paint does tend to get everywhere. Remember, you’re making memories that will last a lifetime! 😉
- Now it’s time to paint the hands and/or feet! This is a trial and error process, and you will find what works best for you. I tend to sit in a chair with the kids on my lap at the kitchen table, and paint their hands and/or feet. Some people like to use a Bumbo chair, but T’s feet are so ticklish, that when I did it this way, the paint ended up EVERYWHERE. You will find the method that works best for you with some trial and error. I do recommend only painting one foot and/or hand at a time, and cleaning off the excess paint from the hand and/or foot before painting the next.
- Getting the paint from the hand and/or foot onto the paper! I’m not going to lie, this is the hardest part. It took a LOT of practice, and MULTIPLE attempts to find my “groove.” What you need most during this part is patience. I find that standing up with the kids in my arms and pushing down from above onto the paper, if that makes any sense whatsoever, is the best way to get a good imprint. Kids are going to wiggle and move, and the hand/footprint may get smudged, but that is part of the “charm” of the piece. It may take multiple attempts, and that is OK. The more you do art, the more used to the process the kids will get. Now T is very familiar with the process, and it is easy, but it was not always that way. It’s also a good time to introduce “open” and “close” to your kids so they can mimic the moves with their own hands. Remember, the key to this part is patience.
- Clean-up! The hard part is over! You did it! Now you can focus on cleaning up. Honestly, all you really need to do is either use baby wipes or water to rinse the paint off. Most of the paint is washable and should come right off. I have found that the red and black paints tend to dye the skin more than the other colors, but with a gentle exfoliant, it should come off.
- Now it’s time to add the embellishments! You made it to the last step! This is when I add the eyes, and the details that make the piece of art really take shape and form. You do want to allow time for the hand and/or foot print to dry, which should not take too long because most of this paint dries really quickly.
I draw inspiration from a variety of places- books, seasons and holidays. I have to give A LOT of credit to Pinterest, however. Seriously, what can’t you find on Pinterest?!?! I have a board called Art Inspirations that I am constantly adding projects to. I sometimes combine two pieces from Pinterest into one piece, or find a way to make it more relevant to the kids and their abilities. The sky’s really the limit, so think outside the box, and most importantly… Have fun!
Displaying your Art
You’ve gone to all this trouble to create these beautiful pieces of art, now I know you want to display them throughout your home. I love to frame various pieces and change them with the seasons in our family room, but I wanted a way to bring a little color into our playroom. I found some frames in our basement of all different sizes and styles that were just collecting dust, and I decided to re-purpose them. I simply painted and distressed them to match the decor in our playroom, and then used a staple gun to attach chicken wire to the back of the frames. This creates a great surface to hang various pieces of art using a clothespin. I love how rustic it looks, and how easy it is to change the pieces of art out as T creates a new one every week.
Storing your Art
I absolutely love displaying T’s art throughout the house, but my type A personality just won’t allow me to have pumpkin art displayed in February. My sentimental side cannot even think about throwing a piece of art away, so I needed to find a way to store and preserve her art. Being a former elementary school teacher, I have a gazillion 3-ring notebooks from my teaching days, so I thought I would put them to good use. Using plastic page protectors, I can preserve each piece, and then store them in the notebook. Right now, I have all of T’s pieces in one notebook, and I simply separate the pieces from her first year with the pieces from her second year with dividers. I’m not going to lie, I absolutely love looking back through the pieces and seeing how much T’s hands and feet have grown, as well as how our art has progressed!
Another staple in our Art Tuesdays is the chance to color on the chalk walls that I have painted in the playroom. The kids absolutely LOVE coloring on the walls during these days, and it’s a great way to introduce and reinforce the names of colors, while also building their fine and gross motor skills. I’m just hoping that the skill of coloring on walls will not transfer to other rooms. (So far, we have been lucky with that. I don’t allow them to take the chalk outside the playroom, so I’m hoping that this will also help in the future. If not, there is always the Magic Eraser by Mr. Clean- that can get almost anything off a wall)
I wanted to share my experience with you regarding my own chalk walls in our playroom, and hopefully this will make for an easier experience in your own home. We decided to paint all three walls in our playroom below the chair railing. We used the Rust-oleum brand which you can pick up at your local Home Depot or other home improvement store. It was relatively inexpensive, and very easy to use. The paint also goes a long way, so a quart of the paint was more than enough. I will say to get the best results, you will want to follow the directions explicitly. The paint does tend to drip and dry unevenly, but sanding it with a sanding block easily fixed that. We painted two coats, waiting 24 hours dry time in between the two coats. The part that surprised me was that you have to let it dry for over a week before priming it. Now the fun part…. Priming. Yes, you will want to prime it. This is where you essentially rub chalk all over the wall to get a good layer of grit on the walls. This will help in erasing the chalk in future uses. It’s a long process, but well worth it. After all of this, I can honestly say that I do not love the particular brand that I used. Other’s may have good results with it, however, I have found that it does not erase as well as I had hoped. I have found other recommendations of this chalkboard paint to be very complimentary of it’s ease to use and in erasing. If you are looking to paint your chalkboard wall in a color other than black, which is what I did, people had very good things to say about this paint. I have not used either of these brands, but I at least wanted to share with you what my research unveiled. With all that being said, get painting!!! I swear, the kids will love it!
As I mentioned in a previous post, it is a personal goal of mine for T to know all of her colors by the time she goes to preschool. (Ahh! That is in a little over a year. Slow down time) Now, some of you might think that this is overly ambitious of me, but I actually
think know that it is a realistic goal. Before we go any further, I want you to know that I am by no means a “flashcard” mom and/or teacher. I’m not holding up flashcards of colors and/or words in hope of T becoming a reading prodigy. I truthfully don’t like to teach kids of any age with the use of memorization, but rather through experience, songs, and “play.” Kids at this age, and even younger, pick up things quicker than you can imagine. I started exposing T and the boys to colors and vocabulary as early as 6 months. They seriously are sponges, and they are soaking up EVERYTHING you are saying, and what you are doing for that matter. (The good, and the bad! Haha!) Here are some of my favorite activities:
- Color “discovery” bottles- I mentioned in a previous post, I used some empty puff containers to create discovery bottles. I simply wrote the color name on the outside of the tube, spray painted the lid if needed (there is no non-toxic spray paint :(, I always take the lids away when the kids are playing with them so they do not end up in their mouths), fill them with various items from around the house in the coordinating color, and ta-da, you have your very own color “discovery” bottle. We typically take out one bottle at a time, and let the kids explore that color. As I put the items back in the container, I am always mentioning that color. “Look, red!” “Wow! T, you found the red 3!” You get it! In the future, I would love to use multiple bottles at a time and sort the colors into their coordinating bottles. The possibilities are endless, and the best part it, it’s FREE!
- Sorting activities- We’re not quite here yet, but I know that I may have some readers whose kids are there. Besides, those of us with younger ones will have a leg up. Right?!?! Sorting is a great way to differentiate between the colors, and it is a great informal assessment to see if your little ones really do know their colors. There are countless ways to let the kids engage in sorting. 1) You can use the color “discovery” bottles mentioned above, 2) We love to sort colored pom-poms into muffin tins! To make it more difficult for older kiddos, simply use an old muffin tin and spray paint the bottom of each portion a different color. Kids could then sort the pom-poms into the portion with the same color. Don’t want to spray paint your muffin tins (I don’t blame you), cut out a circle of construction paper and place it in the bottom of each portion of the muffin tin. 3) I’m excited to create sorting games in the future to incorporate onto the magnetic wall that I talked about on the previous post. More to come on that later!
- Preschool Prep Colors video- I’m absolutely OBSESSED with the Preschool Prep Company DVDs! They have a whole series of videos covering colors, shapes, numbers, letters, and so much more. They are absolutely precious, and simple enough for even babies to watch! It’s a great way to introduce these preschool principles with fun and precious characters. T and the boys absolutely LOVE the color video! I got the entire series through a Groupon a year back, but they are all on sale right now through the website with free shipping!
- Lakeshore Learning games and activities- Even though I’m not teaching right now, I still LOVE Lakeshore Learning stores! I love that a lot of their activities and supplies teach through play. I found that from my days in the classroom that a lot of their activities were a great way to introduce and reinforce various concepts. They have a whole line of color-themed items, and I am seriously having to hide my credit card right now because I am wanting to buy so many of them. Check it out!
- Songs- My days in the classroom also taught me that teaching through song, and even dance (sorry, I can’t help myself), will have a long and lasting impression on kids. I know that you all can hum, or even sing, some little jingle that you learned in preschool or elementary school. For me it was the continent song- “Asia, Africa, North and South America, Australia, Antarctica, and Europe too!” (I know someone out there is singing along with me). Needless to say, I constantly find myself making up little songs to nursery rhyme tunes reinforcing various skills- colors, shapes, etc. I have not come up with a colors one that I love yet, but when I do, I’ll share it here. In the meantime, try your hand at making up your own. A word of advice, kids love a good rhyme, so try and make your song rhyme if you can. It makes it easier to remember too!
Hopefully you have found at least one thing about our Art Tuesdays helpful. My hope is to bring you inspiration that you can use with your kiddos of all ages on a daily basis, and without breaking the bank. 😉 As always, I would love your feedback, and your own inspiration. What kind of art projects do you do in your own homes?