Monday, January 30, 2012

Art Book Review: Willow and Beautiful Oops

Typically, I would review books that either have art project suggestions in them or teach art history to children. These two books however, are picture books. Sometimes it is just fun to throw in books that are visually interesting and have good insight into the way art can be thought about by children.

Willow by Denise Brennan-Nelson and Rosemarie Brennan and illustrated by Cyd Moore (of "I Love You Stinky Face" fame) is a sweet tale of a young girl who inspires creativity in her art teacher. Miss Hawthorn is very particular in her assignments for her art students. She tells them to draw a tree and hangs an example of a round green top with a straight brown trunk. Willow decides to draw a pink swirly tree and gets in trouble for not following the example. The book continues on with the teacher giving assignments and Willow continuing to use her imagination to think outside the box. Miss Hawthorn thinks she's a dreadful child who can't follow instructions. When Christmas rolls around, no one brings any gifts for Miss Hawthorn, except for Willow. She gives Miss Hawthorn her favorite book of famous art. Touched by the little girl's thoughtfulness, the teacher is inspired to start doing her own artwork. And by the end of Christmas break Miss Hawthorn is a new kind of teacher. Not one who just gives out the same art assignment over and over again expecting the students to follow it, but a teacher who encourages her students to be imaginative, think on their own and let their creativity flow!

Overall, this is a fun book that grade-school age children will enjoy. The illustrations are wonderful and colorful! I am recommending this book, but I just have to say the art teacher's attitude toward the teaching of art was a bit disturbing (from an adult's point of view). Obviously, I think anyone who expects the children to just copy an example and not put any of their own thought into it, really shouldn't be teaching art. And the other thing that bothered me was a page where the art teacher "doodled for the first time in her life". Wouldn't most art teachers have some sort of art background? And wouldn't they have "doodled" at some point in their lives? These are extremely minor gripes on my part. And they really do need to be in the story for it to make sense. Just me being a bit nit-picky. ;-)

On the other hand, Barney Saltzberg's Beautiful Oops is an absolutely brilliant book for children of any age! This wonderfully tactile book teaches children that there are no mistakes when it comes to art. Just take an "oops" and turn into something beautiful. It's so funny that this book exists because my mantra for my children when it comes to art is "Art doesn't have to be perfect." I cannot tell you how many times I've said that to my girls. My older daughter is very Type A and if her art isn't perfect by her standards, she gets upset. I try to be patient with her (and her frustration) and offer suggestions for how she can incorporate the "oops" into the artwork or simply not worry about it. But there have been times when she just throws in the towel and will refuse to finish a project. We've been through two summers of art projects now, so I think my "art doesn't have to be perfect" mantra is finally sinking in. Now, both my girls don't get quite so upset if their paint drips in a spot they weren't intending or if their paper rips.

I love all the textures in this book. And the pages are VERY durable. Even small children can enjoy this book. There are multiple flaps and holes to look through. Bright colors and fun illustrations. Here are a few (images were taken from the Barnes & Noble webpage):
While I think children will enjoy both of these books, Beautiful Oops is definitely one that should be purchased for every child's library!

Friday, January 27, 2012

Toddler Art Activity: Window Ziploc Painting

Where would I be without Pinterest!? Seriously! I have a board dedicated to ideas for things to do with my son. Even though, the early part of this blog has been devoted to more in-depth art activities I've done with my older daughters, I've decided it is now time to introduce my two year old to the world of color, painting and art! As I stated in the previous post, he has had no attention span up until now (which is understandable and goes along with his age). And he is very prone to getting aggressive quickly and throwing just about anything. So the idea of doing any kind of "messy" art with him has been very off-putting. But, I feel like I can't keep him from the fun of art just because he might be even messier than my girls were.

I decided to start slow and easy. One of the things I pinned was window ziploc painting! I thought I would try it the same day we introduced the light panel because it is something you could do ON the light panel. But I felt like it would be better if I taped it up first and got him used to the idea of what he was supposed to do with it before we used it with the light panel. So I taped two different bags up on our deck door and showed them to him after his nap today. He was completely UNinterested.
He was uninterested that is until his sisters came home from school. They rushed to the window to see what it was all about (you can see my younger daughter still has her coat on!). And as soon as they were interested, he toddled over to take part as well!
They asked me to add their favorite colors to the window: pink and turquoise. And they started to experiment. Instead of just using their fingers (I don't blame them. It's winter here and that window gets pretty cold) they decided to try out paint brushes. And the brushes worked just as well as their fingers.
My 8 year old tried taping two colors over the other and discovered she could see the blue through the pink when she painted.
AND, last but not least, they figured out they could play tic-tac-toe over and over again! I really think the sensory play of this appealed to my oldest daughter, just as the light panel did. And hopefully, my son will show some prolonged interest in this if it hangs around long enough. :-)

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Sensory Light Table: Art & More!

I can't remember how I came across it. I'm sure it has something to do with Pinterest. But I'm not sure what I was looking for exactly when I came across the Play at Home Mom Blog. Oh my, my, my, what an amazing blog! A million ideas for things to do with young children. I'm been struggling a bit with my two year old boy. I'm used to girls. I have two older girls and as toddlers they were relatively calm and at least had a small amount of attention span. I was able to read with them, do little art projects, puzzles, etc. My boy. He's totally different. He's constantly moving around and I can hardly keep his attention on anything for more than 20 seconds before he just gets aggressive with it and starts throwing things or just walks away. It has been very frustrating for me as a mom because I feel like I've turned to the television too many times for him because I just don't know how to entertain him myself.

Then, I came across posts about using a light table/panel with small children. Holy cow!! BRILLIANT! I've NEVER heard of this or seen it before. And the idea of it is simply amazing. There are so many ideas you can do with it from art to literacy to math to simple play. I really feel like this would be something my son could FINALLY get on board with. I think the added feature of the light shining through is a great sensory experience for him and one that will help keep his attention focused to the one area. Anyone who follows me on Pinterest will see that I have created a light table activities board and have been obsessively googling and blog hopping this weekend reading up on the subject. I wanted to immediately purchase one online (there's a great one on sale at Constructive Playthings right now!). I rattled on about light tables and all their activities to my husband all weekend and he politely listened, but convinced me to wait until the middle of the week to purchase. I have this habit of getting obsessed about something and then I "need" to have it "right now". He's good at grounding me. ;-) So I agreed to wait. Lo and behold, my birthday was Monday and what did I open? A light panel!!! He took our daughters out on Saturday and I knew they were birthday shopping for me, but I had no idea they were going to get me this! It was from the Lakeshore Learning store near us. They also gave me some colored discs to use with it. I was soooo excited. And we have been playing with it all day!

I started off Tuesday morning by setting it up like this for my son. He's not really into color sorting yet, but I decided to separate some out anyway. When I went into the basement to get a sterilite bin to put on top of the panel, I found the Nemo wheel and thought it might be visually interesting. And that's my daughter's glitter wand in the middle.
My son LOVED it! He spent at least 20 MINUTES pouring the discs back and forth between the cups, moving them around, checking out the wand. It was amazing! He came back to it a couple times throughout the day as well. Then as soon as my daughters got home from school they got in on the fun.
I added some plastic bottles with colored water to match the discs. What really SHOCKED me was my 8 year old! She was totally into the light panel! After my son was done, she continued on. She likes to organize things. She split all the discs up into their colors in different cups.
Then she made her name with a pattern:
I guess I shouldn't be too surprised she liked this activity. As a small child, she had a lot of sensory issues, many of which she has outgrown or is able to self-regulate. But she still needs a bit of time (as most children do) after school just to herself to relax and calm down from the day. I think this was a perfect thing for her. After she was bored of the sorting, I showed her how it could be used more for artistic endeavors. She got her lettering stencil book and some paper and started creating a picture.
My younger daughter (age 6) got in on the action as well and enjoyed using the stencils with the light panel.
Before we retired the light panel for the afternoon, I sent the girls down into the basement to look through all the play things down there. Their assignment was to see what they could find that might look cool on the light panel. Here's what they came up with:
There's a dolphin key chain, a kaleidoscope disc, a marker, some marbles, pirate treasure gems, a beaded necklace, some painted clear rock magnets, and more! I really cannot wait to do a million more activities on this. And we didn't watch television AT ALL this afternoon!

I also introduced ziploc window painting today. Although, we didn't do this on the light panel, we could. I hung them up on our deck window instead. Be sure to check the next post out. When we weren't using the light panel, we were window painting! It was a purely light sensory kind of day!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Birthday Party: Toy Story Alien Cupcakes!

My son's birthday was yesterday. I remember I paid $25 for a 1/4 sheet cake last year from the bakery to have a nice Woody & Buzz Toy Story cake. After the fact, I thought that was CRAZY! He turned two this year and I just didn't feel like going overboard for this birthday or spending that much on a cake. Not that it's not important...every birthday is important. I just know he's not going to remember this one and I guess I was feeling a bit lazy after all the holiday hoopla. I came across a photo of alien cupcakes from Toy Story on the Disney Family website. I have NEVER been a cake/cupcake maker. My past couple attempts at dealing with frosting have been dreadful! But these didn't look too difficult. And as a sidenote, my sister-in-law started a blog called "If I Can Do It, So Can You" She decided to start trying to do things out of her comfort zone (like sewing and scrapbooking). She actually does create amazing cakes (those are IN her comfort zone!). ;-) And she has made my daughters some really fun cakes for their birthdays. I decided to be inspired by her and do something out of my comfort zone.

Aside from the cake mix and frosting, here are my supplies (I cut up the extremes candy belt):
When I emailed my sister-in-law to see if she had any advice for me, she suggested I look for these candy eyes:
Image taken from the Wilton website.

I found them at Michael's. Soooo easy! I also used the buttercream frosting recipe from the Wilton website thanks to her advice and it was DELICIOUS!! I used the tip of a leaf cookie cutter to make the ears.

Here's how they turned out:
They were met with a smile! So I think they turned out all right. Everyone seemed to enjoy them! And I feel like for me personally they were pretty much a cupcake success.
I thought I would also quick show our centerpiece for the table:
My daughter received this small claw machine for Christmas 2010 and usually it is for candy. But we thought it was fitting for this party. :-)

Sidenote: I know my posts of late have been a bit off track of the original art purpose for this blog, but I feel like they do fall into the "craft" part of Holly's Arts and Crafts Corner. Hope you don't mind the crafty diversion! :-) I will get back to our more educational art lessons this summer. I'm already making plans. I have some art book reviews to post soon as well.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Birthday Party Craft Project: DIY Angry Birds Game

At the same party for the girls where we made the painted canvases, we played a homemade Angry Birds game. Once again, thank you Pinterest! Inspiration for this game came from this post at Kara's Party Ideas.

We bought several of those cheapy colored plastic balls you find everywhere in summer. And I used acrylic paints to paint on the bird and hog faces. I mod podged over the faces several times because the paint kept cracking. I'm thinking if I were ever to do this again, I should maybe mod podge a base coat first. The paint just didn't want to stay on the ball when it was squeezed or thrown.We set up cardboard boxes to look like the wood and ice (light blue painted boxes--left over from our basement bathroom paint).
The kids all had a blast trying to knock the structure down.

And everyone else had fun watching them play! The "big kids" meaning my husband, brother-in-law, and our friend had fun playing as well when the "little kids" were done. :-)

Friday, January 20, 2012

Birthday Party Craft Project: Taped Painted Canvases

Every year we have a joint birthday for my two daughters because their birthdays are only two months apart in the year. That way grandparents only have to travel one time instead of twice. Last year, our girls were 6 years and 8 years and our party guests ranged from age 4 1/2 to almost 10 years. I felt like we were at a point where the kids were old enough to handle an art project activity at the birthday party. We they arrived, they found a place at the table I had set up on our deck (thankful for an August party date!).
It was nice, I knew our guests well enough to know what colors most of their bedrooms had so I put out colors that matched. Just in case they wanted to hang their creations in their room. :-) Each child received an 8 x 10 canvas (I purchased these in a value pack on sale at Michael's). I was inspired by this post I found pinned on Pinterest (image from pin below):
This project is soooo easy! Just have the kids tape their canvas with painter's tape. I made sure it was all firmly pressed down so the paint wouldn't slide under it. Then I gave them each the colors they wanted on a cheapy little plastic palette. We used mostly acrylic paints. We had some washable Crayola paints, but realized those did not cover quite as well as the acrylic. I bought the acrylic paints for a very reasonable price at Walmart, believe it or not.

They went to town painting!
The best part was, we could leave them on the table to dry because it was so warm out. At the end of the party, I took everyone's tape off and they had their party favor to take home! They seemed to really enjoy the activity and were proud to show off their artwork.

Here are the final pieces: