I'm caught between two worlds. As the mom to a tween, I'm kind of past all of the little kid stuff. No more finger paints, Thomas the Train or all of those other good things that go along with little kid-dom. At the same time, I've been an arts educator for the better part of the last decade - mainly teaching kids in preschool and younger. If you're caught in the middle of the big and little kid worlds (i.e., you have a tween/teen and a tiny tyke too) check out my other blog that focuses on tween and teen topics. Then come back here and get your cute and creative art activities.
For my maiden post I've chosen my number one, absolutely favorite, first place art activity. I've done this a million times with my own son (before the eye rolling started, when he was much younger) and with my preschool art students. Here it is: Using clay to "finger paint". No, your child isn't really finger painting, but the motion and result is almost the same. This activity also offers bountiful bonuses:
1. Your child is using an art material (in this case it's clay) in a totally new and different way. The unexpectedness of how he'll use the clay will get him amped up to make some art and maybe even hold his attention for more than a few minutes.
2. It's almost mess-free. Ok, no art project is 100% mess-free, but this is much neater than pulling out the real finger paints. It's so mess-free that I've actually done this project with kids in the middle of a museum's art gallery. Yes, right alongside of Monet's Water Lilies.
3. Even though it's a less-mess activity, it's still packed with creativity and allows your child to express himself. Basically, it's not a neat and tidy color in the lines coloring book version of art.
Here's what you'll need:
- Cardboard- Reuse the front of an empty cereal box, cut apart the box that your new flat screen came in or recycle some other cardboard source. You can buy cardboard sheets from the craft store, but you might as well light your hard-earned cash on fire (or your debit card in the case that you -- like me -- never actually carry real paper money). Also, you MUST use cardboard or a thick board. Construction paper won't cut it for this activity, and the heavy clay will break or seep through.
- Modeling clay - You will need to get this from the craft store. Look for a soft clay that your little one's fingers can easily spread. If you can feel the clay through the packaging, go for it. If you get home and realize that the clay has clearly been sitting on the shelf since you were four, return it. Your child will go nuts trying to use hard clay for this project.
- Scissors - You'll be using these (see my note in the instructions).
- Draw a shape onto the cardboard. Your child can do this, so don't worry if his circle looks like a glob or his star is more like a half-melted snowflake. The shape should be at least the size of your hand. This gives him enough surface space to really work on. Speaking of your hand, make the project extra special and let him trace your hand (fingers open please) with a crayon.
- Cut the shape out. While I don't normally recommend "doing" for your child, in this case it's a safety issue. My son likes to call me the most overprotective mother in the world. This extends to other people's kids as well. I don't want to see any pinkies or thumbs getting cut off or callouses created while your young child tries in vain to slice through thick cardboard.
- Optional- Your child can (or doesn't have to) draw a simple picture onto the cardboard with crayons. Younger kids can skip this step and move on to applying the clay. Older preschoolers (and big kids who want to try this activity out) can draw a simple landscape, a spring flower or some other nature-like picture.
- Pull the clay apart into quarter-sized pieces. Use at least three different colors. Your child can pull them apart into even smaller pieces as he works.
- Have your child (you may need to show him by demonstrating first) smooth the clay onto the cardboard - ala finger painting style. He can layer the clay, slightly overlapping it or blending it together.