Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Painting With Berries

For the past five years or so I’ve had one major art-making rule: No food for crafts. It’s not that I think kids don’t enjoy the occasional apple slice print or potato stamper project, but instead it’s more of a philosophical push and pull. It all started when I was teaching a class for a local arts organization in the Pittsburgh Public Schools’ Early Childhood Education program. When I walked in to set up my animal shape collage project, the kids were sill eating breakfast. The teacher explained that the free breakfasts, lunches and snacks are the only meals that many of the children get to eat. It got me thinking about my own child and some of the other children (the more affluent one who took my art classes at the local museum), and how they probably couldn’t even imagine not having a hot (and most likely individually prepared for their precise likes and wants) dinner at home. I remember seeing a decided look of joy in one of the 4-year-old’s faces when she picked up an apple slice from the center of the table and gleefully munched on it. As I watched her I thought of the many times that I had used that same fruit to make a cute painted print. I imagined the look of shock that would have crossed the hungry preschooler’s face if she saw someone taking a perfectly delicious apple, using it for a craft and then tossing it then trashed – uneaten. My food art stopped then and there.

That said, recently I’ve been looking for ways to help the tinier of tots to “paint” without the fear of the accidentally ingesting a chemically-laden product. Food seemed to be the best answer. Faced with a fridge full of berries that my 12-year-old insisted he would eat, and then decided that he didn’t like, I decided that maybe I could make a moral trade off: Use the berries for a paint-like project, but donate canned goods to a local food pantry. Luckily, my local grocery store has a bin for food donations – making it uber-easy to give a little something back.

So, if you like this project and plan on using it with your mini Monet, I would ask that you consider doing something similar. Instead of giving our kids the message that we have so much that it’s ok to use food as a craft material, use this project as an opportunity to teach them empathy and caring. Make a trade off and balance the scales by making a donation yourself. Bring your kiddo along and have her put the box of pasta or cans of beans in the food donation bin.

There are tons of ways to create “paint” from fruits and veggies. You can cook them to create a stain, mush them, blend them and so on. I chose a super-simple way for this activity. Your young artist can use a paintbrush or his fingers for this activity (the berries will stain his fingers temporarily though). If he finger paints with the berries, you’re also adding in a textured sensory layer to the art-making.

What You’ll Need:

·         Berries

·         Beets

·         White paper

·         A paintbrush

·         Spoon

·         Plate

What You’ll Need to Do:

1.      Mash the berries. Put them on the plate (or in a shallow bowl) and have your child smoosh them with the backside of a spoon.

2.      Slice one beet. Do this step yourself, and don’t let your child use the knife.

3.      Give your child a paintbrush (or let him use his fingers) to paint with the berries. He can create a picture of “something” (we made a spring flower) or just go abstract.

4.      Use the beet slices like stampers. Have your child press them down onto the paper. As he presses the juice will release onto the paper below it.



  1. The art work came out lovely, but those berries wouldn't have lasted very long in my house! Now the beets, well, that's another story... ;)

  2. The rest of the beets are still in the fridge -- uneaten. Thanks Emma @ P is for Preschool

  3. I love the pictures! And what a thoughtful and nice idea on teaching a lasting moral lesson in the long run. Thanks for the idea and the tip! Love, Lizzie-Beth at Wordpress.

  4. This looks so fun! I don't know what kid would not love to try this. Thanks for sharing at Mom's Library last week. You are featured at Pounds4Pennies this week. I can't wait to see what you share this week.


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