If you don’t have the original artwork to look at (Fifth Avenue in Winter), you can view this picture or look at a page of an art book with your child. Start simple when viewing art with your child, and ask, “What’s going on in this painting?” As your child looks at it, help her to talk about what she sees, the colors that the artist used, where the painting is set, what time of day it looks like and what season it is. If she says, “its winter” – which she mostly likely will – ask her what she sees that makes her say that it is winter. As you’re talking about the painting, bring in the concept of perspective. If this sounds too mature for a young child, don’t worry, it isn’t. I’ve had this discussion with many, many, many preschoolers while teaching museum art classes. At its most basic the perspective talk can go something like, “Are the people in the background (point to this part of the paint) bigger or smaller than the ones in the front?” Your child will probably say, “Smaller.” That’s it. That’s what she needs to get, the further back something is, the smaller it looks. As she gets older you can delve deeper.
Now it’s time to make a snowy street scene. Instead of paint, this kids’ art project encourages your child to use multiple materials – and even throws in a bit of science. Let’s start with the street:
Your child is going to need oil pastels. Even though they look like crayons, they easily blend as your child smudges them with her fingers. Give her a piece of paper and ask her to draw a road down the center. Remind her about perspective. Ask her if the back of the road (where it’s farther away) might be thinner or smaller. She can try to draw the road getting smaller as it goes into the background. It may not really get much smaller (or it might not look like a road at all)—and that’s ok. Just trying is the important part. Have her blend the colors in the road by layering different oil pastels. She can blend them with her fingers too.
Your child’s art doesn’t have to look just like the Hassam painting. She can make her own street scene. After the actual street is ready, she can add in buildings. This step brings in geometry. Cut different sizes of rectangles, squares and triangles. Have your child collage them to the paper using clear-drying school glue. Ask her where the bigger shapes should go, and where she wants to put the smaller ones. She can also add a few trees with oil pastels. I know, I know – it doesn’t look very wintery. That’s coming next.
It’s time for a snow storm! Not only will talking about winter weather bring in science, but the way in which you make the snow will too. You’ll need a bar of Ivory soap. Put it in a microwave-safe bowl that you don’t really want to use again. Ask your child what she thinks will happen if you heat the bar. Pop it into the microwave for 30 seconds (microwaves vary in strength, but I like to do 30 second increments to keep it manageable). Watch what happens! As it expands, take it out. Don’t let your child touch the soap until it cools. It is very hot (and super fluffy).
When it cools (it will deflate), have your child crumple the soap into snowflakes. Using the thinner edges makes this process easier and gives you finer flakes. Your child can dot the road, the buildings and the trees with glue. Sprinkle the soap flakes over the glue to create an imaginary snowstorm.
Tip the paper over the bowl to brush off any loose flakes. Now your child has a snowy winter collage!
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