Category Archives: Art


Last February when I attended a workshop on messy play I noted that the presenter, Lisa Murphy – The Ooey Gooey Lady, often used liquid watercolor in many of her activities.  I was excited when I discovered that Cre8tive Art Supplies carried a similar product.

Recently I’ve used it in several of our summertime activities – like painting sticks to decorate the garden.  First we went on a walk through the neighbourhood to collect the sticks.  Then we sanded them;

I added the liquid watercolor to some shaving cream foam to use to paint the sticks;

I loved the vibrant colors that were created by using just a few drops of liquid watercolor.

The baby had no interest in painting sticks but she did like mixing foam and watercolor;

As the children finished painting each stick we stuck them in the bare spot of the garden;

Once the foam paint dried there was no color left on the sticks?!?!?  It was somewhat disappointing.

Another day we tried using the liquid watercolor with water and bath puffs to add color to the deck;

Again, beautiful bright colors but they didn’t show up much on the deck even when it was wet and there was no color visible once it dried.

I gave the children some white paper to see if that worked better;

We placed the dripping wet paper in the sun to dry and watched as all the color disappeared too. 😦

Next I’m going to try using the liquid watercolor to tint some playdough.  Good thing these activites are about the process not the product!

Sand Dough

I’ve had this recipe for sand dough for quite a while – can’t remember where I got it from or I’d give them credit for it.  When I first found it I thought making sand dough sculptures would be a great outdoor art activity.  I finally remembered to make the sand dough.

I started with 3 cups of cornstarch and 6 cups of sand;

Mixed them together in a large pot and added 4.5 cups of water;

Then I heated it – the recipe said to use low heat, I used setting #4 on my stove which is just below medium.  It took a very long time, stirring often, before it started to thicken.  I think this was my favourite part.  I liked watching the thick globs fall back into the liquidy part;

Once it started to thicken it didn’t take long for the whole mixture to solidify but the entire process had taken nearly an hour!  Luckily, like all new recipes, I was trying this one on the weekend when there were no children here.

The recipe said to put the mixture on wax paper to kneed;

The dough was very hot and the wax paper melted and tore apart into tiny pieces which I then picked out of the dough as I was kneeding it on an old cookie sheet.  I had a mini panic attack because at first the dough was very sticky (and hot) and I definitely do not like clumps of dough sticking to my hands.  Eventually it became less sticky and more like gritty playdough.  I put it in a big freezer bag to keep it ‘fresh’ for the next day.  It was still very warm so I didn’t seal the bag until it cooled more;

The next day when we were outside – no school so everyone was here – I divided the dough into eight pieces and placed the pieces on trays.  Each child took a tray and chose a place in the yard to work on their scupltures.  Many chose to add other nature items too. 🙂

The recipe said it would take three days to dry — most of ours were rock hard within about four hours.  Maybe because they were sitting outside in the sun.

I haven’t yet tried to move any of them off the trays.  I’m a little concerned that they may crumble apart. The bigger pieces appear to be more solid.  Many of the added decoration may not be well attached either.

I’m thinking that maybe next time we’ll use cornbread dough — it has the same gritty texture and it is much easier to make.  It too causes panic attacks when I try spreading it in a pan.

Spring Break – Day 2

When I first started this blog this is exactly what I envisioned – a daily post about what we did each and EVERY day. I don’t know what made me think I had that much ‘extra’ time. So after 173 posts in 1 ½ years I know this ‘daily journal’ of our spring break adventures may not continue through to the end of the week but so far….

Our second day of spring break was very busy.  As the children finished their morning snack I got stuff ready;

I introduced the ingredients one at a time without telling the children what each was.  The first container was initially identified as ‘sugar’ until a taste test proved it was “ewww, salt”.  They were more cautious for the second container;

It didn’t take them long to determine that it was flour – because it was whole wheat flour, the beige colour had them a little confused at first.  They eagerly investigated the third ingredient…what could it be?

No one had any idea – when I told them that it was ‘cornmeal’ there was a lot of interest and discussion about where it comes from and what it is used for (tomorrow’s cornbread for example).  The ingredient in the big bin was instantly identified;

“COFFEE!” they yelled in unison – the scent must have given it away – and really it was old coffee grounds.  I won’t admit how little time long it took me to save up that much. 🙂

So, what were we making?

‘Home Made Sand’ thanks to the handout from my full day workshop with the Ooey Gooey Lady.

We combined the ingredients and mixed them up;

And then we played;

But the day wasn’t over yet.  Later we had a discussion about ‘creativity’ and ‘originality’ vs copying and following directions.  Then we went for a walk in the rain – to the dollar store.  I instructed them to each choose any two items that they wanted to use for artwork of their design.

This is what they picked;

This is what they did;

And this is what they made;

That’s Not a Christmas Tree

I used to do a lot of decorating for Christmas.  I hung garland and swags on railings and door frames.  I put decorations on every available space on walls and shelves.  There were lights for all the windows.  My children helped me decorate our tree – we had more ornaments than we could possibly fit on the six foot tall tree.  I put the tree on a two foot tall table so the top of the tree touched the ceiling and there was plenty of room for plenty of gifts underneath.

I began all this decorating on the first day of December and took it all down on Boxing Day.  I felt it was a lot of work – it was something that I considered a duty not something that I actually enjoyed.  Some other members of my family would occasionally agree to help but I found out that they only did it because they thought it was important to me.  Huh?  I only decorated for them.

As my children got older I decorated less.  We bought a four foot tree and later I recycled the old six foot tree as part of the nature area in the playroom.  It was still difficult to persuade anyone to help me decorate the four foot tree and no matter where I put it it always seemed to be in someone’s way.

I got a two foot tall tree – I selected all the smallest ornaments and only decorated the tree once.  On Boxing Day I put the still decorated tree in a box and tossed it in the attic to wait for next year. It took just minutes to get it down, plop it on the table and fluff it up a bit.

This year I forgot to get the tree down at the beginning of December.  Maybe it was the warmer weather and lack of snow but I didn’t even think about decorating until it was almost the middle of December.  I put up my winter village – it stays in the window until spring.  I didn’t bother getting the tree from the attic.  I didn’t even put the window clings on the windows.  Nobody seemed to notice though.

Then last week one of the daycare children asked ‘Hey Cheryl, where’s your Christmas tree?’  I was going to tell them it was in the attic but instead I said, ‘It’s in the nature area’. There was silence as the children looked at each other – they seem puzzled.

There is no Christmas tree in the nature area.’ one of them said.  I pointed at the pine tree in the corner;

That’s not a Christmas tree’ they said in unison.

Why not?’  I asked

It has no decorations.’ They replied.

‘We could decorate it,’ I suggested, ‘but my decorations are in the attic so we’ll have to make some.’  I had seen a Christmas decoration craft over at The Crafty Crow that I thought would be suitable for all the children – and I had some sparkly poster board that would work for this purpose.

I gathered some supplies and started cutting out the circles and some pieces of yarn.

The preschoolers were most interested in the scraps that were left over after I cut out the circles.

The cats liked them too.

We got busy making decorations.  Everyone had their preferred method.  There were intricate designs with multiple colors and simple designs that had really long loops for hanging.  Some children spent a lot of time on each ornament and insisted that each one they made was different from every other one.  There was one child who mass produced a dozen identical ornaments in less than 15 minutes!

We hung all the completed ornaments on the tree;

There was still plenty of room on the tree and enough supplies to make many more ornaments so I’ve left the tray out in the sun room.  Each day there are some more ornaments to add to the tree.

Now we have a Christmas tree.  It’s ours and we love it.  There are no Christmas tree rules – each tree is special and unique.  Small or large, exquisite or plain, artificial or real, traditional or unconventional; it’s your tree – you decide.

Go check out some of these interesting Christmas tree creations


We often use play dough as a sensory play activity.  As they explore through touch — squeezing and squishing, rolling and cutting – they enhance fine motor skills too. With the addition of food coloring and spices the dough can excite the sight and smell senses also.  Of course there is always at least one child who insists on tasting.

When I make a new batch of play dough I divide it up into individual portions and put them in sandwich bags. The sandwich bags are then placed in a container and stored in the refrigerator until we want to use it.  I love watching the expressions on the children’s faces when they eagerly grab their ball of play dough and then quickly drop it back on the tray.

“Ooooh, it’s so cold!”  Feeling the change in temperature and texture as they work the dough adds a little science to the activity.

Using this storage method the play dough lasts much longer than if it was left at room temperature but it still doesn’t last forever.  Inevitably the dough will begin to loose its usefulness I need to make more.  The new batch will have different characteristics – maybe even some glitter or sand.

When I saw this activity over at Nurturing Young Minds I thought it would be a terrific way to extend the interest the children had shown for following the animal tracks in the snow outside.  I still had the ‘pumpkin spice’ dough we had been using but I didn’t think it would be a good substitute for snow.  Instead of just tossing it out I decided to let the children make some sculptures that they could take home.

I introduced the activity to the younger children in the morning when the older ones were in school.  They were thrilled to cut and shape the familiar dough but initially left the decorations untouched.  I think they may have been unsure about adding ‘stuff’ to the dough because usually I throw out the dough when it gets ‘dirty’.

I took some dough and supplies and made my own little sculpture as an example.  Tentatively they started making their own creations.

I left them to enjoy their creative process while I gave the baby his bottle.  I observed them from a distance as they made sculptures and then carefully separated all the ‘stuff’ from the dough and then made something new.

This process kept them engaged for over an hour! They seemed unconcerned about their lack of any ‘product’.  When I said it was nearly time to clean up for lunch that they hastily added a few loose bits to their ball of dough and placed it on the tray to dry.

The older children got their turn with this activity during quiet time in the afternoon when the little ones were napping.  They immediately dove in, rolled out their dough and stuck on some decorations – a process that lasted less than five minutes.  Then they moved on to other quiet time activities.

We’ve been watching the sculptures dry — checking daily to see if they are firm enough to pick up.  Today they will take them home.

For some it was all about the process and for others it was the product.

Making Faces

Some of you may know that I am not a fan of big celebrations and Halloween is near the top of my list of annoying holidays.  However, if you like that sort of thing, great — go wild and have fun 🙂

So here, for Halloween celebrations I follow the lead of the children.  They are welcome to wear their costume to show their friends if they want to but I find they rarely leave them on for long.  This year I was a cow girl — YeeHaw!

As the children were playing they began dancing in front of the mirror and making silly faces.  They tried out many facial expressions and really seemed to enjoy this activity.

So, keeping with the ‘faces’ theme I printed some ‘face parts’ and let the preschoolers make faces on paper pumpkins;

Then they played with the potato heads;

At quiet time, the older preschoolers used face parts cut from magazines to make some faces too.  Theirs were not as ‘silly’ since they are ‘big kids’ now — in school part days you know. They were very focused on making their faces ‘correct’.

Really, all they were really interested in was talking about the candy they were going to get.  Sigh, I’m glad Halloween is over for another year.  I’m looking forward to something more interesting.  Like maybe….snow 🙂

Sponge Art and More

Yesterday the preschoolers experimented with sponge painting.

I provided some shaped sponges, paint and paper and a brief explanation of the process.  The rest was up to them.

Interestingly it was the youngest member of the group that seemed the most confident – instantly diving in and working independently.  He was the first to start and the last to quit.  Honestly he probably would have been content to do this all day if the others hadn’t been so persistent about quitting.

The older children were more focused on the product they were trying to create.  Some put so much time and effort into applying the paint to the sponge that by the time they tried to stamp it on the paper most of the paint was already dry — leading to a bit of frustration with the project.

Others complained about the jagged edges of the shapes and insisted on doing touch-ups with the paint brush to define the shapes better.  In fact, they prefered to skip the sponge part and just paint with the brush instead.

The finished results were as varied as the methods of the individual artists.

The window sill in the sunroom is the perfect place for leaving the artwork to dry.  The abundance of sunlight is also great for other things too — like later in the day when I was summoned to come and see this discovery;

Yes, that is amazing isn’t it 🙂 Even more impressive because you discovered it without assistance.