Tag Archives: preschool art

A Few New Takes on an Old Favorite: Shaving Cream Painting

Whoever coined the phrase “less is more” certainly wasn’t under the age of six.  Young children love piling it all on, especially when doing art.  It’s more about the experience than the exhibit, and that’s the way it should be. 

But if you’ve ever done shaving cream painting with young children, you’ve seen them sculpt huge mounds onto paper, and then watched it all flutter away as soon as you take the paper from the drying rack. 

Here are a few ways to prevent this problem:

1 – Try Bev Bos’s glue/shaving cream combo.  It’s sturdier and can even hold lightweight collage items.

2 – Ditch the art table and take that cream straight to the sensory bin!  Toss in some colored ice cubes and get ready for some gooey fun with Iced Shaving Cream!

3 – Use plain old shaving cream, but forget the whole “product” idea and just paint onto a tray or table top.  Children can mound it, swirl it, or spread it flat and write with a finger.  

4– Follow idea #3, but then make reverse prints with paper!  Plop just a little dollop or two and let the children work it to their hearts’ content.  When they’re ready, press a paper onto their tray and peel it back for a print.  Making the reverse spreads the cream a bit more thinly on the paper, allowing it to dry more thoroughly without the fluffy residue that flies away afterward.  Plus, it’s fun to draw pictures into the cream and then see them reproduced onto the paper!

Shaving cream is a wonderful (and cheap) resource for a fun sensory, creative, and fine motor experience.  And now, you can try an old favorite with a new spin!

Do you have another fun way to use shaving cream with preschoolers?
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Repost Reminder: The Spectrum of Preschool Arts and Crafts

Little Artist ginam

There’s a fascinating article from Newsweek entitled, The Creativity Crisis.  It was actually published in the summer, but I just stumbled upon it recently.  It’s left me with all kinds of writing prompts swimming around in my head, but I thought I’d actually start with something I’ve already written.  Here’s a look at what the term “arts and crafts” means to me, originally published August 12, 2009.

I recently got a great compliment from a parent. At least I think it was a compliment. She said, “I love that you have these random art projects!”  Now, as I said, I do believe she sincerely meant it as a compliment, but it got me wondering.  Certainly I can see how creating collages with seeds, fingerpainting with  colored shaving cream , and dropping colored water on coffee filters may seem a little random, but random as compared to what?  I think when most people envision preschool arts, they see the paper plate snowmen, the construction paper alphabet train, and woven paper place mats.  These aren’t actually arts, they’re closer to crafts.  Now I’m not saying crafts aren’t appropriate for preschoolers, I quite enjoy making  paper plate snowmen and I think the children do to.  I just hate to see crafts used at the exclusion of art.  Let me explain how I see them as different.

A Crafty Plan.  Crafts are more teacher directed.  Whether for supervision, help with a technique, or providing step-by-step instructions, an adult’s help is usually needed for crafts. Though it is important to provide some kind of opportunity for variation and choice, crafts generally need to be done a certain way to create a certain “object”.  There is a bit more emphasis on the outcome being something (a tree, a frame, an ornament).  Often, we do crafts when we’re creating a parent gift with the children.  We want it to be something so that it has a purpose as a gift.  This has some benefits.  It is certainly not a bad thing for children to learn how to follow directions, and they usually have a great sense of self-satisfaction when they complete their product.  They also learn techniques that are often implemented in independent art projects later.  But to do only crafts and call it art gives our children the short end of the stick.  In fact, constant focus on crafts can muzzle creativity and leave children feeling discouraged.

Express Yourself.  I’m embarrassed to say I didn’t read Bev Bos’s book, Don’t Move the Muffin Tins, until recently, but I’m convinced that I was taught her philosophy for art by my own mentors during my undergrad. I think Bev distinguishes between arts and crafts best when she says, “I make my own distinction between “art” and” craft” by asking how much participation by an adult is needed once I have presented materials.  When the activity is truly art and genuinely creative, all I have to do is to put a name on the paper or perhaps stand by to add to the supplies.” (page 2) 

That’s how I judge my art activities.  If I really want to foster creativity  I simply need to focus on providing tools and media and watch how the children put them together.  They don’t need me to tell them how the end result should look any more than Monet would!  As a matter of fact, I have always taught and been taught that providing models for the children stifles their creativity and causes frustration, but I love Bev’s example of setting out something like a Van Gogh for teachers and asking them to copy it.  That’s what it’s like for children looking at our own versions of their projects.  It’s demeaning and intimidating.  True art activities honor the artist.

Often times, the satisfaction and expression comes in the process of doing the art.  It is not uncommon for children to spend tens of minutes on a project, and then show no interest in taking it home.  They have mixed colors and tried every utensil and now that their paper is caked and finally dried, they tell you they don’t need it. 

For them, it was about the experimentation, the sensory input, and the experience.  They weren’t looking for something to hang on the fridge.  They were looking for something to unload their feelings and energy on.  They wanted something to explore.  They wanted something to control.  The “product” is often something only we adults see.

So take another look at your art activities.  Do you see product or process?  Mentally create a spectrum with “true art” on one end (child-driven, teacher simply provides and monitors supplies) and “complete craft” on the other (teacher directed, step-by-step with identical outcomes expected).  As you plan, take time to evaluate where your art activities fall on that spectrum.  For the benefit of your children, make sure you’re providing enough “random art projects”.

Photo provided by ginam.

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Eric Carle Author Study: Building Your Own Very Hungry Caterpillar

Photo of Eric Carle  If you ask anyone to make  list of favorite children’s authors,  Eric Carle would almost certainly be on that list.  His work is both prolific and magnificent.  His simple text is brought to life by colorful texture and hands-on appeal.  I love talking to children about Eric Carle as we do our bug unit, because he has so many fabulous books featuring bugs!

Start off your author study by showing a picture of Eric Carle and introducing him as an author and illustrator.  Explain what those words mean, and point out that the children can be authors and illustrators too.  Show a wide array of Eric Carle’s books and have the children talk about what the books have in common.  You could list these features on a chart paper to reinforce what has been said, as well as the concepts of print.  Throughout the unit, refer back to those distinguishing features again each time you pull out an Eric Carle book to share with the children.  Stock your bookshelf with a variety of Eric Carle books- not just the bug ones- and let them explore!

Very Hungry Caterpillar

Book Activity: The Very Hungry Caterpillar

The Very Hungry Caterpillar is very likely Eric Carle’s most popular book.  The fuzzy little character has become as synonymous with Eric Carle as the Cat in the Hat is with Dr. Seuss.  This book is fantastically lovable, beautifully simplistic, and easily used to teach a variety of concepts, such as the days of the week, numbers and counting, healthy foods, and life cycles.

After reading this book with children, you can allow them to explore Eric Carle’s illustration style!  Point out that Eric Carle doesn’t just paint his pictures, and he doesn’t just cut out paper to form his pictures (as we explored with Lois Ehlert), but he does both!    He paints beautiful pieces of paper and then uses those as his “palette” to cut out and create collages for his fantastic illustrations.  (Learn more about his techniques in his own words.)

To experience a taste of Eric Carle’s art techniques, try this multi-day project.

First, place a drop cloth under your art table and then cover the entire surface of your table with paper (I actually do two layers to protect against seeping).  You could also take the whole project outside and simply tape your paper down on the ground or against a wall. 

Set out paint colors to coincide with the caterpillar’s body (yellow and various shades of green).  You can use paint cups, or use lids to plastic containers like I did here.  Set out a variety of tools to be used in addition to the brushes to create different textures as well.  Here are some ideas to get you started: combs, dishwashing wands, sponges, texture rollers, print blocks, corrugated cardboard, and bubble wrap.  Go crazy!  Get creative!  Eric Carle uses all kinds of things to create texture- even scraps of carpet! 

Really encourage the children to cover the whole paper with paint.  Point out some of the textures in some of Eric Carle’s illustrations and ask the children what kinds of textures they can create.

Repeat the activity again- or simultaneously if you have the room for two painting stations -using colors for the caterpillar’s head and feet  (red, orange, and yellow).

 Once your paper has dried, you have a paper palette, just as Eric Carle uses.  You can then do one or both of the following projects using the paper your children have prepared together.

Create a large mural for your room.  Cut out oval shapes for the body, triangular legs, and so on, then attach them together to create one larger-than-life caterpillar.  You could even continue the project and create a butterfly!

 You can also help the children to create individual-sized caterpillars on art paper.  For older children, you might have them cut out the circles themselves.  For younger children, I would cut out a collection of small green circles and large green circles, as well as small red circles, and large red circles.  You can talk about the shapes, sizes, and colors as the children glue them to their papers to create their own caterpillars.  They can also add other details with crayons. 

When doing this project, I like to have some of the paper we have painted cut into smaller sheets and available for the children to examine.   I like to remind them that this is their paper.  I point out some of the textures and talk about how they created them.  I also like to have the paper available in case someone wants to create something other than the circles I have prepared.  You can’t get in the way of creative ideas when you’re doing a creative activity!

While exploring Eric Carle’s art, I also like to take the unique tools to the easel and let the children experiment and create their own paper for individual creations.

Eric Carle’s style of art is so appealing and inviting for young children.  It encourages them to explore and use their creativity, along with their small and large motor skills.  As the children become more familiar with Eric Carle as an author and illustrator, they not only gain an appreciation for his work, but they build cognitive skills as they recognize details and similarities that help them to categorize books.  At the heart of this activity is the objective that the children will have an enjoyable, hands-on experience with literature, which will build language and literacy skills as well as a positive attitude about reading.  And odds are, if a child loves to read, that child will learn to read.

Up next in the Eric Carle series: The Very Lonely Firefly and the Very Busy Spider

For more bug-themed ideas, check out this brainstorm! 


Filed under book activity, Building Readers, Create, language activity, Learning through Play and Experience, Uncategorized

Sticky Collage

I love doing collages with children!  They are always so excited to exercise their independence and decide just exactly what goes where.  It’s a great exercise in creativity and small motor skills.  I’m sure you all have your favorite ways to do collages.  Well, here’s another approach to those fantastic creations!

Often, I see young children piling objects onto their papers without applying glue.  They’re so involved in the sticking process, they forget the sticking agent!  It’s loads of fun until they pick up their papers and watch their work fall down to the art tray.  Well, one fun way to do collages, and to avoid the missing glue problem, is to use Contact Paper!

Tape the paper down with the paper backing facing up.  Once it’s set, peel off the paper to reveal a perfectly sticky surface.  Children can stick and place to their little heart’s content.  (And no, I didn’t use sour cream – those are the containers I use to store such beautiful randomness like beans, seeds, pieces of colored tissue paper, feathers, flowers from a broken lei, and whatever other beautiful junk might go perfectly on a collage!)

Now once the child has had enough of the decorating, you have two different ways to “finish” it.  On the left, the green construction paper was placed on the sticky side and sealed down, creating a fully contained collage.  This way works best if you leave a frame of un-collaged (I think they should add that word to the dictionary) space.  Perhaps carefully cut the paper backing off with a razor blade, leaving strips around the edges; peel the paper off, cut the frame, and re-apply;or draw a frame on the top side of the paper (smooth side) with permanent marker, and let the children know to keep that area free from decoration.  Having that border will help it to stick down and seal.  

I didn’t draw such a border, so a few of the collages just got too big to stick.  There was no sticky area left unoccupied!  So with these, I taped them down to the construction paper for stability and color, but left them sticky side up.  (So the tape is between the construction paper and the smooth side of the Contact Paper.)  These left the collages in better condition and makes it easier to use scrap pieces of Contact Paper without having to custom cut your construction paper.  (Speaking of scraps, most of mine come from covering my paperback children’s books with Contact Paper.  It protects the covers and makes them stronger.)

This method for collages is great when working with very young children who may have trouble gluing independently, tight time crunches that don’t allow for drying time, or just for trying something different!  Enjoy!

You may also enjoy The Spectrum of Preschool Arts and Crafts.

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This Could Be the Safest Finger-Paint Ever

I recently had a teacher ask about art projects for the very young, particularly young two’s.  She was especially concerned with the safety factor, as the little ones have a tendency to try to eat what they’re working with.  I have a long list of suggestions for her, but I’ll share just one with you now!

The first project that came to mind was finger-painting!  This finger-paint recipe is fantastic!  It’s so easy and made from ingredients that are safe enough to eat — but it doesn’t taste great, so I doubt they’d try more than once.  (Though as soon as I say that, some little child somewhere will eat an entire container of this like it was yogurt.  Oh well, like I said, it’s safe.)

Cornstarch Finger-Paint

3 Tbsp sugar

½ cup cornstarch

2 cups cold water


Liquid Soap

Mix the sugar and cornstarch in a sauce pan.  Add the water and mix well.  Cook over med-low heat, stirring all the time, until thick, about 5 minutes.  (To me, it looks almost like Vaseline.)  Remove from the stove, cool, and pour into containers (muffin tins are great for a variety of colors).  Add a little food coloring or liquid watercolors to each cup and then a drop or two of soap to help with the washability.  (Liquid watercolors are ideal, as they are more washable, though food coloring is pretty safe once it is fully mixed into the paint solution.)  Mix well and paint when cool!  If making the night before, store in the refrigerator.

One thing I like to do with this recipe is to make it without any color, and put about 1/4 a cup or so in plastic bags.  Then I let the children mix in the color by working the *well-sealed* bag.  It’s particularly exciting to let the children choose two primary colors and mix it all together until a secondary color is formed.

Finger-painting can be done on paper plates, poster board, or art paper.  For many young children, however, finger-painting is about the experience and exploration, not about making something to be displayed on a refrigerator or bulletin board.  So you may even want to do finger-painting right onto art trays or the table top.  If you do finger-painting on a table top or tray, you can always do a reverse print by pressing paper onto the paint and lifting it again to reveal the design!

This is a great creative sensory activity, while also working fine motor skills.  And if they happen to lick their fingers.  No problem!

Top photo by NecoGarnica.


Filed under Create, fine motor skills, Learning through Play and Experience, Recipes - Nonedible, sensory activity, supplies

Bev Bos’ Secret to Successful Shaving Cream Art

I do enjoy Bev Bos!  That woman is in a league of her own!  Well, it’s thanks to Bev that I’ve learned the secret to great shaving cream painting!  In the past, I’ve had children paint with colored shaving cream, and they’ve had a great experience, but unless they spread the foam out, once that foam’s dry, it all seems to fall apart.  Enter Bev.  Her big secret is to add equal parts Elmer’s glue and shaving cream and whip them together.  Then add your color and you’re good to go!

One of the best kinds of fingerpaints ever!  (Great with brushes too for the mess-avoidant child.)  You can add glitter right to it, or let the little ones sprinkle it on top.  It’s still fragile after it dries, but it does hold it’s shape- and the sparkles- much better than shaving cream alone!

It’s a great sensory activity, creative activity, and small motor activity.  And really, it’s just plain fun!  Who can walk past a pot of colorful foam and not want to join in?  And as I look at these projects, and think of Bev Bos, I’m reminded of her statement, “children have to use too much”.  It’s not a judgemental statement, it’s a reminder of the exuberance with which they approach art.  So be prepared to supply them with “too much” of your art supplies!  In fact, I’ve learned that when given a shaker of glitter, the typical child will empty it entirely onto one piece of paper.  It doesn’t really seem to matter whether the shaker had .8 oz or 18 oz!  So I now use a smaller amount in the shakers (or smaller shakers) and refill them if needed for the next child.  That way, each child can have the satisfaction of emptying the container!  ♥


Filed under Create, fine motor skills, Learning through Play and Experience, Recipes - Nonedible, sensory activity

Heart Art

Sorry for the delay in posts!  It’s teething time again around here, and I’ve been spending a lot of time snuggling a certain 10-month old.  You’d  take snuggling him over writing too if you saw those eyes!

So, while I was planning on giving you plenty of heart art ideas here, I’ll finish the write up of the ones I had ready and link you to some great ones I’ve found on another site by a blogger I assume doesn’t have any teething ten-month olds.

Why don’t we start with a little Fold Art?

I love the symmetry of hearts. They’re perfect for fold art! You can do this with any paint, but I love using syrup paint, for something different….and shiny! A little goes a long way here, so if you can, help your little ones to slow down and see what happens as they add each dropper of paint and then fold. The paint spreads out and takes up more space and it also creates those fantastic symmetrical designs!  (Just make sure they open them back up to dry, or they will stick shut!)

Homemade Stampers

Make your own stampers by cutting sponges and hot gluing them (they must be dry to adhere) to small containers.


I found an empty spice bottle worked best, but detergent caps, empty spools, and  PVC pipe could be used as well.  Whatever beautiful junk you may have that will fit right into a little hand! 

You can cut heart shapes, or get the kiddos in on the action and let them cut out their own abstract shapes!

Here are some stencils I quickly made up out of manilla folders. Set these out with art trays, paper, paint, and printing instruments like bubble wrap, texture rollers, print blocks, even marbles and golf balls for rolling.  When the painting is done, remove the stencil for a heart art masterpiece.

These three activities promote creativity, small motor skills, and even some math concepts as you examine the symmetry!

I also wanted to recommend the activities over at Sheryl’s blog, here, here, and here.  They’re just fantastic!

If you aren’t planning on making anymore Valentine’s projects, remember that any of these techniques could be used on any shape of paper!  It’s the process and experience that makes them great!  The hearts are just a bonus!

 For more Valentine’s Day activities click here!

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