Large-Scale Painting


This was such a simple activity, and so much fun! After seeing how much fun it was to paint large-scale with our feet, I decided to try painting large on the wall. Simply tape a large sheet of paper on the wall (in this case newsprint), and add some large brushes and rollers. N has a roller and was stretching and standing on his tippy-toes to get all the way to the top of the paper and on the wall! I really liked how the roller and 2-inch brushes got these boys practicing their gross-motor skills.


Here Little O is having a go with the roller. You can’t quite tell, but his little tongue is sticking out in concentration.


Painting up and down, flexing those wrists.


Did you notice that it was camo pant day?


The finished product. Overall I really loved this activity. The boys were up and moving around in their natural state of being, rather than constantly getting up and down when seated at a table. They got to stretch and reach and flex their arms and wrists while using the rollers and brushes, and as a bonus, there really was a very minimal mess!


Searching for a great finger-paint recipe: Part 2; and dance party painting!

Well, I realized that it has been ten months (!) since I tried a finger-paint recipe, and since the last post indicated that I was searching for a really good recipe, I thought I’d better try a new one. This recipe is really simple. Just two ingredients. Well, three if you count pigment. Flour, water, and food coloring are all you are going to need to whip up a batch of paint.

We decided to use this paint at a dance party session (Little O is in love with dance parties). We kicked it up a notch by adding paint.


I put the paint on wax paper which was taped to the floor at one end of the paper. You could also use a cookie sheet, aluminum foil, or any other large flat surface that you’ve got kicking around. You could even put it directly on the floor, but I was lazy and didn’t want to mop.


I liked this paint better than the cornstarch paint. It was a little thick, but it felt more like paint and didn’t get lumpy. The pigment was okay, but I wanted more staying power…it didn’t transfer to the paper like you’d really want, so the paint had to be very thick on the paper to be vibrant. Overall it was a good recipe, and I think the boys had fun stomping around in it. With the music and squishy paint on feet, I think it is a great sensory activity for toddlers.

I found the recipe over on TinkerLab, so head on over there if you want to make it, she’s got a great tutorial on how to make it.

Credit Cards, Easter Eggs, and Legos

Little O has two friends that he absolutely adores. He will ask for them repeatedly, and can’t stop saying their names once they’ve gone home. The other day their mom brought the two of them over for a play date. Little O was ecstatic. We decided to paint with some objects other than paint brushes. I love to see how the kids experiment with each object to figure out what kinds of marks can be made with them.


Here is C-man experimenting with a huge Duplo block. You can see a paint brush in this picture, I know, I know…it was produced to satisfy a request. Most of the time, I’d rather avoid a tantrum than stand my ground.


Here is Little O experimenting with a credit card from an old, closed account. I should have shredded it ages ago, but since I still had it I thought we’d put it to good use. You can also used exhausted gift cards, rewards cards that you never use, or the library card still in your wallet from three moves ago. Notice the halves of plastic Easter eggs nearby. We also used those with great success, but unfortunately I didn’t get a picture. Little O mostly scraped them across the surface of the paper, but you can use them to make circles, too.

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Here are the finished pieces. I especially love C-man’s choice to add black circles. I think they really pop. My apologies to Princess E. She was indeed part of the play date but I didn’t get a good picture of her or her work.

Magic Water Painting, or Painting for the Faint-of-Heart

If you have ever wanted to do a painting project with your child but just couldn’t bring yourself to do it for fear of the mess, this is the project for you!  No paint required, just water, a paintbrush, and some “magic cloth.”

I am familiar with a product called “Buddha Boards,” which uses plain old water as the medium.  These boards consist of paper or cloth glued onto a hard surface.  The cloth turns black when water is applied, and as the water evaporates, the board turns white again. They can be used over and over.  While I think they are cool, I also think that at about $35 a pop, they are way to expensive to buy.  Enter MAGIC CLOTH!!  I can’t remember how I found it (most likely some prolonged Google search), but basically the cloth is the evaporative substance without the hard substrate.

I found the cloth for sale online at a Chinese calligraphy supply site.  It was about $10.00 plus shipping for a relatively large piece.  (about 14″x16″…in yardage this makes it super expensive, but since the Buddha Boards are about 8″x10″ I thought it was a good deal.  I would like to find the cloth for sale by the bolt…it’s got to exist somewhere. How fun would a giant wall of this stuff be!?)

Anyway, I needed to make this cloth rigid for Little O to play around with, so I just used some spray adhesive on foam core and stuck the cloth down.  With a very sharp X-acto knife I trimmed off the edges and had a great finished product!  I can even peel the cloth off and re-stick it to another surface if the foam core ever gets destroyed, and I’m guessing that since this is Little O’s toy, it certainly will get destroyed at some point.

Little O took to it right away.  He had a blast dipping his paintbrush in water, “painting” the surface with the brush, his fingers, and even his tongue.  As you can see, I was perfectly happy letting him “paint” with no drop-cloth on the carpet in the playroom.

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This series of photos shows you how the cloth looks as the water is evaporating.  I think this series was taken over 5 minutes.  In the last picture, the two new blobs are Little O’s tongue marks.  He couldn’t resist adding some new flair to the painting as things started to disappear.

We had fun, but honestly if Little O keeps painting like this, I’m going to have to give him some oils and start putting the results up on the wall!

Chuck Close: face book, by Chuck Close


By chance I happened to see this book in the kids’ section at the library.  Since I like Chuck Close’s work and I think he is a good artist to use as an example when approaching several different subjects with kids, I picked it up.  It turns out the book was published just last year, and I think it’s a great reference book for kids.

As you may know, Chuck Close paints pictures of faces.  HUGE pictures of faces.  That’s all he paints (or draws, or photographs, or uses mixed media to create.)  What I didn’t know is that he has prosopagnosia, or “face blindness.” This is just one of the many things that kids will learn about Close in his new book.

The book is basically a question-and-answer session between Close and some kids (imaginary or not, I don’t know) visiting his studio.  There are the typical questions you’d ask an artist, such as  “What made you start to draw?” and “How long does it take you to make a painting?” There are other questions specific to Close’s work and life, such as “Why doesn’t anyone in your art smile?” and “Did you ever want to give up [after the Event]?” (The Event refers to a collapsing artery which caused paralysis from the chest down.)

In the middle of the book, there is a section of mix-and-match self portraits.  There are many portraits he’s done of himself at different stages of life, with different mediums.  I particularly enjoyed the fingerprint portrait.  I wasn’t sure why he chose to do mix-and-match, but I loved it anyway.



There is something really fun about doing mix-and-match with an image of the same person, painted at different ages and with different media.  It was a bit more fascinating than making a bear-giraffe-cow.

Close’s personality and working style and sense of dogged determination and hard work come across in the book.  Some of my favorite quotes were:

  • “Sometimes I choose colors that get me in trouble–perhaps they are too loud or clash with the other colors.  Then I have to use my intuition to paint my way out.”
  • “Inspiration is for amateurs.  Artists just show up and get to work.”
  • “The discipline and determination I learned as a kid overcoming dyslexia helped me through ‘the Event.'”
  • “Ease is the enemy of the artist.  Go ahead and get yourself into trouble.”

At the end of the book, there is also a timeline of Close’s life.  I think this section would be useful for an older elementary student who was assigned to do a research project on an artist.

For kids who aren’t doing research projects, Close’s life is just a great example of someone who has overcome huge obstacles, from severe dyslexia to prosopagnosia, to paralysis.  If ever there is a kid suffering from the “I can’t” syndrome, this is a book for them.


Easy Finger-painted Father’s Day Gift


My husband was sweet enough to have his birthday in June, just about the time Father’s day falls.  Birthday gifts are hard enough, let alone father’s day gifts!  So as I was racking my brain for a father’s day gift from Little O, I saw this idea pinned on Pinterest. Bingo! I had my idea.

Masking is a technique often used by painters…usually pretty easy to do, and I figured this was a cinch. I decided to use the text “i dad” and got to work.  The first step is to prepare your surface.  You can use canvas, canvas paper, cardstock, board, watercolor paper, whatever.  Just be sure that the tape you use is compatible with your surface (i.e. masking tape will probably rip watercolor paper, but painter’s tape might not.)

I used canvas paper.  It looks like this:


Basically it is a piece of canvas already primed with gesso.  It is unmounted, so you can put it in a frame.  I used plain old masking tape to create the message, tearing it for the effect I wanted around the edges.

Then I set up the finger-painting station.  I SHOULD have put Little O in his high chair and let him paint there…thus ensuring that the paint would stay in one general location.  But because the tray was too small for the paper, I set up my station like this:


Notice how my paint tray is taped down?  I still think this is a good idea, but it didn’t keep the paint from wandering, because the kid wasn’t tied down! We did  have a drop cloth which limited the “damage” to the table. I used some inexpensive tempera paints.  I decided that I haven’t tried enough finger paint recipes to know if any of them dry well and have good “archival” qualities.  So since this tempera was non-toxic and washable, that’s what we used.  I took Little O’s shirt off so all we’d need to wash was his skin. Even though I took extra care to keep his hands out of his mouth, he still did a face-plant onto the painted surface of the canvas, so just be extra careful if you are using anything you don’t want in your little one’s mouth.

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In these process photos you can see how things progressed.  I gave Little O a foam brush, which he absolutely loved, and I had to show him how to use his fingers.  He used both for a while and then I took the brush away and helped him finish the painting with his fingers.

The finished product.  We didn’t get the top done because Little O kept trying to leave the area.  20130524_151622

The next step is to let it dry and then peel the tape off.


You can see that the paint bled underneath the tape.  There are several reasons why this happened.  1-the canvas pad surface is textured. 2-I didn’t press down hard enough on the edges. 3-the lettering was too narrow.

I decided that I liked the effect, and the more I look at this, the more I love it!  I think it goes well with the “torn” edges of the tape.  If you don’t like it and want a clean letter, there are a few things you can do.  First, don’t use a textured surface. Use heavy card stock or paper with a smooth finish, or you can use wood.  Second, get good tape and press down around the edges.  If you do those thing, I think even narrow lettering would work well.

The last step was to trim it down to fit in the frame and viola!  Little O has a cool gift for dad.

20130524_162931Materials Used:

  • canvas pad or canvas, watercolor paper, card stock, or board
  • washable paints (I used tempera)
  • water to clean your brushes
  • drop cloth or something to protect painting surface
  • painter’s tape
  • fingers (brushes also work)
  • 8×10 frame

Searching for a great finger-paint recipe: part 1

I’ve been seeing recipes for “edible finger paint” all over the internet recently, and I wanted to try some out.  I was interested in them mainly because Little O puts everything into his mouth and I knew the moment we started with paint he’d be eating it.  So I decided that edible finger paints were the way to go.

My criteria for a “great” recipe are as follows:

  1. The recipe must feel and act like paint (viscous and good color, especially after drying.)
  2. I wanted it to be edible, but since this is not the primary function, I didn’t want to encourage eating it.  So no sweetness.
  3. I wanted it to be easy to make.
  4. I didn’t want it to stain easily.

There are probably other criteria to consider, but these were my top four.  Yesterday Little O’s cousin came over and we made our first attempt.  We tried a simple corn starch and water recipe.

I decided to use vegetable dyes, because I thought these would be pretty easy to make and I was the most comfortable with these kind of dyes if Little O put any paint into his mouth. I just experimented with things that I already had in my kitchen.


Clockwise from the top left:

  • green–food coloring
  • mauve–blueberries mixed with a few blackberries
  • red–beet juice
  • orange–beet juice mixed with turmeric
  • purple–purple sweet potato
  • yellow–turmeric

I was pleased with the colors–they were a little muted and not artificially bright, but dark enough to show up on the paper even after drying.  I did cheat on the green though.  I wanted to try using spinach but I didn’t have any, so I just used food coloring, and immediately regretted it.  Not only does the green look weird, but it was the only paint color that stained my fingers! I’ll definitely avoid food coloring in the future.

As you can probably see from the picture, the paints started to gel once they cooled.  I wished they stayed a bit more viscous.  The recipe was super easy, though, and the kids had fun.


I’ll give the corn starch paint recipe 3 out of 4 stars since it did meet 3 of my four requirements, but I’ll keep looking.  If you’d like to try this recipe out, the paint and color recipes follow below.

Corn Starch Finger Paint

  • 1 cup corn starch, dissolved in water (enough to dissolve ALL the starch…no lumps)
  • 3 cups water

Place corn starch in a bowl.  Add enough lukewarm water to dissolve all of it and mix thoroughly.  Boil 3 cups of water in saucepan.  Remove from heat.  Add dissolved corn starch mixture and stir.  Replace mixture over heat, and continue to stir continuously until mixture thickens and turns translucent.  Divide into bowls and add dye until you like the color (more dye=more vibrant).  Mix thoroughly.

Vegetable Dyes

Basically you’ll want to take the source material (veggie or fruit) and simmer it with a little bit of water over low to medium heat until the plant material breaks down and the water becomes colored.  The longer you simmer, the more intense the color.  Just be careful not to simmer the water away.  Strain through a strainer and press all the juices out of the veggies/fruit.  I used a handful of berries or chopped veggies (1 tsp of the turmeric) to about 1/2 inch of water in a small saucepan.  If you are using canned beets (I did), just use the colored juice.