Inspired By Jasper Johns

I love fine art. I love museums and I kinda like taking my kids there. Ok I love exposing them to art but honestly I wish I could take them to museums for a quick zip through then send them off with their dad to get ice cream while I soak it all in at my speed ( which is normally fast but in an art museum I am a turtle, a lethargic one at that).  Luckily one way to expose kids to fine art day to day is through books. We have a coffee table book that we flip through daily and we all have our favorites. The other day I caught my son pretending to shoot at this painting by Jasper Johns. I suggested we make our own and he skipped off to the kitchen to do just that.

  1. Gather your materials. You will need some white paper, red paper and if you want another sheet of card stock to make it sturdy enough to throw things at. Also some round objects like jar lids to make the rings if you aren’t talented enough to make them free hand ( I am most certainly not, even with the lids I did it twice), blue and yellow markers, glue and scissors.
  2. Start by making the target using the lids to trace. Kids or adults can do this. I wanted this project to focus on cutting for my son so I chose this step and he did all the cutting ( which you’ll see later on) but there is not reason it needs to be perfect if wee ones want to do it , go for it.
  3. Next add the bulls eye.
  4. Time to color. This was a lesson in being careful, I didn’t tell him to stay in the lines but he naturally wanted to. I am not big on asking kids while doing art to stay in the lines but practicing control while drawing/writing is a good skill once they are working on printing letters.
  5. Time to cut. I wasn’t sure how far he’d get so I had adult and children’s scissors ready.
  6. He did it all himself – hooray. Cutting is another wonderful fine motor skill and important for writing as well.
  7. Add glue to the red paper. He was dropping “glue bombs” here… what can I say ?
  8. Pop the target on .
  9. Add more glue to the card stock add the target and let dry.

Fine Art Books by Bob Raczka


Artful Reading (Bob Raczka’s Art Adventures) is a perfect combination of promoting an appreciation of art and a love of reading. The concept is simple with each page showcasing a painting of someone reading . What I love so much is that while the text suggests what type of reading the painting is showing it’s still up for the reader to go deeper into each and decide what they are seeing. Both times my son and I rad this book we discussed what the people were reading and which we liked the best. I love books like this.

Here’s Looking at Me: How Artists See Themselves (Bob Raczka’s Art Adventures) is devoted to self portraits and the story behind each one in this fascinating book. This is a book for children older than my son who is 4 but I still showed him every painting ( all self portraits) and read highlights of the text which I found fascinating and can’t wait to share it with my kids when they are a little older. I read a lot of art history books for fun and I learned a few things reading this.  I can’t think of a better book to couple with a lesson about self portraits for kids 6-12.

No One Saw is a more general book  focusing on familiar subjects of different artists. What I think is so genius about this book is that it focuses kids’ attention on the subjects of the paintings and i a natural introduction into a conversation asking children what they would paint better than anyone else.

Mining For Shapes

by Kim

My daughter is learning her shapes and colors. She is doing fabulous, but I remember my son having trouble with certain shapes simply because we didn’t talk about them as much. Let’s face it diamonds, ovals, and octagons (other than stop signs) don’t really come up that often. So I came up with this sensory box as a fun way to practice these shapes.

You will need scissors, craft foam, cardboard, aluminum foil, and black beans.

I drew some shapes onto the craft foam and cardboard. Rectangles on green (for emeralds), octagons on red (for rubies), ovals on blue (for sapphires), and diamonds on the cardboard.

Cut the shapes out and wrap the diamond shapes with small pieces of foil.

Pour the black beans and shapes in the bowl. I chose black beans because I thought it would look more like coal. It really makes the colors stand out, too.

To make it a tad more authentic for mining, you can cut strips of construction paper and tape them together to fit around your child’s head. Then cut a 1 inch section off of a toilet paper roll and tape it to the headband. I thought we had yellow tissue paper (very cute for the headlamp, but we didn’t). He’s still cute, I think.

You can give your child tongs, sifter, strainer, colander, or measuring cups. Try anything to make it feel more like mining. It’s all about having fun.

Every time my daughter found a shape I would say “Wow, you found a blue oval. Great job!” or the corresponding shape and color. We had a blast mining. My son had to play along after he saw how much fun my daughter was having.

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Kim is a contributing writer for No Time For Flash Cards, a mom to a toddler, a preschooler, and a foster parent, too. She juggles her day by trying out fun activities and crafts with the kids. After all, she is just a big kid herself. See what she has been up to over at Mom Tried It.

Shape Shake

This simple activity requires very few supplies. All you need are scissors, craft foam, yarn, a marker, and a hole punch (can use scissors instead).

First cut strands of yarn about 4-5 feet long. Tie them to something extremely sturdy, such as a doorknob. This yarn is going to see a lot of action. Make a strand for each child playing.

Cut craft foam in squares and punch or cut a hole. Be sure to make the hole large. Your children will be threading the yarn through this hole.

Draw shapes, letters, words, whatever you would like them to practice learning onto the craft foam squares.

Ask your child to grab the square that is a specific color or has a certain shape/letter on it. Have them thread the yarn through the square.

The best part of this activity is that it is perfect for different stages in development. I instructed one child to do colors (2 yrs old), while the other child did shapes (3 yrs old). Later on when my 4 yr old returned home from preschool I had him play along with letters.

Now to get some great use out of competitiveness and sibling rivalry. Have each child hold the end of their yarn strand with the square at their hands. Tell them to shake the yarn to get the square to the doorknob. Make it a race!

This activity is also great for one child, too. Use their determination (which we all know they have) to jump and shake that square to the doorknob.

Be prepared for a lot of jumping, wiggling, and giggling. This was so much fun for everyone, especially me standing back watching them burn off some energy while learning and having a blast.

PLEASE NOTE: This activity is designed to be parent involved. Do not use this activity as a busy activity while you leave the room. The long strands of yarn can be dangerous with young children if not supervised. You will need to monitor your children closely and be sure they do not wrap themselves with the yarn.

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Kim is a contributing writer for No Time For Flash Cards, a mom to a toddler, a preschooler, and a foster parent, too. She juggles her day by trying out fun activities and crafts with the kids. After all, she is just a big kid herself. See what she has been up to over at Mom Tried It.

Marshmallow Snowflakes

marshmallow snowflakes

It seems like it’s snowing almost everywhere lately. I love doing activities that use what’s going on around us to keep things interesting and fresh!  These marshmallow snowflakes craft is simple enough for preschoolers to do with a little direction , and don’t forget you can add in lessons about counting and estimation too!

  1. Gather your materials. You will need a sheet of construction paper, white glue, mini marshmallows, and glitter.
  2. Start by designing your snowflake. You can just use the glue or draw it with a pencil first.  I did this one to show my son how to draw with glue.
  3. I encouraged my son to do this himself by reminding him that all snowflakes are unique.
  4. Add the marshmallows! I get asked all the time how do you avoid him eating them all? My main strategy is that I let him eat a few but only after he adds them on. I tell him to count to 14, then eat one, then add on another 20 and eat one etc.. interestingly enough this time he didn’t eat a single one, but he still counted.
  5. Add glue for glitter
  6. Add the glitter. I LOVE these little glitter tubes. They only hold a small amount of glitter so the mess is minimized. I wouldn’t use them with toddlers/ kids who still put things in their mouths though, the tops pop off and could be a hazard. 
  7. Let dry. His is proudly on display in our front hall.

Books

Holly’s Red Boots by Francesca Chessa was a delight to read. Holly wants to go outside in the snow but can’t find her boots and we follow along as she looks for them.It’s a cute story and the pictures are scrumptious. My son loved that the dinosaur was wearing her boots and wanted to read that page over and over. I also loved that when she does go outside her mom has her baby sibling in a baby carrier. Fun book!

Stella, Queen of the Snow by Marie-Louise Gay is my kind of book. If I were to quote all my favorite bits of this book I would write out most of it. I just love the writing, it’s simple but doesn’t talk down to the reader. The characters are sweet but not saccharine and I love how inquisitive Sam is . Stella is a know it all but not bratty about it at all! Sam has never seen snow before and Stella tells him all about it as they explore the first snow fall of the year.

Tacky the Penguin by Helen Lester is such a cute and funny story, your kids will love it! Tacky is an odd bird but when hunters come to get some pretty penguins is funny odd ways of doing things turn off the hunters and saves Tacky and his perfectly not odd companions. This is a sweet look at being different and being happy as pie about being different.  My son loves this book and will often point out that Tacky is proud to sing just the way he wants. I love that it can preach to kids without preaching at all.

Fine Motor Apples

by Katy

This is an extremely simple activity that helps children address two important areas of development: fine motor and sensory.

You will need a plain sheet of paper, a piece of card stock, a hole puncher, and a green crayon or marker.

Punch as many holes as you can in the card stock.

Place the card stock on top of your white sheet of paper.

Take red finger paint and guide your child to work it into each hole. Help your child isolate their pointed finger as they do this. The slippery/slimy texture of the paint is one that often poses a problem for kids with sensory issues, so don’t be surprised if they resist. Try to finish the activity, though. While we were doing the activity, Charlie, who often strongly resists finger painting, took such an interest in those little holes that he seemed to forget that he was touching his nemesis: finger paint.

Lift the card stock and wait for all your circles to dry.

Once the paint is dry, allow your child to draw green stems with the crayon/marker. Let them do it alone if they can, guide them if they are unable.

I you do have to help your child draw the stems, be sure to guide them in the most natural way possible. Show them a downward stroke even though it might feel strange depending on where you are standing while you help them.

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Katy is a mom of one who loves art, mystery novels, and anything involving peanut butter–she blogs about raising her little miracle at Bird on the Street.