Open Ended Art
by Allison McDonald
Earth Day is coming up and I have been talking to my kids more and more about why we recycle and what we also try to re-use at home. As you can imagine we re-use many things for projects and activities I write about on the blog. So much so that my son will often hand me his garbage and say ” Can you use this for a project?” Even I haven’t found a good use for string cheese wrappers ! Today we are using a collection of recycled objects for a wide open art project. As you will see my daughter has a favorite earth friendly painting tool.
- Gather your materials. You will need some paint, a tray for the paint, some paper, and recycled objects to paint with. We went around the house and into my art closet to choose the objects.
- Pour paint into the tray ( or cake pan) . I had my daughter look outside to tell me what colors she saw. Then we used those colors for the painting. I have the paper taped down because I had a feeling she’d end up finger painting and this keeps the paper from sticking to her hands and ending up on the floor.
- Explore! This is wide open . She liked the toilet paper roll but hated the little cap. The ribbon spool made interesting prints but the real fun was in using her hands. The ultimate re-usable paint brush! After plopping on the paint with her hands she explored the marks that some of the recycled objects made. Rolling the toilet paper roll was a fun discovery too.
Books About Recycling
The Adventures of a Plastic Bottle: A Story About Recycling by Alison Inches is awesome! I only wish that my son was old enough to enjoy it as much as I did. It’s not aimed at 2 year olds at all, but he did like to open it to the page with the recycling truck and point out all the parts to me. The book itself takes the reader through the complete process from crude oil, to bottle and then to synthetic fleece. I am not too proud to admit I learned s a few new things and had a few good laughs along the way with the books little bits of humor too. I think most 5 year olds would enjoy this book, and it’s easy to break it down for those unable to sit for this much text. Also the book was printed on 100% post consumer waste paper.
Trash And Recycling by Stephanie Turnball is a great book ! I learned more about garbage and the recycling process reading this to my son over lunch than I ever knew! He loved it and despite being a pretty sophisticated book for a 3 year old immediately asked to read it again as soon as I closed it. It explains the whole process from curbside pick up, land fills, incineration and recycling. The idea for today’s activity came from the sorting of recyclable garbage from this book!
The idea for this post was not an open ended paint project instead I was going to do dribble art with my kids. It’s a simple and still pretty open project when you squeeze watered down paint from sponges onto good thick paper making cool designs. We have been working on fine motor skills and squeezing the sponges are a good exercise. However things didn’t go as planned which is fine! They took hold of the activity and I sat back to document. I did carry them both the the bathroom but other than that I was hands off after step 2. I loved watching them simply explore and the picture above is a perfect example of why just letting them take the wheel more often than not is so important. Look at how different their projects are despite having only a few identical materials.
- Gather your materials. If you want to make dribble paintings use paint, muffin tin, sponges cut into squeezable sizes and paper. If you just want some fun open creative painting – put out anything. Brushes or no brushes, all different colors of paint and make sure to have extra paper on hand.
- Start by trying to squeeze the paint out of the sponge and make designs with the dribbles.
- Sit back and just watch. I think I may have said “Not on the window.” a few times and “Not in her hair!” at least once. I wasn’t so worried about arm painting.They had a blast and both paintings are proudly on display in my son’s room. There is no wrong way to paint and I wasn’t about to stop their creativity because it wasn’t in my plan.
I know letting your kids go wild won’t be something all of you will be into but do let your planned ideas veer off course and run with their ideas when they have them, it’s not a fail it’s just a new path!
Painting without a brush is one of my favorite thing to do with kids, especially toddlers who have a hard time controlling small paint brushes. This vegetable printing project is perfect for toddlers. We have painted with fly swatters, trucks, and other vegetables but this was the first time we have picked the fruit and veggies from our own garden . Using fruits and vegetables for art can have great influence on eating them as you will see so don’t shy away from playing with food especially if you have a picky eater.
- Gather your materials. You will need a few veggies and or fruits ( we used zucchini, carrots, an apple and potato) , paper, paint, paper towel, scissors and a dish or two.
- Start by pouring paint in the dish and I added pieces of paper towel soaked in the paint , this just helps stop the paint from glopping on too think.
- Add the cut veggies and fruit and call your little artist to check them out. She told me what each was and then also told me who in our family likes and dislikes each… and she was right. Kids are fascinating and are listening even when we don’t think they are.
- Start printing!
- I thought it was cool how she banged the carrots really hard and fast, but the rest were handled carefully.
- I moved the paper around as she worked because she is too small to reach the far side.
- After she was done printing I cut up some apple and carrots for a snack.
The Carrot Seed by Ruth Krauss is a rare gem, it has been in print for over 60 years and has delighted generations . If you aren’t familiar with the story, a little boy plants a carrot seed and everyone tells him “It won’t come up.” this doesn’t stop the little boy from patiently taking care of this little seed, that eventually grows into a giant carrot. The message is a universal one of sticking to your guns even when everyone tells you you should give up. My son loved the story the simple pictures that will bring you back to your own childhood, at least they did for me. A true classic.
When you think of all the things the United States celebrates on the 4th of July independence and freedom are at the heart of it all. So as a fun but still oh so patriotic craft we made these freedom collages. The kids were free to use what they wanted with the only stipulation being that they use red, white and blue. For my kids they do well with fun exciting set ups. The term invitation to play is used in early childhood circles and I often think I set up invitations to create. This was hands off for me other than being a gopher for supplies. While my son created we talked about the revolutionary war ( he is a wee bit obsessed with military history) and while my daughter did I talked a little about what she was doing but really just observed. Here is how we did it.
- Gather your materials. You can use anything. I asked my son what he wanted me to put out and then I added a few more things. We had paint, a canvas, glue,scissors, pipe cleaners (love these sparkly ones ) , buttons, paper, plastic lids, and sticky back foam.
- Step everything up ready for your patriotic artist.
- Create. There are so many possible lessons in open art like this let your child direct the creation and the lessons will follow.
- They both started with paint. And we stumbled upon a lesson in color mixing with my daughter.
- Fine motor skills got a good work out while they peeled the back off the sticky back foam.
- Even though my kids did this project separately ( my son and I did it while my daughter was napping and when she woke she wanted to make one too). There wasn’t much difference other than putting the smaller buttons in the jar and leaving out only the larger ones she won’t try to eat.
- Let dry and display.
In kindergarten I won a coloring contest and picking up my award made quite an impression on me. I went on to earn a degree in Fine Arts, teach elementary school art, and from there have gone further to create picture books as both author and illustrator. My newest book has received a national award of excellence!!! All of these milestones occurred in my life because I was encouraged to create as a young child. What can you do to encourage creativity in the young people in your life and why should it be a priority?
As our world moves forward at mach-speed, it is ever more imperative that we think creatively, think outside the box, and cultivate our unique set of skills bringing them to every problem. Nurturing the skill of creativity needs to be our highest priority for children, whether we interact with them as parent or teacher. We need to nurture the questioning spirit that is natural in young children, fostering their spirit of inquisitiveness while listening to their schemes and brain storms with genuine interest.
One of the easiest ways to foster a spirit of imagination is to listen to the children in our lives. Listen to their stories. Listen to their questions. Listen to their interests, to their wonderings, to their curiosities. Listen to their inquiries, to their hopes. Listen to their songs and their stories. Children have dreams of being astronauts and archeologists. They dream of distant planets and dinosaur bones, of tree houses and excavations, of foreign lands and make-believe characters. When we listen and offer tools for exploration of these dreams we support the child’s longing for their wider world.
Beyond listening we can offer tools: building blocks and dirt, play-doh, glitter, soap bubbles, paint, tissue paper and glue, buttons, puppets, scarves and blankets, drums and kites. When we offer crayons and paper-mache, cardboard and costumes, wiggly eyes, tubes, construction paper and screws, the whole gamut of pieces and parts that invite open-ended construction with no-wrong-answer combinations, we show our interest in the very process of creating. We can watch close at hand and observe the color combinations, the balance and form emerging from the child’s imagination. From the very first squiggle drawn in shaving cream to the highest towering castle of building blocks, we stand and observe, coax and support, all the while extending creative play by offering our time and attention and therefore valuing its worth.
My favorite suggestion is to value your child’s work by asking questions. What is your favorite part of your painting? Can you tell me where that idea started? Where did you get the inspiration to build this project? Where do you think we could display this drawing? Would you like to perform your story for an audience? Allow even the youngest child to appreciate their own effort by speaking to you about it. Roll up your sleeves, open your heart and ears and let the children paint!
Debbie Clement is an award winning arts educator, performer and children’s book author/ illustrator. A renowned advocate for arts education Debbie spreads this passion through her company Rainbows Within Reach as well as speaking and performing at conferences, schools, libraries. For more inspiration check out her blog too !