Freedom Collages for the 4th Of July

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.

  1. 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.
  2. Step everything up ready for your patriotic artist.
  3. Create. There are so many possible lessons in open art like this let your child direct the creation and the lessons will follow.
  4. They both started with paint. And we stumbled upon a lesson in color mixing with my daughter.4th of july
  5. Fine motor skills got a good work out while they peeled the back off the sticky back foam.
  6. 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.
  7. Let dry and display.


books about the usa Want some great books about the USA to pair with this activity? Check out these.

Let Them Paint – Fostering Creativity In Young Kids

Guest Post by Debbie Clement

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 !

Sticky Table Art

contact paper ideas

Last week we were snowed in and getting antsy. I decided to make a sticky table for my kids to explore with but when I looked at all the supplies I had to stick to it they were all choking hazards except these colored craft sticks . I thought it was going to be a 5 minute sparkler but as you will see my son ran with it. I loved  reading stories to his sister who lost interest after 5 minutes like I expected and just watching him giddily create.

  1. Gather your materials. You will need some contact paper, painter’s tape to tape it to the table, scissors and whatever you want to stick to the table. With older kids I’ve used sequins, buttons, tissue paper, pom poms…
  2. Tape the contact paper down backing side up.
  3. Peel the backing off and trim.
  4. Explore the feeling- my son loved the feeling on the back of his hands, he just kept doing that.
  5. Add the sticks.
  6. My daughter liked placing the sticks and the resistance when she picked them off. Also she was doing it very carefully working on her pincer grasp ( fine motor skills).
  7. My son saw the possibility to create immediately grabbing the bag and asking if he could have all the sticks and his sister’s too.
  8. I just let him go. 
  9. And go
  10. And go.
  11. If you look closely you can see a few houses in his creation – they are clone bases apparently. I just love that he was so engaged, so excited and watching those wheels turning so passionately was exhilarating. 


En Plein Air – Painting Outside Like Monet

Getting both kids outside with paint is no easy task, so I came up with a way to do it that was easy to grab and go when inspiration strikes. Of course after I got it outside my son decided he wanted to play soccer instead. Luckily friends stopped by to pick apples and one was more than excited to paint ! I was more than happy to oblige and my son was happy to help his friend’s mom pick apples instead. Remember never force kids to do art , the goal is to enrich and appreciate and forcing won’t achieve either.

    1. Gather your materials. For this I used a clip board, liquid paint in many colors, a water color set and paper.Supplies for easy outside painting
    2. You might notice that there is no water in the materials. That is because You can pop the dried water colors out, and gently place liquid paint in, so you don’t have to run back inside for more water.
    3. Pop the water colors out.

    1. Pour in liquid paint.

    1. Place back in case.

    1. Clip the lid of the water color case under the clip board to keep it in place and find a perfect spot to paint, he chose a great spot under an apple tree.

  1. Paint what you see.
  2. He painted beautiful apples and leaves.

It did take a little convincing that it was ok to mix the colors, if you have a child who is really reluctant , pack along multiple brushes, which is much easier than packing and refilling water when you are far from a faucet.


Katie Meets The Impressionistsby James Mayhew is a art fairytale! Katie goes to the museum with her grandmother and before she knows it she is in the paintings and the world of the painters and their families.  Katie goes from painting to painting gathering flowers for her grandma and exploring a world on the other side of the canvas.  What I enjoy about this book is that it brings the paintings to life for readers and it shares the  back story in a way that children can connect to and imagine the possibilities when they go to museums! Of all these books this one held my son’s attention the least. I like to think it’s because he’s not a fan of impressionism, but I think it was simply a little long for his not quite 3 year old attention span.  Maybe if Renoir had painted garbage trucks… seriously though this is a fabulous book and worth a read!

Promoting Open Ended Drawing

I offer my kids crayons, markers and paint daily but my son has been in a rut. He turned down my offers, he wouldn’t grab the basket I’d leave materials in during quiet time, it seemed like I’d never get him to draw just to draw again! Then I bought some clip boards after seeing this art display on pinterest, My original goal was to make it a gallery for any and all of our art work but when I put white paper on them to see if I wanted to spray paint the clip boards white both my kids stopped playing . My son asked immediately what they were for , and I am so glad I was quick enough to answer ” They are for you, grab the markers!”.

And he did, and still is!

Now I simply change the paper every few days, he notices that there is fresh paper and grabs the markers.

He’s not the only one though , my daughter loves the clip boards too.

The paper stays put and now when I grab it off the wall she immediately starts signing “Please!” As you can see she is a huge fan!

Best part is that you have a place to display your art already! Displaying art is really an important thing because it celebrates their creativity, their accomplishments and boosts their confidence in their own abilities.  

Sometimes simple is all you need.