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.

Fine Art Activities

Going to the art museum, a local gallery or even an exhibit at a community college are all great ways to expose your child to fine art. Most have free days if they aren’t always free to visit. Here is a collection of fine art activities we have done here at No Time For Flash Cards.

Matisse Inspired Scrap Paper Collage (above)

Kandinsky Inspired Creation

Jackson Pollack Inspired Splatter!

DIY Great Wave off Kawagawa

Pointillism Lesson

Make Your Own Play Museum

Need some books about fine art too ? Check these out.

Jackson Pollock Painting {and tips for the museum}

jackson pollock style painting for toddlers

I packed up my monster yesterday and we went into the city and to the Seattle Art Museum. I’ve taken him to galleries and to kids museums before but this was his first time checking out a museum with diverse and masterful works . I was giddy with the thought of him seeing a real Warhol, I was in my 20s before I got to. After our art project I have tips below on how to make field trips like this work for toddlers. Of all the awesome art we saw yesterday the one that he enjoyed and was the easiest to adapt to our needs was Sea Change by Jackson Pollock .

  1. Gather your materials. You will need some paper, canvas or cardboard. We used cardboard because you need to have a fairly large piece and it’s all we had. You will need paint( I thinned ours just a tiny bit with a few drops of water) , a plate and some paint brushes.
  2. Start by laying your canvas down with some extra paper or cardboard , this is messy.
  3. Pour your paint onto a plate – we just used one plate but you can do different ones for each color.
  4. Dip your brush in and fling it on. To get my son to use the right flinging action I told him to put a spell on the canvas, and it was perfect. We both flung the paint on.
  5. He took my brush and put a double spell on it too!
  6. Then we reached for the paint jars.
  7. Let Dry.

This is a true lesson, while doing this we talked about the painting we saw and how Jackson Pollock made it. I asked him if this was as big as the painting we saw and other little questions to make connections to the field trip and this activity. Most of all though we had fun putting spells on the canvas.

Tips for Visiting A Museum with Toddlers and Preschoolers

1.Take advantage of free days.

This make it less frustrating if you need to leave because they have melted down or are done before you are. Also these days are busier which for an adult can be a negative but when you have a young child a noisier ( still not noisy) museum is a plus. We were able to talk in normal voices without distracting anyone. I didn’t have to shush him more than once and because of that I was able to positively reinforce how well behaved he was being and that encouraged even better behavior .

2.Go on a full belly.

Feed them right before you go , hungry = cranky.

3.Have realistic expectations.

We lasted almost an hour.

4.Don’t linger .

Accept that you may not have time to read the info for the works, at least I didn’t. After getting home and my son was napping I went on the museum’s website and caught up on what I missed.If they really like a specific work of art go back to it, many times if need be. For me today was a chance to teach my son that art isn’t just in books and that people can experience it collectively . That sounds lofty but it’s absolutely attainable if you break it down. By returning to a painting he liked ( Target by Jasper Johns) three times I was trying to foster a desire and love of seeing art in person. I want him to like art and museums and so following his lead was helping attain that.

5.When they say loudly that they are done.

Head for the elevators. This was the only time I shushed him today but it was clear to me and the 4 others looking at the alter pieces it was time to pack it in.

6.Have fun !

Abstract Art Activity

abstract art activity for kids

Kids get so hung up on drawing sometimes and this abstract art can be really liberating. It also helps learn how to color in the lines if you are working on fine motor control. I don’t know what to call this, this is what I used to do in math class, which explains why my grades were so horrible. It is really relaxing, great for a rainy day or even to keep your antsy kids busy while watching a movie or traveling! And they look really cool too.

  1. Gather your materials. You will need some markers and paper. Yes that’s it!
  2. Start by drawing loops and squiggles that criss cross all over your paper.
  3. Next using your colored markers fill in the closed shapes however you like.
  4. Keep going until you either fill the whole thing or just feel like it’s done!