Since we are in the middle of Education Week here in Victoria, we’re immersed in this year’s theme of ‘Celebrating the Arts’ We gave you performing arts activity ideas last week, so we’re giving you visual arts ideas, this week.
Visual arts is such a vast area to cover. There are sooooo many visual arts activities you can enjoy with your kids – whether it is in the classroom at school, the classroom at home or even travelling around on holidays. Now, full disclosure: I am not an art teacher! Here, we’re giving you a selection of some of our favourite art themed activities we do with our kids. They’re also ones that aren’t going to take a complicated and expensive outlay to set up!
My tip is to invest in one of those cheap rolls of thin plastic tablecloth material, from a party shop. I have one that I reuse over and over, then cut off when it gets too sticky or glitter-filled to keep using.
1. Self portraits
Great for any age, but particularly good for introducing the topic of ‘identity’ with younger kids. Questions about ‘what makes me, me?’ – skin, eye and hair colour? Likes and dislikes? Provide kids with a mirror (propped up) and a large piece of paper, along with pencils/paints/crayons. We actually provide materials for creating self portraits in our first Foundation (Prep) Brilliant Box for the year, as it’s such a popular activity with kids.
2. Nature art
Nature art can be wonderfully tactile! It can also be incorporated into broader nature studies – journaling changes in seasons, animal and plant observations . . . even plant identification, for older kids.
We like to start our nature art with an ‘adventure walk’ – heading out to a park or reserve or farm with a bag for collecting interesting finds. The kids usually start getting ideas for nature art as they’re examining their finds: the banksia seed pod that looks like a monster or the handful of leaves that look like a dress.
When we get home, I lay out rolls of paper, glue, pencils, paints and then go and make a cup of tea! Sometimes they call out for help to work out how to achieve their artistic aims or for supplementary items (my daughter usually features pom poms and glitter – because apparently they make nature much better!).
3. Book themed artwork
Sometimes all my kids need is a little inspiration. They know they want to make something, but they’re just not sure what to make. So, we often head to the bookshelf for ideas. A few of our favourite books for art inspiration are:
Feathers For Phoebe – with all of the colour, feathers and leaves, it’s visually exciting. We’ve made 3 dimensional birds and paintings with feathers and bright colours.
The Day the Crayons Quit – lots of ideas for creating pictures to show what our ‘crayons’ might be thinking.
Harry Potter – my kids love me to read a chapter, then they draw what they think is happening at Hogwarts or at Hogsmeade.
The Waterhole – my kids drink in the pictures in this Graeme Base book, which leads onto discussions about the countries different animals come from and what they look like.
The Lorax – the environmental messages in this Dr Seuss book are perfect for opening discussion about what the world might look like without trees, versus what we could help it to look like if we look after our environment.
Chameleon’s Colours – this lovely book is wonderful for looking at different colour blends and patterns.
Any Eric Carle books!
4. Create a comic strip
My nine year old son is particularly interested in comic-style drawing right now. It is great for kids who also like to tell a story, and for kids who enjoy a bit of ‘structure’ and ‘rules’ to their creative process. I think some kids do find it daunting to create anything at all, from scratch. So, we rule up a few lines of boxes for him to draw into, with lines underneath for him to make notes on his story. Sometimes he likes to leave it black and white, other times adding in splashes of primary colours.
5. The colour wheel and mixing colours
Speaking of primary colours, it can be fun to play with them and let kids discover how to create ‘new’ colours. We have a painted colour wheel on the wall in our rumpus room that fascinates my kids. They love the idea of colours being ‘warm’ or ‘cold’. You can use egg cartons or proper plastic painting trays – just blob in red, blue and yellow. I also give them black and white. Of course, you’ll end up with a lot of brown! But after a while, they get the idea of moderation, to achieve different colours.
You can also use different coloured sheets of cellophane, layered over each other, for a less messy way to experience colour mixing. You can use this to create ‘stained glass window’ artwork. We use clear contact to hold our cellophane pieces together and to create a ‘window’.
6. Artist study
A painting on a wall might just be a painting on a wall to a child, until they know the story behind it. If you can get to an art gallery with the kids, it is so worthwhile. They can see artworks on a different scale than what they’re perhaps accustomed to and can read about different artists’ lives and their subjects in their artwork. They are often then inspired to try recreating the artworks they’ve seen – either individual works or a particular style. Something fairly distinctive like the ‘dotty’ impressionist works might be a good one. My kids also find post modern artwork from artists such as Roy Lichtenstein to be very accessible and relatable.
7. Air drying clay
For a more three dimensional, tactile experience, air drying clay is always an easy winner! No firing required, so the kids can paint their creations once they are all dried out.
If you need inspiration for creating collages, take a look at the books of Jeannie Baker, Eric Carle, Lois Ehlert and Oliver Jeffers.
A very easy way to start is by using ripped up pieces of coloured paper and tissue paper, then layering it to create shapes. Maybe start with something easy like a beach or sunset scene. You might want to add in fabric, found objects and sections of drawing. This is one of our very favourite activities at our place!
9. Recycled parts
So, I’m a bit of a hoarder. Every tea bag box, plastic fruit container and toilet roll gets kept on a few shelves at our place. The kids know they can just dip into that collection of not-rubbish, when they want to ‘make something’. Add in a rough assortment of odd buttons, ribbons, yarn and fabric off cuts and we’ve seen the creation of: robots, cars, puppets, sea creatures and some rather unidentifiable animals. Lots of sticky tape and rubber bands get deployed, as well!
10. Papier maiche
If I’m doing papier maiche at home with the kids, this is the basic recipe I make for the paste:
- ¼ cup plain white flour
- 1 cup hot water
- 1 tablespoon of glue (a white, all-purpose glue like PVA)
- 1 tablespoon of liquid starch (not essential, only if I have it)
Mix the flour with a little water to make a paste, then add to the hot water in a saucepan and cook it until it starts changing from white to kind of transparent – it won’t be completely see-through. I cool it a little then add the glue. Mix this all up and it should be good to use for the coming half hour or so. However, I do remember my mum making this for me, without the glue. I also know that people just use watered down white glue as the paste.
Tear up strips of newspaper to make the ‘body’ of your project. A good start one is something round that can be modelled over an inflated balloon. Something like a world globe, a hot air balloon or even a little bowl. Kids love popping the balloons with a skewer, at the end. Just leave a little gap at one end, for removing it. The project can be painted when dry. Just remember to let the layers dry in between applying more paper, or it might just all collapse in on itself. Older kids might want to graduate to creating their own models out of chicken wire, then applying the paper strips over the top.
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