Creative beginnings for tiny tots

Archive for the ‘Book recommendations’ Category

The Forest

This fairly obscure children’s book has been a favorite of mine for several years…

the forest book cover

The Forest, by Claire Nivola, is a delicately illustrated tale of a mouse who leaves the comfort and safety of his home to conquer his lifelong fear of the forest, only to discover that the forest he feared for so long was in reality a place of beauty and peaceful repose.

the forest double page spread

Although I love this book, I rarely use it in my classes, as the language and the message are fairly sophisticated for my younger toddler groups, and the detailed illustrations, while lovely, may be lost on a group of 1.5 to 2.5 year olds. However, today I went out on a limb (sorry for the unintentional pun), and decided to share this book with my slightly older mixed age group, comprised of 2.5 – 4.5 year olds (plus one 6 year old). They were fully engaged, which was a good launching point for the art project I had planned.

First, let me backtrack a bit. Several months ago, I had the good fortune to participate in an art workshop led by a phenomenal local artist, Ronni Jolles, who has introduced an innovative art form called paper paintings. I think her work is stunning, and I was very excited to attend her workshop to learn a bit about this technique.

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Trees in the Woods by Ronni Jolles

And here is a picture of my attempt (left) and another participant’s (right).
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Now, look at this illustration from The Forest, and I think you will see where this is headed.

the forest page

All it took was a small leap of faith to believe that this paper painting technique could be adapted and introduced to my eager preschoolers. To be honest, the process required a little more structure than I am accustomed to imposing, but within that structure there was enough freedom that I can still comfortably say the focus was on the process, and that each child ultimately expressed themselves in their own unique way.

What do you think of our venture into the forest?

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Wonderful watery watercolor collages

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Our friends over at Pink and Orange in DC did a nice post about our class this week. Thanks for sharing!

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Steppin’ into summer

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I hate to say it, but “Step aside, Suess! There’s a new cat in town, and instead of a hat, he’s wearin’ SHOES!”

Can’t think of a better way to kick off our summer session than with a romping rendition of Eric Litwin’s Pete the Cat.

After singin’ along with Pete, everyone got to show off their own shoes (great way to reinforce color identification, as each child shared the color of his or her shoes). Then, with help from the grown-ups as needed, each child traced and decorated his shoes and cut them out.

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Then came the REAL fun…painting the piles of colors to “step” in!

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Last, the kiddos placed their shoes in the colorful splashes, swirls, and piles of paint.

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And what would an art class for tots and preschoolers be without at least one renegade who shunned the shoes altogether to do her own thing?

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Like Pete the Cat says, “It’s ALL GOOD!” I like his CAT-titude!

Sage words for scary times…

When Nemo got lost, he cried to Dory– “I promised I’d never let anything happen to him!” And Dory’s genius self said – “Well that’s silly. You can’t let nothing happen to him. Then nothing would ever happen to him. Not much fun for little Harpo.”

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I give you this to ponder in the wake of the latest round of scary news…via my favorite blogger/author, Glennon Melton of Momastery.com and the book Carry On Warrior: Thoughts On Live Unarmed (which I highly recommend).

How To Keep Our Babies Safe

We made today a “Market Day”

Once again, children’s author and illustrator extraordinaire, Lois Ehlert, provided the inspiration for our classes this week.  The colorful folk art images and farmers market theme was a great springboard for lots of engaging imaginative play, role playing and
art-making with mass appeal (with built in cognitive and fine motor skill-building)!

As you can see, we prepared for our market day by making our own shopping bags and decorating a bit of spending money.  The kiddos reveled in the simple task of drawing on brown paper bags and blank paper money.  It’s always good to remember how a commonplace activity like drawing takes on a whole new level of interest when we introduce a bit of variation (paper bags instead of plain paper, for example).  Then I threw in a few basic stickers from the office supply store, and they could have “stuck” with this task for hours.  Anything that gives them the chance to use “real” supplies (office labels, money) and skills (pretending to write) that they associate with grown-ups is sure to be a hit, because we all know that at this age, they are little immitators, highly motivated by tasks that allow them to pretend to be like their parents or other admired adult figures in their world.  Plus, all this “practice” writing and sticking and unsticking of stickers is a great workout for those little fingers that will be doing “real” writing just down the road.

After we had our supplies ready (and believe me, we could have spent the whole class time just on this), the kids went shopping at our makeshift market.  They each counted (with help, as needed) three items to place in their bags.  Then they could use their play money to make their purchases, although I wasn’t too strict about this, since some became very attached to their money which had become works of art in their own right.

Before (most of the kiddos) settled in to start snacking on their “purchases”, I showed them how their fruits and veggies made excellent painting tools.  In the past, I have always used large stamp pads soaked with washable liquid watercolors for this activity.  The results are beautifully detailed prints.  This week, however, I mistakenly misplaced my stamp pads, so in a moment of semi-panic, decided to try an alternate version of this activity, simply dipping the cut produce directly into shallow pans filled with washable temperas.  The kids responded so well, I decided to stick with this version in the rest of my classes.

They caught on quickly…

For many, the tactile experience of paint on fruit and paint on hands was a wide open invitation to dive right in to a full blown finger painting extravaganza.

The colors, shapes, and textures that emerged in their paintings were often messy, sometimes beautiful, and truly unique.  Those are three of my favorite ingredients for what I would deem a successful art experience!

We survived Sandy and so did “Leaf Man”!

The wind and rain swept through, but we were pretty lucky here in Northern Virginia, near Washington, DC.  No significant damage, and we were able to resume our regularly scheduled activities today.  Best of all, there were still plenty of colorful autumn leaves to be found, so my little friends were able to do some collecting on their way to class in anticipation of our Leaf Man inspired projects.

And inspired, they were.

I just love when our real life experiences, our stories, and our art all intersect.  This happens naturally, when we focus on the natural world around us!

See for yourself…

Getting to know the materials is a good portion of the fun, and an important part of the “work” to be done:

And there is great satisfaction to be had from squeezing and pouring one’s own glue (while building those hand muscles to be used for fine motor skills down the road):

With nature providing the materials, an artful adventure is inevitable ~

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A Leaf Can Be…

First we explored real leaves, which are all around us this time of year, and talked about some of the things a leaf can be…

Red, yellow, orange, brown, green, speckled, multi-colored, pointy, round, heart-shaped, crunchy, floppy…the list goes on.  What a great opportunity for reinforcing concepts of color and shape and for vocabulary-building in general.

Then we read this lovely new book I discovered by Laura Purdie Salas, which desribes with gentle rhymes and watercolor illustrations by Violeta Dabija, some of the more obscure things that leaves can be…

“A tree topper, a rain stopper…A shade spiller, a mouth filler…a skin welter, a bat shelter…”

Then, with markers and oil pastels in hand, the kiddos had a go at designing their own leaves.  They marked their  various leaf-shaped papers (pre-cut by me out of coffee filters) with spots, scribbles and lines of all kinds and colors, and then witnessed the magic when liquid watercolors were painted on top of their marks.  The marker designs, being water-based, spread and bled and changed, while the oil pastel designs remained intact as they resisted the water-based paint.  In some classes, we even sprinkled salt on our painted leaves, a fun sensory experience which added another stunning element to the visual outcome of the paintings (note the speckling that occurs on these paintings).  I especially love the independent mindedness of two year olds given the opportunity to control their own outcomes with materials, as illustrated by the artists who chose to add additional drawings and real leaves to their final collage, and the young man who proved that a  leaf can even be…BLUE!

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