Creative beginnings for tiny tots

Posts tagged ‘art and nature’

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

mr seahorse

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

The Art of Springtime

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April hath put a spirit of youth in everything. (Sonnet XCVIII)”
― William Shakespeare

Nature is often the backdrop and the inspiration for what we do at ART IN HAND. The emergence of spring always fills me with feelings of exuberant awe and wonder coupled with a calm reassurance that the joy her warmth and beauty brings each year can always be relied upon.

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Young children respond similarly to the cues of spring, and these projects celebrating the signs of birth, rejuvenation, and the delicate beauty of nature’s creations are among my favorites.

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Our students, ages 1.5 – 4, had fun collecting soft things to build cozy nests (and squeezing and pouring their own glue in the process). Then they experimented with feathers as tools for painting on various surfaces, creating delicate brush strokes quite different from those created with a standard paintbrush.

For more artful inspiration from nature and ideas for more springtime art explorations with your kids, I invite you to read my article originally published in Washington Parent Magazine in April 2008.

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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 man’s got to go where the wind blows…”

Truer words were never spoken here on the east coast today, as we brace for the worst of Hurricane Sandy, yet to come.  The rain has been coming down steadily, the wind is picking up, and all the schools and government offices are closed.  So much for our autumn project planned for the first half of this week, collages made from real leaves, inspired by Lois Ehlert’s Leaf Man.

Since I may not have the opportunity to blog about this project after all (the leaf piles and the leaf men hidden therein may all have blown away by the time all is said and done), I’m going to link you to an interview I did with one of my favorite bloggers, Jean Van’t Hul of The Artful Parent, so you can get to know a bit more about my background, the origins and philosophy of the ART IN HAND program, and art therapy in general.  Here’s hoping we all get to keep our power on!  (realistically speaking, that’s fairly unlikely in these parts in the next day or so…)

Happy reading!

Julie Liddle:  An Art Therapist’s Perspective

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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Nuts to you!

If you’ve spent any time with us at all, you know by now that we love an opportunity to integrate real happenings and materials from nature, with the stories and art-making that we experience in class.  There is no shortage of opportunities to do just that, this time of year.

Thanks to Lois Ehlert, one of my all-time favorite children’s book authors and illustrators, we went “nuts” this week:

NUTS

TO

YOU!

Check out Nuts To You by Lois Ehlert, when you have a chance.  Her collages will wow you almost as much as ours just did!