Category Archives: Kid’s art

Sewing with Kids

This is the last week of CFK camp.  I don’t want to play favorites with my five classes – sewing, Scratch programming and web design – but the projects coming out of the sewing class definitely carry that “wow” factor. Sewing with kids is always an adventure. Sewing with sixteen kids (rising 5th – 9th graders) for only an hour at a time? Well…that requires an organized teacher and some fabulous assistants.

Thankfully, I have had some wonderful counselors-in-training (CITs). These high school students didn’t know much about sewing, but were more than willing to jump in and help out.

sewing with kids - organization

Gallon-size Ziploc bags are great for storing projects between classes.

Beginning Sewing with Kids

On the first day, we took apart a t-shirt. Sadly, I have no pictures of this – probably because it’s the first day  – and I’m busy helping everyone get started. Afterward, we passed out embroidery hoops, a piece of muslin fabric (that I’ve drawn on), embroidery floss, and a needle. The kids get started and I walked around, gently correcting, and helping students who are stuck.

sewing with kids - learning stitches

With an ink pen, I drew out dashes and dots to teach two simple stitches.

Sewing with Kids – Project Progression

CFK runs for two weeks (Monday – Thursday), and they offer two sessions during the summer. The progression of projects has differed for my classes, but both groups began by making a needle book. The idea for this project came from the book, Sewing School, though I’ve adapted it for an older audience.

sewing with kids - needle book being decorated with flower

sewing with kids - needle books

The kids can “draw” any design on the front and choose either a running stitch, or a whip stitch to bind their two pieces of fabric.

After making a needle book, my first class went straight to pin cushions, whereas I had my second group jump into card art.

The students can begin their next project as soon as they finish the current one. Since the students choose their own designs, some take longer, while others finish quickly and are ready to move on.

Students can make pin cushions, embroidered card art, a wristband and a simple drawstring bag. For those that finish early and are more advanced in their sewing skills, they can take some of the fabric scraps and create their own pillow or stuffed cutie.

sewing with kids - card art

If we have additional time, students can make wall art – a picture drawn with floss – which can be framed. This example was made by S, age 13.

sewing with kids - a needle book with an embroidered picture of the setting sun.

A very detailed needle book; made by A, age 10. Pokemon wristband; made by M, age 10.

sewing with kids - free sewing

One of the more experienced campers decided to make her own stuffy. Again, I didn’t get a picture of the finished project…

 

LED Constellation Art Project

A picture of a light-up LED constellation - cancer the crab

Made by R, age 10.

When I was initially asked if I wanted to be a part of Space Camp, I was hesitant to say yes. I think space and stars are pretty amazing, but I do not feel confident teaching others about them. I have a lot of varied interests, but space is not one of them.

Then, the director asked me if I was interested in the art and craft class. Oh my – yes!!!

While they were completely open to new ideas, they had already thought about some sort of LED constellation art project. I thought that was perfect and right up my alley. I’ve been playing a lot with LEDs and I’ve always been interested in art. This was in November and I quickly began prototyping. I was hoping that we could hard wire the LEDs, but I expected that it might be too difficult for inexperienced students.

Research

Although my family and I like to look at the stars, I don’t have a strong background in space. I needed to read more about constellations and how to identify them. After choosing some books from the library, I realized that I needed something with accurate, but simple illustrations of the constellations. Thankfully, I stumbled upon these two activity books:

A picture of two constellation activity books

Activity books on constellations, written for kids

Wiring the LEDs

I probably should have started with getting the paint ‘just right,’ but instead I grabbed some black and glitter paint and did the quickest job I could…so that I could figure out how to light up the stars.

My first attempt was with copper tape and SMD LEDs. Fail.

My second attempt was with copper tape and Chibitronic LED stickers. Not bad, but I thought it might be too much of a dexterity issue to get them onto canvas. Fail.

My third attempt had me stripping copper wire and twisting LEDs. Success!!! But…way too difficult for young kids. Not to mention all of those exposed wires.

A picture of wires at the back of an art canvas

I’ve since found better wires to use, but this was your standard copper wire from Lowe’s, wired to a salvaged battery holder from an old toy.

Finally, I stumbled across these micro LED lights and knew that this would make it easy for the kids to light up their constellations. After another quick ‘night’ paint job, I made the prototype from which I based my lessons.

A picture of the big dipper in LED lights

The big dipper, which I’ve since learned is not a stand alone constellation, but rather part of a larger one, Ursa Major.

For my class, I was lucky enough to have two sessions that lasted an hour and a half. This left plenty of time for discussion and work time. On the first day, we talked about a variety of constellations, but I asked them over and over again, “what do you notice?” I wanted them to see that the night sky was made up of many different colors. There were heavy concentrations of stars in certain areas, but depending on the time, or location that the picture was taken, the stars might have been a light sprinkling.  I wasn’t teaching about the constellations (thank goodness), merely reinforcing the other lessons they were getting from the head of the Planetarium (the guy with the PhD in Astronomy). Thankfully, I found the series, ‘Crash Course for Kids,’ and showed my students the videos on groups of stars and the one on how to locate constellations.  Since we were painting and doing other art activities on the first day of camp, I wanted to draw their attention to the colors and patterns. To truly observe.

The students finished their canvases that first day and by our second session, they were dry and ready to light up. On that second day, I turned my focus to discussing circuits, LEDs and coin cell batteries. I even brought my homemade circuit blocks.

picture of batteries and siren

The output device only works when it’s a closed circuit. This is a rather annoying, but effective, buzzer.

LED Constellation Art Project – Materials Needed

  • 8 x 10 art canvas (from Hobby Lobby)
  • Paintbrushes & Palette
  • Toothbrush for flicking on glitter
  • Paint (see picture below)
  • Newspapers or butcher paper to cover table
  • LED light string
  • Hot glue gun and glue
  • Exacto knife
  • Pencil for tracing constellation
  • Tracing Paper
  • Carbon paper
  • Paper to test carbon paper
  • Micro LED string of lights

Step-by-Step Instructions

  1. Hand out small bits of carbon paper and let the kids figure out how it works.
  2. Choose a constellation from one of the activity books or draw your own.
  3. Trace or draw your constellation onto the tracing paper. Set aside.
    1. Note – If drawing, be sure your constellation fits in the middle of the canvas. BE MINDFUL of the wooden frame. The lights have to poke through from the back.
Picture of traced constellation

Tracing paper helped the students to make accurate constellations.

4. Place the carbon paper (dark side down) in the middle of the canvas. Set your traced constellation on top and retrace the constellation with your pencil. Remove the carbon paper and see that your constellation is on your canvas.

carbon paper transfer of constellation
5. Circle the stars so that students know to paint around them. Have students write their name on the back of the canvas. Include the name of the constellation, direction and months that you can find it in the sky. Example: Cygnus, December – February, facing North
6. Play around with the paints – mix orange and blue and see how you can get darker blue. Add gray to black, what happens? You can mix glitter paint into the black to get very subtle sparkles.

pain palette
7. Paint your canvas. Paint the sides first so they can dry.

pciture of black painted canvas

Circle the stars so your student knows to paint around them.

8. Take your canvas outside and bring along the toothbrush, the glitter paint and some red paint. Love the red stars.
9. The stiff bristles on an old toothbrush are used to make a nice splatter effect of stars.
10. Set aside and let dry for 24 hours.

LED constellation art project

Flick the glitter paint on at the end so it really pops!

Adding the LEDs to our LED Constellation Art Project

Since I really wanted to make this an art & tech project, I built the second day’s lessons around circuits and batteries. We started with a discussion on what they knew about LEDs and coin cell batteries, passed out some single LEDs and watched these two videos from Adafruit’s Circuit Playground: B is for Battery and D is for Diode.

A picture of a green LED wrapped around a coin cell battery

I handed out one coin cell battery and one LED and asked the students to figure out how to light it up.

Then, we unwrapped the micro LED set of lights and everyone put in the batteries to make sure the lights worked. Surprisingly, they all did.

The coordinators felt that it was safer if the adults used the exacto knives to cut into the canvases, so the kids each had their stars marked by a little “x.” Then, off they went to the pre-heated hot glue guns to secure the lights to their canvas.

A pciture of a canvas with an axacto knife

Make a small x with the knife so that the LED can poke through form the back.

Voila!

An instant project that will help students remember the layout of their favorite constellation. Coin cell batteries do not have a long shelf life (8 hours, I think), but thankfully, these lights come with an on/off switch.

A picture of the back of an art canvas

Tuck in the extra, leftover lights…or, hot glue them to the back so they stay in place.

 

Marker Bots :: How We Did It

In case the “how to” guide from The Exploratorium (PDF or Instructables)  isn’t detailed enough, I thought I would share how I facilitated our scribble bot experience. Don’t mistake this as the only way to present this activity…just our way.

Scribble Bots - Take 2.

Scribble Bots – Take 2.

1.Gather your materials.
You want to encourage as much self-discovery and creativity as possible, so gather as many craft/office supply items as you have around the house. It doesn’t matter if you can’t figure out how they might be used, your children will surprise you.

Supplies needed:
– markers
– single AA batteries
1.5-3 V battery with wires attached*
hot glue stick, cut into various lengths**
– masking tape (or painters tape)
– thick rubber bands (that hold together broccoli)
alligator clips (in case your wires break) or for extra reach
– recycled containers, plastic cups, strawberry baskets, etc.
– twist ties, popsicle sticks, pipe cleaners, paper clips, clothespins, mini-cocktail umbrellas, etc.
– newspaper (or big paper, old cardboard boxes) to scribble on

* There might be other places to buy these from, but many of the electronic places (Radio Shack) sell them without the attached wires. You have to solder them on yourselves. If you aren’t up for that, order a bunch of these from Kelvin since they are so cheap, but the shipping is expensive. Plus, the wires pop off pretty easily and you might want some backups.

**We made our counterweight with a hot glue stick, but other suggestions includes balsa wood and playdough. All of these things can be stuck to the motor pretty easily by hand.

marker_bot_suppliesAt this point, you may want to make a few examples (see how to below) for the kids to understand the concept of a scribble bot. Be sure and make all sorts of different examples since the kids will often try and mimic your creations before moving onto their own designs.

Some supplies - paper cups, popsicle sticks, rubber bands, etc.

Some supplies – paper cups, popsicle sticks, rubber bands, etc.

2. Prepare your environment.
In this case, our environment was the dining room table. While the kids were playing after lunch, I cleaned off the table, laid down newspapers and butcher roll paper and brought out all of the markers, odd bits and clean recycled containers I could find. I’m not sure if this means we have a crafty household or are leaning toward pack-ratishness, but I had all of these materials on hand.

I put the smaller supplies into baskets (or bowls) that were easy for us to access. Each had a space to test their creations. There were two rolls of masking tape between the four of us. You need at least one roll for every two students.

Prepared table, a short video of other kids' bots and a brief stop to make sure everyone figured out how to run the motor (they did) and they were off.


3. Place a battery, motor and thick rubber band in front of each chair. Call the kids.

The first thing that you want the kids to discover is how to make the motor work with the battery. See if they can figure it out. Be patient. Very patient. Ask questions until they get it.

If they are getting frustrated, show them how to hold the wires on either side of the battery to make a compete circuit. Add the rubberband around the battery to hold the wires in place. You now have an easy way to turn your motor on and off.

Save the bands that are wrapped around fresh broccoli

Save the bands that are wrapped around fresh broccoli

The wires on the battery are a bit flimsy and can easily break off from the kids pulling too much or from the vibration of the motor. One option was to purchase small heat-shrink tubes (for electronics) that can be found at hardware stores and use a hair dryer or lighter to shrink them onto your wires. I used a lighter and didn’t get as close to the motor as I should so they still popped off, but a hair dryer (or heat gun) should do quite nicely. Or, get yourself some alligator clips/leads and use those when the wires snap off.

4. Show them the examples or watch a video. Or don’t.
There’s a lot of debate about whether to show examples or just hand them a motor and some markers and just suggest that they make a bot that scribbles. You decide.

My kids and I watched a video from my course and they started out copying the design of some of the kids from the Exploratorium, but then moved on and modified or made their own creations as they gained confidence. You can see what we made here and here. You can always do a web search to find more examples.

5. Add your counterweight.
The hot glue stick is meant to be the counterweight to propel the motor and thus create a scribbling bot. The kids will need to experiment with many different sizes of weights, angles of markers, etc.

Let the child decide which way to add the glue stick to the motor. Push the hot glue stick onto the motor (while it’s off). An adult’s muscle may be needed for this part.

marker_bot_motor

If the wires break off, use wired alligator clips to connect to the battery.

6. Design the bot.
Let them go and design away. Resist the urge to help them or fix it for them. If you see that something is obviously not going to work – that’s okay. Let them do it anyway. As long as they aren’t harming themselves (or the furniture), it will be a fabulous lesson in testing and re-testing…not to mention a good dose of growth mindset with regards to trial and error. Feel free to step in if you see tears on the horizon. You don’t want them to be frustrated, but you do want it to be their experience.

7. Listen.
Listen as your child describes their bot. Ask them about their design and their thought process. “Why did you decide to add the tape there? Your marker color choices are very interesting…how did you decide on those colors?”

8. Reflect. Later.
A few days later…or the following week, casually bring up the activity and discuss ways that you might do things differently. Are there any other things in your house that you could turn into a scribble bot? How else might you use a motor and battery? How is your fan powered? Your alarm clock powered? etc. What other everyday items use batteries?

Want to try again? Do you think we could work with watercolors or oil pastels? Do you think we could make a special type of pattern? The possibilities are endless.

Daddy's scribble bot made a pretty design.

Daddy’s scribble bot made a pretty design.

The end of our second time making scribble bots - this time we experimented with crazy designs...that didn't always work.

The end of our second time making scribble bots – this time we experimented with crazy designs…that didn’t always work.

Update: For those teachers that want to incorporate more free-form activities, but aren’t sure they can justify the time, check out this middle school science teacher’s post. He has some ideas on how to encourage scientific inquiry – with a purpose.

Good luck and happy creating! If you make a bot, post a link in the comments for everyone to see…

 

Drawing Inspiration

When Ronan was first born, I had hoped that he would like to draw. Because I like to draw. I had assumed that since I liked it, then my kid would too, right?

And, so I was wrong. He never liked crayons or scribbling or coloring or anything with paper and a writing instrument. But, blocks and duplos and screws and other mechanical-like gadgets – these were made for him and would occupy him for hours. Hours.

So, I accepted the fact that my oldest son got the engineer-genes from his granddads (yes, both of them) and I dove into duplos and wood blocks and legos. (I love legos!) Which means that I generally avoided all mention of drawing classes. But, then I started to think that I was typecasting him…just because it is not his strength or first love, doesn't mean he shouldn't give it a chance…if he wants.

And, he did.

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A few weeks ago, a drawing class came our way. His first inclination was no. But, then he heard that the topic was underwater creatures (a fish, a shrimp) and he decided to give it a chance. And, he really likes it. We've all been drawing a little more at home lately.

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addition and sewing

I love that as part of my homeschool "curriculum" for Ronan, I can include both addition and sewing and they both are equally loved by this child. These activities were on the schedule for the week and he chose when and where to do them.

Addition with Objects (red is the preferred color that AMS Montessorians choose for addition work):
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The second time he did this work (on Saturday, no less), he turned to me and said, "Mom, this is boring. I already know this stuff." Ha ha. And, he's right, sort of. Adding numbers to make ten or less is a simple concept for him, But, I told him that once he could look at one of those problems and know the answer, then he would be truly finished with it. (He's done it with the plus 1 problems). However, it was a good thing for him to hear the words: addition and plus and equals. So, after he decided he had mastered addition, he went to work some more on his embroidery work.

Earlier in the week, I had introduced him to the concept of an embroidery hoop — complete with a requested car drawing. He finished it within an hour and only got stuck a few times. (Of course, I did tie a knot so the thread wouldn't slip out and we did talk about making knots – a work for another day, I think).

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And, while I am completely impressed with his skills and interest in this project, it was his next initiative that I think is the most important. Immediately after finishing the car, he wanted to do another one (or make a small pillow). I asked him what he wanted next – maybe a tractor or a fire engine? I would find a line drawing and set it up for him the next day. Well, in the morning, I awoke to him presenting me with his very own drawing of a semi-truck. And, with only some minor alterations, his next project was born.

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So far, we are both liking this homeschool thing.

Spring!

It's a bit late for a post about Spring, but because "Spring" is such a beautiful time in Florida, we usually spend all of our time outside. Thus, very little computer or TV time. We have to soak up all of the nice weather before it gets too hot. (Like the last couple of days…in the 90s!)

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Painting. A very nice activity that was recently introduced to Calum. Outside. And, smoothie pops. Also, an outside activity. I do have a few cleanliness rules.

Ronan was very excited to be able to paint since he usually only has a chance to do so while Calum is taking a nap. But, this time, they both shared the watercolor set and Calum "helped" Ronan with his picture. They both really enjoyed it and I enjoyed the time spent sitting in the chair nearby. This will definitely be a repeat activity – assuming Calum has sinced learned that we do not drink the cup of water near the paints.

We've also been spending a lot of time watching our garden grow. In February, our plants bloomed and we have been eating salads daily.

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(late February)

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(early April)

The gorgeous bluish-purple bushes are red cabbage.(In the top of the above picture). They needed more light than they were getting with a winter sun, but they are really taking off now. But, our lettuce is bolting. However, we have just planted a few other "plots" with summer veggies. Bring on the tomatoes, okra and eggplant. (Hopefully).

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WIth the nicer weather, the kids are on the back porch much more often. One afternoon while Calum was napping and I was hanging out on the porch with Ronan, he drew this picture. He started with the ant hill and the ants going below. Then, he decided he needed to draw the ground (so we would know the ants were below the ground) and he added the grass for effect. Finally, there needed to be more ants (I think to symbolize the large amounts in our backyard) and those are the dots everywhere. I was thoroughly impressed.

 

inside

As we are in Florida, our winter attire is, uh, slim, at best. (It's difficult to find coats that are actually for cold weather). Add in a couple of sick kids and a sickness-adverse mama – it just means that we need to be properly attired to venture outside. So, on those days when we've been waiting until it reaches the 60-degree mark, we've found a lot of love for our indoor work.

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At Ronan's request, we've been painting. Actually, he's been painting. I've been running interference for a very active 10-month-old.  His current painting medium is acrylic paint and printed out pictures of fish, alligators, crocodiles and snakes. (It might have something to do with the fact that he gets to "interrupt" Daddy's work to request more print outs).

I've been finding a little more time in the evenings to snuggle on the couch…and knit. (Listening to a guitar-practicing husband isn't too bad either).

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That jumble of yarns is a sweater I am making using the intarsia method. That's right. I said sweater. As in a sweater for Ronan – which may or may not get finished in time for him to wear this cool season. (It's part of a class and I am not so good at finishing my homework on time). But, I'm having a blast and learning more about knitting than I thought possible.

Lots of indoor fun to be had, indeed.

watercolor painting

Last year, when I began reading about the Waldorf philosophy of education, I was intrigued by the emphasis on art and handiwork. During my Montessori training (and subsequent teaching) there seemed to be a lot of lip service paid to art. It was something to be admired, but it was not at the forefront of a Montessori classroom. Many of the activities were craft projects – created to express art – but separate from real life.

So, I was drawn to the idea of creating and crafting with children- while they assisted or not. During the past year, I worked on craft projects while Ronan "helped" or worked on his own project – or went on playing by himself. He saw me crafting on a regular basis. And, while my regular crafting has slowed down to a trickle, I've been more aware of making sure he has some art-based projects to call his own. (With a little help, of course…)

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As I am new to wet watercolor painting, I enjoyed that this book described some "typical" types of paintings (by age) and emphasized the process and feel of the art. I especially liked that Ronan was included in all aspects of this set-up: he wet his paper with the sponge and helped to mix the paints. It's always more fun for me when I get to paint my own picture while simultaneously watching the deep concentration that the paintbrush brings out in my son.

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lines

As our morning walks have become more prevalent, we've begun to linger outside for just a little bit longer.

A little bit longer to enjoy the fresh air…

A little bit longer to watch the everyday morning activities as they happen,

A little bit longer to enjoy the trees – something all three of us appreciate.

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And, on these walks, we often see that "summer" is nearing to an end as the babies are starting to get bigger each time we see them – and the air is staying cooler for just a little bit longer – every morning. We've started our indoor seedlings in preparation for the Florida growing season and my baby has started to roll over every time we place him on his belly.

School is back in session and the parks are quieter, but we are still learning all the time. I've been enjoying this book and we've started with the elements: lines.

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We're working on generalities, so lines have been found in art, on the ground, in nature. Not surprisingly, this also ties in nicely with a Montessori activity: walking the line. Typically, this is a group activity, but it's a nice way to focus an active three-year-old and work on some gross motor skills. And, well, it's lots of fun too.

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inside art

What does one do when the weather alternates between extreme heat and torrential downpour – and – you've already been to the library that morning…

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lots of inside art. Ronan's art, Mom's art, a crying Calum kind of art (those are my uneven squiggles, in case you are interested). I "worked" on lines – straight, crossed -  while Ronan discovered that a sponge can cover way more area than a simple paintbrush. And, I was fortunate enough that we didn't get anything near the laundry basket that was also sharing our space. Nice.

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