Saturday, April 30, 2016

Popsicle Stick Art

As librarians, we all have some programs that we're really excited about and some programs that seem fun when we first plan them, but then kind of mediocre when the time really comes to do them. Unfortunately this was one of the latter. But, luckily, it wound up being pretty successful anyway!

It was inspired by this link from CraftWhack. When I first stumbled upon it on Pinterest (where else!?), I was really excited to try it out, but when I started to make my own sample (see below), I realized that this was a craft that took patience, concentration, and a relatively steady hand--qualities that kids don't typically develop until a bit later in life.

As soon as I started working on the sample, I immediately felt less excited about the program and less confident that it would be fun for all ages. Therefore, I need a second craft. Craft #2 was simple--just building a scene with skinny popsicle sticks and other collage items (jewels, buttons, and googly eyes). My sample is below--a dragon fly, a flower, and a fence* colored and glued to a piece of paper:

* The fence was a last minute addition (and a hit with the kids!), thanks to my husband. When I left for work on the morning of this program, I told him about what I had planned for the craft and he said, "When I was a kid, I always liked to make a fence with popsicle sticks." So before the program, I threw a fence into the scene and voila! And what do you know, almost every kid wound up making a fence themselves!

The program worked out well. While many kids dabbled at both stations (the tracing craft from Pinterest table and the simple collage table), it worked out that the slightly younger crew mostly did the collage and the school-age kids spent more time with the tracing. And everyone got really creative!

Here are a few fun, finished products of both types:

I was so worried that these crafts were going to be lame, that I was actually overjoyed at how much everyone liked them! Sometimes it doesn't take tons of bells and whistles for success!

What worked least and best: Everything. Another boring answer here. But, other than my own hangups about this being too simple, it certainly seemed like everything about this program worked!

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Tape Resist Paintings

Back in October, I did a program called Watercolor Workshop for ages 3-5, where we explored a few different techniques for making watercolor painting a little more interesting. The overall favorite technique (and also the one with the coolest finished product) was the masking tape resist. When I was setting up for the masking tape resist--pulling a bunch of rolls of masking tape out of a bin--I accidentally pulled out one roll of painters tape instead. Well surprise, surprise, this worked a lot better! In the past, tape resist paintings had always been more of a challenge than they should have been because ripping masking tape off was just plain annoying (and usually tore even high quality paper). BUT thanks to my happy accident, tape resist projects got a whole lot easier!

Fast forward six months... yesterday I did Tape Resist Paintings with tempera paint, painters tape, and actual canvases (these from Oriental Trading, which were actual decent quality!) for kids in grades K-3. It was great!

First, I had the kids cover their canvases in painters tape. A lot (if not, all) of them needed help with ripping it off the roll, which I hadn't considered at all! Luckily my group was on the small side (plus I had two moms sit in), so I was able to bounce around and help everyone with all of their necessary tape ripping. And it was even kind of funny when, after I ripped the tape, the kids then had to pull it off my fingers. We got a little giggle out of it.

As the kids finished their taping, I had them each move on to paint. I tried to encourage them to be as creative as possible: to mix colors, make patterns, etc. Some kids finished quickly; others were so excited by the prospect of color-mixing that they got distracted and it took them longer. One girl made the most beautiful colors (coral, ocean blue, army green, etc.) and one girl added a few drops of muddy water to each of her paints and got a cool, swirly look over everything. One girl made polka dots and one boy did splatter paint (although possibly by accident). I was really impressed by everyone's creativity! 

A good amount of the paintings were too wet to take home right away so I set up a little drying corner on the floor.

I told most of the kids to peel the tape off after the paint dried so the lines would be a little straighter. Unfortunately, because some of the paintings were so wet, this meant peeling the tape off at home--which meant that I didn't get to actually see a lot of the finished projects!

BUT! I did get to see a few and they came out awesome! Here are two of them (and their two silly-faced, goofball creators):

What worked least: I haven't quite figured out how to make the tape lines really perfect. I advised the kids to (a) press the tape down firmly and (b) paint away from the tape instead of into the tape, but even still, a lot of the edges still got smeary. Even my sample had slightly smeared edges. Most of the kids didn't care (and probably didn't even notice), but one girl was a little upset that the lines looked messy and I don't know how I could have even changed that!

What worked best: I think this craft, done on canvas, was the absolutely perfect mix of process and product. The kids got to be really messy and creative, but still walked out with something cool. An older sibling even suggested I do this craft with tweens and I think I may just take her up on that in the fall!

Friday, April 22, 2016

Spring Blossom Tree Painting

It finally feels like spring has sprung in New York! It's absolutely gorgeous outside and I'm almost considering hanging my winter coat up for the season. Anyway, the perfect weather came just in time for my Spring Blossom Tree Painting program at our branch library.

This program, which was this past Wednesday, was for ages 3-5. I had a nice size group and started it off with a short storytime. First I read Wake Up, It's Spring! by Lisa Campbell Ernst; next we all sang 5 Little Ducks with the monkey mitt; and last, I ended with Spring is Here by Will Hillenbrand. Both books were new to me and I think they went over really well. They're both super cute and easy pre-school-age-appropriate books about the start of spring. Like I said, perfect timing with the weather!

Then it was crafting time-- and a messy one at that! Good thing I remembered the baby wipes!

I had two different crafts out, one at each half of the table, however they very quickly got mixed up and became one in the same. Here are the the two springy flower paintings that I intended for the kid to make:

Spring Blossom Trees

For this painting, I used brown paint (with regular paint brushes) for the branches of the trees, then made the blossoms by stamping pink paint with the flat side of a piece of cut up okra. Here's a picture of the okra stamping supplies:

Pro tip: Advise the kids to "stamp out" the okra a few times on an empty plate or paper towel so there is only a light coat of paint covering the flat stamping side. This way you see the details of the "flower" better when it's stamped onto the tree.

Finger Paint Flowers

I used pre-cut stems (see below), glue sticks, and finger paint for the craft above.

The kids were supposed to glue the stems on the paper, then finger paint on dots for the flower buds.

Like I said, the two crafts quickly became one in the same. What REALLY happened was that most of the kids made several paintings by using the green stems (from craft #2) then stamping around them with the okra (from craft #1) and in all the different colors including the finger paints (again, from craft #2). Results below:

No big deal though. It was a big ol' mess of crafty fun. Maybe my idea was too lofty.

What worked least: I can't help but think that if I'd separated the two craft tables, we probably would have wound up with the two clearly distinctive crafts seen above. But maybe that's not necessarily better? Maybe the freedom to just make whatever kind of spring blossom was more appealing to the kids (and parents) anyway. Who knows!

What worked best: I was pleased with the books! As I said earlier this was the first time I tried both of these stories and I think they were hits!

Welcome spring! And Happy Earth Day!