Tag Archives: rainy day projects

A Call for Caterpillars

As seen on the Making Art With Children blog from the Art Studio at The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art in Amherst, Massachusetts:

Enter The Carle’s Call For Caterpillars Contest!

©The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art, 2013
©The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art, 2013

To celebrate The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art’s 10th anniversary year, we invite friends, families, schools, and other organizations throughout the country and abroad to create 3-dimensional caterpillar sculptures out of found materials. Be inspired by Eric Carle’s most beloved character, The Very Hungry Caterpillar, and transform ANY combination of recycled or found materials (plastic, paper, foam, wood, metal, etc.) into a 3-dimensional caterpillar sculpture.

Three entries will be chosen at random at the Museum’s Children’s Book Festival on June 8, 2013 and will receive an original doodle by Eric Carle!

There are very specific guidelines on how to enter (for example, they do NOT want you to send your original artwork; entrants should submit jpeg photos of their artwork on CD).  Please visit the Making Art With Children blog to learn more details.  Submissions must be postmarked by May 31, 2013.

Young Artists

A few months ago I had the great good fortune to be asked at the last minute to run a short afterschool art program open to kindergartners, first- and second-graders at one of our local elementary schools.  The savvy mom* who did the asking knew, or at least hoped, that I couldn’t say “no” once I learned that there would be no afterschool art offering for these young artists if I didn’t  say “yes.”  And so, for 4 weeks I was able to find a couple of hours on Tuesday afternoons to guide a group of enthusiastic young artists through a series of projects that (I hope) broadened their artistic horizons, nurtured their imaginations, and encouraged their artistic curiosity.

And the kids were awesome!  We painted watercolor monsters inspired by children’s picture books like Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are, we made leaf prints by painting the undersides of fresh autumn leaves and pressing them to paper, we learned a little bit about the artist Joan Miró and created our own Miró-inspired marker drawings, and we formed our own heart-shaped animals inspired by Michael Hall’s My Heart is Like a Zoo.  I adapted most of these projects from ideas found on the wonderful website, Deep Space Sparkle, a terrific resource for art teachers and classroom teachers, and parents and homeschoolers, too.  I would spend about 10 minutes introducing the project, then the kids would dive in, drawing, painting, stamping, cutting, and composing for the next 30 minutes, then we would share our work and clean up.  It was sometimes loud, most often quiet and focused, and always messy – but I got to see the most creative, intense, and joyful expressions of art and imagination from these young artists.  Like I said, my great good fortune.

I’ve yet to meet a child who doesn’t have strong feelings about monsters!  This was a great opening project, emphasizing the marvelous variety that can result from a single question posed, in this case, “What does a monster look like?”                                                                                     click here to view a pdf of this project

The Leafprint project sparked the children’s curiosity about both art and science, as we used leaves from several different kinds of trees.  We talked about the seasons of the year, tree types and leaf structures as we composed our leaf prints, adding sponged-on fall colors among our stamped leaves.                              click here to view a pdf of this project

The most fascinating project, for me, was the Miró-inspired marker drawing.  Some of the older 2nd-graders were tentative and had a difficult time restricting their drawings to shapes and color.  Instead, their drawings kept leaning toward representational compositions, filled with hearts and ladybugs and the like.  Conversely, the younger kindergartners showed no such hang-ups and dove into this project with great enthusiasm and focus.  I wondered if I was witnessing an effect of the creativity crisis I’ve been reading about, an indication that a few years spent in a typical school environment is enough to begin to limit the creative thinking of children?                         click here to view a pdf of this project

-click on a photo above to access the slideshow-

Note: I forgot my camera on the last day of the afterschool program, so I have no pictures of the young artists working on their Michael Hall inspired heart-shaped animals.  If you’d like to see a similar project (with photos), you can read a previous post, “rainy day project: My Heart is Like a Zoo”.

*This afterschool art program wouldn’t have been offered if that dedicated, savvy mom hadn’t asked me, or if I’d said “no”.  Did you know that in our elementary schools, children only experience and explore art for 40 minutes, once a week?  Imagine if math instruction was offered for only 40 minutes, once a week!  Yet creativity and its related problem-solving skills are increasingly important to success and fulfillment in our 21st century world.  The Arts Room wishes to thank all the adults who work hard to make these afterschool art programs possible – the parents, teachers, administrators, and professional artists – and we encourage more parents and artists to offer their talents to our local schools!

Hurricane’s a-coming!

It’s been a while since we had to prepare to ride out a hurricane up here in Rhode Island.  Right now I’m making a list of what we’ll need to have on hand – bottled water, bread, peanut butter, flashlights & batteries, books, sharpies, cardstock, pool noodles, story cubes … what, is my list a bit different than yours?  Maybe that’s because I keep thinking about what my kids are going to be doing while the storm blows outside.  Since I don’t want them to spend the whole day on the computer/Wii/tv and they won’t be allowed to play outside (obviously), I’d like to have a few ideas in mind to head off the inevitable laments of “I’m bored, there’s nothing to do!”

Maybe this sounds like a good idea to you, too.  So while you’re gathering provisions for this weekend’s summer storm, remember to include a few supplies for some simple yet fun arts activities for your family:

Reading aloud together can be an entertaining way to pass the time (especially if you really put a lot of personality into it!).  It’s also a good way to distract your more fearful kids away from their anxiety about the storm, and it gives older kids a way to revisit favorite stories from their younger days.  Outstanding read-alouds include Harry Potter and the Sorceror’s Stone by J.K. Rowling, Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White, Matilda by Roald Dahl, Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle’s Magic by Betty Macdonald, and Scumble by Ingrid Law (and also her first novel, Savvy). 

When your kids start to get antsy, fort-building is a classic activity that all ages can enjoy.  You can use the traditional chairs-and-sheets method of fort construction, or you can bring in those pool noodles and build a more modern boots-and-noodles framed structure (curves, anyone?).  Just present your kids with an assortment of materials (sheets, pool noodles, boots and/or adult sneakers, wide-width painter’s tape, clothespins, etc.) and let your kids find their own way using their imaginations.  Need a hint? put the ends of the noodles in the boots and voila! you’ve got an arch – and look here for more inspiration!

Another perennially pleasant way to pass the time together is to look at old family photos.  Before the hurricane hits, dig out those boxes of photos from the days before digital cameras, the ones you haven’t yet put into photo albums (we all have them).  Kids of all ages enjoy looking at old photos of themselves and their family – and to bring some humor to the day, dig out the photos of your teenage self and laugh as they marvel at your total lack of cool. 

Telling stories about “the old days”  is often inspired by looking at old photos.  Another of our favorite storytelling inspirations is Rory’s Story Cubes (pictured above), a little orange box positively brimming with fun!  Inside are nine 6-sided dice with a different picture on each side.  You take turns rolling the dice and making up a story using the nine pictures that come up – playful entertainment for the whole family!  I love the line printed on the front of the box, “let your imagination roll wild!”  Rory’s Story Cubes is definitely a gift worth giving to your kids, but for this weekend you can easily make your own – in fact, this is a craft project that can occupy your kids for a good long stretch of time while the hurricane rages.  All you need is some cardstock or Bristol board or similar sturdy paper, a pencil, a ruler, a couple of Sharpies (or washable markers, depending on your kids), scissors, Scotch tape or a gluestick, and this folded box templateTip: draw your pictures on the paper BEFORE you begin your cutting, folding, and gluing. 

A hurricane is nothing to take lightly of course, and we should all make the necessary preparations for the safety and well-being of our families and homes.  That said, I also know I don’t want to spend the day dealing with whining, complaining,  and quarreling kids!  Time will tell, but I’m hoping these arts activities will inspire us to find a little fun while we ride out the storm!

rainy day project: My Heart is Like a Zoo

This book by Michael Hall is one of our favorite finds from the library this summer, so much so that it’s made our “Must Buy” list.  We are a family of animal-lovers, and the simple, vibrant graphics and rolicking verse make this book a real treat for all ages.  It’s also an interactive book in the best sense – inspiring kids to use their imaginations to come up with all sorts of ways to arrange the ‘heart’ shape into artistic compositions, animal or otherwise.  You don’t even have to have the book on hand to be inspired – just visit My Heart is Like a Zoo’s website to watch the animals come to life!

I’ve been waiting for a rainy day this summer to pull out my tall stack of colored paper (always sure to elicit “oooohs” and “aaaahs” from the kids) and hand them the scissors, re-reading My Heart is Like a Zoo aloud to remind them of the humor and cleverness of the artist: 

“My heart is like a zoo … Brave as a lion, thoughtful as an owl, peaceful as a portly walrus lounging on a towel.” 


Recalling the lesson learned from the toddler who would rather play with the empty birthday present box, sometimes the simplest projects are the most engaging.  My kids, (even with 6 years between them) happily cut out shapes from colored paper and put them together in varying configurations for HOURS.  At first we mimicked Michael Hall and limited ourselves to heart-shapes, but the kids, always more daring than I, soon began to cut out star shapes and jagged shapes and whatever else their imaginations could come up with. 

My favorite surprise is a narrow, curvy Christmas tree topped with an enormous star that my eldest held out to show me in the palm of his hand, and the strikingly simple log-on-fire my youngest proudly presented to me – if I put them together we’ve created a lovely Christmas card to send out this year.  For now we’ve arranged a rainy day gallery on our window ledge that adds a smiling spot of color to the view today – in fact I don’t mind the rain one bit!