Salt Painting

Ahhhhh, summer vacation! Sunshine, popsicles, and PJ's until noon... or is that last one just me?? Even though it's a pleasure to relish in the lack of hustle and bustle that comes with the school year, the lack of routine can cause its own chaos. Lazy days equals restless kids and restless kids equals disaster! Luckily it doesn't take any specialty materials (or a dreaded trip to the store with kids in tow) to occupy your children with making a beautiful form of artwork: Salt paintings!

You will need:

  • Salt
  • White Glue
  • Liquid Food Color
  • Eyedropper
  • Cardstock (or any thick paper)

First, you need to prep the paper by having your kids doodle on it with glue. It does not need to "look" like anything in particular. Fill in the center of the paper with the design but try to encourage students not to make any overly large puddles or pools of glue.

After finishing the glue doodle, lay the paper on a tray (or well-loved cookie sheet) and sprinkle the glue liberally with salt. Shake off the excess. Let dry completely. If you are strapped on time and need to continue without waiting several hours you can set the paper on a cookie sheet in the oven at the lowest possible heat for about 10 minutes and it will dry to perfection.

Add the food coloring to a small amount of water. The more color you add the more vibrant the paintings will be, but there isn't a magic formula or ratio of color to water.

Using the eyedropper have the kids add drops of color directly on the salt lines. The color will spread along the lines and blend with the other colors as they are added. The salt lines can handle quite a bit of liquid without dissolving but it's best to add just a drop or two at a time.

For younger children or for children who struggle with fine motor skills this is a fantastic exercise for those hand muscles. 

The results? Magic!

What quick & easy projects do you have in your summer repertoire?

Tie-Dyed Milk & Shaving Cream Prints

I was inspired by an incredible sale on food coloring at my local dollar store (what teacher doesn't love that place???) to resurrect a long dormant project of mine for my son's Kindergarten class. Shaving cream prints are usually a HUGE hit with children because printmaking relies on a magical element of chance... you never really know what your image will look like. Much like 'The Price is Right' there is always a moment of "What's behind print number 1?????" filled with anticipation.

As a full-time art teacher I never had my own classroom but got used to being an eccentric traveler of sorts. It wasn't an unusual sight to see me teetering down the hallway with an assortment of oddities balanced carefully onto my cart. With my trusty, yet filthy, apron I tackled everything from India ink to dead fish, papier mache to chalk murals. At times I felt compelled to give the teachers I worked with little disclaimers before I came in because art is rarely neat and often it is completely the opposite.

For this project I think my word of warning went something like this:

"We will be messy today. really, really messy.
your students will be totally engaged,
your tables will be spotless and shiny clean when we are done,
and your room will smell like a friendly old grandpa"

Hmmm... now that I think about it number three seems ambiguous as far as being a positive or negative, but I mean it in a good way. While it *is* messy it is also a perfect blend of science and art.

Part One: Exploring Surface Tension with Tie-Dyed Milk
Part one of this is a science project with very simple ingredients. You need:

  • Whole Milk
  • Bowls
  • Food Coloring
  • Liquid Dish Soap
  • Recording Sheets
Organize students into small groups or tables and provide them with a bowl of milk, a recording sheet for each student, and liquid food coloring. Explain that they will be adding drops of food coloring to their bowl of milk and ask them to predict what will happen by drawing in box one. 

Most students think that the milk will act the same as water and color it almost instantaneously and fill it with rainbow colors. One child even predicted a cute little cat would appear in the milk. Then perform the experiment by dropping several drops (of different colors) in the bowl.

Strangely enough the food coloring just floats on top like colored freckles. No action shots though, because I was desperately monitoring kindergartners from adding colored freckles to themselves. Students draw a picture of what did happen and then predict what will happen if they add a drop of dish soap to the milk. Then add it for a crazy surprise... the milk and colors just explode and move across the surface. After a few minutes it looks something like this: 

Awesome sauce! Isn't that beautiful? Scientifically it's all about surface tension. I like to explain it to kids by talking about why a piece of wood floats on water... because it's weighs less. It's the same principle the food coloring. It is water-based and is less dense than milk so when it is dropped onto the milk it floats on the surface. When the dish soap, which is denser than water and milk, is dropped onto the surface it breaks through the layer of food coloring and the layer of milk which then allows them to mix together to make beautiful patterns.

Part Two: Shaving Cream Printmaking
Part two is a beautiful art project that mimics the same coloring effect from the tie-dyed milk. You will need:

  • Shaving Cream (like Barbasol)
  • Food Coloring 
  • Q-Tips
  • Putty Knife
Give each student a pile of shaving cream. You can spray it out right on the table or desk because it cleans up beautifully. Each student can add a few drops of food coloring (I set a verbal limit like "5 only") to the surface of the shaving cream and then use a Q-Tip to swirl and mix the colors into interesting patterns or designs. Warn them that if they mix it too much the colors will become muddied and they will lose the crispness or detail in their picture. 

When they are done mixing they lay a piece of paper (preferably cardstock) face down onto the shaving cream and lightly pat it so the paper has adhered completely to the surface of the shaving cream. 

When you first lift the paper off it won't really look like anything because there will be a lot of shaving cream stuck to it. 

Take the putty knife and scrape the shaving cream off to reveal the magic!

Here are some examples from Kindergarten:

Amazing! I love the unpredictability of what will appear and so do the students. One interesting note is that you can print multiple pictures off of the colored shaving cream but each one will be less detailed and a bit softer.

And now to the grandpa smell... your tables will clean up beautifully since the art project was based in soap. If you happened to pick up the menthol kind then your room will have a very clean-ish aroma for the rest of the week.



An Ode To Toilet Paper Rolls

Confession time... in my garage I have 14 empty egg cartons, 5 Pringles cans,  a crate of empty toilet paper rolls, and a bucket of broken crayon bits. My husband thinks I'm a hoarder... or a borderline hoarder at the very least. I always explain that while I do have these seemingly useless piles of junk sitting around gathering dust bunnies, it's not because of an emotional attachment on my part. It's practicality.

My Junk Pile... Rich With Treasures!
He doesn't realize how difficult it is to acquire 125 dead CD's for a radial weaving unit or enough toilet paper rolls to assemble a faux chrysalis for 5 separate kindergarten classrooms. It's nearly impossible to not look like a crazy person if you have to actually buy 50 pairs of nude knee-high stockings... not to mention putting a sizable dent in your pocketbook.

My name is Jenny and I'm an elementary art teacher... or I was. As of this school year I am a stay-at-home mom to my four amazing children (including a set of infant twins), but I just can't shake the urge to hold onto baby food jars and bits of interesting ribbon, just in case. I am excited to add my voice to this blog and, hopefully, add some creative ideas for you as well.

The Humble Cardboard Cylinder

Today, as you may have guessed, I want to talk to you about the plain, ole' toilet paper roll. This humble cylinder of cardboard literally has endless uses and is extremely easy to collect. If you fly by the seat of your pants, as I am sometimes known to do, you really only need a day or two's notice to send out a plea to fellow teachers or parents for some and you will have toilet paper rolls coming out of your ears! If you find that you want to join the green bandwagon and utilize your community regularly for re-purposing household items then you might like to have a standard note like this one on hand:
Donation Request Letter to Parents
Why type a new letter every time?
This is a letter I have sent to parents numerous times for random things... like dryer lint. More on that another time! You can download a copy of mine here and use the customizable form fields to fill in your donation request, the purpose, the deadline, and your name.

Now, back to toilet paper rolls! I have used them as time capsules, as simple sculpture materials, as poster holders, as mailboxes, as stamps, as seedling pots, as simple looms, and probably more that I can't remember.

Their newest reincarnation is a fabulous-but-cheap textured rolling pin covers for some fantastic printmaking. I have bought the miniature textured rolling pins before, but it costs between $10-$15 for a set of four and if you are working in a whole class setting, the math of that just doesn't add up! Another thing that I don't like is that there are usually only a couple of pattern types available. . . stripes, dots, and waves. By making your own, the possibilities are ENDLESS!

First: The Rollers!

Cheap, durable, awesome: PVC.
Seriously, those miniature wooden rolling pins  from school supply companies are cute but they break in two seconds. I needed something tough. I went to Home Depot to the plumbing section and picked up (okay, technically my husband picked it up) a piece of 1.25 inch PVC pipe. They are sold in 10 foot lengths and it cost about $5. I had a clerk at Home Depot cut the PVC pipe into pieces for me and ended up with about 20 sections. I sanded the edges just a bit for smoothness, but it was pretty quick and easy. Basically, you can make a classroom set of rolling pins (for paint, for clay, for playdough, for printmaking) for under $10, depending on how many you need. 

Second: The Texture!

The self-stick foam sheets are ideal and easy to use.

This is where my old friend the toilet paper roll comes in handy. You can take sheets of craft foam (or if you want to make it really easy, the self adhesive foam stickers) and attach custom shapes or designs to the exterior cardboard with a strong glue. Let them dry completely!!!

Third: The Paint!

Not only are these fun, they are easy to clean up.

The toilet tubes will slide nice and tight onto the PVC pipe if you've sized it correctly (a quick suggestion is to actually take a sample of your toilet paper tubes when you buy it to make sure they fit because there is a little variance among brands) and you now have a custom designed texture roller. Most craft paint, acrylic, or tempera paint will work just fine with these. Spread the paint in a thin layer and roll the pipe several times until it is covered evenly. Roll onto paper in any combinations, designs, and colors you want! If you roll them by hand, you will get messy and while I think that's half the fun I have an alternative: Slide a medium-thick dowel through the PVC pipe to act as a handle.

Fourth: The Final Project!

Voila! Beautiful!

What I love about projects like this is that you can connect it to so many other areas. You could talk about positive and negative when you cut shapes from foam, you could discuss repetition and patterns, you could make it seasonal by using themed shapes, etc. 

What have you used toilet paper rolls for? I am SURE I can't be the only aficionado... 

 Right Brain Kid