Motherhood, Art, Creative Play, and Finding Joy in Everyday Life


Salad Spinner Art

Did you know you can use your salad spinner to make awesome art? I was reminded of this recently, when Jean over at The Artful Parent posted a link on Facebook to her blog post about doing so. I have had a salad spinner sitting in the back of a cabinet, and it has been years since I have used it for washing salad. I almost donated it when we moved last year, but I am now glad that we still have it kicking around for this new creative purpose.

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Simply add paper to the salad spinner, drip in some paint, put the lid on and spin! It is really fun to see what the results are when it finally stops and you take the lid off. Simon squealed with delight every time each new piece was revealed.

We had fun testing out different color combinations. Simon even made one using all of the paint colors we have. We discovered that the results were better when the spinner went really, really fast.

This project is also very easy to clean up, for those of you who are more hesitant about using paint at home with little ones. I recommend using water based, non-toxic paint, such as tempera. When you are done, just wash the salad spinner out in the sink.

The following week I also brought my salad spinner to work with me and did this project with the kids who attended my Preschool Storytime program. I read aloud books about colors and art, and then gave the kids paper plates. They dripped paint onto their plates and we passed the salad spinner around for them to take turns. They had a blast!

spin art at the library



Rainy Days Are For Art

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Last week we had several rainy and chilly Spring days in a row. On one of those days, Simon found a box of art supplies and asked to take it out. Never one to turn down art, I of course brought out the box, and we ended up spending hours together being creative and messy.

We found an old plaster mask inside that Simon got at a local kid’s art studio last year, and which he periodically adds to or re-paints. He started out by putting more foam stickers onto the mask, and then a fresh layer of paint. From there he moved on to painting on newspaper, exploring mixing colors on his palette, and then splattering water onto construction paper to see how he could make it change color.

While he did all of this, I used crayons and paint to work on some sketches of my own. I find that when I make art with materials that are less “precious” I tend to feel more free to explore and express. I think this process is good for me as an artist, because I release my tendency of being a perfectionist and just let go and have fun with the process. It is also probably good role modeling for Simon to see that you can be fearless about artistic expression, and not fuss about what it looks like.

Eventually Simon discovered the perler beads, and began working on making a star. I was amazed at how focused he was on this, seeing it through to completion with determination, even when the beads would sometimes tumble off of the shape if he bumped them. Once his star was filled in and ironed, he moved back over to the other side of the table again, and drew with crayons for a while before discovering that he could dip them in the paint and use them instead of a paintbrush.

So much exploration of materials took place, and I was amazed by how much time Simon invested in his artwork. Times like this are my favorite, where there is no right or wrong answer, we just pull stuff out and see what happens.

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morning art
Last week there were two days of school cancellations due to weather, which meant no work for Mumma, and no preschool for Simon. We were stuck inside for two days. Then, we kicked off the beginning of this week with even more inclement weather, dangerous roads, and staying indoors. This winter has been a doozy, and it is only just beginning for us here in Maine. I think it is safe to say that cabin fever has been high around here, and we are all a tad grumpy.

However, there has also been a lot of creativity. Jeramy got into the baking mood, and whipped up some crock pot beer bread on a whim. Simon and I drew in our sketchbooks. There have been multiple instances of toy cars being pressed into playdough, and some sponge painting.

sponge art
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The sun has returned, and I look forward to shaking off some these feelings of being cooped up by getting us out of the house. However, I am glad that when we do end up “wintered-in”, we are able to find ways to add color and flavor to our days.

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Peace Offering

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Peace Offering
I managed to find some time, in the hubbub of daily life a few weeks ago, to set up a bit of our studio, dust the rust off my paint brushes, and paint this piece. I went into this with a quick sketch, and just allowed it to evolve on the canvas. I intentionally tried to be less controlling, and just see what the piece became. I had no idea, when I set out, that there would be birds, or a house and a sofa. At one point there was a heart in her hair, but I ended up covering it. Sometimes, I scribbled.

It has been a very long time since I painted in this way, and it was wonderful. I found myself sneaking off to my studio for a minute here, five minutes there, to add something to it. I don’t think I have ever completed a painting so quickly.

As is the way with me, I look at it now and find all of the things I feel are “wrong” about it. I could have tried to use more realism, I could have looked at a real feather for reference, I could have composed it a bit differently, etc. But, really, whatever the outcome, the experience was so fulfilling that it doesn’t really matter. At the end of the day, art is something I do for myself, for my own personal expression. If I don’t enjoy the actual making of it, if I get to caught up in the product, than it isn’t worth doing.

“Peace Offering”
Acrylic and Pastel on Canvas

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Three Little Pigs Playdough

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3 pigs playdough
This week at the Library where I work as Storylady, I presented a Three Little Pigs themed Storytime program for the preschoolers. After I read some stories, and we sang some songs together, I set up a fun sensory project for the kids. I got my inspiration from a website called Fairy Dust Teaching, and then put my own twist on it.

First I made some homemade playdough, using this recipe. I decided not to add any coloring to the dough, so that the materials would really stand out. I put out cut up pieces of raffia, piles of small sticks from my yard, and some brick colored stones from the craft store to represent the straw, sticks, and bricks that the three little pigs use to make their houses. Since the focus of this activity was meant to be about sensory play rather than a finished product, I told the kids to just have fun with the materials while thinking about the houses that the pigs in our stories had made.

I received a lot of positive feedback from the parents about this activity, and the kids had so much fun sticking and mixing the objects into the dough. As you can see from the photos, I also brought some of the materials home for Simon to play and experiment with, and he had a lot of fun too.

The three stories that I read aloud today were:
The Three Little Pigs and the Somewhat Bad Wolf by Mark Teague (My favorite interpretation on this classic!)
Huff & Puff by Claudia Rueda (I asked the kids to play the role of the Big, Bad, Wolf and do the huffing and puffing along with the story.)
Rabbit and the Not-So-Big-Bad Wolf by Michael Escoffier (This one might not have any pigs, but it has excellent illustrations, humor, and a plot twist that the kids loved.)

We also recited “This Little Piggy” on our fingers, sang “Old MacDonald” (with cow, pig, and wolf on his farm), and “The Pigs on the Farm go Oink, Oink, Oink” (to the tune of “The Wheels on the Bus”).

I had so much fun reading aloud and singing with the kids, however, I think the playdough activity was definitely the most fun today!

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Side By Side

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Last night I did some drawing in my sketchbook while relaxing on the couch. I forgot to put my art supplies away when I finished, and this morning, Simon noticed the bin of drawing supplies sitting on our current makeshift coffee table, and asked: “Mumma, what are these?”. I told him they were art supplies and he asked “Can I use them?” “Sure!” I said, and went to get a large pad of newsprint.

We spread out paper and supplies out on the table, and worked side-by side. Simon was mostly interested in experimenting with charcoal and a rubber eraser, two things that he hasn’t used before. I sketched while he experimented with the feel of new materials, and I made it a point to let him experience the trial and error of attempting to erase various drawing mediums.

Since moving, our routine has been really off. The house is still a major work-in-progress, and I have a harder time finding my way through our routine as I adjust to our new surroundings. However, this reminded me of our frequent morning art time, and I hadn’t realized how much I had been missing it!

I love working side-by-side with my little one, being creative together as our first act after breakfast.

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A Morning Tray

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I am not a morning person. Never have been, and might never be. I do really wish that I was, but it is just not in my nature. In the mornings, my child is raring to go, and has plenty of mental focus and a need to do something with his hands. It usually takes everything I can muster to shuffle us through breakfast, let alone be entertainment for a three-year-old.

In order to give Simon something engaging to do, and give myself a little break from having to use my brain while I am still drinking my coffee, I came up with the idea of a morning activity tray.

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I always admire the aesthetic quality of Montessori activities presented to children on a tray. I also think that sometimes, having a visual or physical boundary to work within can actually be liberating to a child’s sense of creativity. Give them a space and some materials to work with, and just sit back and see what they will do.

The photos above are my first attempt at using the idea of a pre-assembled activity in a tray for morning, and it went very well. Last night I prepared the materials, lining the bottom with sheets of drawing paper, and putting some farm stickers into two round lids. I added a couple of tubes of glitter glue and a couple of markers, in case Simon wanted to draw in some scenery too. The tray I used is one that a Melissa and Doug block set came in, and is just the right size and shape to re-purpose for this.

When we came into the kitchen this morning, as I was making breakfast, I put the tray out on the table and told Simon it was an activity for him to do. He dove right in, peeling the backs off the foam shapes and sticking them to the paper. He also experimented using the glue, and sticking the shapes to the tray. After stopping to eat breakfast, he went right back to it for a while, and I sat beside him, sipping coffee and talking to him about what he was working on. By the time he was ready to move on to something else, I was awake enough to get the day going.

I already have lots of ideas for more morning trays, and plan to document them and share here.