Art and Creativity

Art is important for children especially during their early development. Research shows that art activities develop brain capacity in early childhood; in other words, art is good brain food! Art engages children’s senses in open-ended play and develops cognitive, social-emotional and multi-sensory skills. As children progress into elementary school and beyond, art continues to provide opportunities for brain development, mastery, self esteem and creativity.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

I've Moved!

Hi, this is Anna and I am so excited to tell you that Art and Creativity in Early Childhood Education is now hosted on Wordpress. Just click here! Please change your bookmarks so you can keep up with my latest art projects!

Monday, December 03, 2012

Fun and Affordable Holiday Art Ideas

I love to spray paint. Whether I’m working with children or adults, it’s exciting to watch people experience freedom and leave their inhibitions behind by spraying liquid paints onto paper. Let’s think about making Color Spray Murals for the winter holidays, it’s a spray paint process that creative, affordable and makes for great gifts and festive decorations.

At the NAEYC Conference in Atlanta last month, Peter and I made a video of “How to Make a Color Spray Mural.” Here’s a photo of the artwork I made in the video, I draped it outside my studio so you could see how nice it turned out when it dried. The paint I’m using is Colorations® Liquid Watercolor, which is super easy to use in spray bottles and is also 100% washable, always a plus.

Here the same artwork folded and used as a coffee table runner. (Notice my sweet dog Abbey on the sofa , awww). Color Spray Murals are a great way to dress up your home or classroom for the holidays and this one used just a third of a sheet of mural paper so it cost very little to make, including the paints.

Best of all, Color Spray Murals can make you feel over-the-top creative. To the adults and teachers I work with, I like to say “you will feel like an instant artist!” and this quick YouTube video will prove just how and why that is. Take a look!

The “fabric-like” paper I’ve used is called Cooperative Mural Art Paper, and it’s the key to success with Color Spray Murals. Notice the soft drape and spongy textured surface in this plain white one that’s ready to be painted. Cooperative Mural Art Paper is a actually a special 2-ply paper drop cloth that’s sold in some hardware stores, but it can be very hard to find. It’s available from Discount School Supply® for $8.99 and is an oversized 4’ x 10” sheet with plastic backing. One sheet will make 2-4 small murals or 20 individual works of art. I recommend this paper over any other surface to spray paint, and I’m certain you’ll agree.

Check out this Wrapping Paper station, using the same Color Spray Mural from the video. Gifts look so beautiful when wrapped with swatches of a Color Spray Mural, and imagine having 4 x 10 feet of brilliant colored paper that you made by hand. For truly affordable gift wrap this season, consider a few other bargains from our ribbons and trims such as my personal favorites: Satin Ribbon in eight colors for $11.99, or Printed Craft Tape in 10 colors for $15.99, or wonderfully soft Textured Craft Yarns in eight colors for $17.99. All are an affordable way to reflect CREATIVITY and personalize your holidays.

You can also cut Color Spray Murals into smaller pieces and make scrolls, using dowels or chopsticks on the top and bottom. These make wonderful holiday gifts. You can leave them as art only, or mount a child’s poem or message or drawing on top. These beautiful scrolls are unique and easy to make, and use about 50 cents worth of materials. 

Handmade gifts are such a personal way to show you care. I found some ideas on Etsy the other day that I wanted to share:

Handmade Work has Authenticity and Soul.
There is JOY in handmade.
Nothing’s better than having a little piece of someone’s passion.

If you’re working with young children, you may wonder where to start with making ideas like these. Sometime a fence or wall outside is the best place to start.  

Notice that the sprays of paint are not running down the paper, like they would be if you spray painted onto the usual white butcher paper. The children are spraying Colorations® Liquid Watercolor onto spongy, fabric-like Cooperative Mural Art Paper so the paint is staying on the mural and reflecting back a lot of color.  

Here’s a picture from a 3-year-old classroom where we created a collaborative mural outside on the playground. The children used ferns and large leaves as stencils and sprayed on top of them to make leaf shapes. The bright drizzles are Colorations® Gold and Silver Liquid Watercolor, which was dripped on top of the sprayed areas.

Because Cooperative Mural Art Paper (LWMAT) has a plastic backing, you can do these murals inside also. Just be sure to put newspaper under all the edges. You’ll find these and other tips in my Color Spray Lesson Plan from Smart Art Ideas Activity Book.

(click here for the lesson plan)

Here are some girlfriends who came over to play. I spray paint on the weekends for relaxation sometimes, and when my friends hear about it they often want to join me. It’s very therapeutic and is a great activity for people who think they’re “not artistic.”

In Conclusion:
After a lifetime of being passionate about art and experimenting with every art material imaginable, I think I like to make Color Spray Murals the best of all. Why? I love the sensory and physical freedom of spraying color. I love that I am forced to work quickly and spontaneously and not over-think anything. I know I don’t have to be afraid of the final outcome or “how it will look in the end” because the color and texture will carry it, no matter what I do. I can suspend judgment, trust the process, and allow the incredible combination of light and color and movement take form in front of me.

Have a wonderful holiday season and thank you for checking in.

Materials Used:
Colorations® Liquid Watercolor - set of 13 (13LW)Colorations® Gold and Silver Liquid Watercolor (MLWG and MLWS)Colorations® Washable Glitter Paint - set of 11 (GLPA)Cooperative Mural Art Paper (LWMAT)Smart Art Ideas Activity Book (SMARTART)
Satin Ribbon - 16 spools (SATIN)
Printed Craft Tape - 10 rolls (PRINTED)
Textured Craft Yarn - 8 skeins (TEXYARN)

* Brought to you by Discount School Supply®

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Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Welcome Back! Let’s Start with Art

Welcome back to school! It’s a fresh new school year and the season of beginnings. Many of you already have classrooms filled with eager, bright and often shy new faces. Others are busily preparing for that exciting first day of class. All of us, whether we are teachers, parents or simply “grown ups” who love children are eagerly anticipating a year of joyful learning.

Let’s explore how ART ties in with those first exciting weeks of school.

How do YOU use art to help children engage in your classroom? Here’s a useful handout to send home with parents as school begins - it helps them understand how they can partner with you in using art to help children grow and become their best selves.

Recently I asked a group of seasoned teachers about their favorite “first art project.” Several responded with SELF PORTRAITS, I liked that! But given that there are so many drawing materials to choose from for a self portrait, where is a teacher to begin? I love the use of BOLD permanent markers for early self portraits. Here are some examples of back to school self portraits from Francine Farkas’s 4-year-old class.

Francine gives children bold, permanent markers to draw with so their portraits really “pop” on the page. She keeps these initial self portraits in her children’s Art Portfolios (more on that in a future post) and they will serve as a “baseline” drawing of each child’s development when the year began. Each portrait will be saved and shared at parent/teacher conferences and will serve as a valuable reference point for measuring developmental growth as the year goes by.

Francine mounts each portrait onto construction paper to emphasize the importance of each one and to create an “art gallery” effect. Because her classroom is not so large, she uses the supply door closet as a gallery space.

The teacher next door took a different approach to her “first art” self portraits, still using bold permanent markers so the portraits “pop” on the page, but adding a photograph of each child. Look closely at the clever use of a blank picture frame held by each child in its photograph.

This teacher’s laminated self portraits hang outside her classroom door. What a delightful way for both children and parents to be greeted at the start of each new day.

Teachers in the four-year-old classrooms at Pressman Academy often leave fine tipped, black permanent markers (PERMBLK) out for open-ended drawing, and as a result children create bold pictures with a sense of authority.

One other thing: When I asked my group of seasoned teachers for their favorite “art tip” to start the new year right, they said to offer lots of open ended exploration of art materials right from the start. This included the simplest idea of starting out with easy to use Colorations® tempera cakes (A8TCA) with Colorations® easy grip brushes (EGBRUSH).

And moved on to including unusual sensory art ideas that children would not likely find at home. Such as these rainbow striped pom pom balls (COLORPOM) in a sensory tub (TUBS) which I saw in one classroom, and those same colorful pom poms in another classroom on trays with sea and zoo  sticks (AP632J) and a variety of other pinch grippers. I loved both these applications! And I also imagined several other things we might do with these same colorful, oversized pom poms.

Have a wonderful new year, and don’t forget to stock up on fun new art materials to inspire your students and keep YOU feeling inspired as well.

Materials Used:
* Brought to you by Discount School Supply®

* For more ideas, visit Art and Creativity in Early Childhood Education

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Monday, August 06, 2012

Collaborative Art & Inspiration

Sometimes I feel like I work with angels. I just heard the most inspiring Conference Keynote and felt so proud to be a teacher. I was standing in the back of the room, listening to a Superintendent of Education inspire a room full of educators, all readying themselves for the new school year cycle. What’s not to be proud of when you realize how much the world needs good teachers?
I was reminded of this quote:
“Teachers are expected to reach unattainable goals with inadequate tools. The miracle is that at times they accomplish this impossible task.” ~ Haim Ginott

With inspiration in mind, I’m posting some of my favorite Collaborative Art ideas to help put you in the mood for a creative summer, and to prepare you for working with your new students this Fall. Collaborative Art can be such unifying, positive group experience, and open-ended art is a great way to bring people together in a feel-good kind of way. 

(CLICK HERE for Inspirational Quotes to download and print)

The teachers from Stephen S. Wise Nursery School are photographed here at a back to school Pre-service, making their own Collaborative Art fabric murals with BioColor®, paint scrapers, and Colorations® Washable Glitter Paints. Incorporating hands-on art into your Pre-service is a good way to start the year off, and reminds teachers about why art making is so important to both intellectual and emotional well being.

Here’s another collection of my favorite Collaborative Art ideas from classrooms I have visited this year. I hope they inspire you to do art in a group setting soon. Please send me YOUR favorite ideas and I’d be happy to include them in a future post.

What a great time to work in education, our challenges are greater than ever and there’s no better time to work in a field that contributes to the well-being of children. Have a good summer and rest well so you can get back into the classroom this Fall and do your best work. And remember to learn to reward yourself for working in a field that makes a positive contribution to the world. Because a teacher really does affect eternity - you will never know where your influence ends.

I know you’ve seen this, but I’ll remind you to remind yourself once again: 

“A hundred years from now it will not matter what my bank account was, the sort of house I lived in, or the kind of car I drove. But the world may be a little better because I was important in the life of a child.” ~ Witcraft

Materials Used in Pre-service Canvas Paintings:  BioColor® Paint - set of 11 (BIO16)
Colorations® Washable Glitter Paint - 16 oz bottle (CGP)
Canvas Art Banner (ARTBAN)
Paint Scrapers - set of 4 (SCR)
Good Times Painting Rollers - set of 6 (FUNROLL)

Materials in Other Photographs:
Liquid Watercolor™ Texas Snowflakes - set of 35 (TEXAS)
Classroom Canvas Quilt - 12 pieces (CLASQLT)
Insta-Snow® (SNO)
Colorations® Ultimate Liquid Watercolor™ Paint Kit (LWKIT3)
Colorations® No-Drip Foam Paint - 8 oz bottle (BFP)

* Brought to you by Discount School Supply®

* For more ideas, visit Art and Creativity in Early Childhood Education

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Monday, July 16, 2012

Gelatin Giggles for Summer Fun!

Outdoor art is great for summer when we can enjoy time outside in the light and sunshine. If you love COLOR and gem-like quality of the Gelatin Giggles pictured here, you will want to add this simple sensory activity to your summer plan. Because we are making memories here with our summer, right? And there’s nothing much more memorable than colored gelatin slipping through your fingers on a perfect summer day. 

These photos are from Sari Abram’s 3-year-old classroom at Pressman Academy in LA where I recently a led a 30 minute Gelatin Giggles activity on a corner of the playground. I took in eight blocks of gelatin, plastic eyedroppers, five bottles of Colorations® Liquid Watercolor, and an art tray with a 1” lip to contain the mess. I volunteered for this because I’m developing a new workshop called “Messy Art with 2’s and 3’s.” I had already tried Gelatin Giggles with school-age children, but I wanted to see how very young children would respond. I learned that the best way to introduce Gelatin Giggles to a group of toddlers was to have them take turns two at a time, while I managed some semblance of control over the paint. As a firm believer in messy art, I also recognize there’s ultimately an “art” to controlling the mess while allowing children the experience of freedom with the materials.

Things were pretty clean and tidy as the first two children began playing with the eyedroppers on the white art tray. I instructed them to fill their eyedropper with the color of their choice, then stick the eyedropper into the gelatin chunk and squirt the paint inside. They learned that if they didn’t stick their eyedropper in very far, some of the color would splash back out on them, surprise!

They also learned that their eyedropper would sometimes suck up the gelatin and create a colored gelatin snake, surprise!

Before they finished their turn at the sensory table, I offered the opportunity to select a second color and inject that into the gelatin. Then they could watch the colors blend and pick up a chunk of gelatin in their hands and hold it up to the sunlight. We didn’t clean up between children, so the colors and gelatin chunks accumulated on the tray as the activity progressed.

To create Gelatin Giggles, purchase unflavored gelatin (Knox makes one and others are generally sold next to the flavored gelatins at the grocery store). Use less water than called for to make your "giggles" a bit more solid than usual. Here’s the recipe:

Knox Gelatin Mold: The ratio is 3/4 cup water to 1 packet of Knox. Take the number of cups of water your container holds and DIVIDE by .75 This is how many packets of Knox you need. In a saucepan, heat the water over low heat, add the packets of gelatin. After it dissolves pour it into your container. Let set over night. **BE SURE TO USE OIL OR SPRAY YOUR CONTAINER WITH PAM FIRST! Wait for a sunny day and unmold your gelatin onto art trays or a sand and water table.

Did I talk enough about the exciting presence of light and color? Check out how this glob of green sparkles in the sun! Does it make you think of stained glass windows or a sparkling crystal? If you own a diamond ring or anything cut from crystal, bring that to class and show children how these minerals are faceted, which means they have flat planes that refract color and light. Amazingly, clear gelatin also breaks along facets in similar fashion, which is why Gelatin Giggles look like gemstones in the light.

There's nothing like group art experiences to bring children together and create a sense of collaboration in the summer. Gelatin Giggles is a perfect way to introduce sensory art while the weather is warm enough for outdoor play and the sun can provide a brilliant light source to enhance experiments with light and color.

If you like this art idea, you’ll probably also enjoy “Ice Tunnels” and “Sand Tray Gemstones”, two of 18 Colorations® Liquid Watercolor Activities in my book Smart Art Ideas 2. Thanks for checking in, and I look forward to reading your comments. If you would like to have your own art ideas included in a future post please send me an email at Together we can continue to build a strong art and creativity community.

Materials Used:
Colorations® Liquid Watercolor
SuperSafe Plastic Droppers (12SSD)
Brawny Large Art Tray (RECTRAY)
Smart Art Ideas 2 (MOREART)

From grocery store: Knox or other brand clear gelatin

* Brought to you by Discount School Supply®

* For more ideas, visit Art and Creativity in Early Childhood Education

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Friday, June 01, 2012

How to Jump Start Summer Creativity

As the end of the school year draws to a close, we stand on the brink of summer – a time for renewal. Summer is the perfect time to get back in touch with your creativity and renew your passion for work and life.

What will YOU do to “recharge your batteries” over the next few months? Will you plan for time outdoors, time with family, and time alone to nourish your creativity? Will you make time to do what gives you pleasure, what thrills you, what makes you feel that all your efforts are worthwhile? Will you pay yourself back for all the time you put in?

I’d like to inspire you to GET CREATIVE this summer, and make a plan to do MORE to replenish your spiritual soul, your inner artist. When fall rolls around, you will be glad you did.

I have been immersing myself in my own creative process this year, as part of my “self renewal” now that my children are in college. This summer I am doing even more to nourish my creative spirit by enrolling in a few weekend art classes and reconnecting with girlfriends who like to visit art galleries and go to summer festivals. It’s building nicely, this effort to renew my creative side, and I’d like to encourage you to do the same. It’s working! My creative side was beginning to feel a bit dormant, but with small, consistent efforts, I’ve revived it again. So from my own recent experience, here’s what I’ll suggest:

How to Jumpstart Your Creativity – A Summer Plan:
1. Visit Local Art Galleries
There’s nothing like visiting an art gallery or museum to immerse you in the language of visual thinking. We use the principles of right brain stimulation in the classroom, so why not apply these same values to ourselves? Just this morning I passed the LA Craft and Folk Art Museum and noticed a new display in their window. Can you believe this “sculpture” is made entirely out of sponges? Now why didn’t I think of that? This is a great example of thinking outside of the box, and something that might spark some ideas for your own classroom. It certainly evokes the question, “What is art?” and may have you looking a little differently at foam package stuffing or things you see in the trash can.

2. Participate in Summer Festivals
Summer is the time for festivals, so make a plan to visit at least one for fun. As part of my commitment to jumpstart my own creativity, I attended The Brewery Art Walk, something I had been meaning to do for years. I was glad I went, and even my husband had fun in spite of going as “a favor.” All the adult art studios were open for viewing, but I also discovered a wonderful art studio for children called The Peddler of Dreams.

Check out these children’s art projects, all so creative and beautifully displayed. The paper bag fish were made from white paper bags, markers and watercolors and dangled nicely from dried tree branches so they looked like they were swimming. And how about these recycled plastic bottles made into bird feeders, aren’t they amazing! I was so impressed with the birdfeeders that I searched the internet later for “bird feeders made out of plastic bottles” and found plenty of tips for constructing them with ease. Check out how The Peddler of Dreams had children decorate their bird feeders with tissue paper and watered down white glue. So colorful, my inner artist was definitely tickled.

3. Renew an Arts & Crafts Hobby
Take a class in something creative; even one simple weekend workshop can revive your creativity and a few weekend workshops will deepen your sense of renewal. Check for low-cost classes with Parks & Recreation, Adult Schools, and local retail craft shops. It’s fun to do art in a group, and classes let you bond with like-minded spirits and you get to know other people in your community who value self-expression. Exchange phone numbers with someone new and stay in touch. Build your art friends contact list for personal renewal art outings.

I attended a bead convention last fall (another thing I’d always meant to do, and finally DID….geez, why does it take us so long to do things we WANT to do?). I had so much fun and signed up for a three hour workshop on shrink art. I found it so relaxing that I have been making little shrink art charms ever since. Here are some of my latest pieces; I love that they are so tiny!

At the Bead Convention I learned how to apply rubber stamps and pastels to the surface of Shrink-It Sheets so they look more “grown up” than children’s shrink art. I love the process of making these tiny little compositions, and then giving them away in birthday cards or as little tokens of affection. But what I love most about shrink art is that I can make them in a short amount of time because I’m always so busy. I like creative projects that don’t take too long. Which brings me to my next suggestion: find a place to leave your art supplies out so you don’t waste time setting up and putting away your supplies.

4. Create Your Own Art Area at Home
The most tedious part of an arts or crafts hobby is the set up and clean up of supplies. Find a table or corner of your home that you can dedicate as your art area, and let your family know it’s your personal studio space, and not to be disturbed. That’s what I did this year in my garage. You can see it’s nothing fancy but it has all the basics, and I put it together for less than $100 using Craigslist. It’s important to have your own wind-down place, your sanctuary, your place to revive your creative spirit. My sanctuary is my art area where I can drop in anytime, and not worry about having to set up or clean up. I can bring music or watch re-runs of Grey’s Anatomy on my laptop (haha), as I lose myself in right brain activities.

5. Keep a Digital Camera in Your Purse
Keeping a camera handy will awaken your visual thinking, and help you connect to the world of color and sensation that surrounds you. A camera helps you identify and capture “magical moments.” It also helps you remember things that you may want to try yourself later. Here’s a magical moment I caught on film recently that I definitely want to try sometime – it’s a community candlelight mandala made entirely from fresh flower petals. Wow. This reminds me that creative ideas surround me, and having my camera handy helps me “borrow” other people’s ideas and use them later with my own special twist.

If you investigate creative outlets in your community, you will be richly rewarded. Anything that gets your hands and heart working together is bound to jump start the creative process inside you – whether it be painting, photography, scrapbooking, ceramics or any other artistic activities that excite or delight you. 

Last but not least, if you want to be TRULY inspired, take time to watch this incredible video called “Happiness Revealed.” I guarantee it will make the rest of your day more meaningful. It is the most beautiful message of hope and happiness that I have ever seen. Have a great summer, and take time to listen to your dreams…those are the sounds no one else can hear.

Materials Referenced:
Shrink-It Sheets - opaque (SHRINKIE)
White Paper Bags (WHBAG)
Colorations® Liquid Watercolor™
Colorations® Premium Bleeding Tissue Paper (BBLTIS)

Video Clip: “Happiness Revealed” by Louie Schwartzberg
Thanks to TedxSF, an Independently Organized TED

* Brought to you by Discount School Supply®

* For more ideas, visit Art and Creativity in Early Childhood Education

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