Adventures in Art

paint setPainter’s palette? Check. Set of canvases? Check. Sturdy easel? Check. Brand new paintbrush? Check. Super sweet beret? Check! You’re fully prepared for some adventures in art!

We read I’ve Painted Everything! by Scott Magoon (Houghton Mifflin, 2007). Hugo the elephant is an artist who is about to encounter a massive existential problem. He’s painted everything. After hundreds of painting, there is nothing left to paint, and Hugo is out of ideas. Hugo’s friend Miles convinces him to take a trip to Paris. As the two friends explore the city, Hugo is artistically influenced by the things he sees (and the concepts are cleverly conveyed with elephant puns). But he still doesn’t know what to paint. Finally, at the top of the Eiffel Tower, Hugo has an inspiration! Rushing home to Cornville, he climbs to the top of the fire department’s tower and views his familiar world from a completely different perspective. All Hugo had to do was change the way he looks at things. From different mediums to fresh perspectives, Hugo will never run out of ideas again!

You’ll need:

  • 4 plain craft sticks (the larger ones work best – mine were .75″ x 6″)
  • 1 small triangle of card stock (with 2″ base and 3″ sides)
  • 1 small strip of card stock (approximately 1.5″ x 4″)
  • An 8.75″ x 13″ piece of tagboard (or brown poster board)
  • A box cutter
  • 1 piece of 8.5″ x 11″ white card stock
  • 1 small binder clip
  • 9 squares of self-adhesive foam in various colors (approximately 1.5″ x 1.5″ each)
  • 1 sharpened pencil
  • A small piece of brown paper lunch bag (approximately 2″ x 3″)
  • A large strip of poster board for beret band, any color (approximately 1.5″ x 22″)
  • A selection of colored masking tape
  • A selection of patterned tape
  • A circle of felt, any color (approximately 9.5″ in diameter)
  • A small piece of felt for top of beret (approximately 1.75″ x 2″)
  • Scissors for construction
  • Markers for decorating
  • Hot glue

The easel is the trickiest part of this project, so we’ll start there! It’s a slight modification on a craft stick easel I spotted in FamilyFun magazine many years ago. They used regular-sized craft sticks, but I found the larger craft sticks much easier to work with, and much sturdier. FamilyFun also used colored craft sticks for their easel, but I used plain wooden ones so the kids could decorate them with markers.

Since we had quite a few pieces to this project, I decided to prep all the easels in advance. Everything else the kids assembled themselves. To make an easel, hot glue the tops of two craft sticks together like so:

easel step 1Next, hot glue the base of a card stock triangle behind the tops of the sticks. Then fold the top of the triangle downward. This is the “hinge” of your easel.

easel steps 2 and 3Hot glue a third stick to the underside of the hinge. The top of the third stick should be just about even with the tops of the other sticks. If you put the stick too far up, the hinge won’t bend!

easel step 4Stand your easel upright and turn it around (it should now look like the image below). Hot glue a craft stick to the front of the easel to create a rack for your canvas.

easel step 5 and 6Finally, to keep your easel from collapsing, hot glue one end of a small strip of card stock to the underside of the rack. Fold, then hot glue, the other end of the strip to the back leg of the easel. Here are two views of the completed easel:

paper supportNow for your painting tools! To make a paintbrush, fringe a small piece of brown paper lunch bag, then wrap it around the eraser end of a pencil. Secure in place with colored masking tape.

paintbrushTo make a painter’s palette, cut a palette shape out of tagboard (or brown poster board). As you can see, my palette looks like a fat, lopsided lily pad that’s about 8.5″ tall x 12.25″ wide. Use a box cutter to cut a 1.5″ oval-shaped thumb hole near the bottom.

palette step 1Cut an 8.5″ x 11″ piece of white card stock into quarters (these are your “canvases,”) then use a binder clip to attach them to the top of the palette. Cut 9 squares of self-adhesive foam into irregular paint splotches, then peel and stick them around the palette (you can also skip the foam and use markers).

palette step 3Lastly, your beret! Decorate a long strip of poster board with colored tape, patterned tape, and/or markers. Circle it around your head and staple it closed. Hot glue a circle of felt to the top of the hat band. Don’t forget to hot glue a little felt piece to the center of the beret!

beretOnce we had all our tools, we embarked on our art adventure! I asked the kids to scatter to different areas of the gallery and sketch things onto their canvases using the pencil end of their “paintbrushes.” They could sketch something they saw in the gallery, or they could sketch something from their imaginations.

artist 1artist 2After about 10 minutes, the kids came back to the craft tables and used markers to color their sketches. Then, each kid selected his/her favorite work of art and displayed it on his/her easel at our “art exhibit.”

exhibitThe kids loved this project (and I made sure to cut extra canvases for them to take home)! But for me, the best part was seeing them in the berets. They looked so darn cute wearing them. But this little artist takes the prize! Oooo look at those baby toes!

artist 3Ready for more forays into fine art? Check out some Pop Art, learn to draw like an Old Master, or perhaps you’d like to take a stab at Impressionism?

Buzz Worthy

buzz worthyPut on your splendid beekeeping hat and follow an oatmeal container bee to a flower! Today, we’re collecting nectar, taking it back to the hive, and turning it into something delicious!

We read A Taste of Honey by Nancy Elizabeth Wallace (Winslow Press, 2001). A golden jar of honey prompts Lily the bear to ask her Poppy a series of questions about its origins. Where does honey come from? Well, where does it come from before it’s put in a jar? Where does it come from before it’s purchased at the store? And before that? And before that? In addition to being a clever succession of questions and answers, this book is stocked with facts about beekeeping equipment, protective clothing, honey harvesting, beehives, varieties of wildflowers, and more!You’ll need:

  • 1 large oatmeal container
  • Yellow construction paper
  • 2 long strips of black construction paper (approximately 2.25″ x 18″ each)
  • A 5.25″ circle of yellow construction paper
  • 2, 1.5″ circles of black construction paper
  • 2 yellow dot stickers
  • 6 pipe cleaners (2 black, 4 any color you’d like)
  • 1 bee wings template, printed on 8.5″ x 11″ white card stock
  • 1 plastic fedora (I purchased mine from Oriental Trading Company)
  • A 1.5″ x 22″ strip of white poster board for hat band
  • 1 little bees template, color printed on 8.5″ x 11″ white card stock
  • A 12″ x 32″ piece of white tulle
  • 1 “Find the Nectar” game (more on this later!)
  • Scissors, glue, and tape for construction
  • Markers for decorating

finished beeWe’ll start with the bee! Wrap a large oatmeal container with yellow construction paper, then wrap two strips of black construction paper around the container to create stripes.

Next, stick 2 yellow dot stickers onto 2 circles of black construction paper. These are your bee’s eyes. Tape (or glue) the eyes onto a large circle of yellow construction paper. Draw a pointy nose and smiley mouth on the circle, then tape (or hot glue) it to the lid of the oatmeal container. Curl both ends of a pipe cleaner and tape it onto the container to create your bee’s antennae.

bee faceTo make the legs, cut 2 black pipe cleaners into thirds and bend each piece into a loose, inverted “Z.”

bent pipe cleanerAttach the pieces to the sides of the oatmeal container with tape.

bee legsCut the wings from the bee wings template, fold each wing upwards along the dotted line, then tape the middle of the wings to the back of your bee. Done!

wingsSet the bee aside for a moment, it’s time for the hat! Use markers to decorate a strip of white poster board, then wrap it around the hat like a hat band. Cut some bees from the little bee template (at our story time, each kid got 6 bees). Attach 3 of the bees to the ends of curled pipe cleaners, then tuck the bottom of the pipe cleaners into the hat band. The remaining 3 bees can be taped directly to the plastic hat. The final touch is to wrap a long piece of white tulle around the hat. Secure the fabric to the back of the hat with tape.

hatYou can stop here, or you can proceed to the “Find the Nectar” game! Here’s how we made it…

flowersFirst, Katie made 4 amazing flowers (2 blue, 2 red) out of poster board, tissue paper, construction paper, and pipe cleaners. The flowers were taped (using nice strong packing tape) onto 40.5″ pieces of PVC pipe. Later, the PVC was wrapped with green masking tape and adorned with green poster board leaves. At the center of each flower was a plastic cup to hold nectar. Because little hands would be repeatedly bumping into the cups, Katie secured each cup to the poster board with a brass tack.

flower with brass tackFor the beehive, Katie raided her basement (nicknamed “The Magic Basement” for all the unusual and useful things she unearths from it) and found this 13.5″ x 17″ styrofoam block used to ship wine.

wine shipping styrofoamKatie was already coloring the front of the styrofoam with yellow highlighters when I snapped this picture. The highlighter pens worked a treat, but there were lots of squeaky, scratchy, pens-on-styrofoam sounds. Eeeee! Next, Katie added a yellow poster board facade to the hive, lined the holes with rolls of yellow construction paper, and added 6 little bees to the front.

beehiveDuring story time, I placed the hive at one end of the gallery, and “planted” the flowers at the other end of the gallery. Each flower cup was loaded with a single yellow cotton ball to represent “nectar.”

nectarI split the kids into two teams – Red Flower Team and Blue Flower Team. Each kid on the team had to fly his/her bee to the flowers, find the 2 flowers that corresponded with his/her team color, remove a ball of nectar from each flower cup…

bee game collectionAnd then zoom back to the hive and deposit the nectar inside!

bee game drop offGranted, you could way simplify this game with a set of cups representing the flowers and a shoe box covered with yellow paper representing the hive. But sometimes, you just get a hankering to make giant flowers.

Two important things about the game:

  1. Just put one cotton ball into a cup at a time. If you stuff the cups full of nectar, some kids will be tempted to grab everything, leaving nothing for the other bees! During our game, we had Miss Joani next to the flowers, patiently reloading the cups with nectar.
  2. Make sure to emphasize that this is not a race. It’s all the bees working together to collect nectar for the hive!

Carousel of Champions

carousel of championsWant to take a spin on an amazing carousel? Ride on Duck, Horse, Golden Fish or everyone’s favorite…Gator! Thanks to a little brass tack, this carousel actually turns!

We read Gator by Randy Cecil (Candlewick, 2007). At the amusement park, a carousel spins, and Gator is the happiest animal on the carousel. He loves the lights, the wind in his face, and the laughter of the children. But when business slows and the amusement park closes, Gator becomes lonely and sad. He decides to leave. He travels through a deep, dark forest, falls into a stream, and stumbles upon some relatives in a zoo who are a lot bigger and scarier than he is. Completely disheartened, Gator slumps on a bench, crying. But suddenly, he is spotted by a little boy and his father, who recognizes Gator from the old days. Encouraged, Gator leads a crowd back to the carousel, which leaps to life once again, surrounded by the sounds of laughter and happiness.

You’ll need:

We’ll build the carousel’s spinning mechanism first. Decorate the sides of a small box with colored masking tape and patterned tape (or markers). Don’t decorate the lid of the box and definitely don’t tape it shut. You’ll need to open the lid in a few steps.

baseUse a box cutter to make a little slit in the top of the box’s lid, right in the center.

slit in boxThen make another small slit in the center of a cake circle.

slit in cake padPush the brass tack through the slit in the cake circle. Next, open the lid of the box and push the brass tack through the slit on the lid. Open the prongs of the brass tack to secure it in place.

platform to baseClose the lid of the box, and tape it shut. The spinning platform for your carousel is done!

finished platformThe next step involves a paper plate, but I wanted to say a quick word about the plate before we get started. You’ll definitely need a sturdy paper plate with a deep well and sides that slant upwards. The cheaper, flatter paper are simply too floppy, especially when you need to attach the carousel animals later. So think sturdy! That said, punch 4 holes in a paper plate. When punching your holes, keep them close to the edge of the plate like so:

holes in plateHot glue a paper bowl to the top of the plate. You now have a canopy for your carousel!

canopyDecorate the canopy with colored masking tape and patterned tape (or just markers). If you cover your holes with tape while your decorating, don’t worry. Just re-punch the holes when you’re done.

decorated canopyCut a paper towel tube down to 8″ and wrap with patterned paper (or white printer paper). Don’t, however, wrap the paper all the way to the top and bottom of the tube. Leave a little bit of the tube exposed at both ends. This will make it much more sturdy when your hot glue the tube to the platform and the canopy of the carousel.

poleHot glue 2 mirror board ovals to the sides of the pole (these carousel “mirrors” are optional, but the kids really got a kick out of seeing themselves reflected in them). Now hot glue the tube to the center of the platform. Then hot glue the canopy to the top of the tube. Use lots of hot glue…you don’t want this coming apart later! Your carousel will now look like this:

finished canopy and platformTime to attach the carousel animals! I’ll use the horse as the example for the steps below. First, cut and color the horse from the template. You’ll notice that the horse has a tab extending from its top and bottom. Each tab has a circle on it, as well as a dotted line. Use a hole punch to punch out the circle, and fold each tab along the dotted line.

horse tabsThread a drinking straw through the holes, and add a piece of tape to the back of the animal to keep it from sliding down the straw.

horse on poleIf you get stuck using clear plastic drinking straws like I did (I had a bunch leftover from this Cinderella program) you can use colored masking tape to add stripes to it. Just make sure to leave the very top and the bottom of your straw tape free.

To attach the horse to the carousel, stick the top of the straw “pole” through a hole in the carousel’s canopy. The pole might stick up a little, but that’s totally OK.

top of poleNext, line the bottom of the pole up with the carousel’s platform. Punch a hole in the platform, right underneath the bottom of the pole.

punched hole bottomTo keep the pole from slipping downward, stick a piece of masking tape over the hole, but put the tape on the underside of the platform. Sorry about the awkward photo, but here you can see the underside of the platform, with 3 punched holes covered by pieces of red masking tape:

tape on platformNow drop the bottom of the pole into the platform hole. The pole will stick to the masking tape, but I highly recommend putting a little hot glue in the hole before you slide the pole in, just to keep it extra secure. You can also skip the hole punching and simply attach the bottom of the pole to the platform with masking tape.

Finally, cover the canopy hole with masking tape to make the pole nice and snug. Repeat the above steps with the remaining 3 carousel animals.

horse final tapingDecorate the carousel with metallic dot stickers, embossed foil seals, and foil star stickers (anything shiny really). Hot glue a jumbo pom-pom to the top of the canopy, and hot glue 2 large gemstones on the sides of the pom-pom. If you want to add a bit of ruffle to your carousel’s canopy, cut the rounded edges off 2 coffee filters, and hot glue (or glue stick) the filters to the underside of the paper plate canopy.

final touchesTo spin your carousel, hold the box base firmly in your hand, grab the platform, and turn! These turned out awesome, but if I was to do this project again, I would change 2 things: 1) I would cut all the carousel animals from the template in advance so there was more time to color and assemble the carousel; and 2) I would make the carousel animal templates double sided so they would look good from all angles. If you’d like to try doubled-sided animals, here is a reversed carousel animals template. Just slide the reversed image onto the corresponding pole, secure with tape, and you’re good to go!

Looking for a circus to go with the carousel? Take a look at this little big top! Or perhaps you’d like some delicious fairground refreshments?


The artwork for the carousel animals was inspired by Randy Cecil’s amazing, warm, and wonderful illustrations. You go Duck!