Watercolor and Painter’s Tape

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Whether you’re using tape resist painting for holiday projects or just any old day of the week, there’s always a ‘wow’ factor to this painting method. It’s a favorite for my toddler and big kid both!

For toddlers, simply encourage them to lay down strips of painter’s tape any which way on thick watercolor paper. I helped Veronika makes lots of crisscross shapes. You could also experiment with making deliberate shapes, like squares or triangles, if desired.

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Travis wanted to see if he could make a favorite Lego character show up in tape form, which was admittedly harder to do. I taped out a rough outline, leaving empty space for the watercolor to show through.

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Time for watercolors! I loved watching brother and sister work side by side for this one.

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Travis loved choosing the right colors for his character. Veronika sometimes painted on her paper…

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…and sometimes preferred mixing the watercolors right in the tray. I loved seeing her artistic exploration.

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Once the pages were covered, we set them aside to dry. Then it was time for the big reveal!

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Butterfly Art

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You and your toddler can make one of these beautiful paper towel butterflies, or a whole bunch of them to hang on walls or windows. Younger toddlers will probably need to use a paintbrush, but consider using an eye dropper with older toddlers; it’s a great tool to hone fine motor skills.

To start, I set a piece of paper towel down on a craft tray, along with watercolor paints and a cup of water.

Then I showed Veronika how to dip the brush in the water, into the watercolor, and finally onto the paper towel to decorate her butterfly. “Dot dot dot!”

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I also wanted Veronika to practice with the eye dropper variation, but didn’t want to use liquid watercolors because they can stain. Instead, I mixed some of the watercolor paint with a little water in a cup so Veronika could practice dipping and squeezing that way.

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It was the first time she mastered the art of squeezing to release water from the dropper. She loved watching the color come out!

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Then she proved that she still loves to be impish, and upended the cup of water all over the paper towel. That made for one very wet butterfly!

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Luckily I knew it would dry eventually.

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As the finishing touch, fold the paper towel in half, then gather up in the center and wrap a pipe cleaner around the middle; bend the extra pipe cleaner on top into antennae. Our butterfly looked so pretty fluttering about the kitchen!


Monster and Creature Straw Paintings

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Travis recently learned to make blobs of watercolor paints turn into art with nothing more than a straw, thanks to Kiwi Crate! He loved the activity so much that today we did a repeat, this time creating a set of silly monsters.

Travis chose three colors of liquid watercolor for the first piece of paper, and we dripped on a nice blob of each. Then he proudly blew through a straw.

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He loves that he can do this now, scattering the paint with no fear of inhaling it, which wasn’t the case at first.

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We soon had crazy wobbly waving shapes.

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We examined them carefully to see what monsters we could identify! Travis loved pointing out antennae, six-legged fiends, holes for their eyes and more.

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Of course we needed to repeat with a new set of colors. “I want to make lots!” Travis declared.

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For the final piece of paper, he combined two colors (blue and black) in one big blob in the center and huffed out a giant monster with his straw.

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Let the paint dry completely.

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Once dry, we could add details. I suggested gluing down wiggle eyes, but Travis preferred to add embellishments with a marker, including giant cyclops eyes.

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And fire for this one, that reminded us of a dragon!

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All in all, this was frightfully good fun.

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Watercolor for Toddlers

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It may seem like a recipe for disaster, but don’t be afraid to use a washable watercolor with even the youngest toddlers (just save the liquid watercolors for bigger kids!). Today it was Veronika’s turn to experiment with this medium.

In all honesty, she was an imp about the whole craft. Much more so than pressing the brush to paper, she liked to squeeze the brush…

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…paint on her hands…

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…dip in her fingers…

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…and even lift the bristles to her mouth with a cackle one time.

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To excite her about setting the brush to page, I drew a simple picture with crayon and then showed her how to paint over it. Kids will love the way the color runs off the wax instead of adhering, leaving pretty pockets of color.

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For extra fun, we moved the art to a bigger canvas. First, I laid Veronika down on a large sheet of craft paper and traced her. This got giggles!

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The idea is to let your little one fill in “self-portrait” features with the watercolor. Obviously at 15 months old, Veronika had only a rudimentary understanding of what we were doing, but I showed her how to paint on pants and a shirt, and a few cartoonish facial features.

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Really she just loved exploring the medium, dipping the brush in the water, watching how it could swirl the colors from dry to wet, and testing it with her fingers.

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In conclusion, Veronika was a bit too young for this first foray into watercolor, but I did enjoy introducing it; you have to start somewhere! I would definitely repeat this activity when she’s older, especially the self-portrait part, which older toddlers can tackle with greater care.

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Travis is learning to depict objects in his drawings as they are; by this I certainly don’t mean exact replicas, but rather, he’s paying attention to shapes, sizes, and other elements that make up an animal or person instead of just scribbling. I love seeing the little bubble people he sends home from school with stick arms and legs, reminiscent of my own kindergarten drawings!

So today, we decided to make a deliberate self-portrait.

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To make this exciting and new, I produced a handheld mirror, and asked him to really think about each thing we added to the picture before penciling it in. What shape was his face, I asked. A circle! So we started with a big one.

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We went feature by feature, and soon had circles for eyes, a triangle for his nose, and a U-shaped mouth.

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Once he had finished his pencil drawing, I outlined it in black sharpie to make each feature clearer. He loved seeing the picture take shape like this!

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To color it in, we had another novelty: watercolor paintbrushes that he loved. Simply dip the tip in water, and the color comes out of the brush. You could also use watercolor crayons or pastels, for this project.

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Travis very proudly added brown hair and brown eyes. He noticed in the mirror that his nose was beige, but decided yellow was the closest color in our pack.

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And a big red smile of course!

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I was so proud watching the care that he put into this project. And the watercolor paintbrushes were such a hit that he spent nearly an hour after making painting after painting, and hung them on our wall as an art gallery.

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In other words, this project was a huge success.

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Watercolor Resist Painting

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Our recent Cityscape crate from Koala Crate reminded me of the beauty of resist painting, which we haven’t done in quite some time. That was the inspiration for this beautiful ocean-themed project!

No need to have strong artistic skills; I printed a template for our sea creatures and traced each one onto contact paper.

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Cut out and attach each animal to a piece of watercolor paper.

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We talked about ocean colors as we added watercolors, which had Travis proudly concentrating on blues, purples, and greens.

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It was an interesting lesson that the watercolor wouldn’t spread across the plastic surface of the contact paper!

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If your child tires of painting before the entire paper is covered, that’s fine; just be sure the watercolors reach all the edges of the animal shape.

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Let dry, then peel off for the big reveal. Wow!

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Colors Crate

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I was surprised when a color-themed crate arrived from Koala Crate this month. Colors seem so basic compared to other topics our subscription has covered, more like something we’d receive toward the beginning. Happily, we found that the activities and crafts inside were surprisingly complex and engaging. The booklet also felt especially interactive this month, including a color-by-shape page, seek-and-finds, and more.

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First up was the Color Scavenger Hunt, using colored cellophane squares in all shades of the rainbow and a set of dice.

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Roll one for color and one for the number of objects, then hunt for items around the house. Travis loved this little challenge!

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The squares can be used for multiple purposes when your hunt is done. Roll a color and then think of something in that hue. Here’s Travis drawing a few items he thought of, like lettuce and carrots.

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You can also hold the colored squares in front of familiar objects around the house and see how the colors shift, as with this apple.

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Next we made the Watercolor Banner, which kids decorate first in crayon and then in watercolor (all materials provided in the kit).

We talked about things we see with lots of colors, which soon had Travis drawing nature scenes (flowers, a swamp) on his flags. I added a flag with rainbows and one with stripes.

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Next, use the provided watercolors to paint over the crayons (a neat lesson in “resist” painting techniques).

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Let dry before threading onto the provided rope, then find a spot to hang your banner. Travis opted for the old nursery!


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Before you put away the watercolors, have some additional mixing fun. We started with the primary colors (dip your brush in the color, then in a cup of clear water), and I asked Travis what shade he’d like to make. Oh no – he requested white! The only one we couldn’t make. But we mixed up the secondary colors first, and then discovering how to make brown was a big hit.

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The third craft, a Colorful Luminary, was a hit – and excellent for fine motor skills. Fit the provided tea light into the provided foam base, and add thin craft sticks in a circle around it.

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Now add colored beads to each stick. I asked Travis if he wanted to do all one color per stick or arrange them in a pattern, but this was a bit advanced and he preferred randomly threading them onto the sticks.

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Cap each stick with another foam piece to seal the beads in place.

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Find a dark spot, and set the tea light ablaze. Beautiful! We talked about the ways the colors changed when the light was lit versus unlit.

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Before we put away the fun, we repeated an old activity, Dyed Flowers, made by dying white carnations with food coloring. This is a great way not only for kids to see fun colors, but also to witness how liquids travel up a plant’s stem. Fill test tubes or small cups with water, and add food coloring to each. Place a white carnation in each tube, and let sit overnight.

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You’ll have a lovely (though faint) color in each flower by morning. Our red worked best.

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In sum, lots of great activities here, including for kids who learned their colors ages ago.


“Watercolor” Art

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We revisited two old art ideas today – both of them imitating watercolor painting without use of actual watercolors! – when Travis stumbled across something by accident. We were playing with his magnet set in water (yes, magnets work in water!) and he decided he wanted to dip his markers in as well.

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I pulled out watercolor paper for him, and he loved the way that the wet marker tips looked smeary on the paper – just like watercolor paints. This was an activity I first did with him as a two year old – so long ago this blog didn’t exist! Quite fun to revisit with him at an older age.

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It reminded me of a time we turned regular paint into something closer to “watercolors.” This was back in the fall, so our final product was Halloween “monsters”. This time we chose pretty spring pastels.

Mix your tempera paint with a little water, and you have a nice thin consistency that will work for this project.

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Place a straw in each color; put your finger on top of the straw to create a vacuum, then drip onto watercolor paper.

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Blow into the straw (make sure your children are old enough to blow out, not suck in!), and the paint will spread in beautiful patterns all over the paper.

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Travis tired of the straw quickly, but loved telling me which color to put where until we had a beautiful spring picture.

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We decided it looked like the tulips we’d seen in the park that day!

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Ocean Crate

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I was a tad dismayed when I saw we’d received the Ocean crate from Koala Crate this month, only because we just finished up an ocean-themed set from Little Passports and I didn’t want Travis to have Ocean fatigue. I needn’t have worried however, because we opened it up and immediately spotted a spray bottle inside. Say no more, Travis was hooked! It was quite clever of Koala to make use of water as a component of two out of three projects, in this crate about a watery world.

First up was making watercolor fish. The fish shapes were pre-cut on filter paper, but you could also try this at home by tracing a fish shape onto coffee filters and then cutting out. We colored our fish with the provided markers; a little trial and error showed that the more filled in the fish is, the better this craft works.

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Travis scribbled, and I included a few fish with polka dots and stripes.

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Then comes the real fun: Place your fish on a paper towel, and spritz away!

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The marker colors will bleed together for a pretty result. Incidentally, we loved the gorgeous marker effect left behind on the paper towels, too:

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The moment we laid our paper fish on a final piece of paper towel to dry, Travis asked politely, “Can I go spritz the bathroom tile?” Permission granted! I was really pleased with Koala Crate for having included an item that sparked Travis’s joy and entertainment beyond the craft itself. We also appreciated that the markers will last us for quite some time.

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When I could momentarily capture his attention again, we finished our watercolor fish with googly eyes.

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He was almost incredulous when I said there was another project in the crate involving the spritz bottle. This was a foam puzzle that featured 6 animal shapes to pop out, which then fit back together in an intricate design.

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I thought he’d be so excited for the spritzing part that he’d poo-poo the puzzle, but he took pride in following along on the provided diagram and fitting the shapes together.

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(For older kids, consider not looking at the diagram, for an extra challenge!).

Then we raced to the bathroom for the real fun and spritzed all of the foam pieces. Neat, they stick!

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He had so much fun spritzing them that I simply placed a towel underneath to catch all the water and let him enjoy. Even the foam frame sticks – target practice!

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There was neat science behind this, too, as he needed to understand that water droplets were required if he wanted the foam to adhere to the tile. I couldn’t resist catching the moment on video:

If you can tear your child away from the tub, you can also take those foam pieces and trace them onto additional pieces of filter paper (provided in the crate), to make more watercolor sea creatures.

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At this point Travis was so into the spritzing that our paper got soggy and tore apart in an instant. Ah well!

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The final game was to use our watercolor fish and go “fishing.” I’m still not quite sure yet how I feel about childhood fishing games, but since Travis hasn’t really understood the concept yet, for now we play… The kit came with a glue dropper that was just right for little hands, and blue cardstock to glue the fish onto (I guess intended to depict water). After gluing our fish to both sides of the blue cards and gluing together our fishing rod, we took turns trying to hook the fish cards.

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Even without the added challenge of a string between rod and hook, Travis found it tough. We really have yet to find a fishing game with a mechanism that’s fun, instead of frustrating.

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For an additional craft, we tried out the kit’s suggestion of a Sock-topus – a D.I.Y. octopus made from an old sock!

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I didn’t have any proper roving or stuffing in the house, but we pulled cotton balls apart until they were slightly separated and that worked just fine.

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Secure the head with an elastic band, then cut the bottom of the sock until you have eight tentacles.

Somehow we ended up with a miscounted sept-opus, which Travis thought was just about the funniest thing ever.

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Glue on goggly eyes as the final touch.

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Thanks for the watery fun, Koala Crate!

Rainy Day Art Picnic

Rainy Picnic (7)Our thoughts have been with those in parts of the world and the country ravaged by hurricanes this month. We’re incredibly thankful that Tropical Storm Jose was only a mild disturbance in our neck of the woods, and highly cognizant of others who were far less fortunate…

The only real inconvenience from our rainy windy day was that we needed to find amusement indoors, and this beautiful “picnic” spread helped make a drizzly afternoon magical.

Rainy Picnic (1)While Travis was napping, I prepared the picnic – a blanket on our living room floor, along with art supplies and index cards on which to produce preschool-sized masterpieces.

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Don’t forget the picnic fare! We had chips, peanut butter crackers and olives. Little tea sandwiches would be adorable, too.

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When Travis woke up and saw the picnic, he ran right to it. Watercolors were a big hit.

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He told me this one was a painting of our cat, with a body, tail, and whiskers – definitely the closest I’ve seen him come to realism.

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Don’t forget to snack in between producing your works of art, of course.

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We left all our artwork to dry, after which we could stand back and enjoy our neat little art gallery. A vivid display on this gray day!

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