art with little ones

a guest post from Finn

Needing to pinch myself here, but I'm in a cabin alongside the serene Squam Lake in New Hampshire, attending the Taproot Gathering. The call of a loon echoes through the hushed woods, followed by laughter. My first class, the Herbal First Aid, begins in a few minutes.

During my creative retreat, I thought I would share some of Finn's most recent photographs with you. It's so eye opening to see what a four year-old can capture with the lens - things of interest to him, at his level. Quotes are from Finn.

See you back here next week with a full update and photos from Squam!

photo by Finn

"I took this picture of my shadow."

photo by Finn

"That's Lachlan. I took lots of pictures of him playing with rocks because he's always playing with rocks."

photo by Finn

"I found this cool spider."

photo by Finn

"That's my hammer for breaking rocks to look for dinosaur fossils."

photo by Finn

"That's Lachlan's face."

photo by Finn

"That's the Morning Glory on the porch."

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"I took a picture of the sun particles."


the evolution of a space

trying it on

our new studio

Here's our studio, as we call it, just after we moved in. It was one of the first spaces that I put together, knowing that Finn needed a space for independent play amidst the chaos of moving boxes and complete disaster in the rest of the house.

our new studio

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It's an odd room, this studio of ours, as it also serves as our primary entry/exit door. The room is essentially cut in two by an invisible hallway leading from our exterior door to the kitchen, the area with the bookshelves having a tile floor and the rest of the room being painted plywood (until we can afford the hardwood floor.)

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It has always housed books and art supplies (both the boys and mine), as well as the occasional basket of blocks and random stuff that seems to settle in this room we use so much.

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writing letters

writing center times two

This little table that I originally brought in to house my own art supplies was quickly comandeered by Finn, and I made it into his letter writing station.

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We've tried our cozy reading spot in various locations - looking for the best light, the best use of space.

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And here it is today. I moved in the big table from my sewing room to better serve my two artists (as well as myself.) Added the shelves, which house many art supplies that are now freely accessible to Finn. These include acrylic paints, scissors, oil pastels, various crayons, sequins, beads, saved bottle caps and juice tops, googly eyes, glitter glue, watercolor, papers of various sizes, paint brushes and containers, a low-heat hot glue gun, as well as a bunch of recycled materials that I keep in the wire basket under the table. All of his letter writing materials are accessible, too. Lachlan can access the paper, crayons and some washable markers - the rest are (intentionally) too high for him to reach just yet.

Yes, we do have a computer in the space - Finn, at almost four, does 30 minutes of Reading Eggs a day, does the occasional yoga video, and occasionally watches Mathtacular or a science video. If you're conflicted about screen time, I found this post written by Jaime Martin of Steady Mom very helpful in providing me the necessary prospective. Allowing Finn a bit of time on the computer during the weekdays allows me to spend some precious moments focused on Lachlan exclusively - something that's so rare! 

The big, braided rug (an ebay find) really improved the space - now they have a large area for play. I gathered baskets for housing dress up clothes, blocks, car tracks, and puppets. Those small bolga baskets that are hanging from tree branch hooks are homes for our legos, story stones, finger puppets, and felt animal masks. Smaller baskets on the shelf include various toob animals (these are great if you can't afford the more expensive wooden animals - they inspire play just as much!) and a basket for small cars. We also have a bigger basket on the floor for larger cars, as well as a piece of wood that they use to race the smaller cars.

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Finally, our snuggly reading nook is just where it needs to be - right by the bookshelves and the cozy bird watching window seat. 

This room is how I keep my two boys, now 2 and nearly 4, busily playing, both independently and together. I'm sure it won't stay this way forever, but it feels like a very sustainable set-up, able to accommodate children of various ages and interests. Right now it feels perfect for us.

I hope you enjoyed the tour!


giving thanks

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Inspired by the fat brush strokes in Giving Thanks, Finn sat down at his desk and started to work with a selection of brushes and paints. We chit chatted about colors, lines, and curves, then I walked away. An hour later, he presented his interpretation. Then he flashed that "I'm three so I never smile in a normal way when asked" smile. 

I'm awash with gratitude for all the little things this year. If I had known that this is the way it was going to turn out two years ago at this time, I would have saved myself those truck loads of worry. I'm still pretty amazed that I get to spend my days with two healthy and vibrant little boys.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving, friends! I'll be back here in a week.


Art Co-Op

Guest blogger Charlotte, here again!  I'm constantly inspired by Meg's beautiful art ideas for children, so today I thought I'd show you what my kids have been working on with their friends.

This girl isn't mine! It's our friend, Neela.

Two or three times a month, my kids plus three other families get together and do art projects.  There are thirteen children altogether and they begin participating around age 3.  Our oldest is 10.  They are all engaged with the work, though the younger kids skip the more formal lesson portion and join in during the messy parts. This week we did print making while studying the Impressionists, as shown above.  It was also a Gallery Day, where we display their work from the month.

The materials for this week's project weren't cheap, but since there were four families and not any more ink or brayers needed than for just one child, it ended up being fairly reasonable.  We typically trade off teaching and bringing materials, and it all seems to even out in the end.  We are using the Joyce Raimondo series of books, which have great projects that are grouped by type of art, such as Impressionism, Pop Art, and Surrealism.  Each week we do just one artist and two or three projects.  We typically supplement with a few library books about the artist as well, but the planning itself is not difficult.  

Although we use these books in a group setting, they are great for family projects at home too.  Some of them only require paper and crayons or materials from the recycle bin.  

What art books for children do you enjoy most?


our art porch

Thank you, thank you. For the little break from this space that I needed, for your words of wisdom, for your notes of solidarity and encouragement. I have come through the awkward transition phase, which found me working double time on both my business and my home environment to get all the eggs in line, so to speak. Now? Now I am living right now. Up at 5:30 a.m. in order to get a shower and a blog post in before the three boys amble in with sleepy eyes. A small and gracious to-do list written out last night. A few art projects in my head, a plan to have the boys explore with magnets after Lachlan's nap, the brown rice to put on the stove this afternoon, a reminder to get the black beans out of the freezer after lunch. Just hanging out in the now-ness of it all. 

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Yesterday afternoon, Lachlan and I found ourselves together, just the two of us, as Finn took a rare nap upstairs. As is his tendency, Lachlan found his way to the front porch, a few books in hand. We read for a good, long time, then we decided it would be fun to take you on a tour of our "Art Porch."DSC_7034

Hop along, will you? Lachlan wants to start by showing you all of the things with wheels. He also implores you to help him "ride tike" (ride the trike - too big for him just yet!)

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While you're at it, he's wondering if you could give him a push, please?

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An appropriate Nikki McClure print and an even more important Lachlan masterpiece are on the walls next to an old coat rack that I shortened to kid-size. It holds our rain gear.

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We had fun making our melted wax bunting together.

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On one end, we have a hammock chair and on the other end (of our rather long porch) we have this child-sized picnic bench that was handmade by a friend of Finn's Waldorf nursery teacher. It's our art table.

The paper lantern was painted by the boys several months back, then covered in a protective layer of Mod Podge. It's survived several afternoon storms thus far without getting soaked and moldy. We'll see how long that lasts - it's a bit of an experiment.

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There are a few blocks in one of Maya's buckets (you can find the pattern plus many more mouth-watering ideas in her book, Reinvention.) 

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A bit more about our crayon wax bunting - I found it via the Artful Parent. What an easy and beautiful piece of functional children's art! I wish I had another porch to decorate. I'm sure this won't be the end of our crayon shaving art projects, though.

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Thanks for stopping by! 

And so my day begins, with an urgent statement: Mama. Diaper. Pee pee. Got it, little man. I'm on it.


fun was had

the fun we have

Before I left for Denver, I found myself with a bit of senior-itis when it came to my sewing course. You know, I had to pack, attend to small details, etc., but all I could do when I sat down in front of the computer was search for sensorial play ideas for the boys. 

And oh, my. The 'nets are chock-full of fantastic "activities," as we call them in our house. 

the fun we have

First up is shaving cream and ice paint from Growing a Jeweled Rose. Total hit. 

the fun we have

Lachlan had the idea of covering his hair in shaving cream. Finn and his friend thought this was the greatest idea ever. Somehow, we avoided shaving cream in the eyes, which was fortunate. 

the fun we have

What I like about Growing a Jeweled Rose is that Crystal has so many innovative ideas of her own, but she aslo posts thematic round-ups from around the web, which is very helpful for planning activities for children of different ages and interests. 

the fun we have

She does not shy away from messy play, and has great ideas for containing it in a bath. She calls them sensory baths

This was our first time trying a "special bath," as Finn now calls them. Both boys were awestruck with the glow bath I put together for them. 

the fun we have

the fun we have

the fun we have

I'm pretty sure if Lachlan's cardiologist saw this picture, he would be concerned! Black light + camera at work. Speaking of Lachlan's heart, I forgot to mention that, at his last quarterly check-up, he was looking so great that his cardiologist gave him a six-month pass! No hospital for six months! Way to go, Lachlan. His heart function is excellent.

I hope you all have a great weekend, and that you have the time to do something crazy fun. We are heading back to the beach (can't stay away!) for an impromptu, two-night camping trip to celebrate Patrick's birthday. 

Happy weekending, friends!


glitter soup

the fun we have

the fun we have

the fun we have

There comes a moment in the day when the energy slows.  A warm, cut-grass-sticking-to-your-feet moment, when you are without a thing to do other than lay around with a popsicle. In this moment, Finn and Lachlan could either melt or seize the day. It was time to get out the water play.

the fun we have

the fun we have

the fun we have

the fun we have

I just gathered some things I had around the house, including glitter, liquid watercolors, and ground turmeric, and filled the tub. I lounged next to the cat, hands behind my head, while they played in peace for over an hour. I could have fallen asleep were it not for the passing thought that a cup-full of green glitter soup could be poured over my head.

the fun we have

the fun we have

the fun we have

the fun we have

the fun we have

the fun we have

Oh, it was good. They're making soup again as I write these words. 

I will miss these little boys as I jet off to Denver for several days of filming starting tomorrow. I've never "left" before. Finn has traveled for a few days with his Dad, leaving me at home with Lachlan, but I've never NOT put a little boy to sleep in the last more-than-three years. Sigh. I already can't wait to be home! I'll let you know how it goes, from the filming to the uninterrupted nights of sleep!

Be well, friends.


taming the art supply dragon

Organizing art projects and their requisite supplies can be a daunting task. I know. Check out our art closet a few months after we moved into our house. 

the art closet

It stayed like this for a while, just out of complete mama overwhelm. Finally, I dug in. It took me weeks to sort through all of my supplies from my teacher days, the art supplies themselves, and all of the other learning materials that I've collected here and there in anticipation of our future homeschooling days.

the art closet

I did it during naps (when both boys were still napping - now I can only count on one!) and late at night. This is how it looks now; it's actually the second iteration of the closet. The first time around I tried to keep all of our learning materials - art, language, science, math, etc. in here. It was too much. It didn't make for easy navigating. I find that one thing is essential for me in organizing art supplies (or anything for that matter) - I must be able to see things in order to know they are there and put them to use. Placing things in a bin doesn't really work for me, unless the items fit nicely into one category (i.e. paper)and can be labeled accordingly.

the art closet

I'll admit that, for a while, this art supply organization wasn't at the top of my mama priority list. I was biting my nails just a little bit, fretting that my two year-old just wasn't that passionate about art. What did I do wrong??? I would ask myself, art projects being a HUGE part of my own memories of growing up. 

Not to worry. The art project bug hit Finn fast and furious several months ago, and he hasn't stopped since. I even had to put a latch on the top of this closet in order to keep him from entering of his own accord and pulling out material after material, wanting to use everything at once.

I thought I'd give you a little tour of what's inside, for those of you who are at the beginning of your journey into making art with your little one.

the art closet

I store all of our writing and drawing tools (markers, crayons, glitter pens, colored pencils, etc.) in large freezer bags inside of these two clear plastic bins. I really like this way of doing things - it keeps all of the sets together and visible, and is easy to grab something for a specific project. 

the art closet

Here I keep corn syrup, glycerine, gelatin, cream of tartar and food coloring for making play doughs and paints. All of the different kinds of tapes and the glue sticks are here, too. Don't forget the contact paper!

the art closet

Here are most of the paints and painting accessories - watercolors, temperas, foam paints, fingerpaints and paintbrushes, q-tips, sponges, scrapers, pipettes, bingo bottles, and watercolor spray bottles.

the art closet

Below are some of the collage supplies, stored in glass jars for easy visibility. 

the art closet

the art closet

Finally, here's a list of recommended art supplies for the creative family. I'm sure I'll leave some things out, so feel free to leave a comment with your can't-do-without art supply!

Found and collected

  • egg cartons
  • cardboard scraps
  • leaves, seeds, acorns, and small sticks
  • newspaper
  • jar lids for holding paint
  • stamps
  • buttons
  • old sponges
  • magazines
  • small dishes
  • fabric scraps
  • ribbons
  • toilet paper rolls
  • paper
  • little bits of anything for collage
  • sand

Basic supplies

  • masking tape, scotch tape, double-sided tape, clear packing tape
  • glue and glue sticks
  • paper - construction paper, tissue paper, newsprint, tracing paper, blotting paper, large kraft paper (find at home supply store), watercolor paper, easel paper, sand paper
  • drawing tools - markers, sidewalk chalk, crayons, fine-tipped pens, window crayons, beeswax crayons, Crayola Twistables (great bright marks!), glitter pens
  • glitter
  • trays for doing activities with glitter or paint
  • paint - finger paint, dot art paint, liquid watercolors, foam paint, washable tempera, Stockmar watercolors, homemade paint
  • scissors, basic as well as the fancy ones that cut different designs

Other fun things

  • acrylic mirros
  • clothespins
  • mod podge
  • hole punches
  • beads
  • pipe cleaners
  • sequins
  • popsicle sticks
  • wooden shapes
  • straws
  • beeswax for making candles
  • felt
  • googly eyes
  • contact paper
  • spin art
  • glue gun
  • q-tips
  • cotton balls
  • stamps and stamp pads
  • plaster
  • clay
  • feathers

I do most of my art supply shopping at Discount School Supply and Montessori Services, and I've been very happy with both. I'm also lucky to live near the Scrap Exchange - a great creative reuse store where I can often find lots of random supplies for very little money. 

I also want to mention the overwhelming feeling of too-many-ideas-and-too-little-time that can come from trying to plan all sorts of art activities using the internet resources at our fingertips. Sure, pinterest is great, but where to start?! I've found that I do more art with my boys if I can focus my "idea acquisition" on one or two sites and one or two books. Here's where I go, time and again, for ideas and inspiration:

The Artful Parent

Scribble Art: Independent Creative Art Experiences for Children by MaryAnn F. Kohl

First Art : Art Experiences for Toddlers and Twos by MaryAnn F. Kohl.

How do you keep your art projects organized and inspired?


collaborative painting

easel painting

easel painting

easel painting

easel painting

easel painting

easel painting

easel painting

Sometimes it works out perfectly, when one wants to be doing what the other one is doing. Sometimes it doesn't, but this time? Yes. I will choose to remember this.

P.S. - We have a handful of patterns on clearance - under $5 - over at my pattern shop. We need to make room in our tiny warehouse for all of the new designs I'm working on now! As always, thanks so much for supporting our family.


doodle tee

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I almost forgot to show you Finn's handmade birthday gift for Lachlan! I know you would have seen the shirt in photos eventually, and you would have wondered what the deal was with that crazy shirt, so I think an official show-and-tell is called for.

We used a basic white onesie and Finn drew all over it with fabric markers. I did need to hold the fabric taut while he drew to prevent it from stretching and bunching under the pressure of the marker. It turned out to be an activity well-suited for a two year-old. I think it's one of those gift projects that's perfect for all ages and all occasions - Mother's Day, Father's Day, sibling's and friend's birthdays, etc. I'm sure we'll do it again one of these days.