Archives for the month of: November, 2012


Ingredients: string, PVA glue, strong card, scissors, paints and brushes, brown paper / newspaper, tissue paper

The Big Sell: Did you know Santa’s elves have to design & print their own wrapping paper? Lets give them a hand!

Strategy: Simple printmaking idea which is perfect as a Christmas activity. Simply glue string in the pattern of your choice (heart, gift, tree, star, etc..) onto squares of hard cardboard with PVA glue to make your stamp.Then cover in a layer of tissue paper and leave a while.
Once dry, ink up with sticky paint and print merrily away (with Jingle Bells accompaniment if you wish!) on reams of brown paper or news print. Hang up to dry on washing line.

Verdict: A very pleasing, economic and therapeutic way to create beautiful personalised wrapping paper or cards. Kids tend to like stamps as much as stickers, which helps, and relatives will love the personal touch. You could even make individual letter stamps to label everyone’s presents with their own initials.

Catchphrase: ‘let’s gets a factory line going like inside Santa’s workshop!’

Left wanting more?
You could always make a secret Santa stamp to decorate those extra special gifts that arrive down the chimney (just make sure you hide the stamp away!)


Ingredients:  A roll of wallpaper; pens / paints / crayons etc…

The Big Sell: Let’s make a Secret Hideout door!

Strategy:  It’s been growing on me for a while how useful it is to have a roll of wallpaper in your art tool kit. I often see them in charity shops for pennies, because they have old patterns that no one wants, and they are such incredible good value for money. A cheap roll of thick high quality paper is priceless and very versatile. Here are some of the many uses:

1)      For Halloween we drew around my son’s body outline, coloured him in as Dracula in a coffin and pinned it to his bedroom door.

2)     In group work with children or young people, create a Wallpaper Walk evaluation by noting down the reflections of student each week as they undertake a project, then rolling it out to re-step the journey for group discussion at the end.

3)     For younger children, draw out a road or railway and let it roll down a hallway or garden path for them to play on with toy cars.

4)     Or roll it out with markings / puzzles leading to hidden treasure (they must work out clues along the way).

5)     Use it for large scale print-making – use foam stamps, potato stamps, broccoli stamps (!) anything that takes your fancy.

6)     Bring it out for birthday parties for a group doodling session. Can they work as a team to draw the most colourful multi-layered birthday cake ever?

7)     Easy peasy set design – pin it to a wall and devise the background set of a play written by your children to perform for everyone.

8)     Or my son’s choice this week (as he had watched the hilarious Young Frankenstein for the first time and was hankering after a secret bookcase revolving doorway) was to draw the image of a boarded-up room with ‘Caution’ and ‘Keep out’ signs and then pin it to their play room door so that only those who know the password are allowed entry!

The verdict:

Arts materials with BIG impact are always popular. A long roll of wallpaper carries an inherent property of unknown possibility which is a firelighter for the imagination.

Catchphrase: Rolling, rolling, rolling… keep those ideas rolling!

Left wanting more?

  • If your children love The Wizard of Oz, why not make your wallpaper roll into the yellow brick road to add value to their play?
  • Glue string lines down the length of the wallpaper to make tracks and create a marble race game.
  • Create a landscape to feature your child’s latest lego creations.

A quick update blog – a few weeks back I blogged about Autumn arts play and the importance of bringing the outdoors into our creative play with children. I mentioned how the National Trust in the UK are working hard to address the problem of growing Nature Deficit Disorder in our children. Well, now a film is being made about this very issue and they need donations to make it happen. Watch this video and if it’s something you feel passionate about like me, make sure you pledge your support to make it happen!


Ingredients: photocopied drawings of food stuffs; joining words such as ‘mix’, ‘bake’, ‘wash’ (optional); backing paper; glue and pens

The Big Sell: Let’s make our own recipe… Then cook it!

Strategy: Here’s a simple, open arts activity that can introduce a 3+ year old to several arts skills at once, in addition to an adventurous approach for fussy eaters.

1) Introduce your child to the concept of a ‘recipe’ by showing them your own cookery books at home or letting them watch you cook.
2) Create some simple labelled drawings of food stuffs, photocopy and cut out (or let your child cut out to improve their scissor skills)
3) Invite them to glue these down in any order they like on their paper, colour and add joining words (optional) to their recipe
4) Of course, the best way to complete this learning cycle is then to work with the child to produce their meal for real. This may be tricky if they’ve chosen to make apple and onion cookies (!) but gives you a chance to educate them in which flavours complement each other. You can refine their recipe choices as you go along… This herb smells nice with that vegetable, shall we try adding it?

Verdict: Some children, perhaps those who are less artistically fluid and prefer a more structured, systemic approach to learning like my 3-year old (potentially those who have a tendency towards fussy eating too), will enjoy this ordered but empowering activity. It introduces them to the adult world of cookery and encourages them to make autonomous choices about food, whilst refining the fine motor skills involved in cutting, sticking and colouring. And if they learn to love food while experiencing the satisfaction of home-cooking, even better!

Catchphrase: ‘Ooh, chocolate potato mash, what an interesting idea!!’

Left wanting more?:
) Leave the photocopied food stuffs out in a small bowl on the table with accessible paper, glue and pens and see if they return to it at a later date. If you are in the middle of a particularly stressful meal time, invite the child to take some time out to show you a different recipe of something they would like to eat. Draw the proportions of fruit, protein, dairy etc… they need to stay healthy on a paper plate and ask them to fill in each section with their own choices.
2) My son’s pre-school set up a brilliant food activity recently. They put a series of toy tills and scales along tables with real bowls of onions, apples and potatoes so the children could play at weighing, buying and selling while handling real produce.
3) I haven’t tried this one yet, but I’d like to try making a ‘smelly painting’. Use food stuffs to rub different smells onto areas of paper, these may be colourless or leave a stain. Experiment with navigating the painting with eyes closed or open… Could the smells lead to ideas for new recipes? (Heston Blumenthall, eat your heart out!)