By Cathy Abraham

By Cathy Abraham
“All young children are
great artists. The
importance of their art
is in the act of creating
with confidence and in
using their
imaginations. It is our
sacred trust not to take
away this gift from our
children, but to
encourage and nurture
it at every opportunity.”
~ Susan Striker
Art Recipes
Non-Hardening No Cook
2 cups self-rising flour
1 T. Alum
2 T. Salt
2 T. cooking oil
1 cup plus 2 T. boiling water
Mix and knead. (Due to
boiling water, cannot be made
with the children)
Dry Salt Paint
1 cup salt
½ tsp food coloring
Spread in pan to dry. Put in
shakers. Shake onto paper
brushed with glue.
Cooked Playdough
1 cup flour
½ cup salt
1 cup water
1 T. vegetable oil
1 tsp cream of tartar
Heat until ingredients form a
ball. Add food coloring.
Finger Paint
1 cup elastic dry starch
1 cup cold water
3 cups boiling water
1 cup Ivory Snow Flakes
oil of cloves (few drops)
vegetable coloring
Dissolve elastic starch in cold
water. Smooth lumps and add
boiling water. Stir constantly.
Thicken but do not boil more
than 1 minute. Add rest of
ingredients. Use on glazed
paper or wrapping paper.
Soap Bubbles
1 cup water
2 T. liquid detergent
1 T. glycerin
½ tsp. Sugar
Mix all ingredients. Use
bubble wands to blow
Sawdust Modeling
4 cups sawdust
1 cup wheat paste
2 ½ cups water.
Mix. Add color.
Easy Playdough
2 cups flour
1 cup salt
tempera paint
Mix flour, salt and paint
with enough water to make
the correct consistency.
Sally’s Playdough Recipe
1 cup flour
1 cup water
1 T. oil
1 T. alum
½ cup salt
2 T. vanilla
food coloring
Mix all dry ingredients.
Add oil and water. Cook
over medium heat, stirring
constantly until it reaches
the consistency of mashed
potatoes. Remove from
heat, add vanilla and color.
Divide into balls and knead
in color.
½ cup flour
½ cup water
Clean Mud
4 rolls of toilet paper (torn)
3 bars Ivory Soap (shaved)
1 gallon warm water
½ tsp. bleach
large tub
Place torn toilet paper in
tub. Add grated soap. Add
warm water. Mix and
knead.Add water when dry.
Mix equal parts white glue
to liquid starch. (Gak has
the texture and consistency
of Silly Putty)
½ cup cornstarch
¼ cup water
food coloring
Mix in media table. Let
children explore texture – it
is wet, but feels dry to the
Puffy Paint
Mix equal parts of flour,
salt, water, liquid tempera
(for color). Put in squeeze
container. Use on heavy
Scribble Cookies
Put old stubby crayons in
muffin tins (lined with
cupcake papers) Place in
warm oven. Let melt. Pop
out of paper when cool.
Pixie Dust
Mix together. Sprinkle!
Sparkly Salt Paint
2 cups salt
½ cup liquid starch
1 cup water
tempera paint or food color
Potters Clay
½ cup flour
½ cup cornstarch
1 cup salt
3 ½ cups boiling water
Thoroughly mix liquid
starch, salt, and water.
Slowly add food coloring
or tempera powder. Use as
paint. Pictures will sparkle
when the salt paint dries.
Dissolve salt in boiling
water. Add cornstarch,
mix, cook until clear.
Cool overnight. Add 6-8
additional cups flour
until not sticky.
Dry Sand Paint
½ cup sand (washed, dried)
1 T. powdered paint
Soapsuds Clay
¾ cup soap powder
1 T. warm water
Mix. Put into a shaker
Shake onto glue on paper
Mix well.
Face Paint
2 T. cold cream
½ tsp glycerin
1 T. cornstarch
1 tsp dry tempera paint
Modeling Goop
2 cups salt
1 cup water
1 cup cornstarch
Cook salt and ½ cup
water 5 min. Add rest,
cook until thickens
Colored Glue
Mix food coloring, tempera or
glitter into glue bottles.
Cloud Dough
1 cup salad oil
6 cups flour
1 cup water
food coloring or tempera
Use just enough water to bind
mixture. Knead. Cloud
dough is soft, pliable and oily,
but provides an unusual tactile
Oatmeal Dough
1 cup flour
2 cups oatmeal
1 cup water
food coloring or tempera
Mix flour and oatmeal, then
add water gradually.
Cornmeal may be added in
place of oatmeal to vary the
Sidewalk Chalk
‘Plaster of Paris’
Tempera (for color)
Mix. Pour into cupcake papers
Pop out when dry.
Baked Salt Dough
2 cups flour
1 cup salt
Enough water to make a
dough-like mixture.
Flat objects can be baked at
300*F. for 1 hour. Paper
clips in back before baking
will serve as a hanger.
Paint designs after baking.
Hard-drying Clay
2 cups Baking Soda
1 cup cornstarch
1 ¼ cup water
Mix cornstarch and baking
soda. Add water. Blend
thoroughly, then bring to a
boil stirring constantly.
At consistency of mashed
potatoes, cool. Sculptures
dry in 36 hours.
Store ‘doughs’ in
airtight plastic bags
or containers.
Children are to wash
hands prior to use of
shared group
Safety is paramount
in cooking with
Growth and Learning through
Manipulative Art Materials
(doughs, clays and squeezables)
Emotional Development
Feelings of success and competency
Sense of control
Calming and soothing
Stress reducing/ self behavior modifier
Outlet for feelings
Tension reliving
Social Development
Seen in all stages of play:
Promotes sharing
Builds social language
Social ‘icebreaker’
Cognitive Development
Cause & effect
Part/whole relationships
Special relationships
Language development
Physical Development
Lg and small muscle develop.
Finger dexterity
Pincher grip (pre-writing)
Eye-hand coordination
Establishment of handedness
Muscle strength
Creative Development
Creative expression/exploration
Mallable/ changeable
Development of imagination
Guidelines for Open-ended Art
Never alter or ‘fix’ a child’s work
Provide a wide variety of interesting materials and choices
Add new materials weekly, incorporating your theme if possible
Never tell a child what to create
Emphasize the process, not the end product
Don’t ask “What is it?”; Say “Tell me about it”
Ask the child if and where he/she would like his name put
Let children explore materials
Let children come up with their own ideas and use materials
Provide materials for 3-D and on-going artwork projects
Encourage, do not force participation
Do not do models or samples for the children
Throw away any colorbooks or dittos in the room
All materials should be at the children’s level, and accessible
Playdough and the art easel should be open the majority of each day
Encourage children to express feelings and personal experiences
through art
Display art in a variety of ways – it should not all ‘match’
Talk about texture, color, smell, shape, etc and the experience
Let the children be as independent as possible, and encourage selfhelp skills and responsibility in cleaning up art
Educate parents as to the value and learning in open-ended art
Teach and model appropriate use and respect of materials
Allow ample time for children to create and explore
Incorporate books on fine art in your classroom
Children should be doing their own cutting – it’s okay if a circle
doesn’t remotely resemble a circle yet. This is how they develop these
fine muscles – and makes it ‘their’ work and experience.
There is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way, or end product.
The art area should have lots and lots of a variety of different collage
materials, and always be an open, available choice for children
“I see circles in your picture.”
“You filled up the whole paper.”
“Do you have a story you want to tell me about your
“Would you like me to write something on your
“Tell me about how you made the blue lines so
“I feel happy when I look at your picture. The colors
are very bright.”
“I can see you worked hard on that.”
“You used red, yellow and orange in your picture.”
“You’ve got all kinds of lines in your picture.”
Remember – when we say something very specific about a
child’s work, it is much more meaningful than an insincere
“That’s beautiful!”… and shows that we are truly looking
at what they did.
How Creative is your “Creative Art?”…
Is there a ‘right way’ or a ‘wrong way’?…
Or is it open-ended?
Do all the pieces look basically alike?…
Or is every child’s piece original and unique?
Does it require a great deal of teacher preparation or
Or can the child work independently?
Does the activity emphasize the end product?
Or the process and experience?
Does the child need to follow a predetermined outline?
Or can the child express his/her own ideas and
Is the experience ‘Teacher-directed’ and initiated?
Or child directed and initiated?
And finally…
Dear Mom and Dad,
It may not look like much,
but my scribbles are very
important! Scribbling is the
first step in learning to
write, and I am developing
the muscles I will need to
hold a pencil!
Sometimes a scribble is
not just a scribble!
Your toddler
For Added Variety:
Tools to Paint With
Paint brushes * sponges * combs * spools * tooth brushes * paint rollers *
sticks * rag strips * cookie cutters * cooking utensils *
q-tips * pine cones * scrub brushes * straws * string * yarn * medicine
droppers * deodorant roll-top bottles * corncobs * crumpled paper * feathers
* potatoes mashers * tongue depressors * Popsicle sticks * fingers *
fruits/vegetables * dental floss * marbles * rubber spatulas * fly swatters *
koosh balls * spray bottles * golf balls * large beads * cotton balls *
evergreen swags * plastic play animal ‘feet’ (prints) * wheels *
old mascara brushes * pipecleaners * corks * bubble wrap *
nail polish brushes * kitchen basting brushes * baby bottle brushes
Surfaces on Which to Paint
All kinds of paper – colored, computer, newsprint, manila, giftwrap, waxed
paper, old newspapers, typing paper, tagboard, butcher paper, posterboard,
construction paper, fingerpaint paper, easel paper, etc
Lunch bags * cloth * foil * corrugated cardboard * large tile squares * rocks
* bark * boards * sidewalks * windows * mirrors * plastic coffee lids *
styrafoam meat trays * old placemats * burlap * coffee filters * boxes *
magazines * wallpaper * comic strips * old phone books * plexiglas *
screens * window shades * envelopes * paper plates * paper towels * canvas
* paper towel tubes * tissue paper * bubble wrap * doilies * suede * old
shower curtains * sheets * vinyl * cellophane * fabric * T-shirts * pieces of
wood * clay creations * tin * ceiling tiles * paper grocery bags
Mixers to Add Variety to Paint Texture
Sand * coffee grounds * baby powder * detergent powder * water (to change
consistency) * rice * glitter * sugar * cornmeal * salt * oatmeal * soap flakes
* baking powder * syrup * cooking oil * shaving crème * glue * confetti *
Media For at the Easel
Finger paint * tempera paint (with a variety of textures – see above) *
Watercolors * diluted food coloring * berry juices * dried up markers dipped
in water * chalk * chalk dipped in water * shaving cream * crayons *
oil sticks * colored pencils * markers (thick/thin)* highlighters * scribble
cookies * several crayons tied together * spray bottles with diluted paint or
colored water * graphite pencils * calligraphy pens * charcoal sticks * glitter
pens * colored glue * stamp pads * paint brushes tied together
Collage Materials
Cut up straws * yarn * fabric scraps * magazines * greeting cards * ribbon *
tissue paper scraps * twine * glitter * egg shells * stamps * small wood
scraps * confetti * packaging materials * bows * streamers * fringe * fake
fur scraps * velvet * wrapping paper * Popsicle sticks * paper scraps *
wallpaper books * pompom balls * googlie eyes * doilies * trim * colored
pasta * cotton balls * q-tips * Easter grass * raffia * catalogs * buttons *
sequins * feathers * felt * foil * lace * rickrack * seeds * shredded paper *
dried flower petals * ceramic tiles * colored wire * spools * crepe paper * *
beads * bread bag closures * All types of paper (listed above)
Materials for 3-D Projects
Milk cartons * Paper plates * Paper towel rolls * gift/shoe boxes * spools *
frozen food trays * chicken wire * clothespins * coffee cans * shells
Stages of Art Development
Stage One: Manipulative
Random attempts to manipulate various materials – scribbling, thick
sweeps of paint strokes, pounding and squeezing of clay. Typically seen in
children under 4 years, with focus on experiential and tactile.
Stage Two: Patterning/Design
Typically develops by age 4, experimentation with beginning to
master materials. Children discovering lines, shapes, dots, spaces, and
Stage Three: Naming/Symbolic
Children able to make models or pictures representing things, often
with object in mind as they begin the process.
Stage Four: Representation
Develops around age 5 or 6, with children’s art actually resembling
objects represented. Initially many details missing, with more detail as skill
level and motor control develop.
Art Elements: line, shape, form, color and texture.
Principles of Visual Organization: unity, variety,
balance, rhythm, emphasis, proportion, movement,
repetition, pattern.
Where to get Free Art Materials
Alteration Shops/Tailors:
fabric scraps
Builders/Carpet & Floor Stores:
carpet samples
floor samples
tile samples
discontinued tile
packaging materials
old wallpaper sample books
paint swatches
large tubes (packaging)
wood scraps
discontinued knobs and handles
Photography Stores:
- empty film canisters
- mis-cut mapboard
- centers from mapboard frames
- old promotional pictures
Copy/Print Shops:
computer paper
scrap paper
mis-printed envelops, stationary, forms
ends of paper rolls
packaging materials
pads of paper ‘ends’
‘punches’ from paper that has been 3-hole punched
What message does a child get from
Teacher – directed product art and
craft activities:
The adult’s ideas are more important than mine.
In comparison,
someone else’s work is always
better than mine.
Different is not better - all being the
same is the goal.
Art is not about expressing myself or my
I can’t do it right.
If it’s good my Teacher will like it – and me.
I don’t have to think – just do what my Teacher says.
I don’t know what to do unless the Teacher
tells me.
This is not about me
or about what I want to do.
“All children are artists, and it is an
indictment of our culture that so many
of them lose their creativity, their
unfettered imaginations, as they grow
older. But they start off without selfconsciousness as they paint their
purple flowers, their anatomically
impossible people, their thunderous,
sulphurous skies. They don’t worry
that they may not be as good as
DiChirco or Bracque; they know
intuitively that it is folly to make
comparisons, and they go ahead and
say what they want to say.”
- Madeleine L’Engle
Maybe Tomorrow
by Lindy T. Redmond
“Me do it,” said the 2 year old,
“Mom, me will do it now,”
“Oh no, my dear,” she replied,
“I must show you how!”
“Let me try it,” he called at 3
“Let me make my bed,”
“No, you will have lumps in it,
Color this instead.”
So she placed the coloring book
Near him on the table,
“Now try to color in the lines
The best you are able.”
“But Mom, I want to draw the world
And all the butterflies,
I want to make the mountains tall,
And make rainbows in the skies.”
“Color carefully,” she replied,```
And color the flowers red,
Color the sky all light blue
Stay in the lines,” she said.
And as the 4 year old one day
His shoes he tried to tie,
His father said, “I’ll teach you how
And later YOU can try.”
And so it was, from birth to 5,
The others told him HOW,
They gave him restraints and set the laws
Of what they would allow.
Then one day the yellow bus
Came right up to his door,
The little boy thought for sure
That NOW he could explore.
He now could dream and imagine
He could soar to the highest mountains,
He could dream in his mind
He could nurture his talents,
His gifts he could now fine.
The teacher came into his room
And greeted everyone
“Take out your crayons and paper,
we’re going to have some fun.”
“Use this tracer to make a bunny
And neatly print your name,
They’ll all be brown with long ears,
They’ll all look just the same.”
“But I don’t want my bunny
To stand up straight and tall
I want him crouched among the grass
And to be white, that’s all.”
“They’ll be nicer if we keep
Them looking alike too,
Now please sit down & start your work
We’ve got a lot to do.”
So slowly he took his seat,
His eyes had lost their thrill,
He now knew just what he’d face,
Monotony and drill.
“Maybe later,” thought the lad,
“She’ll let me make my own,
Maybe tomorrow I can paint
My picture all alone.”
So on the next clear morning,
They took their crayons out,
“Oh boy, I’ll make the sky orange
I’ll be different, without a doubt.”
“Color carefully,” she replied,
“And color the flowers red,
And experiment on his own,
He could paint HIS colors
And investigate all alone.
Color the sky light blue
Stay in the lines,” she said.
“Maybe tomorrow, maybe never.”
Thought the boy as he colored the sky light blue.
1. Provides a means of communication and
2. Serves as an emotional release
3. Heightens aesthetic awareness and sensitivity
4. Develops and promotes creative thinking
5. Develops an appreciation for individuality
6. Serves as a balance in classroom activities
7. Assists in the development of physical
8. Strengthens self-concept and self confidence
9. Increases self understanding
10. Enhances the ability to visualize
11. Helps develop fine motor skills
12. Provides opportunities for problemsolving and decision making
13. Provides insight and assists the adult in
understanding the child
14. Develops self-help skills
15. Illustrates cause and effect
This is a reminder that to children, the process is
much more important than the finished product…
The artist bend over his easel
And took up his palette and brush
He sketched in the curve of an outline
In colors both vivid and lush.
I watched him add highlights and shadows
With deftness and delicacy,
Convinced that no Ruebens of Titan
Worked with greater concentration than he.
He splashed on a bit of ripe crimson.
He blended in scarlet and maize.
Then at length he leaned back from his canvas
And appraised it with critical gaze.
Slowly he turned and presented
That completed creation of his.
“See, Teacher! My pictures all finished.
Now help me decide what it is.”
- Adelaide Holl
I am learning through art!
In the Art Area I am expressing
myself and being creative. I am using
my small muscles and am developing
eye-hand coordination. I am seeing
cause and effect, and the different
properties of my materials. All of my
creations are unique and special –
like me!
Creative, Visually Appealing Ways to
Display Children’s Artwork /Projects
Have a variety of different types of art and mediums.
Mix it up – stay away from a bulletin board with just
fingerpainting or just collages. When the art displayed is
diverse, each piece looks even more unique.
Incorporate real photographs of the children working on
the art or projects. This helps the children remember doing
the work displayed, adding more opportunities for language
development, and gives parents additional insight as to the
process involved.
Add dictation. The children’s words describing their work
(or some other aspect) should accompany the art as well.
Include 3-D pieces. This adds dimension to your display.
Think of interesting or unusual ways for the children to
“frame” their work if they would like.
(mirrors, paper
plates, contrasting paper, corrugated cardboard, hanging, etc)
Chronicle a project (with pictures and dictation) from
start to finish. Show a how project evolves and takes shape.
Place as much as possible at the child’s eye level.
The blue “Tacky-tape” (sticky, gum-like moldable
adhesive) typically is kindest on painted walls, and is least
likely to remove paint when artwork is taken down.
If you want to put a “title” on the bulletin board as a
header, stay away from “cutesy” plays on words. Those are
adult-oriented, and over the children’s heads. Get input from
the children. If it is right before Halloween, and the various
creations are about spiders, a heading like “Our Spider Project”
or “What We Know About Spiders” is appropriate.
Sometimes less is more. Often those really nice, colorful
teacher borders take
away from
the children’s work
should be the focus.
- Watch how I do this. Let’s
all make our snowmen out
of the clay.
- We’re going to make a bus
out of these shapes. The
rectangle goes here. The
circles are the wheels. The
squares are the windows.
- Glue all around here where I
put the glue.
- Can you make a nice flower
for your mom?
- Color in the lines so your
picture of the boy looks
- The sun is yellow.
- I cut out these witches for
you to glue yarn on for hair.
- That is a nice picture, but
you forgot to draw the arms
on the boy. He needs arms.
- See if you can make one just
like mine.
- We’re all making butterflies
today for art.
- Clay is fun to roll and
smoosh flat. I wonder what
kinds of things you will
make with your clay today?
- Here is a container with all
kinds of shapes of paper.
You can glue them together
and come up with some
pictures if you’d like.
- The paints are all out. You
can choose which colors you
would like to use, and if you
would like a thick brush or a
thin brush to work with.
- You can pick whatever you
would like to use from the
whatever you want. Let me
know if you would like me
to put your words on your
work when you are finished.
- You can use the scissors to
cut either paper or the
magazines in the art area.
There is also glue if you
decide you want to glue
Seasonal Art Ideas:
- Put out holiday-colored pipe
cleaners &/or confetti
- Add holiday/seasonal colors
to shaving cream
- Use holiday shaped pasta for
- Put holiday/seasonal colors
out at the easel
- Use seasonal containers to
hold collage materials for
variety and to renew interest
- Cut holiday/seasonal shapes
out of sponges
- Put holiday/seasonal cookie
- Use seasonal items from
nature to paint with or in
your media table (pinecones,
corncobs, leaves, shells,
etc.) Key into nature!
- Add smells of the season to
your playdough or paints
(pumpkin spice in the fall,
cinnamon in the winter, etc.)
- Put scraps of wrapping
paper in the art area.
- Color the glue a holidayrelated color.
- Make ‘stencils’ out of butter
tub lids by tracing seasonal
shapes and cutting them out
of the plastic lids.
- Tie 2-5 crayons (of holiday
or seasonal colors) together
to draw with, if they choose.
Additional Resources on
Creative, Open-ended Art –
Author Unknown, “On Display – Great Ways to Showcase
Children’s Creations”, Scholastic Early Childhood Today,
February 1997, Page 43
Lowenfeld, Victor. “What You Don’t Learn from Coloring
an Elephant. What About Color Books?”, Texas Child
Care Quarterly, issue – unknown, Pages 58-59
Swanson, Lou. “Changes – How Our Nursery School
Replaced Adult-Directed Art Projects With Child-Directed
Experiences and Changed to an Accredited, Child-Sensitive
Developmentally Appropriate School”, Young Children,
May 1994, Pages 69 – 73
Perez, Jeannine. “100 Ways to Paint a Picture”, First
Teacher, January/February 1997, Page 26
Shaw-Perry, Eunice. “Creative Minds”, Early Childhood
Today, February 1997, Pages 36 – 45
Armstrong, Thomas. “Seeing Things in New Ways”,
Early Childhood Today, February 1997, Pages 32 – 35
Staff Training Ideas
on Open-ended Art:
Experiencing Apples
Materials Needed: 3 – 4 apples. A ditto of a picture of an apple,
crayons, a knife, pens, paper, 3 tables for staff to sit at.
Directions for Activity: One table can only color the ditto of an
apple; one table can only look at the apples – but cannot touch
them; the third table can experience the apples any way they
choose (cut them up, smell, etc.)
Groups then write down what they learned based on this
experience only (not on any previous knowledge or experience
with apples.)
Discuss value of tactile, taste, smell, etc.; which table would
have more language development; meaningfulness and relevance
of each tables’ experience; which table will have memories that
will last longer and why; etc…
Rating Creative Art
Materials Needed: Copies of handout “How Creative is Your
Creative Art?”, 10 – 15 examples (good and not-so-good) of
children’s artwork. (Be careful to offend with too many not-sogood examples from one room or teacher)
Directions for Activity: Staff must rate and categorize whether
art is open-ended or teacher-directed. Discuss results, benefits.
Painting with Hats/Helmets
Materials Needed: Easel paper, hardhat, paintbrush (taped onto a
hardhat), paint, ductape
Direction for Activity: Have adults paint at easel with the hats
that have the paintbrushes attached to them. Discuss experience
and appeal to children.
Gelatin Rainbows
Materials Needed: Clear Knox gelatin, small bowls (to use as
molds), eye droppers, trays, food coloring and water
Directions for Activity: The day prior, make gelatin as per the
directions on the box. Remove from bowls (upside down) onto
trays. Dip droppers into food coloring and insert into gelatin.
Discuss experience and appeal to children.
Place several wallpaper sample books and collage materials
out, and have participants create an original project on their
The activities listed above are for teachers to take back to
their classrooms. Facilitating these activities hands-on with the
adults gives them a better perspective and understanding of the
experience for children.