A Little Doodle to Pass the Time

These tear-off doodle pads are a great buy at Costco now for $6.89 each.  I bought three – Doodles at Breakfast, Doodles at Lunch and Doodles at Dinner - at Anthropologie months ago and paid much more, I’m sure.

There are simple instructions for drawing the U.S. Capitol, a unicorn or a quarterback.  Best for readers, each sheet also includes a fun fact – did you know that mice prefer chocolate over cheese, or that a baby crocodile uses a tiny tooth on his nose called an egg tooth to break out of his shell?

Great for the car or dining out, they also came in handy in my daughter’s first-grade classroom recently – I tore out a sheet for each child who finished an art project early.

Check out illustrator/writer Deborah Zemke’s other products here at her website.  What a talent!

Spring Owls

These bright-eyed owls were made by my daughter and her first-grade classmates.

Crayon rubbings over texture tiles imply feathers and the cut trees were modeled after Henri Matisse’s “painting with scissors” technique.

Michaels and Party City both carry Duff Goldman’s texture tiles for fondant.  I’m not a baker so I wasn’t aware that such things existed, but they are very cool (and pricey).  Any time I have a coupon, I pick up a set.  Lakeshore Learning carries a 6-pack of tiles that aren’t quite as sophisticated but are more reasonably priced. 

I brought the tiles to class, along with my collection of peeled and broken crayons and 12×18 sheets of spring-colored paper.  I had drawn outlines of owl wings, ahead shape and a body on white paper and made a set of copies for each student.

The children started with the crayon rubbings, which were a hit all around.

Then the cutting began.

“Painting With Scissors”
As the children cut out their owl parts, I talked about Henri Matisse and his paper cutouts.  How he called his technique “painting with scissors” and did it freehand – no tracing or templates.  Relevant, I thought, as many this age are quite concerned with doing things exactly the right way.

But the children were too busy wrestling with scissors and owl wings to pay much attention.

After a quick, silent apology to Matisse, I explained the next steps.  Choose two sheets of 12×18 paper in different colors – one for the background, one for tree branches.  Cut out branches for your owl to sit on – try rectangles or Y-shapes.  Use scraps to cut out eyes, beaks and feet.

The freehand cutting was a real challenge to a couple of kids.  All in all, everyone did a great job, but it took loads of encouragement and many still looked skeptically at the imperfect edges.

Finally, I encouraged them to lay out their pieces (Matisse took great care in arranging his cutouts before gluing them), but these children were READY TO GLUE.

I absolutlely love the results, but with only 40 minutes, start to finish, this one could’ve been simpler.

Snack Bag Class Portrait

My Sample

The idea for a fun tribute sign for Teacher Appreciation Week came from another great art lesson at Art Projects for Kids.

Two other moms and I had 30 minutes with our daughters’ class while their teacher enjoyed a special luncheon.  I remembered coming across APK’s Self-Portrait Painting, hoping I’d have a chance to do it.  But, we didn’t have time to paint.

Since the doodles I make on my daughter’s snack bags have become a popular topic of discussion in the classroom, I thought the kids would have fun making their own snack bag drawings.  (My daughter, in fact, had been bugging me to do a “snack bag art lesson,” so I selfishly hoped this would appease her.)

Before class, I cut a bunch of bags in half and spent time laying them out on poster board.  I wanted enough panels for all of the children, plus more to spell out the message, “We love Mrs. Smith.”

Of course, any paper could be substituted for the snack bags – I’d probably use cardstock with Sharpies.

Three instructions – (1) With a black Sharpie, write your name clearly on the bottom. (2) Then, draw a picture of your head.  If you have space add something you like (butterfly, baseball, musical note, etc).  (3) Then, add color with colored Sharpies.

Ed Emberley came in handy, too.  His step-by-step instruction makes drawing quick, easy and highly rewarding for 

kids.  (Paper, markers and an Ed Emberly drawing book make a great birthday gift.)  I recreated 4 pages from Ed Emberley’s Drawing Book of Faces on big, white paper and hung them up for optional reference.

As each child finished, we used rubber cement to stick his bag to the poster board (2 pieces, stapled together and trimmed to fit 30 bag halves).  Those who finished early made portraits of the kids who were absent or drew the panels needed to spell out the message to their teacher.

This project brought out the children’s sweet side, too.  Despite my planning, we still ended up with space for extra panels (clearly, math is not my forte!).  On their own, several kids made drawings of things they knew their teacher liked, like her favorite baseball team.

A happy accident and wholly attributable to the kids, it was the first thing she noticed.
CP Snack Bag Portrait

Homemade? Nuts!

For Teacher Appreciation Week at our school, the parents were asked to send in “homemade goodies” today.  I don’t bake.

But my mother-in-law gave me this easy recipe for “Cinnamon Sugar Pecans” that I pull out every time I need to pretend that I do.  The middle of March is probably too late for them (they make a great holiday treat), but they’re delicious and, well, my options are limited.

1 egg white
1 Tbsp. water
1 pound bag of pecan halves (4 cups)
1 cup sugar
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.  Mix egg white and water well.  Stir in pecan halves.  In another bowl, mix sugar, salt and cinnamon.  Stir in nuts to coat.  Spread out on cookie sheet (cover with tinfoil for easy clean-up).  Bake for 45 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes.

A very similar recipe is also here, on Allrecipes.com.

Now, if these don’t count as “homemade,” please don’t let me know.

Faaamily Book!

When my daughter was 3-months-old, I lay her on her back next to me and read “Who Said Moo?,” over and over again until my arms hurt from holding the book up.  Next came “Rainbow Fish.”  We both loved it.

Now, she’s 6, her brother is 5 and their dad and I still read to them every night.  They run down the hall announcing ”Faamily Book!,” after they’ve brushed teeth and dressed for bed.  But it can be a struggle to find books that appeal to both of them – a reader and a non-reader, a girly girl and a boyish boy, school-age and pre-k.

Enter Magic Tree House.  Great series that our daughter has read independently, but was also interested in listening to.  As was our son.  He loved it as much as she did and the brother and sister protagonists make it a perfect fit if you have boys and girls.

Next, Charlotte’s Web.  We all cried when Charlotte died and cheered when her babies were born.  Stuart Little was a big hit, too.

Then we moved on to Junior Classics for Young Readers by Dalmatian Publishing, available sometimes in Target’s Dollar section.  We think these abridged versions of the classics are well-done.  Plus, they have an illustration on every few pages.  Our son enjoyed The Secret Garden and A Little Princess as much as our daughter did, but he played with Legos through Little Women.  (Truth be told, his dad would rather have been playing with Legos, too.)

Both kids also liked The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, The Story of Doctor Dolittle, Black Beauty, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Ann of Green Gables.  We omitted a few paragraphs about the town drunk in Tom Sawyer - not ready to go there yet.  In Ann of Green Gables, when Ann mistakenly gives Diana currant wine, we got away with a brief explanation about a ‘grown-up drink that makes kids sick.’

Now, we’re on to Harry Potter, halfway through The Goblet of Fire (Book 4).  I’m amazed at how enthralling this 734-page book is to kids this young.  My husband uses a different voice for each character and does it so consistently that the kids know right away who is ‘talking.’  (Of course, his theatrics don’t explain the several hundred million other copies of Harry Potter books that have sold.)

Good, old-fashioned plot and wonderfully-developed characters, plus an enthusiastic reader.  Faaamily Book!