Grass seed picture

What: A picture “coloured in” with glue and collected grass seeds.

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The placing of glue and seeds is a little imprecise, though if you have the patience to do a bit, let it dry and come back for the next bit you can get more precision. We didn’t.

How: First, I and Kid 3 went out into the garden and collected seeds. We found different kinds of grass – there are several kinds of tussock and weed grasses in our overgrown back yard – and collected handfuls of seeds from each in different bowls. TBH, I did a lot of the prompting and collecting here, including sneaking back out and getting more of the kind that were most different, though Kid 3 thought they did it all. All with lots of conversation about the colour and size and differences. Then we went inside with our loot.

Inside, the bowls gathered dust sitting on the table for a day or two while Kid 3 “played” with them (i.e. talked about them to anyone who came near). Then I drew a picture on a piece of cardboard with big black marker (Kid 3 requested “a house”), and one section at a time we applied glue, then tipped seeds of a particular kind into the segment and spread them around with a popstick. I say “we” because glue and tippy things with a Kid 3 generally involves some “assistance” to make sure results match intentions (both yours and theirs). It took a couple of hours to fully dry, even though it was poked regularly to check.

Extras: You could do this with spices, or left over garden seeds from different kinds of plants – grass seeds have some commonalities, but seeds from the daisy/lettuce family or from the salvias or poppies or brassicas or umbrella herbs (parsley, celery, dill etc) can all be quite different in shape and kind while being similar within the family. You could draw¬†patterns or shapes instead of a picture. And if picking the seeds together just doesn’t work out, taking a mixed bowl you’ve prepared beforehand and sorting or sieving them into different kinds might be fun too (depending on seed type).

Paper mosaics

What: Mosaic-like pictures made by gluing irregular “squares” of coloured paper into a design.

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Flower and butterfly, made by Kid 6 with varicoloured paper squares on black paper.

How: This was three linked activities.

First, one afternoon, we coloured in random cuts of paper with textas. That was hard work for them to get the paper so there was very little or no white left. They each had a piece of used-on-one-side paper to use as a colouring mat, in the interests of saving my table, and those became a kind of artwork of their own with the overlapping outlines. As they finished each piece of paper I took it and cut it into rough squares, some larger and some smaller, and added them to a mixing bowl. That took enough time that they were “done” for the day, even with me doing the cutting and quite a bit of the colouring (Kid 4 spent a very long time colouring in his first scrap of paper and then ran out of steam). They did like seeing how the bowl ended up, and tried sticking their hands in and mixing up the squares.

Second, another afternoon, we took pieces of black paper and a glue stick and picked out paper squares and stuck them down into a pattern or design. I didn’t insist on any particular design elements such as filling a space or matching edges neatly, just let them do whatever they came up with. They also each did one on white paper. I thought the black paper made the colours come up more vividly even if they haven’t been coloured in that well, but the white works fine too.

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Kid 4’s dragon, same coloured squares on black paper but stuck with glitter glue. The colours of the squares have become much more washed out.

Third, on a later afternoon, we used up the rest of the squares but stuck them down with glitter glue. We tried this on both white and black paper. The most interesting effect was that because the glues were quite liquid, and coloured, you got a lot of running and blending with the texta on the paper squares and that wasn’t entirely predictable. I spent a bit of time playing with it to see what effects I could get, but that’s my training – neither Kid 4 nor Kid 6 was quite that reflective and try-adjust-try-again about it. Plus the full effect doesn’t show up for at least ten minutes or until the glue’s fully dried, and that’s way too long for small humans to remember – I barely managed it myself!

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Glitter glue on white paper by Kid 6. You can see the bleeding of the texta and glue colours together a lot better like this.

Pasta pictures

What: Pictures made by gluing coloured pasta to paper.

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Red and blue pasta stuck to heavyweight black paper. This was my bird, that I could work on slowly filling in the space and adding texture while the kids talked to me over their own work. Keeping my own hands busy elicits a lot more conversation from them.

How: We had two bags of previously coloured pasta (see Extras) that I wanted to get out of the craft cupboard. So I put them on the table with some PVC “gloopy” glue (in a plastic cup, with paintbrushes to apply it) and some black and white paper and let the kids go for it.

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The Flower of Heaven, done by Kid 6. Glue is put on the paper rather than the pasta, to avoid the food colouring coming off on fingers *quite* so much.

I like to work with the texture and shape of things to make texture in the artwork, building up solid shapes, but the kids aren’t quite on that page yet. Kid 6 is (as is typical I believe) quite line focused, and used the pasta to make outlines of what they wanted to achieve. In their second piece they’d seen what I was working on and tried laying out pieces of pasta to take up space, then gluing them down – which resulted in the butterfly. Kid 4 went abstract, with no picture at all, and concentrated on making a pattern. After the pattern was done to their mental and emotional satisfaction, they began to add in other bits to make it more of a “picture”.

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Kid 6’s butterfly. This was originally more densely packed inside the wings, but the process of lifting each piece off, putting glue on it and putting it back got a bit much and they lowered their goals a little bit .

Extras: This is actually the third activity we’ve done with this pasta. Kid 2 and Kid 4 helped me make it originally – we put pasta in plastic bags with a whole lot of food colouring and mixed it around and around (from the outside of the bag) until they were all covered in colour. Smooth pasta takes colour better than textured pasta, but the latter gives some cool effects too. Also, the blue was harder to manage because when it was even, it’s a bit dark and you can’t see the colour. Brighter and lighter colours are more optimal. The second activity was once the pasta was dried – we used it for threading pasta necklaces. There’s an age where threading seems to be a useful manual dexterity skill, and pasta and a bit of wool is a nice cheap way to do that. Plus having two linked activities meant we got a bit of time spent for not so much of my mental effort. Unfortunately, macaroni is really crap for threading – a lot of the pieces are squished at one end so you can’t get wool through, and that was very frustrating for Kid 2 and Kid 4. The penne was fine! The last thing you could do with this pasta is try cooking it. We didn’t, and now I wouldn’t because it’s had a *lot* of handling and sitting around gathering dust etc etc, but if you were doing these activities all in the same week then cooking up the pasta and seeing if it held its colour would be a nice finisher off. Plus then you’d have none left to take up space forgotten in the craft drawer.

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Kid 4’s pattern, with some additional bits to begin turning it into a “picture”. I think it might be a plane with wings, or something with wings, I’m not sure.