Mosaics on sticks

What: quick kids craft activity sticking tiny tiles on pre-cut shapes with good wood glue.

Star by Kid 4 (who dislikes things with people in them), person by Kid 6 (who always likes things with people in them).

How: This was a short craft activity we did at the local arts centre’s stall at the local council’s Harmony Day multicultural fair, led by one of their mosaic teachers. The shapes-on-sticks were basically craft popsticks sourced from craft supplies somewhere. The glue is a good-quality wood glue, repoured into kids’ glue bottles for the use of tiny hands. The tiny tiles come just like that, no cutting or sharp edges required, and they’re a good size for a kids’ project like this. She said, however, that there’s only one place in this city you can buy them (and if you’ve ever shopped for replacement or specialist tiles for something, it’s the store you will have heard of). So some careful sourcing of materials for this activity is required. The kids took about five to seven minutes to make their item, it took ten minutes of my carefully holding them flat inside little ziplock bags while we walked around the fair for the glue to be mostly set, and a few hours to be fully dry.

Extras: Doing this with paper squares on paper (as in my previous post), colouring squares on graph paper to create a picture, tiling Smarties or lollies on biscuits or cookie dough – any other mosaic-related activity really. Because this was for Harmony Day, the stall at the fair had a poster wall with big pictures of cool mosaics from lots of countries (and time periods) around the world, and the mosaic teacher took the kids around to the posters and they talked a bit about the mosaics and guessed / chatted about which countries they came from. So that cultural and historical context and looking at different styles is a possibility too.

Paper mosaics

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

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.

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!

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.

Tesselation with blocks

What: Tesselating and making pictures or patterns with blocks.

Several of the resulting creations, including some that come from putting blocks on top of each other. Note the flower stem is a two-layer pattern. 

How: I have no idea where we got these blocks – I played with them as a child, and it’s possible that my mum played with them as a child too. They are good manipulatives for starting to think about angles – many of the shapes fit together, in fact most – but not quite all. So you can easily spread a tesselating pattern out across floor space, working out from the centre. Or, you can just use them to make simple pictures, tangram-style. We did a bit of both. It held Kid 5’s attention longer than Kid 3, and I’ve played the blocks at younger ages too but this was the first time they really actively got into it and started manipulating the shapes themselves.

Extras: I think this is all in whether or not you want to start talking about the angles, how some corners are pointier than others, whether you want to look at the number of sides shapes have before and after you put them together, surface area, breaking up 360 degrees into equal parts, which shapes tessellate (and do you even want to say “tessellate” or do you want to say “fit together without spaces”, which I think is how it’s been put to Kid 6 in school).