Read & Make: Play Like an Animal + Mud Painting

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Kangaroos box. Rats wrestle. Wolves play tug-of war. In tumbling, rolling, rollicking prose, Play Like an Animal by Maria Gianferrari (with sweet illustrations by Mia Powell) describes how animals learn to hunt, escape and get along with each other through play. Play Like an Animal offers just the right amount of information and inspires young readers to go play, race, chase, spin and splash.

Which brings me to today’s maker challenge: making mud paint!

With everyone stuck at home and conducting work and school through our screens, it’s important to remember that we all need to get down in the dirt once in a while. Collared peccaries, rhinos and river otters love mud–and so do kids. It’s springtime. Mud is plentiful! And making mud paint is simple, sensory and weirdly satisfying to little ones and their grown-ups. Here’s what you need:

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Mud (I scooped some from my teeny-tiny urban backyard)

Tempera paint, also known as poster paint. Food coloring will work, too.

Containers (yogurt containers, bowls or Tupperware)

Paintbrushes, spatulas, spoons, forks (whatever you have on hand to spread, squish, or splatter with)

Thick paper or an outdoor surface like a smooth driveway or wood fence (any surface you can wash down). I didn’t have any card stock on hand so I used the inside of a paper grocery bag.

Other things you need: clothes you don’t care about. A get-down-and-muddy attitude. And maybe a tub of sudsy water for cleaning up afterward.

How to mix your paint:

Add tempera powder or a glob of wet paint. Mix in water slowly until you get the consistency you want. I mixed small amounts, but if you’re outside, you can make big batches. That’s it–enjoy!

For more information about author Maria Gianferrari, check out her website. To see more of Mia Powell’s art and illustrations, visit here.

And remember: *BOOK GIVEAWAY! ENTER NOW BY ADDING A COMMENT BELOW.*

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Make: Tiny Tea Set

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These petit plates are about the size of a penny. They please me to no end. And I mean that: to no end. I have no idea why I made them, except I did. The instructions are from the delightful Ann Wood at annwoodhandmade.com, my new favorite place to visit to look at miniatures & antique French fabrics.

The central ingredient needed to make these is paper clay, which is a lightweight material you can mold and then it hardens with air exposure (but not to be confused with Model Magic, which is lesser stuff). You may or may not appreciate the help of a cat.

The little bottles and glue sticks are for pressing interesting patterns into the clay. When they dry, you can sand them smooth. My plates also kind of warped. Charmingly so?

I made these a couple of months ago but only recently painted them. The ridiculously small paintbrush was intimidating (especially to this near-sighted/far-sighted person) and I didn’t know what kind of pattern to make. I went with tiny fruit, of course.

Make: Clothespin Doll Bed

A while back, I fashioned a box-and-clothespin doll-sized bed for a library craft to accompany the many versions of Princess and the Pea that I read with my students. Then I tripped onto Ann Wood’s wondrous miniature creations. Those Lilliputian pillowcases in antique fabrics! The tufted tiny mattress! All the things Ann makes make me so happy.

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So . . . I felt compelled to make more little beds. Ann’s clothespin-framed fabrications seemed a little complicated for me and my characteristic impatience so I stuck with a simple construction: top of jewelry box or other small box covered in pretty paper with clothespins hot-glued to corners for bed posts. (My clothespins are “weathered” by the actual weather that they experienced on the job hanging clothes on the line.) I sewed small covers out of fabric squares and felt.

One of these beds now lives on a low shelf in my library. No one has noticed it yet (unless the kids are thinking that their librarian is bonkers and they don’t want to bring that up). I’m willing to wait them out. Who will discover the wee family tucked among the books?

 

Read & Make: Count on Me + Math Quest Cards

When Danielle Davis of This Picture Book Life asked me to dream up a little math-y crafty to accompany Miguel Tanco’s picture book, Count on Me, I was ready. I could overcome my fear of all things arithmetic!

Unlike me, the curly-haired heroine of this beautifully illustrated book has a special love for math. While her dad has a passion for painting, her mom science, and her brother music (he plays a tuba twice his size), the smallest member of the family sees shapes and patterns everywhere. She skips stones to see concentric circles form and tracks the trajectory of a paper airplane. She finds math everywhere.

Count on Me cover

Tanco’s sweet story is followed by a book-within-a-book: the heroine’s math notebook that illustrates math concepts like fractals, polygons, curves, solid figures, trajectories and sets (in terms clear enough that even I can understand).

Inspired by the small heroine’s passion for math, I painted a deck of cards with basic concepts from the book to spark my own scavenger math hunt. If we take the time to notice, what patterns, polygons, circles, and curves can we discover in the world around us?

Materials:

  • Art cards or index cards (I picked up these little Legion Paper samplers at my local craft store)
  • Pen, marker, and/or paint
  • The world!

Count on Me supplies

I copied the math concepts illustrated in Count on Me and in an attempt to emulate Tanco’s delightful, watery illustrations, I used watercolor paint to tint them. However, young artists can skip the paint and get the job done easily enough with markers and crayons.

Count on Me Deck

I drew and labeled the cards with a range of basic polygons, solid forms like cones and cylinders, patterns of concentric circles and curves, and other concepts to create a deck of 25 cards. Then my son and I went hunting through the house and around our neighborhood. This is some of what we found:

We found so many surprises: dandelion fluff fractals, milk carton polygons, the curved trajectory of a Frisbee in flight. What will you find?

 

More Summer Making–a Stamping Project

Coffee and a bowl of cherries, a slingshot of birch, farm eggs, a quick trip to Vermont and . . . carving stamps with my co-maker & 11-year-old niece. So many pleasures during a busy and un-busy July. Our printing project was surprisingly rewarding. We weren’t so sure we’d like the results because we thought our carving was clumsy and far from perfect. Luckily printing is a forgiving craft–lopsidedness and splotchiness only add to its charm.

This is how our project went:

  1. We sketched our designs on paper. Then simplified, simplified, simplified when we realized how tricky the carving would be.
  2. We transposed our designs by drawing directly on our Speedball 2 3/4 x 4″ Speedy-Cut carving blocks.
  3. We carved with Speedball linoleum cutters. Number 2 and 3 cutting blades made easy, chunky lines. A number 1 blade makes a delicate line but we learned not to carve deeply with it because pressing it too far into the block shreds and rips the surface a bit.
  4. We used a brayer (the rolling thing) to apply the ink, rolling the ink on paper first to distribute the ink evenly before applying it to the block.
  5. We placed the paper on top of the inked block and rubbed with the back of a big wooden spoon.

We were delighted & made a bunch of prints for cards and postcards!