Inspired by Alexander Calder

I found this lesson on Dick Blick, and modified it for my students who are much younger than the lesson’s intended students. I drew the shapes on the metallic paper, and the children used air dry clay instead of styrofoam for the base. You can click over to read the lesson, but since I changed it I will include my supply list here (paper, colored wooden beads, and thick wire from Dick Blick).  Check this post for Alexander Calder children’s books.

air dry clay, wire, Twisteez, wooden and plastic beads, metallic paper, white glue, brushes for glue


Painting on Plastic

I started a new class this fall that is specially designed for two and three year olds. It is process based and many of the classes to do not culminate in a take-home product, and the lessons often involve collaboration.

This painting lesson was the first class, and is from Meri Cherry so click over to read her post. I asked the children not to mix the paint colors for the first half of class, and towards the end I invited them to start mixing, which held their interest. I also brought out sponge brushes towards the end of class. Painting on plastic is pretty fun- the paint really glides across the surface and it feels different than paper. I painted a blue outline around the plastic, and I also taped larger paper behind it to keep the walls clean.  Also, this is a secret: I just used trash bags!

Inspired by Alexander Calder

chipboard and acrylic or tempera paint OR heavy paper like colored cardstock, Twisteez wire, pipe cleaners, stapler

  1. if using chipboard, let children paint it with a bright color of their choosing- it is for the background…I thought stapling these to a ground might help them not immediately get squashed in backpacks!
  2. model how to connect two pieces of wire, and also how to make a spiral, a curl, a wavy line, and anything else you can think of!
  3. make a large oval with a wire piece, and connect the ends
  4. use wire and pipe cleaners to make parts of the face- I printed pictures of each child so they could lay the parts of their face on top of the photo, then attach the parts to the large oval shape
  5. try not to cut wire until you have attached it to the overall face shape… or you might end up with tons of pieces of wire that are too small to attach
  6. staple to background, and don’t hesitate to staple while children work if it helps them
  7. let them get sidetracked and play with the wire!!


Meet the Artist: Alexander Calder      Sandy’s Circus




1 cup of water, 1 tablespoon of vegetable or canola oil, 1/2 cup of salt, 1 tablespoon of cream of tartar, 3-6 drops of food coloring, 1 cup of flour

  1. combine all ingredients except for flour in the saucepan on medium until warm- it’s ok if it simmers a little
  2. remove from heat and add the flour
  3. stir together and it will be thick mashed potato consistency
  4. transfer to a plate and wait for it to cool, then knead until smooth (aka play with it!)
  5. store in an airtight container or baggie


This recipe used to be (might still be?) taped inside a kitchen cabinet at The Franklin Montessori School, where I had my first full time art teaching gig after college. Just about every other week one of the lovely teachers would be in the basement kitchen (next to my basement art classroom) whipping up some playdough, and the first, I don’t know – 25 times I saw it, I thought it was magic. But actually, it’s super simple! I know there are tons of recipes available online, but this is my forever favorite. If you can encourage kids to keep it on a tray and have clean hands when they play with it, you can keep it for more than a month and it really stays squishy!

Still Life Drawings

large drawing paper, pencils, colored pencils, something for a still life

  1. set up a still life
  2. review types of lines and shapes with children
  3. fold paper in half
  4. on one half, let children draw the still life with pencil first, and then add color
  5. put still life away and let children draw from memory on the second half



colored papers, contact papermandala template, masking tape, transparency, sharpie markers

  1. cut contact paper in a circle – I traced a paper plate for size
  2. place contact paper sticky side up on top of the template, then tape to table
  3. add shapes – I had pre cut papers into rectangles, squares, circles, and triangles
  4. cover with a transparency
  5. color with sharpie on the transparency – you can invite children to trace the shapes or draw whatever they’d like
  6. cut transparency to match contact paper circle and hang in a window

Line Design Flowers

pencil, sharpie, tempera or acrylic (or both) paint, acrylic paint paper

  1. draw a circle in the center of the paper – these were about 14 inch squares
  2. draw another larger circle around the first
  3. the 3rd circle can be a little wavy
  4. the 4th can have small bumps
  5. the 5th can have large bumps that look like flower petals
  6. add different paint colors to each section
  7. paint design details – polka dots, stripes, zigzag or wavy lines


Paper Sculptures

This project is SO easy but looks cool and counts as sculpture which I am always trying to make sure I do enough of with my students. Sometimes it’s really nice to do simple projects because the children work so hard and need very little help- they feel successful and get really engaged in the process. And I love seeing how they always come up with a clever way to deviate from the original instructions! – not making circles, stacking circles, or laying them down.

cardboard or chip board, white gesso + white paint (optional), strips of colored paper, glue sticks, white glue

  1. if you want a white background, paint cardboard (or chipboard- I ALWAYS save the backs of pads of drawing/bristol/watercolor papers) with gesso mixed with white paint
  2. make circles by using a glue stick on edge of one strip of paper, then folding into a circle and holding for about ten seconds- I tell children not to move on to step 3 unless the circle stays glued closed when they let go
  3. dip circle in white glue (you can pour glue into small plates or small trays) and place on background
  4. add lots of circles of different sizes and colors!

Garden Collages

This lesson is from Purple Twig so click over to read the original post. The children loved working on this and I was happy that they could try both painting and collaging and end up with one beautiful picture. We talked about radishes, turnips, onions, potatoes, beets, and carrots, and it was helpful to have our school vegetable garden right outside the window! Lots of possibilities for integrating gardening themes!

Here are a few of my favorite children’s books about gardening: The Curious GardenA Seed Is SleepyAnd Then It’s Spring