Tag Archives: art

Arts: The A in Steam

It would be hard to find anyone these days who doesn’t know about STEM—science, technology, engineering, and math—which are the skills our children need to learn if they’re going to become the leaders of tomorrow. But many people (including everyone here at Parents@Play) believe that the arts, in all its many variations, are also critical skills. Hence STEAM, which adds an A to the mix. If you’ve been searching for some great art-related activities to do with your family, look no further—we’ve got you covered.

Fab Foil Nail Roller (Alex)

fab foil nail rollerWho would have thought that there’d be so many ways to decorate nails? With this kit, attach a double sided sticker to the nail, roll some foil onto the exposed side of the sticker, and you’re ready to hit the town with nails a-shimmering. No nail polish needed, which his good news for people who have trouble with the smell (although you can add topcoat to protect your manicure). Comes with 30 foil strips, a storage pouch, and instructions. For ages 8+. Under $22. http://www.alexbrands.com/

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Bridging the Gap Between Preschool Fun and Learning

The new school year is well underway and, hopefully, the kids are learning a ton of things that will enable them to support us in our old age. In the meantime, though, we want them to have as much fun as they can both in and out of school. For little kids, the key is combining learning and fun, and since we’re the ones with the wallets it’s up to us to give them the tools to do just that. ALEX Toys, one of our favorites, has a number of wonderful products that you can do with your kids and have fun at the same time.

ready set write alexReady, Set, Write, and Wipe (Alex Toys)
A perfect way for little kids to learn and practice their numbers and letters—and for bigger kids to get their handwriting into shape—without wasting an entire tree’s worth of paper. Ready, Set, Write, and Wipe is a 19-page, spiral-bound book. Each page has brightly colored illustrations (G for Goat, for example, or 10 stacked blocks) and a place for kids to trace the number or the first letter of the word. There’s also plenty of space for freehand (non-tracing) practice. Best of all, when the kids are done, just wipe the page and they can do it all again. The one downside is that the marker can stain clothing. For kids 3 and up (but if your kids are that young, you need to keep an eye on them). $19.95 at www.alextoys.com/.

ready set tell time alexReady, Set, Tell Time (ALEX Toys)
We may be living in a digital world, but kids still need to learn how to tell time on a clock with hands (if for no other reason than so they’ll know what the words “clockwise” and “counterclockwise” or the phrase “I’ve got your 6” mean).  Ready, Set, Tell Time gives kids a number of different ways to learn how to tell time. The clock itself, is cheerful and has hands that are easily manipulated by little fingers. The kit also comes with a puzzle (with numbers that punch out and can be placed on the clock) and a lot of cards. The flash cards are what you’d expect, but they add some tactile learning by having the child move the clock’s hands to match what’s on the card. The activity cards do a nice job of making time a little less abstract by getting the child to associate specific times with activities that generally happen at those times (breakfast lunch, and so on). More than just a pretty (clock) face, it sells for $18.95 at www.alextoys.com/.

my first mosaic alexMy First Mosaic (ALEX Toys)
Research shows that children who are exposed to art are more confident and creative than kids who don’t have access to it. They’re also more empathetic, score higher on IQ tests, and do better in school. Unfortunately, more and more schools are cutting out art classes, so it’s up to you to make sure your child gets plenty of art time. My First Mosaic comes with five pictures and a few hundred square- or triangle-shaped stickers in a variety of bright colors. Just like with the old paint-by-numbers kits, kids match the colors and shapes called for in the picture with the corresponding stickers. The sticker-between-the-lines aspect is great for little kids since it lets them create something recognizable that they’ll be proud of. But be sure to give your kids plenty of outside-the-lines time too. For kids 3 and up who won’t put the stickers in their mouth. $11.95 at www.alextoys.com

The Art of Parenting

Sometimes looking at a blank piece of paper and being told that you can create anything you want to, just makes you freeze up. The options are limitless, but somehow you can’t think of anything to do. This week we take a look at several art kits that can help parents and kids overcome even the most stubborn case of artist’s block.”

Gelarti Scene Creator (Moose Toys)
gelarti parents@playGelarti Comes with three paint pens, a large scene sticker, and a number of smaller stickers. Customize the stickers with the paint, let your creation dry overnight, and the next morning you’re ready to start decorating any smooth surface you can find. The stickers themselves are a little bit limiting: each shape, whether it’s a bird, puppy, bone, heart, or house is already pre-cut, so it’s not easy to make your own designs. It would be wonderful to have a similar Gelarti kit that came with blank sicker sheets so young artists and their parents could fully unleash their creative juices. That said, Gelarti is still plenty fun for parents and kids. Plus, Gelarti stickers are easily peeled off and can be moved and re-stuck over and over. Anyone who’s had to scrape stickers off of hardwood floors, windows, and refrigerator doors will appreciate that. Ages 5 and up. http://gelartistickers.com/ (don’t leave out the “I” before “stickers”)

Artzooka! (Wooky Entertainment)
artzooka kits parents@playArtzooka! has solved the artist’s block problem by making more than two dozen kits that are focused enough to give you a starting point, yet open-ended enough to encourage nearly unlimited creativity. We had a chance to try out four, and we loved them all.

  • Pop Stick Photo Frames comes with 40 popsicle sticks in a variety of colors and sizes, stickers, and glue. That’s pretty much it. Theoretically, you’re “supposed” to use all those ingredients to make picture frames—and you’ve got enough to make several really spectacular ones. But no one’s going to call the art police if you decide to create something else.
  • artzooka clips n' caps

  • Clip N’ Cap includes 16 bottle caps and can tabs, more than 35 stickers, string, and more. The pictures on the box show necklaces, but that’s just a suggestion.
  • Cupcake Creations was the simplest and, in some ways, the most fun. You basically get 20 colored cupcake liners, glue and stickers and some basic directions for creating delightful animals. But it’s easy as cupcake to go far beyond.
  • With nearly 300 pieces, Button Mosaics is one of Artzooka!’s biggest kits. Besides the sticky buttons, each kit includes several pre-drawn mosaic blanks. Younger kids may want to use them, but older kids and parents will want to make their own.

artzooka caps and tabsA few years ago Pepperidge Farms had a cookie that they advertised as looking just like homemade. Apparently they meant that the cookies—even though they were made by machines–weren’t all exactly the same (which explains why people refer to things that look identical as “cookie cutter”). Artzooka! does something similar with their bottlecaps, buttons, cupcake liners, and soda can tabs. Instead of using real ones from actual bottles and cans—a kind of artistic recycling that parents and art teachers have been doing forever—Artzooka! has made their own, in a variety of colors, often with pre-drilled holes for stringing up. Scavenging for bottle tops and buttons and decorating them yourself adds a layer of creativity. However, using the ones Artzooka! provides doesn’t detract in the slightest from how enormously fun Artzooka !kits are—and how great they are for parents and kids to do together. Ages 5 and up. http://artzooka.com/

The Art of Childhood

If you’re like most parents, your refrigerator and walls are covered with your children’s art. But their creative play does a lot more than just make you proud. Kids who are involved in the arts are often more self-confident and self-reliant. Art helps kids improve fine-motor skills, follow directions better, and get along with peers. Various studies have shown that kids who are involved with the arts are more likely to excel academically, participate in math and science fairs, and win awards for writing. Here are some great sets that will help your child find his or her inner Picasso. So roll up your sleeves and get ready to have some fun.

crayola ultimate art caseCrayola’s Ultimate Art Case (www.crayolastore.com) is perfect for the young artist on the go. It comes pre-loaded with all the basic supplies to keep your little Rembrandt busy for hours—pencils, markers, watercolors, brushes, stencils, and more. With lots of internal compartments, organization is easy. And there’s plenty of extra space to store paper, glue, scissors, or anything else that might spark creativity. $15.99. Ages 4 and up.

stand up easel from melissa and dougMelissa and Doug easels come in two sizes. If you have a larger room or space, the Deluxe Standing Wooden Art Easel($79.99) is ideal. It includes a dry-erase board, chalkboard, locking paper-roll holder, child-safe paper cutter, easy-to-use clips to keep the paper steady, and a good-sized plastic tray for holding supplies. The easel is adjustable, so it can keep growing right along with your child.

table top easel from melissa and dougIf you have less space or want something a bit more portable, try the Tabletop Art Easel ($39.99). Like it’s standing cousin, this one includes chalk- and dry-erase boards. But it’s also magnetic and comes with markers, chalk, and magnets. There are two supplies trays, one of which has cup-sized holes to hold paint or brush-washing water. If your young artist is especially prolific, you can also buy a separate supply and accessory kit ($34.99) that works with either easel or on its own. Comes with poster paint, spill-proof paint cups, brushes, jumbo rainbow chalk, a roll of paper, and more. Ages 3 and up.

kiwi crate from kiwicrateKiwi Crate is a subscription service that delivers a new art project-in-a-box. Each one is designed around a certain theme (such as science, dinosaurs, gardening, colors, animals, superheroes, etc.) and includes three related project ideas and all the materials you need. Just add inspiration and you’re ready to go. There’s additional, related material online. Kits are reviewed by experts and tested by kids and cover a range of developmental areas including creating, discovering, communication, gross- and fine-motor skills. $19.95/month. Ages 3-7.

For older kids or those who may want a bit of a challenge, EK Success Crafts (www.eksuccessbrands.com) has kits and individual supplies for scrapbooking, needlecraft, jewelry making, embossing, painting, creating personalized thank-you notes, and more. Perfect for family projects. Prices vary depending on the product.

paper punk from paperpunkPaper Punk (www.paperpunk.com) is an interesting combination of origami and building blocks. Start by folding paper into geometric shapes, which you then connect using adhesive dots (included) to create a variety of cool things that are a cross between an art project and a toy. You can buy individual kits for snakes, cars, snowmen, robots, dogs, cats, and birthday cakes, or use your paper blocks to build anything you want. Then customize to your heart’s content. $18.95 each. Ages 6 and up.