Child-Led Solar System Exploration

I’ve been greatly influenced by both Montessori and Reggio Emilia philosophies in which we are encouraged to “follow the child” and explore using “the hundred languages of children“. This is where this next exploration came from: V’s interest in working on a project and exploring it through different materials.

A few weeks ago V was telling me about a project some of her classmates had been working on at school. She decided that she wanted to work on it at home. She needed: black paper, pencil crayons, and play doh. The project subject: The Solar System.

Child-Led Solar System project,

Her first task was to draw the planets. Referring to a Magic School Bus Space poster that we had, Violet started by drawing the sun, followed by colouring each planet in relation to it’s proximity from the sun all while carefully selecting colours that reflect the planet’s characteristics.

I’m not going to say she was all that careful about her drawing! At times I wanted to say “Slow down!” or “Colour more carefully” but I resisted critiquing and instead quickly became envious of her free flowing approach to drawing. I might have reminded her to make it a sphere or circle here or there… I couldn’t resist!

Child-Led Solar System project,

As we went along we discussed some key characteristics of each planet:

Mercury: Lots of craters, Very hot and no water.

Venus: Clouds of deadly yellow poison called sulfuric acid. Covered with rocks.

Earth: Only planet in our solar system with oxygen and liquid water. Rocky planet.

Mars: The iron in soil makes the planet red. All water is frozen in polar ice caps.

Jupiter: Largest planet and has 16 moons. Made up mostly of gas.

Saturn: Surrounded by rings of ice, rock, and dust. Made up of gas.

Uranus: The gas methane makes the planet look blue-green. Travels around the sun on its side.

Neptune: Cold, dark, and blue. Strong wind.

V went on to sculpt some of the planets as well as the sun and the moon. I went off to do something else and came back to Saturn…

Child-Led Solar System project,

.. and Earth.. V: “The green is the grass and blue is the water.”

Child-Led Solar System project, https://keepingcreativityalive.comI’m not sure she ever completed every planet but she felt satisfied with her solar system exploration.

A few days later, V came home with her school solar system project! Goes to show that just because they’ve done it once doesn’t mean they can’t practice it again.. especially when the interest is there!

Child-Led Solar System project,

420 Characters: A Celebration of Creative Writing

Creative writing exercise 420 Characters,

Did you write short stories as a child? Do you write them anymore? If not, why not?

Writing is a powerfully liberating experience. One that allows you to express yourself, express an experience real or imagined and/or share a story. Writing, creative writing, makes me a little nervous, I’ll admit. But when you allow yourself to get in the ‘mode’ where you really consider your words, get descriptive and even a little poetic I actually find it to be a lot of fun.

I was recently invited to join a group called 420 Characters. 420 Characters is a creative writing group on Facebook where members write short stories using 420 characters or less to fit in a single facebook status entry. The goal is to reach 420 characters in a story, to reach 420 members in the group or to collect 420 stories.

It was a couple of weeks before I tried my hand at writing a story. Initially I thought I would just read along and comment, but one morning after reading some new entries inspiration struck. An idea came and I quickly worked at expressing my idea, choosing my words carefully and ensuring that the story met the 420 character limit.

My story is based on my passion, what drives this blog.

Here it is:

Born to explore, investigate, learn.
Naturally curious, inquisitive,
Processing information constantly.
Making things, making connections.
Uninhibited experiments, intuitive markings,
The evolution of a true artist happens naturally.
Let it happen. Watch. Enjoy. Nurture.
Cultivate curious little minds into creatively confident adults.

The best gift you could give your child.

420 Characters was started by Suzi Poland, an artist and writer in Australia who is passionate about capturing moments of the everyday and celebrating them through drawing, painting, photography, textiles, illustration, and short stories. Anyone is welcome to submit a story.  You can learn more about 420 Characters and how to join here.

The above photograph shows a story that Violet drew and dictated when she was four.

Up until now my writing practice has gone as far as journalling, writing here on this blog and the occasional morning pages but I’m reminded through 420 Characters that writing is a wonderful form of expression. One that I’m going to try to practice more often. What about you, do you practice creative writing?

The Artful Parent Book Review + Giveaway!

The Artful Parent Blog Tour - Canadian Stop with Keeping Creativity Alive, The Artful Parent Book Review + Giveaway. Enter this weekend (April 5-8th, 2013) for a chance to win a copy!!!

Welcome to the Canadian stop of The Artful Parent Book Blog Tour!

I’m happy to announce that I’m hosting my first ever giveaway!  I couldn’t have arranged for a more appropriate item to feature; this book is true to my own passion for art and creativity and sharing all of that with my family as Jean Van’t Hul does with hers!  I have a copy to giveaway to one lucky person. Keep reading to find out how you can enter for a chance to win!

I’ve been following The Artful Parent blog for several years now as a source of great inspiration and ideas for art exploration with kids at home. Jean Van’t Hul, THE Artful Parent, has provided parents, teachers and caregivers a vast amount of project ideas over the years and her new book encompasses over 60 of her arts based activities!

I can go on and on telling you why I think this is an amazing book, and I will 😉 but there is one sentence that sums up why I think this book is so great and it’s in the Acknowledgements:

To my mom… for providing the freedom to be creative during childhood, and to my grandmother… for being a kindred spirit, the first real artist I knew, and a continuing inspiration.

Reading this almost had me in tears (acknowledgement tributes often have that effect on me!) I think because I can relate to it with my own family experience and because to me this book is all about providing children the freedom to be creative (so special) and providing inspiration by example (so important)!

The Artful Parent Book Review + Giveaway. Enter this weekend (April 5-8th, 2013) for a chance to win a copy!!!

The Artful Parent: Simple Ways to Fill Your Family’s Life with Art & Creativity is a resource for artful activities but what I really love is that it goes beyond the actual project ideas.  This book is a guide to all parents – those who consider themselves artful or not – and provides basically everything you need to know about how to encourage creativity through art with children.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard people say “I’m not crafty at all!” or take my friend who upon seeing this book at my house said “The Artful Parent.. I’m so NOT an Artful Parent!” But this book speaks to all.. whether you think you’re artful or not and provides guidance as to how to “[Say] Yes to Art”!

The Forward, written by Mary Ann F. Kohl reminds us that being artful is a choice and how “living artfully will be the finest choice you’ve ever made for your family, next to reading books at bedtime and putting nutritious meals on the table.”

The Artful Parent is a tool that encourages thinking and will help you raise creative, productive thinkers and doers. – Mary Ann F. Kohl

Kohl ends the Forward with the following invitation: “Join us and become an artful parent, giving your family the gift of a lifetime of creativity.” This book gives parents the tools to do just that and THAT is why I love it so much!

Before I move on to share an activity we tried, I want to highlight these lists of “Do’s and Don’ts for Talking about Children’s Art” found in the chapter: “Encouraging Your Budding Artist.”

The Artful Parent Book Review + Giveaway. Enter this weekend (April 5-8th, 2013) for a chance to win a copy!!!

I share this because it’s so important to consider the ways that we talk to children about their art. How we respond can make or break a child’s interest in creating and has a huge impact on their intrinsic motivation for art and ultimately their confidence.

“Do Say This… Nothing. (When in doubt, zip your lips.)”

Ha. Love it! So true. Sometimes it’s best to just observe.

Okay, our ‘Artful Activity’ experience…

I asked V to flip through the book and select which activity she’d like to try…

The Artful Parent Book Review + Giveaway. Enter this weekend (April 5-8th, 2013) for a chance to win a copy!!!

She chose Artful Activity 14: Clay Pinch Pot Nest with Eggs and Bird. Lucky for me I had the materials I needed on hand.. yup, I’m an Artful parent.. why else would I have clay on hand?!

The Artful Parent Book Review + Giveaway. Enter this weekend (April 5-8th, 2013) for a chance to win a copy!!!

The book provides a range of activities which explore different materials accompanied by project examples so that families can collect the materials and either follow the instructions directly or simply use the activity as inspiration. The latter is what interested V. She wanted to get her hands dirty like Maia’s (in the picture) but she had her own ideas about what she wanted to make. She randomly chose to make a turtle!

V: “But I don’t know what a turtle looks like?!”  So we looked up ‘turtle‘ on google images, she chose one as her model (a cartoon version!) and got off creating! Our clay (being a bit old) was tough, so I watered it down and tried softening it by throwing it against the table to get the air pockets out. Once our clay was ready she created the shell body and was set to attach the head, legs and tail.

This was a good opportunity to teach her about scoring when attaching clay parts so that the pieces would have something to hold on to. Using the scoring tool (a fork or pencil would work just as well) she carved a cross hatch design on the surfaces of the clay to be attached and wet them both a tiny bit, then gently squeezed the adjoining pieces together.

Artful Activity: Clay building with Kids,

I went off to do something else and came back to her getting really fancy with decorating her turtle’s shell…

Artful Activity: Clay building with kids,

Apparently she decided this would be a leatherback sea turtle!

Artful Activity: Working with Clay,

Although we’ve had the clay in our cupboard since before Christmas, it took a little bit of inspiration to remind us to pull it out and make something. The Artful Parent book is FULL of inspiration!

Win a copy of The Artful Parent Book!

I’m excited that I have a copy to giveaway!

To enter for a chance to win leave a comment here sharing your favourite artful memory as a child!  I’d also love to hear how you parent artfully already or what you would like to improve upon in that area. Simple as that!

Giveaway details: You must have a Canadian or U.S. address to win. Deadline for entries is Monday April 8th, 2013, 11pm EST, one day before the book is officially released! Please include your email address so I can reach you if you win! Winner will be chosen randomly.

For additional chances to win you can:

Each time you do one of the above, leave a comment here letting me know. Good luck!

Thank you for reading and supporting Keeping Creativity Alive! I hope that I will have more opportunities to offer giveaways to you in the future as well!

* Disclosure: I received two copies of The Artful Parent book – one to review (and keep) and one to giveaway! All opinions expressed are my own.

Follow The Artful Parent Blog Tour

March 18 – Tinkerlab – activity demonstration + giveaway

March 25 – Handmade Charlotte – feature post

March 26 – Playful Learning – activity demonstration

March 28 – Nurture Store – feature post + giveaway

March 30 – Make and Takes – feature post

April 1 – Red Ted Art – book review + giveaway

April 2 – Kids Activity Blog – interview + giveaway

April 3 – Pink and Green Mama – feature post

April 4 – Peas & Carrots Studio – interview

April 8 – Not Just Cute – feature post

April 9 – Creative with Kids – interview

April 10 – Imagination Tree – book review

April 11 – Let’s Lasso the Moon – parent & child book review

April 14 – Teach Preschool – activity demonstration + review + giveaway



Thank you to everyone entered The Artful Parent book giveaway!

Congratulations to our winner, Kristal! I hope this book inspires many artful memories for your family! I’ll be in touch via email!

Video: The Importance of Creativity

The Importance of Creativity is a video that speaks to my passion for nurturing creativity in children:

Our children need key 21st century skills like the four C’s of COMMUNICATION, COLLABORATION, CREATIVITY and CRITICAL THINKING.

Oh how I wish there was a Children’s Creativity Museum close to me like this museum that’s in San Francisco! Truly an inspirational place, this museum features an animation studio, a community lab, a design studio, imagination lab, innovation lab, music studio, and spiral gallery which is currently showcasing an exhibit called: The World Through the Eyes of Children. How beautiful would that be? It’s an exhibition showcasing over 100 pieces of art work created by children from around the world that “aims to promote insight and understanding of children and youth art and culture from various parts of the world.” Oh, how I wish I could attend this museum on a weekly basis!

Video Screenshot: The Importance of Creativity

Every time I visit their website and blog I’m full of inspirational ideas to create and make and innovate! Forget the kids, I want to make stuff! 😉  Just kidding, (well, not really) but I have a few ideas for March Break projects…


Letterpress Love

In my last post I divulged my weakness for pretty much any art form and all art materials. When I discovered letterpress printing, I fell in love with yet another means to a creative end.

What is letterpress?  The short story is it’s relief printing using movable type or a custom made plate by locking it in the press, inking it and rolling or pressing against paper to form an impression. The long story can be found here.

One of the reasons I felt drawn to letterpress was my desire to get back to old school methods of communication design after having spent years and years designing digitally as an interactive designer. I love the look, the texture of the paper, and the tactile nature of the relief print. What’s particularly cool about letterpress today is the merge of old (letterpress) and new technology (designing digitally); wikipedia sites this as the renewed interest in letterpress and the rise of “digital letterpress.”

An interesting fact pointed out on wikipedia:

The goal before this revival was that you could not tell there was an impression, the type contacted the paper enough to transfer the ink but not leave an impression. However today, when speaking of letterpress, the goal is to have that impression be evident, to distinctly note that it is letterpress.

Sort of funny how goals change over time. Before the digital printing age we strived to achieve the smooth digital printing look; now we pay more for relief printed invitations, posters or the like!

My letterpress story:

My intrigue started when I had started seeing really beautiful wall art letterpress posters and this fun letterpress Tooth Fairy Certificate!  After a quick internet search, I found the perfect introductory workshop to try my hand at the process and to learn first hand what letterpress printing is all about. It was at this workshop that Tanya, of Snap + Tumble, told me about Don Black, the guy to know if you’re into any sort of linecasting or letterpress printing. I was so enamoured by the workshop that I went straight from Tanya’s home studio to Don Blacks (which happens to be only a few blocks away) to learn more.  It was during this first visit, my first exposure to the letterpress process really, that I put my name down for a press, a Craftsmen table top 5 x 8 platen press. They often have wait lists for presses than come in and need refurbishing.

 I can’t even describe what came over me at Don Black’s that day. I saw a line up of three table top presses and before I could think about what I was saying I had already asked if they were spoken for and put dibs on the black one! It was a sort of out of body experience. 😉

A few months later I took another workshop, this time at Kozo Studio, where I created the “Love at first site” poster on a Vandercook SP 15.. that was pretty cool. Thankfully Kozo Studios is not close to Don Black’s and I didn’t commit to buying a Vandercook! The photos below show how massive this press is!

Later that summer my press was ready! Made the trip back to Don Black’s.. a really amazing place!

I refrained from going nuts buying metal and wood type and vintage cuts (images) but I picked up a few cuts and took a picture of this tray so that I could remember how to set up my type in a tray at home.

I’d like to say that the rest is history but by the time I picked up my press I was pregnant with baby #2 and short on studio space, so my little but heavy press went into storage until recently. After a bit of research and a trip to Above Ground Art Supplies, I’m ready for the experimenting process to begin!

I’m just at the start of my letterpress exploration. What used to be a fairly rigid lesson in typesetting and printing, now is only limited by imagination. But I feel like the sky’s the limits with creative opportunities. Like any medium, it’s the vehicle to creation. The true art is in the idea. I have a few… I’ll be sure to share them here along my journey.

Creative Obsessions

I know I’m not the only creatively obsessed person out there, but lately I’ve been wondering if I should seek out a support group to work through how to manage all of my creative compulsions.  You see, I could probably open an arts and crafts store based on the diversity and abundance of art supplies that I have available… in my home. 

I have the usual arts and crafts supplies: glue guns, glue, glitter, tape, pom poms, ribbon etc. Then there is my sewing machine and the small boutique store’s worth of fabrics that goes along with that, not to mention magazines, accessories and patterns. Then there’s my scrapbooking ‘supply’ – again another small store’s worth of stuff. My paint and art supplies including canvases that have collected a bit of dust unfortunately. The embroidery thread and looms, yarns and knitting needles. Lino carving tools, clay and sculpting tools… And my most recent creative endeavor.. my Craftsmen table top letterpress.

Craftsman Letterpress

My beloved press deserves a post of it’s own.. (coming soon), but let’s get back to managing all of the creative stuff!

I’ve come up with a 10 step plan to get a handle on things here in my store, er, I mean home. Here it is:

  1. Admit I have a problem.
  2. Designate craft spaces in my home – art studio space, basement cabinet, etc.
  3. Sort like with like.. all ribbons in one drawer or case or basket, you get the idea..
  4. Organize according to type of art project. For example, all kids arts and crafts supplies are kept in the play space area, all sewing related items go in art studio…
  5. Create a list of creative project ideas. Pick ONE project and start it.. then finish it!
  6. Take step 3 a bit further and commit to at least one project a week.
  7. Stop buying more supplies.
  8. Set my intentions to use a supply that hasn’t been touched in a while and if it doesn’t happen donate it to a local school.
  9. Celebrate the creations by posting them here.
  10. Edit which creations will be kept, gifted or discarded to avoid that whole other problem.. storing art creations!

Giving Thanks

We spent most of this past weekend at our family cottage enjoying the gorgeous colours of the fall on this wonderful Thanksgiving weekend.

Breathing in fresh air seems to awaken my creative spirit. I find that all I want to do is get creative when I’m up there. This time we decided to make place card stones to place on our table for the big dinner (inspired by The Artful Parent’s Thankful Stones).  We successfully played around with the project at home a couple of weeks ago…

… but this time our crayon colours came out too dark and it was too hard to read the names.

Right about the time that we were discovering that our project wasn’t working so great, my handy dad appeared with a piece of birch trunk and offered to cut it up into small discs that we could use for name cards for our Thanksgiving dinner table. He’s very creative! They worked out great!

In honour of giving thanks on this beautiful Thanksgiving weekend, I decided that we could use the extra birch pieces to play a fun game. This is how it worked:

When everyone arrived for dinner I asked each person to write or draw what they are thankful for on the piece of wood and secretly put it in this paper bag.

Once I had them all, I displayed them in the center of our table for all to enjoy during dinner.

At the end of our dinner we had fun reading the thankful words, drawings, and messages and guessing who they came from!

We had a blast guessing who wrote what. Some were obvious, others not so much! We all guessed wrong for “walks with mom and dad”. Turns out it was Archie’s, my brother’s dog!

Happy Thanksgiving to all that are celebrating today!

Makedo Project 1

The possibilities are really endless with these cardboard connectors! It was also the perfect activity to take to the cottage since there always seem to be boxes around and they come in a small cylinder container making it very easy to transport.

V is still too young to cut the boxes and actually poke the holes for the connectors but she directed the entire process! Surprise surprise!  It started as a zamboni… the amount of snow outside inspired that idea!

But then evolved into a fire truck.. inspired by the flame in the wood stove…

… then a sleigh…

Very very fun! What’s really cool about these very simple (I don’t even know what to call them…) doo dads is that it’s open ended and creates the opportunity for A LOT of play. It starts with the planning and gathering materials, then there’s building and problem solving and finally playing, playing and more playing. At which point it all starts all over again with decorating, adapting and playing in different ways.

Art In The Park ~ Painting In The Park

Well, I have to say our first Art Group experience was a success! All of our little friends created masterpieces under the shade of the trees on this beautiful summer day. Every single child (6 in total) were immersed in painting for upwards of fifteen minutes. Not bad for 2 and 3 year olds! Did I mention there was a park complete with swings and slides within 100 meters? I was quite impressed and inspired watching the little hands mix colours and spread the paint so freely. We even had a little Jackson Pollack in the group!

I decided to keep the first Art Group activity straight-forward but added a little twist to give each child a personalized outcome to their artwork. I brought watercolour paper, tempera paints and brushes and palettes of course. But, I pre-cut the first initial to each child’s name using my handy Silhouette machine and contact paper.  The idea comes from this Watercolor Initials project. Unfortunately I don’t have the finished products as the artwork was too wet to peel the contact paper before our art date was over. I’ll have to see if I can get some photos of the final pieces.  But really, the fun (for me) is watching the kids create. It was a happy morning. I’m looking forward to the next one!

Art In The Park ~ Art Group Take 1

I’m very excited! I’ve organized an art group that is meeting for the first time tomorrow morning!! We’re gathering at our local Lakeside Park – the perfect inspiration for our little artists.  Looking forward to tracking our experiences here!

I must give credit to Jean at The Artful Parent for sharing her art group experiences and providing some of the inspiration it took me to finally get our group up and running. Thanks Jean!