Sculpting With Children

Here's a quick list to help you get started with sculpture, no matter what age you're working with.

Materials to Sculpt and/or Carve

Natural clay
Modeling clay
Paper clay
Bread & glue clay
Paper pulp
Wax (cheap candles)
Aluminum foil
Potatoes, turnips (root vegetables)
Plaster (dried, to carve)

Sculpting Tools

Popsicle sticks
Butter knives, forks, spoons (use metal and heat in warm water for wax and soap carving)


Add in: sand, glitter, buttons, small plastic toys, etc.
Connect parts of sculptures with toothpicks or straws.

Blog Action Day: Going Green in the Classroom

As a participant in Blog Action Day, today I post on the important topic of the green classroom. Specifically, I want to encourage all of you crafty teachers and parents to seek art and project supplies in places other than your local Wal-Mart or Michaels. Instead of giving you a project today, I'm giving you an assignment. Go out and find a cheap or free place to get supplies, and bring back something you can use in your teaching sometime soon.

I hit my local Goodwills and Salvation Armies about once a month, and I always find something that can be repurposed in my classroom. Just last week I found one of those things you hang in a doorway with long strands of beads on it. Some of the strands will go into the dramatic play center, others for craft projects, and a heap of them would be awesome in the sensory table. I also found a ton of dress-up clothes, including several hats.

It's getting late in the season for yard sales in my region, but it may still be warm where you are. Check your local newspaper for ads and be on red alert for any that say "retiring teacher." Sales like that can be a gold mine.

Odds are you also have a place nearby that collects items from companies to be reused by schools. In my area, it's Ruth's. If not, you can call large companies and ask. Try printers for cardboard tubes and scrap paper, laboratories and hospitals for pipettes and science stuff, hardware stores for wallpaper sample books and brushes, and so on. Big stores usually have stuff they're eager to donate, and you never know what you might find. One approach is to come up with a list of possible items, and then write (or have your kids write) letters requesting donations.

Using recycled stuff in your art projects encourages creativity, teaches science, and fosters a respect for the environment. It also helps the planet and saves you money. You really can't lose, so go for it!

Beautiful Leaf Decorations

Here are two ways to create wonderful fall leaf decorations and art in your classroom. I did both of these with preschoolers, but they can be done by all ages and are very satisfying.

The first project involves coffee filters and markers. I know you've done this before, but they came out so well I had to mention it here. We used the extra-large, extra-thick ones from Discount School Supply, but regular ones will work as well. First, cut out various leaf shapes from the filters. Try to get a few different species so you have a variety. Then, have the kids color the leaves with markers. I limited them to red, orange and yellow, although you don't have to. Show them how to make dots or stripes on the leaves, as coloring the whole leaf in is unnecessary. Now just have them drip water on the leaves using pipettes. Don't let them put the whole leaves in water, or the color will leach out. Lay them on sheets of paper to dry and you'll have gorgeous translucent leaves that can be hung or taped to windows.

The second project is a classic, and with good reason. Collect real leaves, apply paint or ink to them, and press them against paper. Even using cheap children's tempera, you'll get wonderfully detailed veins. I liked using sponge rollers instead of brushes to apply the paint; brushes lay it on too thick and you get a globby mess. Also, place another piece of paper on top of the leaves and press on that rather than directly on them. This stops the leaves from shifting and creating blurry images. Finally, I suggest using plain white paper as your background. A few of my co-workers did the project with brown or green construction paper, and the detail just didn't show up as well as it did with white.

Happy fall!

Faux Stained Glass/Suncatchers

I'm sure most of my readers have done this, but on the off chance you haven't, I hope you'll try it!

To make wonderful faux stained glass, you will need construction paper, tissue paper, and clear Contact paper. The latter is easily found in any craft store or in the shelf linings section of Wal-Mart. First, choose a shape. I like to do shapes related to our current theme. This week we're doing Apples, so I drew a 7" apple shape on red construction paper. Cut out your shape, and then "stab" the center with the scissors so you can cut out the middle, leaving an unbroken frame about 3/4" thick. With symmetrical shapes, you can fold the paper in half and cut it that way... the same way you'd make a paper heart. Just make two cuts so it opens to a frame.

Now, cut a piece of Contact paper that is slightly larger than your frame. Peel off the backing and place the frame on the sticky side. For the apple project, I also cut out stems and leaves and stuck those on as well. Next, give the child some tissue paper and have them tear or cut it into small pieces. All they have to do is stick the tissue paper onto the sticky Contact paper inside the frame. Have them cover it up so there is no more stickiness showing.

You have a couple of options for finishing. You can stick the whole thing to a window as-is, although it might look odd if the child put tissue paper outside the frame (which they invariably do). You could also trim it, punch a hole, and hang it up. What I do is put a second piece of Contact paper over the tissue paper side. Press firmly to smooth out bubbles, and then cut off the excess sticky paper. Write their name on the frame with a Sharpie and tape it to a window. Beautiful! A real parent-pleaser, too.

Older students could create and cut their own frames, perhaps using craft knives to cut intricate shapes. There are plenty of online sources of free stained glass patterns that could be used - here's one place to start. Just thicken some of the lines with a marker to make cutting easier. This is a good project for all students to explore color concepts, too, since many hues are formed by the overlapping tissue paper.

By the way, a fun variation on this is to have the kids cover a whole window with tissue paper. If they adhere it with liquid starch it will be easy to remove later. Just paint the glass with a thin layer of starch and stick on the paper. A wide brush works best for covering large areas. You can skip the construction paper frames if you want, or add frames after it dries.

Pumpkin Picture Holder

I adore these simple picture holders made from polymer clay and wire. This would be a fun and easy project for any age. You could just as easily use real mini pumpkins and little gourds, or have several wires coming out of one big pumpkin... But if you still want to make the more permanent clay version visit 365Halloween for instructions. What a cute gift! Or use it to hold little signs and whatnot.

This is just the kind of project I want to feature on The Crafty Teacher: fast, simple, and adaptable to different abilities and themes. If you come across a project you think would be suitable for an appearance here, please email me the info at teachcraftily [at] gmail dot com.

Make Your Own Worry Dolls or Toothpick People

Are these cute or what?

Materials Needed

Toothpicks - the kind that are square in the center but round at the ends
Embroidery floss in various colors, including flesh tones
Small bead with a hole that allows it to fit snugly over a toothpick
Scissors - the smaller the better
Tacky glue - the quick-set type is best, or use super glue
Tweezers (optional but helpful)

How to Do It

1. There are several possible ways to arrange toothpicks to make a worry doll; I found this one in an old craft book and it seems to be pretty effective. The photo to the right shows the pieces you will need. The sizes don't have to be perfect. For reference, the piece in the center that will form the head and torso is about 1 1/2" long.

2. Begin assembly by gluing the "legs" to the body, with the pointed tips of the legs at the halfway mark of the body piece. You can use an extra toothpick to apply the glue. If you feel clumsy with such things and think glue might squeeze out, work over waxed paper.

3. The doll in this example is a girl, and she's going to be wearing a skirt. Cut a length of embroidery floss about 18" long. It takes more than you think it will! Dab some glue on the back of the doll, and begin wrapping the string around it starting at the "waist." Add glue on the back as needed, and continue down until the skirt reaches the length you want. If you want pants, just wrap the waist and each leg separately. Let the glue set and trim the ends on the back.

4. Choose a shirt color and wrap each arm. Then glue the arms to the outside of the legs, right at the midpoint of the body. Note that the pointed ends of the arms become the shoulders. They will be covered with more floss, so don't worry if they're not perfectly neat.

5. Let the glue set until the arms are fairly secure. Then glue and wrap with the shirt color, beginning just above the shoulders. To make the shirt go down far enough, you may want to adjust your wrapping so it goes under the arms. Use a toothpick or tweezers to help push the thread up under her armpits.

6. The bead will form the head. Slide it onto the toothpick and glue to secure, leaving a short "neck." Let the glue set and trim any protruding length of wood from the top.

7. Cover the head and neck with glue. Begin at the neck and carefully wrap upwards with your flesh colored floss. It's okay if the top and back of the head are a bit messy.

8. Glue on some floss for hair in the style and length of your choice.

Variations and Tips

• You could smooth the "feet" and "hands" with sandpaper if you want.
• Make some accessories for your dolls. Headbands, scarves and shoes should be pretty easy places to start.
• I prefer faceless dolls, but you can certainly add such details with a felt-tipped pen. You could add buttons, pockets or jewelry the same way.
• A larger version could be made from skewers or pencils and yarn.
• You could wrap the whole body in one color and then glue on bits of fabric for the clothes.
• These would make great embellishments for cards or attachments to gift tags. They could be used as ornaments, on hair accessories, or as jewelry. For a more academic slant, try putting a few in a diorama.

107 Things to Put in Your Sensory Table

Here are some ideas for your sensory or "sand and water" table, from traditional to unusual. Keep in mind that you don't need a commercial table for any of these - a large shallow plastic container works fine.

You can also use more than one material in your table. For instance, bury some plastic "jewels" in sand for a treasure hunt or put shells in sand for a beach theme. Add soil to water for mud or mix rice, beans and popcorn for a variety of sensory experiences.

Sensory Materials

1. Sand
2. Water - plain or lightly colored
3. Water with liquid soap or bars of soap
4. Rice - which can be colored with food coloring if desired
5. Pasta - one kind or a mix; can also be colored
6. Snow
7. Fake snow - it's awesome!
8. Hay
9. Soil - use organic for safety; add live worms if you're brave
10. Sod
11. Homemade silly putty
12. Jello - make a few large pans of it and dump it in
13. Cereal
14. Sugar or salt
15. Leaves, acorns, twigs, pine cones
16. Easter grass
17. Shaving cream - can be colored with food coloring
18. Ice cubes or crushed ice, or a large block of ice
19. Shredded documents - from a regular or cross-cut shredder
20. Birdseed
21. Seaweed
22. Grain - or pellets used for animal feed
23. Dog biscuits
24. Fish tank gravel
25. Flour
26. Popcorn
27. Packing peanuts
28. Cedar chips - check your local pet store
29. Sawdust - ask your local lumber company
30. Marbles and cardboard tubes
31. Feathers
32. Applesauce
33. Cotton balls
34. Strips of bubble wrap - you can buy it in large rolls
35. Plastic "jewels"
36. Beads and string
37. Cooked spaghetti - add a little oil to keep it from sticking
38. Curling ribbon
39. Homemade play dough
40. Yarn and string
41. Confetti
42. Pebbles, gravel, rocks
43. Hair gel
44. "Oobleck" - equal parts cornstarch and water
45. Shells
46. Glitter
47. Homemade slime
48. Magnets and small metal objects, like paper clips
49. Potato flakes (dehydrated)
50. Shampoo
51. Live goldfish or minnows - for a short amount of time, and under direct supervision only!
52. Tinsel
53. Smell bottles
54. Natural clay
55. Real or fake flowers
56. Bubble solution
57. Water and a bottle of mineral oil or baby oil
58. Finger paint
59. Jingle bells
60. Wood scraps and sandpaper
61. Papier mache - soak strips of newspaper and put in blender with flour and water
62. Hand lotion
63. Sponges and soapy water
64. Beans - several types
65. Buttons
66. Insides of a cleaned-out pumpkin - or whole gourds/mini pumpkins/decorative corn
67. Pudding
68. Used coffee grinds
69. Toilet paper - add a little water if you like
70. Cornmeal
71. Different kinds of tape or pattern scissors
72. Doll or pillow stuffing - really cheap at Wal-Mart
73. Separate bowls of vinegar and baking soda for mixing
74. Polymer crystals - they are used to provide water to plants; they absorb it and turn into a gel
75. Toothpaste
76. Oatmeal
77. Nuts - use a variety, still in their shells
78. Crepe paper streamers
79. Pom-poms
80. Poker chips
81. White glue
82. Stretchy/squishy toy worms/insects

Tools and Accessories

83. Measuring cups and spoons
84. Cooking and serving utensils: Spoons, tongs, mashers, whisks, etc.
85. Eye droppers or pipettes
86. Turkey basters
87. Small lidded containers
88. Bowls
89. Strainers/colanders
90. Scissors
91. Popsicle sticks
92. Clothespins
93. Dowels
94. Cookie cutters
95. Fishnets
96. Small buckets and shovels
97. Toy people, boats and vehicles
98. Plastic animals and insects
99. Magnifying glasses
100. Bubble wands
101. Funnels
102. Spray bottles
103. Lengths of plastic pipes and flexible tubing (hardware stores carry different diameters)
104. Straws
105. Magnet wands
106. Toothbrushes
107. Plastic fruits and vegetables