kids art

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I don’t know where the boy got this idea but he came to me with this sketch and a promotional toy ball and requested that we cover the ball in yarn and “knit” the body. My kids often come up with ideas they really can’t accomplish on their own and I generally fall for “helping” them make their creations. They do make plenty of their own creations with very little help.

In the advertising world, the production artist is the person who makes the creative or art director’s sketch into reality. Although they are usually at the bottom of the org chart, a good production artist is worth their weight in gold. I am not a good production artist. But I suppose this was good practice. The art director seemed pleased with the results and was even persuaded to help with some of the production.

orange skeleton mohawk dude kid drawing

We have recently acquired a rather large collection of worsted weight acrylic yarn balls in all colors from a neighbor and I have found these quite useful for occasions such as these. He quickly picked out the desired colors and I went to work on crocheting a cover for the toy ball. Yes, I could knit this but I’m better at winging it with crochet and I find it easier to get a firmer fabric with crochet, so better for dolls and animals.


Boring part over we moved on to the body. I started each foot and then had him sit in front of me and helped him through single crocheting the stripes. It’s just a matter of sticking the hook through the right hole and pulling out a loop of yarn. We joined the legs into a body with more stripes, I did the decreases toward the neck and crocheted the arms and the blue eye rounds. He helped me sew on the arms and the details on the face. I did about one row of hair and he did the rest, styling as he went.

amigurumi mohawk skeleton striped dude

He took it to class for share day with a cardboard guitar he made. Rock on, mohawk dude.

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This is actually from a few weeks ago but I hadn’t gotten around to posting it. The girl likes to work with polymer clay on occasion. Usually I’m pretty strict about making a sketch first, otherwise she is apt to just cut it up into pieces and well, it’s not clay-dough. This time I didn’t ask her to sketch but we did discuss what she wanted to make. I helped make sure things were sturdy and fairly well attached but she did most of the work. I was amused to watch her put the legs on her cat just the same way she draws them, in a straight row instead of two by two!

5 year old's drawing of animal with long tail

The pet, as she referred to the cat she made.

polymer clay cat kid art child

And the pet owner, as she referred to the girl with blue hair. I made the feet so she would stand up on her own like the cat.

polymer clay cat and girl by five year old

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Winter in Maine means months of sweaters and snowpants, hot chocolate and mittens. For Christmas, the girl received a beautiful puzzle inspired by Disney’s Snow White with artwork painted by Tim Rogerson in a style subtly reminiscent of Picasso. I know that sounds like a strange combination but click through to see the original artwork, the artist really makes it work. Apparently the artist’s style made quite an impression on the girl because a few days after we worked on the puzzle she created this mitten picture beginning with a tracing of her own hands.

child's drawing of mittens

Later, the boy saw her picture and got an idea. He very carefully explained how we could sew mittens by putting our hands down on fabric instead of paper, tracing and cutting. He went on to describe how he would sew the mittens all around the hand and thumb. He even had some ideas about how to add details such as the hearts in the girl’s picture. I wish I could say we carried out his plan but he lost interest at that point. Sigh.

I did however incorporate his plan into mittens for myself with a little help from the kids. We traced my hand and cut out the pattern. I decided to use the fair isle decorated sleeves of a felted sweater to make my mittens. This lovely wool sweater was sent to me by my sweet friend Amy who thought that I could do something with it. Here’s what we did Amy!

cutting felted fair isle sweater into mittens
partially sewn mitten upcycle recycle refashion wool sweater sleeve

Although I kept the part of the seam that was already sewn, I decided not to sew a standard seam around the thumb and hand. Instead I overlapped the fabric, basted across the overlap and then used my needle felting tool to felt the overlap. My intention was to eliminate a hard seam on the inside, especially at the fingertips. This worked with some success. The sides of the mittens and thumb felted together well leaving almost no visible seam. The fingertip area, unfortunately, did not hold together so well. In fact I’ve been wearing them with the basting stitch holding the ends together which sort of negates the point of wool mittens. But despite the little draftiness at the ends they are still the warmest, softest mittens I have. I do intend to take a minute to work some more on the fingertips and thumbtips to close them up. If I can stop wearing them long enough.

mitten sewn from felted recycled upcycled refashioned wool sweater

P.S. Just in case you want to make your own sewn mittens, I highly recommend sewing in a diamond shaped gusset between the thumb and first finger. If you pin your mitten together and try it on, leaving that spot open, you’ll see why you need just a bit of extra fabric in there.

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The boy recently told me that he wanted to be a “builder” when he grew up, just like me. He then looked at his dad thoughtfully and said encouragingly, “You can be a builder when you grow up too Dad.” Poor Dad. I explained that Daddy builds things too but you can’t always see them.

A lego steampunk land-airship with boiler in the back.

lego boat with wheels

A collaborative Sculpey white tailed deer mostly done by the girl, with a little help from her brother and me. This was probably inspired by a recent trip to L.L. Bean where they have lots of native-to-Maine animal taxidermy on display. The plastic rhinestone eyes are the really old kind that had to be set with prongs. It didn’t occur to me that they might be heat sensitive, oops. Luckily the time in the oven only caused them to become less shiny and softer looking, a happy accident.

Sculpey deer with blue rhinestone eyes

They make so many things that I don’t always get pictures of everything but these were two things they particularly asked me to photograph. They set the scene themselves with the shiny snowflake papered box which they also made out of leftover Christmas wrapping.

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I have to say that the men in the house pulled off the best handmade presents this year. I helped a little but the ideas and much of the execution was theirs. The boy made his sister a monogrammed purse which she adores.

hand sewn felt and leather purse for little girl flowers monogram

We traced and cut an oval from some stiff pink felt left over from another project. The boy used a fabric marker to draw a curly “S” in the middle of the oval and then arranged and sewed on felt flowers all around. I cut a very simple pattern out for a curvy purse with a large front flap, reminiscent of styles from the ’70s. I cut the pieces from some scrap leather I had. (I’m pretty sure it’s bi-cast or laminated but it looks surprisingly nice and I think it will hold up fine to loving use by a little girl.) The boy helped me machine sew the oval onto the front flap. He then used a fabric marker to stencil a sweet message on the inside to his sister. Later I hand-sewed the pieces of the purse together and attached the strap to rings at the sides. It looks great, the boy was quite proud of himself and his sister was over the moon! See the photos below for the play-by-play action.

Oo! Pretty!

Oo! Pretty!



Oh, man, she kissed me!

Oh, man, she kissed me!

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wool felt ball eyeball toy

I admit that I shamelessly copied this oogly eyeball from a picture on the internet. Unfortunately I cannot find the original source now to give credit but I see it’s not as unique as I first thought. I did make my own pattern and chose my own colors and my version is likely smaller than the picture that I looked at but it’s pretty much identical. I rarely if ever do that. Mostly because I’m not good at copying when I want to and moreso because I always have my own ideas on what and how I want to do things. The boy had wanted to make some monster stuffies and knowing how popular those are I thought we’d look around on the internet for images that we liked and then combine our favorite features into our own monster stuffie pattern. Along the way we saw these fabric eye balls that were just perfect the way they were. So we made wool felt eyeballs. This was the first and unfortunately I didn’t get a picture of the second which the boy did most of the sewing on because he wrapped it up and gave it away about as fast we got it finished. Made with wool and rayon felt and a little embroidery, and filled with wool stuffing and poly pellets. I still want to make the monsters but these were more fun than I would have guessed. Sewing a sphere is never an easy proposition but felt makes it fairly painless.

pouch style baby carrier for doll

Here’s the girl carrying a baby doll in a pouch style baby carrier that I made for her cousin. Don’t worry, I made the girl one too. Now I’ve made so many baby pouches I could practically cut one out without a pattern and that’s exactly what I did here. But the style that came to mind as particularly appropriate for a doll carrier, was inspired by a real pouch style baby carrier idea from my friend Jen. I traced the finished pouch so that I’d have the pattern for keeps. I may post the pattern here after I try it out on a few more kids and different sized baby dolls/stuffies. I’m also going to “stick a pin” here to remind myself to tell you a little trick I thought up regarding handmade presents.

groovy girl doll and handknit doll sweater

Just last week my neighbor shared with me several bags of yarn she’d received from someone else. The girl had seized on a small ball of pink and white novelty yarn which I decided to turn into a sweater for her favorite doll. (Don’t ask about the “dress” she has on.) My first top-down raglan sweater, ha ha. Maybe I’ll feel better about starting on a person-sized sweater now. I accidentally left the little sweater out and the girl saw it. I thought the surprise was ruined because of course she asked who it was for. But I answered with the name of her doll. The girl replied very seriously that she would wrap it up so that said doll would not see it before Christmas!

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I am so proud of the girl. She has been making a list of all her favorite people and making gifts for them. Some of her choices have been interesting but I’ve done my best to help her carry out her plans. This faux leather wallet is for one of her boy friend/heroes. Though he is nearly 6 years older, he has always been kind to her and she looks up to him like another brother.

pleather faux leather wallet with contrast stitching hand made

I was a bit dismayed when she said that she wanted to make him a wallet but after a bit of thought I pulled out this remnant of black vinyl. She sat on my lap at the sewing machine and chose one of his favorite colors, red, for the thread. We then turned the dials of my simple machine through the different stitch patterns and sewed parallel lines of red stitching against the black. I folded the rectangle wrong side out and sewed; her eyes danced as we turned it right side back out revealing the simple pouch shape. She chose a matching red resin snap to close the wallet.

hand sewn pleather vinyl snap wallet pouch

It didn’t photograph so well, and it’s a bit on the bold side, but I think he will actually like it. She seemed matter-of-factly pleased with the finished project and immediately wrapped it and wrote the label. I had to retrieve it after she went to bed and carefully unwrap it to photograph it!

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Coming soon to a dinner table near you . . .

The boy has been studying geometric solids in school and brought home a tetrahedron pattern (like a pyramid with a triangle base). We glued it to cardstock and then glued it together. He colored one, two and three dots on three of the sides and a set of scary teeth on the last side.

grabbermouth tetrahedron die

Then he made up a game, Grabbermouth, to play with his pyramid shaped die. Simple and surprisingly fun! Each player rolls the die in turn hoping to be the first to add dots to equal six. If the “grabbermouth” lands face down you lose all your points. This was easier for the girl using tokens so she didn’t forget how many points she had. He then set to making a similar die with a cardstock cube.

cardstock paper cube and tetrahedron pyramid

The rules for Double Grabbermouth got a bit more complicated. I was impressed with his creative use of the shapes and his ability to create the rules to a new game that probably owed a bit of inspiration to the dreidel game but certainly has its own character.

Links are included to templates from Zoomschool so you can make your own geometric solid shapes from paper.

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melt and pour soap handmade

Last week I pulled out the ingredients for melt and pour soap. My crafty double boiler, some clear soap base, various fragrance and essential oils, a stone shaped mold previously used for plaster, a silicone mini muffin tin and regular old food coloring. Soap molding isn’t something I do regularly but I’ve done it a few times and some of the ingredients overlap with other crafts such as candlemaking. The girl and I started on this project one morning and once the boy saw what was going on I ended up having to get more soap base, creamy white shea butter. The boy ended up making most of the different combinations but the girl enjoyed making the labels, which I cut from full sheet label paper I had on hand.

handmade melt and pour soaps with kid made labels

Purple glittered gentle rain, light blue clove, light brown clove with actual ground cloves mixed in, clear green peppermint, pink jasmine, clear orange bergamot, natural white cinnamon with cinnamon sprinkles, and maybe a few others that didn’t make it into the picture.

This project is so easy and fast that it is fun to do with kids and I think I have mostly done it with kids other than mine until this time. You can even use a glass mixing bowl in the microwave to melt the soapbase and any plastic container can be a mold. Clean up is a breeze of course!

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Under the waterline, starting from right side is large scuba man with lots of little oxygen tanks inside for the little scuba guys at the bottom who are dug into rooms under the sand along with a crab. In the upper left quadrant is a jellyfish, a cameraman, a horseshoe crab, an orange starfish and a lobster. This is a perfect example of the boy’s drawing style. Arrows represent relationships, movement, or the passage of time. Different elements are drawn with different levels of detail, often using varying points of view depending on the subject.


Do you sense a theme here? An ocean unit at school and a summer of trips to the beach have likely contributed to the subject matter, although I’m rather surprised not to see a hermit crab among the creatures.


Again we see a representation of events or cycles, not just a single snapshot. “A whale eating a shark eating a dolphin eating a little fish eating a little tiny shrimp” across the top. Also pictured are a diver taking a picture of a jellyfish, a baby shark, a manta ray gliding across the sand, a tiny starfish, and a “diving digger”. And “don’t forget the sea plant.”

I find the thought process of the boy’s drawings intriguing. Every child has their own style, even those who think they don’t like art can be encouraged to open up and go for it in the right environment. If you don’t have your own children to draw with, I highly recommend borrowing someone else’s child for an afternoon (with permission of course.) Get out some chalk on the driveway or some large pieces of paper on the floor and get down on your knees and draw together. Let the child guide you and don’t worry about having the right color or the right perspective or any of that kind of thing. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised how much you can enjoy and learn from drawing with a child.



Actually this is the baby gribble but the details are much easier to see. They are round and fuzzy with long pointy ears and a long snout with which to suck up ants and other bugs. Adult gribbles are solid green and have little stubby legs. I wish I could remember the other details of the habits of the gribble, it was a comical story told to me by the girl with large gestures and lots of giggling.

Here is my interpretation in polymer clay (with direction from the girl of course). Maybe I should attempt it in Fun Fur instead.

polymer clay gribble creature

The artist with an adult gribble—blue ant half way up the snout. Watch out!


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This post is for you, ArTchrJan.

rag rolled hair curls

Okay, this is actually the back of the girl’s head while she is working on the project to follow. She asked for curly hair so I put her hair up in rag rolls, too cute huh? Anyway, here’s her beach scene collage cut with the “special” scissors. We have an assortment of scissors with different edges like waves, scallops, etc. That’s a person on the beach and a sea monster in the water.

construction paper collage

Friday the boy brought one of our plain canvas bags to me and asked to paint it. The girl immediately wanted to paint too of course. As usual, I requested they make a sketch first. Otherwise the girl is apt to just scribble. Here are the results, including the feet of the artists; a Pokémon ball (or so I was told) and a tiger cat with red rat. And now we have a one-of-a-kind library bag! I think I’ll request they paint some others.

pokemon ball painted on canvas bag

tiger cat and red rat painted on canvas bag

And this project is a little older, maybe a week or two ago. the girl and I made this juice can lid mosaic out of Sculpey. Actually she did most of it, rolling the clay through the pasta machine and cutting out the shapes with canapé cutters, I just helped fill in the blue background and worked the oven.

polymer clay sculpey mosaic flower on juice can lid

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The boy built a cardboard house for his kitty. Added an attic for the girl’s kitty. And a porch with a telescope on the roof. For the baby kitty to watch the moon a.k.a. the kitchen light. There was much tape involved. (I helped with the heavy cutting and brought out the duct tape to spare the rest of the roll of scotch tape.)


I am privileged to be a spectator and sometimes participant in the amazing stories that they weave together. Their imaginations are quirky, funny and heartwarming. They can be sincerely sweet to each other in a goofy, storybook way that almost seems too cute to be real. Just as real as the 45 minutes of wrestling and screaming at each other they put me through later that afternoon. On occasion I regret that they share a room and there is no way to send them both to their room separately!



Admittedly, this photo is about a month old but I just realized I’d never shared it. The boy in the leaf pile. We had a great time that day, jumping in, playing leaf monster, piling on dad, etc. There’s some other things I’ve missed as well but I’m just going to offer some random favorite photos here until I get myself reorganized.

sleeping cats

Lila and Duke, curled up on the couch, just about every evening. Sometimes they let us sit with them too.


The girl, as Rudolph, with her ballet teacher, as the Nutcracker, after her very first performance. She was thrilled to be on a real stage although she did say more than once that she would have preferred to be Clara so that she could dance with her teacher. And of course she was quite enamored with all the beautiful costumes. The Maine State Ballet has a cute tradition of Father Christmas and his reindeer (the youngest ballet class) pulling the sleigh with Clara in it off the stage at the end of the ballet. It has nothing to do with the story and they are only on the stage for about 20 seconds but everyone loves it. Her brother and a special friend attended with us and all three of them sat in rapt attention through the performance. Tchaikovsky has such a universal appeal.


The girl cleared the top shelf of her bookcase of all its usual oddments and carefully arranged this sweet vignette. I had to snap a picture of it. The rose her daddy gave her after her performance in the Nutcracker, her well-loved kitty, given to her by her Nana, and Abby, her little Lego girl that I handpicked the pieces for and assembled to look like her.

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With the machine AND by hand. Last week while we were all still pretty sick he got it into his head that he wanted to make a cube out of felt. I elicited a response that he was willing to do the work himself before we started. He quickly chose six colors and used a wooden block to trace out squares of equal size. He cut most of them out himself and showed me the placement. Since I didn’t want it to take forever and risk him losing interest I decided we should go for machine sewing. So I set him up next to me on the machine and helped him guide the squares through with a zigzag stitch. After the first try or two he could stop on a dime! After doing as many seams by machine as possible he used leftover quilt batting to stuff his creation. Then he enthusiastically agreed to sew up the open side by hand and did so, quite well, considering he’s never tried before. Then he decided to add four feet and also sewed those on, with my help, I tied the knots. He was very proud of himself, as was I. He named his creation Bobby and took it to school to show off what he had learned.

sewn felt cube


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