Thursday, January 5, 2012


Inspired by a great activity from a great art teacher's site called Art Projects for Kids, the cousins made self-portraits this summer in the style of Chuck Close.

First we traced black-and-white print-outs of 'face shots' through carbon paper onto graph paper.  It isn't easy finding carbon paper anymore, but luckily for us, my parents had some leftover from the 1970s.

The next step was tedious, but creative.  The kids colored each square of the graph paper with a different design, having no two adjoining squares match.  The colors of the squares matched what the kids imagined would be the color of that part of the portrait (for examples, a variety of browns might compose the hair, a variety of pinks would make the lips).

Not only was this a fun activity for a rainy day of Camp Gramp, but the children tell me (now that winter is upon us) that some of them have learned about or seen Chuck Close's work since we did this activity; they can relate to it now that they've experienced it.

Marble Mazes


With some scrap wood, nails, and rubber bands, the cousins made marble mazes this summer at Camp Gramp.  Using an old idea from Family Fun, we first made grids on large squares of wood, and then hammered nails at the grid intersections.  I like any activity that gets kids hammering, since hammering is a great skill AND it is satisfyingly noisy!

Once the nails were in place, rubber bands could be placed in any configuration to create a maze. We tested the mazes with marbles to make sure the rubber bands weren't too high or too low.  Then we tried each other's mazes and had a great time!

 The joy of this creation is that the children can remove the bands to reconfigure their mazes again and again.  It will never get old!  Because we planned to keep our mazes flexible, we did not paint them as Family Fun did in their example.  Some of the children did decorate their mazes with markers, though.

Stop-Motion Films

Camp Gramp is a week each summer in which my children and their cousins stay at their grandparents' house, swimming and doing crafts each day, playing games and watching movies each night.  It is a magical time.
Each year I plan a series of crafts for the kids to do, but as they are collectively aging, the crafts need to become more sophisticated. 
This summer we broke the kids into small groups to make Stop-Motion Films.  We started off by reminding them that some films are made this way (Corpse Bride and many of the old Rankin Bass holiday specials, such as Santa Claus is Coming to Town, are good examples).  I showed them a short film I made of a toy moving across a table and explained that a series of photos can be pieced together on the computer to make it look as though an object is moving.
The kids had a great time shooting the films.  Editing the films on the computer, including adding sound effects, music, and voice, took several days.  The youngest group helped me edit their film, but the two older groups did most of their editing independently.  The results were brilliant!  We watched the films on our last day of Camp and put all the short films on DVDs for the families to keep.