Brushing up on artistic skills sounds like a great way to spend the summer… but what’s a family to do when several popular art camps are either booked out or moving their activities online? With a little ingenuity, the art camp vibe can be recreated in the safety of your own home. Pull together the basics: art supplies, scrap, recyclables, costumes, and the creativity should soon follow.
For hands-on workshop ideas, take a leaf out of the professionals’ book with a number of simple and fun projects designed to spark creativity in little (and not so little) ones.
1 Make a pinhole camera
You wouldn’t believe how easy it is to make a ‘camera’ out of everyday household objects, from a Pringles can to a shoebox. To make one, you’ll need a shoebox (or similar), a pencil, scissors, ruler, wax paper, tape and blanket. Use your pencil to punch a hole in one end of the box. Get an adult to cut a square in the opposite end of the box, across from the hole. The square should be two inches on each side. Cut a 3-inch by 3-inch square of wax paper, and tape it over the square on the box. Take the camera to a dimly lit room with a lamp. Cover your head and pinhole camera with a blanket, and make sure the wax paper end is facing you, and the other end of the pinhole camera is facing the lamp. You should see an upside down image of the lamp, which is exactly what happens with a real camera. The wax paper acts as the film, and when the light hits the film, the chemicals on the wax paper turn the image into a photograph.
2 Buy an art camp kit
Ballybrack’s Pine Forest Arts Centre are bringing the arts and crafts camp to a wider cohort of budding artists this year, with their Boredom Buster craft packs. Create Ferocious Flying Finger Dragons with a colourful card kit; make a 3D Frog Pond, complete with googly eyes, or decorate drinking straws with foam forest creatures. All you’ll need is glue, scissors and plenty of imagination. Kits are on sale for €12.50 and available to buy at pineforestartscentre.com. Similarly, Artzone are offering to mail full equipment boxes for their clay construction and painting on canvas activities to families — the boxes are on offer for around €20 (exclusive of postage). See artzone.ie.
3 Create a photogram
Much like a pinhole camera exercise, ‘photos’ can be created without a real camera, or even photographic chemicals. The Met Gallery in New York have created this easy activity as part of their MetKids programme. You’ll need: sun-sensitive paper (available online and at art stores), cardboard, thumbtacks or tape, opaque materials like paper, arts and crafts supplies, or objects found in nature, a folder, envelope/box, and a tray with water. Use thumbtacks or tape to mount a sheet of sun-sensitive paper on a piece of cardboard. Arrange opaque materials on the sheet and secure them with thumbtacks or tape. Protect your photogram from the sun by storing it in a folder, envelope, or box. Take it outside and expose it to the sun for a few minutes. When the sheet turns light in color, remove it from the sun. Inside, remove the materials from the sheet. Place your sheet in a tray of water and develop it for a few minutes. Then, let it dry and admire your work of art.
4 Make an iPhone film
Incorporate existing toys, siblings and friends into a scripted short film at home. Several apps will help you shoot and edit a short film, from iMovie and Filmic Pro to Viddy (on Android). Encourage them to try filmmaking techniques like setting up the camera, filming the scene and yelling ‘Cut!’.
5 Tie-dye clothing
A creative exercise for the kids, and a wardrobe refresh? Once you don’t mind getting a little messy, this is the perfect rainy day activity. Dyes specifically for tie-dye projects can be bought in local chemists, and white cotton garments give the best results. Build a stock of colours to create even more vibrant results.
6 Easy puppet making
Sock puppets and paper hand puppets are really easy for little ones to get started on, and some crafty types have even taking to using plastic spoons to create fun puppets. A no-sew felt puppet is a fun project too: find different colours of felt, scissors, hot glue and a marker. Firstly, trace your template for the puppet shape, and cut two shapes. Trace the ears and cut them out, and do the same with mouths, whiskers, eye whites and eye blacks. Glue the ears on one layer of the puppet body, then glue the second layer of the puppet body on top. Add your eyes, mouth, whiskers and any other details you like.
7 Get crafty with clay
According to Creative Ardagh’s Ann Gerety Smyth, big bags of clay are relatively cheap in art shops and can last for ages. To make clay sea turtles, you’ll need some air-dry clay, old newspaper, toothpicks and straws. Create an oval-like ball with clay, and stretch it to form a turtle’s head and flippers. Once your turtle is stretched out into shape, use a toothpick or a straw to make the shell design. Once he has dried, you can colour him any way you like. Creative Ardagh are also offering a free online art course that creatives of all ages can follow at their leisure: see creativeardaghartelements.blogspot.com.
8 Create food art
Edible artwork, anyone? Paint patterns, pictures or logos on bread with simple food dyes, and pop in the toaster to complete a simple, but wonderful looking snack. If you want to get even more arty with your food, set your campers an ‘artist’ challenge, where they have to recreate art from the likes of artists like Andy Warhol, Jackson Pollock or Monet using foodstuffs, from pizza bases and wraps to cupcakes. The only limits are your little one’s imaginations… oh, and the contents of your pantry.
9 Make a leaf rubbing garland
Katie Long, manager at the Pine Forest Arts Centre, encourages her young charges to collect a variety of leaves for one fun exercise.
“Place the leaves under a piece of paper and rub with a crayon until the leaf veins show through,” she suggests. “If you haven’t any crayons, don’t worry — just trace around the leaves with a pencil. Then cut out your various leaf shapes and lay a long piece of string across the back of each one. Finally tape or glue the string to the leaves so they hang down to form a garland. It ooks great draped along a mirror in a child’s room.”