Valentine Gifts for Parents

Trivets and Cards

This delightful project makes a beautiful trivet as a gift and you get the bonus of a matching card with almost no additional work! These tiles are decorated by masking parts of the tile and then sponge painting over the whole thing. Once the masks are removed, you get lovely tile coloured shapes with clean edges.  The masks are then used to decorate a coordinating card.


Blank greeting card (or folded card stock)

Tile (4” square makes a nice coaster, 6” square or larger makes a nice trivet)

Rubbing alcohol and cloth

Sketchbook or drawing paper, pencil, eraser, tracing paper

Adhesive shelf liner (Contact® is one brand name)



Acrylic paint in at least three similar colours


Small pieces of sponge


Spray on acrylic sealer


With a pencil, write your name on the back of the tile.

Trace the tile into your sketchbook (or paper) one or more times.

Clean the tile with the rubbing alcohol. Be careful not to touch the surface with your fingers so that you do not transfer oils to the tile after cleaning. Let the tile dry.

Meanwhile, come up with some designs for your tile in the traced outlines. Make sure that your design has fairly simple closed shapes. Remember that you will have to cut the shapes out with your scissors. Note that the shapes will be the colour of the tile and the area outside the shapes will be the colour of your paints.

Choose the design you like the best (try for about three shapes). Trace the shapes onto tracing paper.

Roughly cut out these shapes, not on the lines, but outside the lines to leave room for more precise cutting latter.  Tape the rough cut shapes to a piece of shelf liner. Cutout on the lines through all layers.

Separate the layers. To get the backing off the shelf liner, roll the shape edge back and forth. That usually loosens the two layers. Slide a pin in between the layers, separate the layers with your finger and start peeling the layers apart. With and thin shapes, hold the shelf liner near where you are peeling the backing off so that it does not tear.

Place the sticky part of the shelf liner onto the tile. Again, be careful not to touch the tile itself. Once all the pieces are on the tile, cover with a piece of paper and lightly burnish.

Squeeze out tiny amounts of paint onto a palette. Dip a slightly damp (squeeze as much water out of it as you can) piece of sponge into one of the paint colours. Dab off most of the paint on the palette and then start to dab the paint onto the tile. Apply the colour in more in some areas than in others. Replenish the paint on the sponge as needed, removing excess paint of before going to the tile. You only want a thin layer of paint. You want to have lots of tile still showing after the first colour. Let dry. Waving a stiff piece of paper or your sketchbook above the tile helps the drying process.

Use the next colour and go over the tile, dabbing in some of the areas left white and overlapping some of the other areas. Let dry.

Repeat with a third colour. Let dry

Using three similar colours adds a great deal of depth to this project.  It is much more rich looking than using only one colour.

You can check for dryness by making sure that there are no shiny spots on the paint. However, if you are using a shiny tile, the shine from the tile showing through sometimes makes it look like the paint is still wet when it is really just the tile. Keep this in mind when watching to see if the paint is dry.

While the paint dries, decorate the inside of your card.  Write a message or draw.  The front of the card (if it is the same colour as the tile) will have the coloured hearts that are making the tile on them.

Remove the shelf liner. Find the edge of the shelf liner and slip a pin under the edge to lift It. Peel the shelf liner off the tile and carefully position it on the front of the card.  Repeat for all the pieces.

If you are making multiple tiles, you can adhere the dried shapes to another prepared tile instead of a card.

Repeat the process and make a card at the very end.

Take the tile outside and spray with acrylic sealer (preferably outdoor sealer). Normally,  I avoid spray sealers like I avoid the plague. However, for this project, I found that using a brush on sealer (I tried two different kinds), removes the paint as you brush it on.  While this can be viewed as a distressed look, unless that is the look you are specifically going for, it could be very disappointing.

Optional: Glue felt or cork to the underside of the tile.

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Paper and printing fun with the younger students

The younger group of students (3-5 years old) got to do some fun paper activities and printing activities this week:

Scrunched Paper Sculptures

This art piece can be quiet dramatic with black and brights. In other colour combinations, different effects can be achieved.


  • one 30 cm by 30 cm (12″ by 12″) piece of black paper
  • nine pieces of brightly coloured paper about 10 cm by 10 cm to 15 cm by 15 cm (4″ by 4″ to 6″ by 6″ )
  • white glue

Preparation: Fold each black paper in three the long way and in three the short way to create nine squares. I scored mine using my Score-It® tool at 4″ from each edge. Cut the small pieces of paper.


  1. Each student choose nine pieces of coloured paper and one black sheet.
  2. At their seats, students scrunch or fold the coloured paper into sculpture shapes to fit within the squares of the grid.
  3. The scrunched, three dimensional paper sculptures are glued to the black paper and left to dry. Encourage students to randomly apply the paper sculptures to the black paper background.

Sponge Monoprinting

Monoprinting is a wonderful art technique where paint or ink is spread on a non-porous surface. Designs are painted or scraped away and then a piece of paper or fabric is placed on the non-porous surface and the design is transferred onto the paper or fabric. You can find great examples of monoprints by doing a quick Google search. Click here to see.

For my young (3 to 5 year olds) students, I adapted this technique with often requires quite a bit of control over the amount of paint or ink used. Here students painted their design on a sponge and then the design was transferred to paper.


  • flat sponge
  • water
  • paint
  • paint palette (I use plastic plates)
  • paintbrush
  • paper to print on


Dampen the sponges and wring out excess water.


  1. Students paint colours onto their damp sponge. Encourage the use of several colours to create a design (not necessarily a picture).
  2. The students flip the sponge and press it down onto the paper. Left off carefully and repeat on another part of the same paper.
  3. When the impressions start getting too light, add more paint.

A follow up or extension activity for these two would be

Scrunched Paper Printing

Students take the scrunching from the first activity and print with it and then apply the scrunched and paint covered sculptures to the grid from the first activity.

In order to this, students need to set aside three or four of the brightly coloured pieces from the first activity for this activity. They also need to leave the appropriate number of squares empty, preferably in a random looking arrangement.


  • paper to print on
  • three scrunched paper sculptures from the Scrunched Paper Sculpture activity (have extras on hand)
  • the partially filled black paper grid from the first activity
  • glue
  • paints
  • paint palette (I use plastic plates)
  • paint brush
  • sponges from the previous activity



  1. Each student adds more paint to their sponge if necessary.
  2. They take each sculpture and dip it onto the painted sponge and then use that to print onto a piece of paper. Again, print several times with each piece of paper.
  3. When the paint begins to get too faint, put the sculpture aside and repeat with another paper sculpture.
  4. When the students have used up all their extra paper sculptures, have them glue the paint covered sculptures onto the black grid from the Scrunched Paper Sculpture activity.

Any time that was left was used to paint pages from discarded paperbacks in preparation for future activites.

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Tree Studies

This week, the older group of students that I teach did a study on trees. The point of the exercise it to get the students to really look at and think about trees: both natural tree and artistic interpretations of trees.


  1. Students draw a picture of a tree with no instruction other than “draw a tree”. I did need to specify that the trees should be deciduous, but gave not other instructions.
  2. We viewed a slideshow of photos of real trees. We discussed how trees really look and some ways of approaching drawing a tree. Some questions for discussion: How do the trunk and branches look? How do the leaves look, especially in relation to the shape of the trunk and branches? How do trees look different during the various seasons? What are some ways that we can draw trees to go with this new information?
  3. Draw another tree using the information we discussed.  Things to think about: Which tree is more realistic? Which tree is more interesting?
  4. Show a slideshow of some examples of trees in art.  How do some of these trees differ from real trees? How can you tell that some of these “trees” are trees at all?
  5. Draw a trees using what you have observed and discussed regarding trees in art.

Click here for a variety of examples of tree photos. The link will open in a new window. Alternatively, do a search for “tree”, choose images and then choose photos.

Click here for a variety of paintings and other artistic renderings of trees. Again, the link will open in another window.

Here are links to some specific art works:

Vincent Van Gogh Blossoming Almond Tree

Vincent Van Gogh Trees and Undergrowth

Vincent Van Gogh The Mulberry Tree

Piet Mondrian Trees

Piet Mondrian Gray Tree, Red Tree, Tree and Composition 8 which was created after viewing the cubist work of Braque and Picasso.

We did view other contemporary artworks as well.

The students’ work was amazing. All the pieces were really interesting. Great work everyone!

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Video and instructions for a Simple Sewn Notebook

I have posted written instructions and a video to create a simple sewn notebook. Click on the underlined words have the open the pages. The pages will open in a new window.

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Kids and creativity!

To be human is to be creative.

This is particularly true for the very young as many older people have been told or have decided that they are not creative. Young people (especially those who are pre-teen or younger) are generally not hindered by those beliefs and so their creativity flows. They do not have to be taught to be creative, only guided occasionally.

This winter, I am teaching as arts and crafts class to two groups of children. One group is 3 to 5 years old and the other group is 6 to 12 years old. This blog is designed to give an overview of what we are doing in the class, to provide extension activities for children to do at home and to provide ideas for parents and teachers who are looking for meaningful art and craft activities.

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