Snacking? Not a fan! Let’s talk instead about activities that can promote interest in matters other than food, while keeping restless little hands busy doing creative projects. Let’s aim for a family culture that includes the very important standard of not dragging consumption into every mundane activity. This is a culture that respects artistic creation and recognizes its importance, and acknowledges that some activities are so meaningful that they should not be sullied by consumption.
It is helpful to set a precedent of not eating anything when doing artwork, because it could potentially damage the child’s own artwork or that of another artist. Technically, water should be okay to drink anytime, but if art is happening, keep the glass or bottle away from it!
Now, consider masks, which offer endless possibilities. Check out after-Halloween sales or party stores for blank white masks, or buy them by the dozen for about $1 apiece from an online retailer. They can be colored with paint or crayon or marker. Stuff can be glued onto them, including hair-like substances at the top or bottom edges.
They can be decorated at any time of year, and there may be a hidden bonus. With any luck, the mask creator will want to wear it all day, which makes eating just a bit more difficult.
Of course, there is another way to make masks, and here it is useful to explain the first two very foundational preparations: hoarding cardboard, and collecting pictures.
As we have seen, thin cardboard is useful to create missing jigsaw puzzle pieces and indeed, packaging can be an endlessly rich source of art and play materials. Lightweight cardboard is a fabulous unnatural resource. Breakfast cereal and other products come in lightweight boxes that can be cut up and used to make colored, painted, or collage masks. The cardboard has a little bit of “give” to it, so can semi-wrap around the face, tied with string or ribbon. The other needed supplies are really minimal, consisting of scissors and glue sticks.
A different, non-mask possibility is to carefully deconstruct the whole box, and now instead of only one surface, there are six sides of a box to decorate. Markers are effective; crayons or paints can be used as well. Then put it back together, with what used to be the outside on the inside, and the new artwork showing. Secure the seams with tape or glue. Who says art must be flat? Special belongings could be kept in such a fancy box. A gift could be given in it (like maybe, a nice collage mask).
The glory of collage
Even if your own budget does not run to magazine subscriptions, anybody can get hold of slick-page magazines full of color photographs for free from a hairdresser, doctor’s office, library donation shelf, thrift store, or friends and family. If there is any concern, a grownup could screen the material, tear out the pages with nice pictures of animals or whatever, and throw the rest away.
Here is a tip. Save any life-size faces, because they can be chopped apart, and their features mixed and matched to create — ta-dah! — collage masks. Depending on their skill level, kids can trim up the edges of the photos that will become part of their artwork. Don’t worry, they will get better at it, and meanwhile, they are not using their hands to feed their faces.
Your responses and feedback are welcome!