When my children were little, they loved to play outside in the summer. The more messy and creative the activity, the happier they were. They especially loved art projects and had a habit of inviting the neighborhood children to play with them. In the summer, it wasn’t uncommon for me to have 6 to 10 kids a day playing noisily in my backyard. So I had to get thrifty when it came to planned activities. Some of the ones the kids enjoyed most cost $10 or less to put together. In case you are faced with a similar situation this summer, here’s a quick rundown on two cheap and messy art projects that you may want to try:
Classy Clothes Line Art Gallery
One art project that was a big hit with the kids was the “classy clothes line art gallery.” I’d let them spend part of the day creating paintings. I’d provide a mixture of store-bought watercolor paints ($5) and homemade fingerpaints. The homemade fingerpaints were made from a mixture of cornstarch ($1.25 per 12 ounce canister), salt (.50 cents per 26 ounce canister), food coloring ($3 a box), sugar ($2.75 per 4 pound bag) and water. Basically, you mix those ingredients together into a sauce pan over low heat. Stir it until the mixture reaches the consistency that you want. Then let it cool before pouring it into containers for the kids. I would generally buy a large roll of craft paper at the start of the summer season. You can pick up a 24 inch wide x 1,000 foot long roll of craft paper through most art supply retailers for $40. It would typically last all summer long. The kids would create all the paintings outside in the backyard, so clean up was a breeze. All it took was a few runs under the garden hose and what kid doesn’t like running under a garden hose in the summer? Once the paintings were done, we’d hang them up onto the clothes line with clothes pins to dry. While the paintings, and the kids, were drying off, I’d whip up some lemonade for our afternoon art opening. At the opening, they’d sip lemonade and admire each other’s artwork. Sometimes some of the other parents from the neighborhood would join them at the art opening as well.
Salt Dough Sculptures
Another cheap and messy art project that the kids enjoyed was making salt dough sculptures. In order to make the salt dough, you’ll need salt (.50 cents per 26 ounce canister), a bag of all-purpose flour ($3 for a 5 pound bag) and water. If you want to give the salt dough some color, add a drop or two of food coloring into the mix. Once made, the salt dough can be molded into most anything. You may opt to let the sculptures air dry, which was what we did in the summer, or bake them in the oven. Either way, the sculptures will eventually dry and become as hard as a rock. When it came time for clean up, I’d make use of the garden hose again. In my experience, any little pieces of salt dough that accidentally landed in the grass were eaten by birds or insects.
Killeen Gonzalez enjoys the great outdoors with her family and is a former special events planner. She has also traveled extensively.
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