Category: children’s workshops

On my MA course this week we had a session with a tutor who is part Polish, and who is known for her wealth of information with regards to being creative! She talked to us about how a lot of the Polish crafts used recyclable materials and were low cost, and at the end of our lecture on ‘Book binding’ she showed us some simple ways to make a christmas tree out of unwanted books.

Coming home feeling really excited, i couldn’t wait to make one for myself, but as i couldn’t find any book that i would quite happily destroy i picked up a colourful ‘Beauty Equipment’ magazine that i thought would also do the trick! As i folded it i remember thinking how nice it was to use something that had some colour in it rather than a book that was just plain black text on white paper…here is the result from my first attempt…


My first attempt at making a Christmas tree out of an unwanted magazine!

Whilst doing my part time job this week (supporting and working with clubs for children) i realised that there was a need to activities for the older children in the clubs (8 – 11) and that this would be ideal. But to make it more Christmassy and to also make it a little less challenging i decided to use a magazine that had a lot less pages (so that they don’t lose interest half way through) and also to adorn the tree with some decorations, to make it look even more Christmassy!

An easier version of the tree

The beauty of these crafts is that they are low cost, and they also teach children to not waste materials and the benefits of recycling. If you wanted you could just fold the tree and use nothing but your hands – but if you do want to make it a little bit special there are a few low cost materials you can use (see below). Have a go…..and if you want to take it even further you can give them a light spray with a metallic spray (use a face mask) and whilst wet, throw glitter onto it…lovely!!

Some optional materials for the tree



So this session was to be the last one in a course of six sessions.  I had grown quite fond of the group of children that had attended every week without fail, bringing with them egg boxes and newspapers and lots of enthusiasm and creativity. They had been a joy to be with, and i learned so much about myself as an artist, a teacher, and also as a parent to my own children.

As we didnt have the balloon characters to work on any more i decided that the last session needed to have a ‘theme’, and i wanted to plan lots of activities within it so that it was lots of fun! The theme i chose was that of PIRATES!! as i knew that most children love pirates!

The first thing that we did was to talk about Pirates, and what sort of lives they had, what they ate, and where they lived and what they did etc – then i gave them a basic cardboard cut out of a pirate shape and asked them to use materials and felts etc to decorate them and to create different pirate characters out of it all. At first a couple of the children struggles a little with what the pirates should wear until i reminded them again that there wasn’t a right or a wrong as they were their characters, and they could create whatever they wanted.

The end result was a wonderful array of colourful, sassy, and glamorous pirates as well as some more scary ones! See what you think…

Cardboard cut outs

Pirate hats were compulsory today!!

and a good time was had by all!!

Even boat building was undertaken

Pirates on parade!

Glitzy Pirates!

Of course pirates HAVE to go on a treasure hunt!

Of course you can't look when you are rooting for treasure....

and make sure you get the treasure out of the Pinnate too!!

and a good good time was had by all!!

and special thanks to my little helper!! assistant Ben 🙂

This is the second to last session with the children, but it is the last session they would be spending on their ‘balloon characters’ and they were all VERY excited at the thought that not only were they going to be able to  decorate them but that they would also be able to take them home! I had been very aware of the fact that they had spent 4 weeks making these characters and that  was too long for children to wait for the praise that can potentially come from parents when a child completes something and takes it home – so i made sure that every week half of the session was spent creating something small that they could take home. I also knew that children, as many adults, do not have a very long attention span, plus i also had children in the group that had challenging behaviour, so i knew i needed to keep changing the activity in order to hold their interest.

Todays first part of the session was on ‘mixed up animals’, where the characters would be made from combining two or more other characters together. They then had to name the character and say what strengths it had, especially as it had the additional strengths from another creature.

The example i gave them was from one of my own characters called ‘The Lird’ i told them the rhyme about the Lird:-

‘Have you heard about the lird?

He’s a Lion crossed with a Bird…..

People say ‘he’s a bit of a nerd’….

‘he wears pink glasses….and he eats lemon curd!’

The children loved the character and the poem and also talked about how brave the Lird was as half of him was a lion, but that he was fast and could fly high up in the sky as he was also half bird. We then compared the mixed up animals to real life, talking about the fact that we are all ‘combinations’ of one form or another, and that everyone is different, including us!

The children made flip books, where they drew four characters on four different pages, and then cut each character into three and then through folding each piece backwards and forwards they could make ‘mixed up characters’ that they then named and described.

The Lird!

Mixed up animals created through the flip book!

The second part of this session was to finish off the balloon characters, and this entailed lots of glue, fabrics, tissue paper, pipe cleaners and such like – and lots  of fun! The ‘birds’ that were being made in the group really started to take shape with their flapping feathers being carefully placed, and the monsters started to look really scary with their scales and tentacles…….ooooooeeeeerrrrr…. these characters were really coming to life!

A lovely bird character

Another lovely and colourful bird

Green scary monsters!!!

Monsters with tentacles!! -oooooooh scary!!

birds with very very big beaks!!

This session was all about ‘Magic Powers’, and the children were happy to see that i had drawn lots of pictures of ‘Brenda the Misunderstood Witch’ from the story i had written and illustrated from the first week, and i was happy to see that they remembered and recognised her and could tell me all about her (this was great feedback for me) I started off  by asking them ‘if you had a magic power what would it be?’, and at the beginning some of the children were struggling to think of what their power would be so we started to talk about situations that might happen in life and what magic power they thought would help them in the situation.

I was really interested, and saddened at the same time to hear that when some of the children talked about being bullied, they said that they wanted to become as small as possible so that they wouldn’t be able to be seen and then they couldn’t be bullied. When i offered an additional suggestion of becoming really really BIG so that they would scare their bullies away they seemed less reluctant to choose this option.It was as if this was way too scary, and that hiding was a better option possibly?

I felt quite honoured that all of the children joined in the discussion and started to talk quite openly about what scared them, and i did think at the time that children are often quite willing to share their feelings as long as they felt accepted and listened to, and i noticed a real change in the atmosphere in the room, as their offloading seemed to have a really calming effect on them all – very interesting!

In this session i wanted to encourage the children to get more involved in story telling, and creating their own adventures and experiences, so initially we did a lot of mind mapping where we talked about  what powers the super heroes may have, where they may live, what might happen to them in the story etc. The children got really involved in the story making and contributing to the discussion.It was really nice to see some of the quieter ones getting involved as well.

busy creating story boards

Suggestion boxes for storys - children picked one from each box

The kids had a great time using the suggestions they had come up with in the discussion and making stories out of them, especially the little boy that ended up with a monster that could grow   tall and whose favourite food was bogies! They created the stories on one piece of A3 paper in the form of a story board.

The second part of the session was spent painting the balloon characters they had been making, Really they could have done with another coat of paper mache, but the kids were so desperate to ‘paint’ i couldnt hold them off any longer! So, to compensate we mixed the acrylic paint with a small amount of PVA glue so it would strengthen up the outer cover a little. Aprons were on…sleeves were rolled up…and a good time was had by all. The kids were so proud to see their characters taking shape!

stripy pink characters!

All ready for decorating!

This session was a real learning curve for me as a teacher and a workshop leader .Even though my experience is with adults aged 16+ rather than the age range 5 to 11 i still found that similar issues would arise in the group, particularly connected with classroom management. Each week i would take a maximum of 10 children, it was limited to this number  because of the amount of space they needed in order to create. Sometimes the combination of children would be slightly different and it was interesting to see in this session what happened when a few of the more challenging children attended the group that day. This was only an issue at the beginning and as the session was all about what scares you…the children were soon distracted into talking about scary monsters and things ‘under the bed’!

Trying to reinforce the learning from the previous session i reminded the children that ‘nothing is wrong’ in order to help with their creativity, as i had noticed in the past that some of the children were really scared to not ‘do things right’, so i explained to them once again that this wasn’t possible when it comes to art and being creative, and that really we want to draw and create things that look totally different to what we are used to creating! (i reminded them of the Picasso self portraits – and that seemed to do the trick straight away!)

So the first half of the session was spent creating monster book marks,  where they would create two different monster characters – one with a happy face and one on the other side with a scary face.This would allow them to use the skills they had learned on previous sessions with reference to ‘expressions’

Monster Bookmarks

Very Sassy Monsters!!

The second half of the session (after juice and biscuits) was to carry on working on their paper mache balloon characters, but this time to add features and character! The aim of this was for them to use the designs they had drawn the week before, and to choose one to now use as a character. Some of the children decided to create monsters similar to the ones they had just drawn, some decided to create birds with big wings, and some i wasn’t too sure what they were but it didn’t matter as the children knew and i think they were busy developing a new species!! Good – and sticky sticky fun was had by all!

Sticky stuff!!

Lots of monsters.........

On the second session the theme was connected to ‘different body shapes and sizes’ with the emphasis being on the fact that we all come in different sizes, and that no two people are the same! My aim was to encourage children to talk about theirs and others differences, and to be able to embrace our individuality and uniqueness!

The children looked at how to create characters bodies using basic shapes such as a circle, a rectangle, a square or even a star! They then drew both people and animal characters. I then introduced to them the ‘balloon character’ that we were going to create, and that this would be an ongoing project that they would keep working on each week. The basic shape for the balloon is obvioulsy balloon shaped – so they created 4 characters from the basic balloon shape, with the intentins of choosing one of these characters to develop into the model.

Creating balloon characters!

After some well deserved juice we were ready for the second half of the session – which was the lovely yucky, sticky, gooey paper mache!! Each child has a balloon that was taped and secured into a bowl (so that it didnt roll all over the table) lots of strips of newspaper and a tray of flour/ water/ and salt mixture!

Lots of fun was had by all!!

Sticky sticky sticky paper mache!!

Even i got really sticky!!

A few of the finished balloon bodies, all covered and ready for the features adding next week!

The session went really well, although i did notice that i had to put a lot of effort into encouraging the children to use their imaginations when designing their characters – this got less and less as the sessions went on, but in the beginning their initial reaction would be that they couldn’t do it or couldn’t think of anything. There seemed to be this fear that in some way they were going to get it wrong, and that worried them.After i explained to them that it was impossible to get it wrong as each character is individual and unique they seemed to get more into it – we did however seem to get a lot of similar looking birds at the end of this session!     :-0) This experience with the children is however making me very interested as to what stimulates children’s imaginations, and what factors are impacting on children today – something that i may incorporate into my dissertation later on.

After much cleaning, and great feedback from the kids they went home with their character sheets, due to return the next week for more sticky and gooey fun!

Ok, as i have finally got ‘written permission’ from all the parents to use the images from the workshops, i can start the lengthy process of blogging the illustrations workshops for my Professional development practice! – so here goes………

I was enlisted to run 6 two hour sessions for 5 – 11 year olds at Community House in Kimnel Bay (which is run by Communities First, in North Wales), and these sessions would be part of the summer activities offered to young children in the local area. I have run workshops for Communities First in the past but these Personal Development workshops  for adults. This was to be my first time working with children.

As a i am a teacher already, and also have quite a lot of experience in teaching young adults with differing behavioral issues and attention spans i was aware from the outset that the sessions needed to be inspirational,inclusive in their approach and to include a wide variety of activities in order to  maintain their attention throughout the sessions. So i decided that each two hour session would include two main themes – one of character development where the emphasis would be on stimulating the imagination and using drawing skills and story telling skills, and the other section would be a very practical, creative and messy session where the children could move around the room, get messy, and feel less restricted. Of course the sessions would be broken up by a ‘juice and toilet break’ , this goes without saying!

The overall theme of the six sessions was ‘illustration, character and story making’ and i also wanted to include an underlying theme of Personal Development as this is the area i am interested in incorporating into my work with children as i feel it is something that is not being addressed as much as it could be in today’s society and i feel that the children would find a lot of benefit in it.

Each session had a title – the first session being :- “Who do you think i am?” – (The underlying theme of this session was about how not to judge people by what they look like.)

–       The aim of this initial session was to teach children how to draw faces and then how to change their facial expressions to represent a range of emotions. Children  drew characters faces, and wrote the emotion by the side that they thought they were showing. They enjoyed ‘making the expressions’ themselves and then drawing them onto paper. I was aware of the fact that i could have given them more time to complete these images but also knew that i needed to change the activity to maintain their attention and that they could possible complete them at home. I also knew that it was important that every session created something that the child could take home and show to their parents, and that it was important that they felt that they had achieved something that day, as the other ‘project’ they would be working on from session 2 would take a few weeks to complete – this is a long time for a child to wait for recognition and praise.

At the start of the session i showed the children a Power Point presentation i had created on ‘What is Art’ which showed the journey of art from the ‘realistic’ type of painting portraits through to the more abstract work of artists such as Picasso. I did this as i knew there would be children who felt that they weren’t any good at drawing and felt that their work wouldn’t be realistic enough, i wanted them to know that there are lots of different types of art, and that it isn’t all about creating something that is a ‘photo realistic’  , but it is all about how the images makes you feel. They were surprised to see that Picasso’s cubist style portraits sold for millions of pounds!

The children also made ‘identikit’ face charts, where they created and painted a face, and then colored in different parts of the face, showing different expressions, and then used these pieces to form as many different expressions as they could. The aim of this was to help children play at recreating expressions, which could help them with their drawing skills, but also that the chart could also be used by children as a way of letting their parents know how they were feeling that day, and so it could be a communication tool as well.

'Guess how i am feeling today' - identikits made on session one

I also read them a story i have written and illustrated called ‘Brenda the misunderstood Witch’, and projected it onto a screen so that the children could see the images as the story was being read, thus allowing them to feel more involved. As the story has a strong underlying theme that is connected with personal development (of which i don’t really want to say too much about at this stage as i am hoping to get it published at some point) i was really pleased to see that the children got really involved in the story and also totally understood what the story was trying to impart and the message within it. This was a really beneficial experience for me as it was the first time i have ever tested out my stories to a large group of children, and as they are my target market their opinions are the important ones! It was lovely to see them jumping up and pointing out little things they could see in the images, and also pointing out how the story could be improved! :0)

It took me ages to think of a way of gaining additional feedback from children that are so young, and at the same time not making it into a ‘school environment’ so i decided at the end of the session (after i had given them feedback in the form of the best loved form of stickers!!) to just put a chart up and let them either write their name under the ‘face’ that showed how they felt , or they could write it in words, this i thought would cater for the different ages and abilities of the children.

Leaving feedback at the end of the session!

All in all it was a great first session. I felt that i learned so much within 2 hours not only about the children, and their different needs, learning styles, and behavioural make-up but also about myself – as a person, and as a teacher. It was exhausting i have to say, but totally invaluable at the same time!

Second session post coming soon!!