Painting with strings and straws is a great way for students to experience process-oriented art and creating with non-typical tools. The children enjoy seeing how the paintings evolve with each step; the looks of pride they have with their completed artworks says it all!
Age Level: 4-6
- Following multi-step directions
- Expanding childrenʼs ideas of how and what you can use to create art
- Learning about symmetry
- Tempera paint
- Thick White Paper (doesnʼt have to be watercolor paper, but thicker than construction paper )
- Large wooden craft sticks
- Small condiment containers with lids for paint
- trays to organize materials
- Cut string into approximately 2 foot lengths and arrange on a tray (one per child, plus a few extras just in case)
- Prepare 2 sets of tempera paint in cups. We used red and blue, and had one per child for the blue and one per every 2 kids for the red. We also watered down the red to make it thinner and easier for the kids to blow with the straws. (Placing lids on the containers keeps the paint from drying out so we can prepare ahead of time. We also reuse the paint containers if they havenʼt gotten too messy by snapping a lid on them for later use.)
- Fold paper in half, one per child
- Write each childʼs name on a label to put onto their artwork later
Tell the children that today they will be creating a painting, but they wonʼt be using, brushes, or their fingers, or their feet, or anything that they have used in class before. What will they be using? Two things that they may have used in other ways, but today are using to make art. If you open your mind to new ideas, you might come up with a way to create art out of almost anything.
Show the children how they will be holding the string in one hand and then dipping the other end into the cup of paint. Using the craft stick, they will push the string into the paint until all except for about a 6 inch tail is covered in paint.
Then they will take it out, place it on one side of their paper, leaving the unpainted tail sticking out over the edge. Next theyʼll fold the paper in half and rub it. What do you think will happen? (see what they predict) Open the folded paper up to reveal the design the string has made. By folding and rubbing the paper they have created a symmetrical painting.
Have the kids move all their chairs back and away from the work table before sending them to the supply table to pick out a piece of string and a craft stick. It is easier for them to push all the string into the paint if they are standing. While they are getting their supplies from the table, pass out the cups with the first color of paint, one to each child.
Next, the instructor will demonstrate the second part of the project – painting with straws. To do this, dip the straw into the new color of paint, and then tap it onto the paper. Blow through the straw to disperse the paint drops. The papers can then again be folded and rubbed to create symmetry if the students wish.
Before the students start with this step, we like to make sure that all students know how to blow through the straws (we donʼt want anyone sucking up any paint). We pass out all the straws (or have them get them from the supply table) and have them practice blowing through them before handing out any paint.