All parents want their children to eat more fruits and vegetables, but the contents of your produce drawer can also be the inspiration for a creative painting project.
The varied shapes and sizes of fruits and vegetables make ideal "stamps." This project is a nice way to introduce children to the technique of print-making.
Good choices include halved apples, pears, butternut squash, limes or starfruit. Other veggies such as carrots or cucumbers make nice circle shapes. A bell pepper with its top sliced off or a mushroom halved lengthwise both create interesting images. Celery stalks and green beans can be used like paint brushes. An ear of corn can be rolled across the paper to create a textured effect.
Remove any seeds or pulp before stamping, but keep in mind that all parts of the fruit or vegetable can be used. For example, an avocado pit can be submerged in paint and then rolled across paper.
You could also carve your own custom stamp (like the initial of your child's first name) into a potato half with a paring or other sharp knife. (An adult needs to complete any parts of this project that involve a sharp knife.) Select a large baking potato. Holding it upright lengthwise, slice about a third of it off. On the flat, interior surface of the potato, carefully draw the outline of the letter or other shape with a marker. Using a sharp knife, cut away around the outlined letter. Make your cuts about an inch deep. What remains should be the protruding letter or shape. Use just as you would any other stamp.
Spread out paper for stamping. I recommend using a roll of easel paper to give your little artist ample room to work.
Put your poster or tempera paints into a wide, shallow container such as a paper plate. Before you begin stamping, check the consistency of your paint. If the paint is too wet, the fruit and veggie stamps will slip and slide. To avoid this problem, add a little bit of flour and stir to thicken.
Simply dip your fruit or veggie stamp into the paint and wipe off any excess or soak a large sponge in paint and then rub your fruit or veggie stamp onto the surface of the sponge before stamping. Children might also want to use a paintbrush to apply paint to their stamps.
Children's art projects should always focus on the process instead of the final product. The objective is not to make perfect, orderly stamps. Encourage your child to experiment. They can always start again and try something different.
After all, it is hard to take anything too seriously when you are painting with a head of broccoli.
Caitlin Murray Giles is a full-time mother of three and part-time freelance writer living in Wicker Park.
See more of Caitlin's stories here.