Art Group – Wednesday, May 30

Artists, start your engines!

Paint rollers? Forget ’em! Our Toddlers, Twos and Threes Art Grouphave found a new way to roll on paint AND double their playtime: Painting with toy cars! All it takes is paper, tempera paint, paint trays (can be aluminum foil cake pans or anything else that is fairly shallow), and washable toy cars (plastic works best).

The process is easy – apply a thin layer of paint to the paint trays, then roll the car wheels in the paint to get a nice even coat. Kids can push the cars, rolls the cars, or do whatever they choose to apply the paint from the wheels to the paper. The tracks from the wheels are especially fun to layer, so encourage your kids to overlap the car treads with other toy vehicles in use.

If possible, use plastic toy cars of many different shapes and sizes. Take special notice of the kinds of wheels on each of the cars in use and point them out to your kids as they use them. What kinds of wheels will yield what kinds of prints? It can even be a fun game to play once the painting is done – Can your kids match each print with its respective car?

The wide array of tactile input and the exercising of motor functions in this project make it appropriate for young children, but it’s equally appealing to older children whom might not have ever used their toys in such a manner. That’s half the fun of experimenting with print objects – delighting your children with new uses to old things. As long as the item is washable, feel free to try just about anything with paint printing.

Toddlers, Twos and Threes Art Group meets every Wednesday at 10 am and is open to all members and visitors (with paid admission to PTLL’s playspace). The group is run by Megan Spak and Elisabeth Moyer, with assistance by Emily Fear.


Storytime Picks from Monday, May 21

Things started off quiet this morning at the Toy Lending Library, but very quickly took a turn for the rowdy. Lots of kids took a break from running around outside in this beautiful weather to come inside for the playspace fun. Some of them even joined in for storytime!

After a few stretches and a rousing rendition of the “ABC Song,” we gathered around to read a fairly recent addition to the Mo Willems’ line-up of new classic picture books (but not before perfecting our alligator arms and accompanying “CHOMP!” sounds):

Hooray for Amanda & Her Alligator!
by Mo Willems

Amanda and Alligator are best friends. They love surprising each other, reading (and eating) books, and having adventures. Alligator’s not so good at waiting, but a new friend that Amanda has brought home might just help him kill the time while his best friend is away.

Hooray for Amanda & Her Alligator! is picture book story collection in the tradition of the best Mo Willems has to offer. The characters are well formed, the humor perfect for kids and parents alike, and the illustrative style distinct and inviting. Just like the Knuffle Bunny series, this book teaches kids about the importance of imagination and friendship, accompanied by lessons about the fun of reading and finding the real worth in the things around us.

The book is broken up into 6 1/2 stories, so it’s a little longer than the average picture book. Read the whole thing for your kids’ bedtime story fill or read a chapter a day to extend the fun.

To follow up a great story about an alligator friend, we made our own. Try this one at home. It’s easy!

What you will need
– One sheet of green construction paper
– Scissors
– Markers, colored pencils, crayons, or anything else to decorate your alligator

1. Fold the green construction paper in half, “hot dog” style (lengthwise)
2. On one side, trace an alligator body. Make sure to give it two feet!
3. Cut out alligator body
4. On the folded side, cut six equal diagonal lines into the back area, leaving about a quarter of an inch in between
5. Open alligator and fold open the cuts so it makes little triangles
6. Re-fold alligator and decorate!
(To make your alligator free-standing, simply fold the four legs so they sit squarely on the ground.)

Original alligator paper craft found here.

Storytime is every Monday at 10 am and is intended for all ages.

Art Group – Wednesday, May 16

Have you and your kids been to Phipps Conservatory lately? If not, then you all should have been at PTLL this week for Toddlers, Twos and Threes Art Group, where we fashioned our own colorful, flutter-full butterflies out of white craft paper and watercolors.

Real butterflies can be divisive amongst children, but the older your children get, the more likely they are to be delighted by the colorful creatures. Because of their brightly colored wings and harmless reputation, butterflies can make a great gateway into learning about and appreciating the insect world.

For our process, we again used liquid watercolors, diluting them with water just enough to create a bold color. Then we added white crayons to the work supplies, so that our little artists could experiment with artistic “resists,” where the painting covers all but a specified surface.

Crayon-watercolor resists are extremely fun and very easy to achieve. Simply let your child color with the white crayon on the painting surface before beginning to paint. Once he or she starts to apply the paint, he or she will see how the paint is resisted by the crayon-colored areas. This can allow them to create intricate details throughout their masterpiece painting.

Want to add more glitz to your watercolor butterflies? Add glitter to one of your watercolors. It will spread on effortlessly with the rest of the paint and gleam in the light once the work is dry. For a purely textural addition, try salt or fine grain sand.

The fun doesn’t have to stop at painting. Once dried, allow your kids to embellish their butterflies with markers, colored pencils, stickers, tissue paper, etc. The watercolored surface makes a great base in which to create a layered, textured work of art.

Once the butterflies are finished, mount them on the wall or, using fishing line or fine thread, hang them from the ceiling so they can flutter in the breeze.

One last tip: Cut your own butterfly shapes! We have used pre-made designs before, notably with the diffusion paper leaves and the decorative crowns, but for the most part, the Art Group sticks to crafts that can be designed and cut out by hand. This is a cheaper and more effective way to get the most out of your art supplies, even if it does mean a little extra work.

You know what goes great with a butterfly craft? A caterpillar craft? And what goes great with both? Picture books! Check out the following video (from the fine librarians at Abilene Public Library in Texas) for a great springtime set of reading and activities:

Toddlers, Twos and Threes Art Group meets every Wednesday at 10 am and is open to all members and visitors (with paid admission to PTLL’s playspace). The group is run by Megan Spak and Elisabeth Moyer, with assistance by Emily Fear.

Storytime Picks from Monday, May 14

On a rainy, gray mid-May morning, the PTLL was quieter than most Mondays. Maybe the weather had everyone sleeping in just a little bit longer or taking a little longer to get ready. In any case, the crowd was light but the spirits were high at this week’s storytime, where we threw in clapping and foot-stomping to add energy to our lazy stretches. We needed energy, because that what the main character of today’s story has aplenty:

by Ian Falconer

Olivia is a very particular pig. She loves art and music and picking up the cat and torturing her little brother, IanWhen it comes time to choose an outfit, Olivia must try on everything she owns. At the beach, she builds sand-skyscrapers, instead of sandcastles. After a trip to the art  museum, she sets out to prove that she is the next Jackson Pollack… on the living room wall.

Precocious? Absolutely. High maintenance? Maybe a little – but her family loves her anyway, and so will you and your kids. Olivia is filled with rich, subtle humor embodied by the elegant tri-colored illustration style. The little details are a pleasure to look out for, as well as a few full-page illustrations that surprise and delight readers.

If your kids love Olivia, there is an entire empire of books, TV episodes, and merchandise to experience, but I’d recommend sticking with the original book series to start. The TV-tie-in books lack the sophisticated style of the original books and are more extensions of the TV series than the work by Ian Falconer.


Storytime is every Monday at 10 am and is intended for all ages.

Art Group – Wednesday, May 9

Some activities are just too much fun to do only once. Fingerpainting has proven to be the most consistently popular activity with the Toddlers, Twos and Threes Art Group, so we bring it back every few months. The amount of fun to be had by attendees is only equaled by the ease of organizing and setting up the activity, so it’s a win-win for all those involved.

Additionally, fingerpainting is a really easy activity to expand upon. If you’re looking to slowly transition your young children from fingerpainting to more complicated styles of paint application, there are many informal ways to include other art tools into the mix.

The following are a few tips to shaking up the normal fingerpainting routine:

The first tip is the most obvious: Let your kids use more of their body than just fingers. Hands, yes, but also wrists, forearms, feet, etc. Larger work spaces better allow for this, so use a big piece of paper and position it so that it allows for optimal reach for your children.

Also, if the kids can move around the table, try adding movement to the painting process. The little girl pictured above kept walking around the table with her hands on the paper, spreading the paint around with each rotation. The result was a great pattern of fingertips all throughout the work.

Another tip – limit your colors! It always seems like the more colors the better for the project, but in most cases, a limited amount forces the kids to use what they have and really concentrate on the effects of blending only two or three different paints. Fewer options are also less overwhelming, so keep the paint to a minimum when working with very young children or kids who don’t have much previous painting experience.

The additional tools you use don’t have to be sophisticated. Instead of brushes, use Q-tips, cotton balls, popsicle sticks, and string. Have them use the tools after using their hands, so that the kids can get an idea of the effects of each different tool on the paint. Additionally, fine-pointed tools (like Q-tips) can be great for letter-writing exercises in the paint, so don’t be afraid to mix a little literacy education into the arts and crafts time.

Don’t forget about texture! Tactile input is so important for young children, thus fingerpainting is an exceptional exercise for both sense and cognition building. The texture lessons come into play the first time the kids touch the paint, then when the paint is applied to the work surface, and from there it’s up to you help vary the experience. For a different texture to the paint itself adding a little sand or salt. Texture can be added to the paint project via various easy tools, including plastic forks, tooth picks, and the above mentioned tools.

Get creative – a crumpled piece of paper or the bottom of an old shoe are equally great for adding texture to a painting. Best of all, your kids will learn that the best tools are not necessarily the ones found in a store.

Toddlers, Twos and Threes Art Group meets every Wednesday at 10 am and is open to all members and visitors (with paid admission to PTLL’s playspace). The group is run by Megan Spak and Elisabeth Moyer, with assistance by Emily Fear.

Storytime Picks from Monday, May 7

Not all storytime audiences are alike, even when comprised of the same children week after week. The same kids that behaved so attentively and enthusiastically a week before may not be inclined to do so the next week, which is fine – just as adults do not always respond to the same tasks with equal fervor, kids are not likely to behave just-so every time they sit down for a story. Maybe they have extra energy and don’t want to sit still, or maybe they’re just not into the stories being read this week. Maybe they want the songs and stretches, but not the sit down. In some storytime environments, restless kids have to be re-engaged or removed, but that doesn’t quite work with PTLL storytimes.

Compared to more formal storytime programs, the PTLL Monday storytime is a more free-form, open-ended process. We have a little routine – stretches, a song – then sometimes a game, a fingerplay, or another song. Sometimes we’ll bang on percussion instruments just to get out the noisy impulse. And most importantly, the kids don’t have to sit still when it comes time for the story. They can stand up, move around, come closer to the book, even walk away. If they want to come back for the craft, they can. No kid is forced to listen, no kid is forced to stay in the storytime area.

This might seem like it would lead to a chaotic storytime environment and, every once in a while (like today), it does. But for the most part, this free-form variation works well for the kids of the Toy Library. And the kind of storytime that suits an environment like this is not going to perfectly mirror the storytimes at other facilities. For one, at a library storytime, the storyteller can depend on parental presence to help keep the kids under control during the duration of the program. This is not the case at PTLL, when many of the parents are also working VOD shifts and cannot sit with their kids during the story.

Another big difference – unlike in a library or school, storytimes at PTLL are held amidst an eye-popping amount of play equipment. If a kid decides that he or she would rather bounce on a trampoline or ride a bike around the space than listen to a story, there’s not much of an argument one can make to persuade him or her otherwise. And without the parental presence, that persuasion would have to come at the expense of the storytime reading.

This is all a kind of explanation as to why, if you bring your kids to the PTLL storytime, it may look and feel a little different than other storytimes you and your kids are used to. As long as our kids enjoy it, that seems to be OK.

For this week’s storytime, we read what is bound to be a new classic amongst picture books:

 I Want My Hat Back
by Jon Klassen

Bear has lost his favorite pointy red hat, but none of his fellow woodland creatures seem to have seen it. Is the hat lost… or stolen? Will Bear ever be reunited with his beloved hat?

If you and your kids have fallen in love with the warm, earthy style of Jon Klassen, be sure to check out these other titles that feature his illustrations:


Storytime is every Monday at 10 am and is intended for all ages.

Art Group – Wednesday, May 2

April showers bring May flowers, so it seemed fitting for the Toddlers, Twos and Threes Art Group to start off the month by making some flowers of our own. Of course, instead of being a product of soil, seed, sun, and rainfall, these flowers were made of simple coffee filters and watercolors.

Last time we used watercolors on diffusion paper, we filled spray water bottles and eye-droppers with watercolors and let the kids use the prepared paint for their projects. This time, we did things a little different. Instead of using pre-mixed liquid watercolor and water, we used just the liquid watercolor. The kids painted whatever they liked on their coffee filters – designs, pictures, patterns – and once they were finished painting, they sprayed the painting with water. This allowed them not only to enjoy the painting process, but also the process of water hitting the paint, making it bleed and spread around the filter.

This sort of backwards application process for watercolors really only works with liquid watercolor paint, which is what we prefer to use at the Toy Lending Library. As discussed in prior Art Group posts, these are concentrated liquid watercolors that, when added to water, offer a more vibrant, easier to use alternative to the normal dry watercolor palettes.

The watercolor first, water second application process allows children to really observe the effect plain water has on the paint. They can watch as the colors thin and spread, as they blend with the other colors on the work surface, how the water changes the patterns and designs they have created. Diffusion paper is, of course, ideal for this kind of project, but it will also work on traditional paper, as well as cardstock, recycled paper, and tissue paper. (Amount of water used and drying times will vary.)

The icing on the cake? (Or, should we say, the petals on the flower?) The kids got to use spray bottles, something that may not strike some parents as a desirable toy, but has shown an enduring popularity with little ones. Provided the use in a prepared area (outside, arts and crafts table, etc.) the benefits of having your kids use spray water bottles in their art-making are immense. Not only does it teach them a different form of applying paint to a surface, but it also engages their coordination, offering a nice exercise in fine motor skills. (Just keep a towel and set of replacement newspaper to sop up the excess water.)

Once the watercolors are dry on the filter, the kids could fold and scrunch them into blossoms or keep them as circular disks of watercolor art. Above are a few of the blooms from our coffee filter garden. Want to help your kids turn their watercolor coffee filters into their own flower garden? Check out the below video for a basic assembly technique:

Toddlers, Twos and Threes Art Group meets every Wednesday at 10 am and is open to all members and visitors (with paid admission to PTLL’s playspace). The group is run by Megan Spak and Elisabeth Moyer, with assistance by Emily Fear.