Stimulating Salt

This week our mini Art Explorers have been getting to grips with salt.  We have been busy making Rangoli patterns using coloured salt and Diva lamps with salt dough. I thought I would include this in the blog this week as a few people have asked how I made them and it is so easy it seems only fair to share!

Salt is a wonderful ingredient for art activities with little ones because a) they love the feel of it and sprinkling is great for fine motor skills b) it can absorb colours with magical effects and c) it is cheap and easy to buy at your local supermarket.  So, here are a few salty ideas for you to try at home:

  • Salt Dough.  This is great; similar to playdough but it can be baked so you can keep all of those fantastic creations.  Children love to paint it once it is baked.  My own children made play food such as fruit and veg in this way.  A great exercise in observation as well as modelling!

          Recipe for Salt Dough

         2 parts flour

        1 part salt

        1 part water

        Mix together to form a dough…voila!  Once again, little ones will enjoy the mixing part. Bake creations for around 1 hour at 100°C depending on size.

  • Coloured Salt.  Place required amount of salt in a plastic tub, add a squirt of paint, put on the lid (firmly!) and shake vigorously.  Children will enjoy making this – they will see the colour gradually spread throughout the salt as they shake.  Spread out on a tray to dry for a few hours.  Once it is dry it can be used to make pictures using glue (such as our Rangoli patterns). For really little ones it is a great sensory experience without the glue.  How about hiding some objects in the salt?
  • Sprinkled Salt Effects.  Salt absorbs liquids and this can be used to great effect on a piece of art work.  Liquid watercolours work best for this but ordinary paint would work too.  Paint an area and then sprinkle with salt.  Allow to dry and shake off the salt.  Where the salt has been will be a lot paler than the rest of the picture.   This is a great way of achieving a night sky or watery effect.  ‘Magic’ as far as little ones are concerned!
  • Squeezy Salty Patterns.  Children can make a pattern using PVA glue and then sprinkle with salt.  Shake the paper so that only the salty pattern remains.  Using pipettes filled with liquid watercolour or food colouring, they carefully squeeze colour onto the pattern.  The colour will travel along the line of salt.  You will get some beautiful effects as more colours are added and they start to bleed in to each other. For older children this is a great way of practising letter formation.  NB: Children LOVE pipettes…every arty, crafty home should have them!  More on this in another blog…Happy experimenting! x

Edible Art


Isn’t it strange how sometimes your memory is triggered for no apparent reason?  Out of the blue, the other day, I suddenly remembered how much the children at a school I used to teach at loved making ‘stained glass biscuits’.  This is a fantastic activity for any time of the year but is particularly great now with Christmas approaching and Diwali celebrations taking place. It is also easy to do and pretty much guarantees great results.  What’s not to love?

Here’s what you need:

  • 115g softened butter
  • 55g caster sugar
  • 175g plain flour
  • 1-2 tbsp milk
  • fruit flavoured boiled sweets (fruit polos are good as they are quite small)


  1. Beat the butter and sugar until thick, pale and creamy.
  2. Sift the flour, and mix in the butter and sugar together. Stir in the milk, then knead the mixture to form a soft ball of dough.
  3. Roll out onto a floured surface until about 0.5 cm thick and cut it into shapes with biscuit cutters.
  4. Arrange on a tray lined with baking paper.
  5. Cut a hole in the middle of each shape and put a sweet (or half depending on size) inside.
  6. Bake at 180° C ( 160° C fan) for around 15 minutes.
  7. Allow to cool and harden on tray before moving to a wire rack.

You can use any shaped biscuit cutters your little one takes a fancy to…there are no rules here.  Encourage squishing and squeezing of the dough.  It might not be recommended by professional bakers but it certainly helps to strengthen little fingers! Why not try putting a couple of different coloured sweets in the hole and seeing what happens as the colours mix together?  These also make fantastic Christmas tree decorations. Just remember to put a hole in the top of the biscuit before you bake it.  Enjoy!

Autumn Leaves

Autumn is such a lovely time for art and craft activities.  There is such an abundance of free materials just ripe for the taking! Whilst out on my run this morning I was struck by just how many different types of leaf were littering the path between Hertford and Ware. Big ones, small ones, smooth ones, spiky ones! Such a variety to intrigue and inspire inquiring minds.   There are numerous ways to make creative use of this bounty and we will be using leaves in several ways in our classes next week.

I couldn’t resist (get it?!) having a go at some wax rubbings with some of the leaves I found.  Small children will often need a bit of help to get started with this as holding the leaf still and rubbing with the crayon at the same time is hard for little hands.  You could try blu-tacking the leaf to the table to stop it slipping if this is a problem. They will also need to be shown how to use the crayon on it’s side to cover a large area which can be challenging.  However, once they get they hang of it, the results are magical.  It is lovely to see their faces as the leaf appears for the first time on the paper.  For even more magical results, try rubbing with a white crayon or candle and then painting over with some runny paint or liquid water colour.  The leaf will appear before their very eyes!  For children who are getting to grips with scissors, this is a great opportunity to practice cutting out.  Why not create a line of leaf bunting and practise those threading skills as well?  There are so many options and all you need is a few leaves and a crayon.  Art on a budget at it’s best!

Glitter Season Is Upon Us

glitterI have been busy this morning preparing activities for our classes next week.  Of course, the theme is Bonfire Night and, inevitably, this involves the dreaded glitter. Over years in education and with my own small children I have found that resistance is futile.  During November and December glitter will be making surprise appearances all over the house, car, clothes, hair…you get the idea!  The fact is that children of all ages absolutely love using glitter and I must say, I am rather drawn to sparkly crafts myself.  With this is mind, I have created a little list of ideas to keep some of the mess contained.  It probably won’t be as bad as you think (just don’t turn your back!)

  1. ALWAYS put down some sort of covering on the table or floor (newspapers are good as they can just be rolled up and thrown away).
  2. Use a tray.  At Art Explorers we use Tuff Spot trays which I can not recommend highly enough.  You can buy them at DIY stores for around £13; they are sometimes called cement mixing trays.  Failing that, use a baking tray or similar.  Just something with sides!
  3. Provide only small amounts of glitter, topping up when needed.  Small child + large tub of glitter = disaster waiting to happen.
  4. Use contact paper (sticky backed plastic) for your glitter creations.  This is much less messy than glue and it contains the glitter more effectively. It can also be used to collect unused glitter.
  5. Use a ball of play-dough to collect any stray glitter.  Children will love rolling it around to make a sparkly ball and in doing so they will have done the cleaning up for you!
  6. If you are still worried about glitter in your house…try craft in the (empty)bath!  The only place that glitter will be going is down the plug hole.

Happy glitter season everyone!

Avoiding Pumpkin-Related Injuries!

I don’t know about you but here at Art Explorers HQ we have been getting rather excited about Halloween.  My own mini explorers came home from the grandparents house the other day with a beautifully carved pumpkin each.  Poor Grandad had been very busy!  They had apparently designed the faces and then Grandad had carved them out.  This is the annual problem that parents of any child below knife-wielding age face…kids get so excited about carving a pumpkin only to discover that it is impossible/dangerous for them to do it themselves. Cue parents up and down the and covered form head to toe in pumpkin detritus with RSI from carving ridiculously intricate features (‘no, it needs to be a STAR shape!’).  Accordingly, I have been having a think about alternatives.  Although it is lovely to have a pumpkin glowing outside your house, it is also nice to have an activity that busy fingers can get on with independently.

Here is a great idea that will also help develop those fine motor skills.  Children love wrapping activities and googly eyes so this is perfect!


And here’s a messier one but they look amazing.  Just grab your paint and off you go!


Find out more at

Have fun and please share any ideas either below or on our facebook page

Scissor Skills Pumpkin

Hi folks. I have been busy recently planning for our mini classes next half term and I have come across so many fantastic ideas that it seems a shame to keep them to myself! I am going to try to use this blog to share at least one great arty, crafty activity each week that you can try at home with your little ones.  If you make something great or just have a lot of fun doing it (that’s the main aim at the end of the day) the it would be great to see the results.  You can share them to our  facebook page or comment below and maybe let us know what worked well (and what didn’t!).  The aim is to get a little community of like-minded parents and carers sharing hints and tips and getting creative.

So, as Halloween is just around the corner, it seems fitting that the first offering is pumpkin based!  This is a great activity for developing your little one’s scissor skills.  People are sometimes surprised that we have ‘real’ scissors at our mini classes but learning to use scissors safely is an important skill.  It is also fabulous for developing fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination. All you need for this one is some green and orange paper, scissors, pen, ruler and a couple of split pins.  Make lots in different sizes and use them to get your house ready for the 31st.  Let me know how you get on!

Scissor Skills Pumpkin

A cute and easy pumpkin craft that is great for scissor skills - a simple halloween craft for kids.:

Weirdly (for someone who is a teacher) I always love ‘back to school’ time.  It’s such a great feeling to start afresh.  Especially when it comes to stationary and art materials!  With that in mind, I have just taken delivery of lots of great new materials for the new term at Art Explorers. As the new topic is ‘Myself’ this has included a whole new set of lovely skin coloured paints which will be put to good use as the term progresses. I have also been doing some planning and thinking about activities related to the senses…painting with spices anyone?  Brushes with bells on?  It’s going to be fun!