Creative Collages

  • Children icon Age: 0 to 8+
  • Clock icon Time: 1 hour+
  • Leaf icon Materials: paper; nature treasures and paper kids can tear apart; paint; glue; paintbrush
February is Black History Month, an annual celebration of achievements by African Americans and a time for recognizing their central role in U.S. history. This year’s theme "African Americans and the Arts" highlights the many contributions Black Americans have had on the arts, cultural movements and more. 

At Tinkergarten we know that artistic expression and creativity are critical skills—not only for artists or musicians, but also for kids as a way of thinking about and being in the world. Introducing kids to the work of diverse artists helps kids to see the infinite possibilities for how and what they can create and provides models for how they can remain creative throughout their lives.

In honor of this year’s Black History Month, we share this activity inspired by the work and techniques of Betty Blayton. Blayton was an illustrator, painter, printmaker, and sculptor as well as the co-founder of both the Studio Museum and Children's Art Carnival in Harlem. She is known for her abstract paintings that combine brushstroke with paper collage.

As featured in our February Activity Calendar, in this activity, kids take inspiration from Blayton's work as they create collages using art and natural materials.

If you do not yet have your free copy of the February Activity Calendar, download it here.

The Guide

Step 1: Get inspired! 

Look at images of Betty Blayton’s artwork with kids. Ask kids what they notice about the colors, lines and shapes of her art. What materials do they think she used to create her art? How does her art make them feel?

Step 2: Rip, tear, shred!

Gather some paper kids can tear apart (e.g. magazine pages, construction paper, tissue paper) and some nature treasures that can be easily plucked apart (e.g. flowers, leaves, grasses, small sticks). 

Dump all of your gathered items in a pile. Grab one of the items and start to rip, tear or pull it apart. Welcome kids to join in! Enjoy together the joy and the wonder you feel when you deconstruct. Let this go on as long as kids are engaged.

Step 3: Create!

Set out some paper, a paintbrush, paint, glue and the bits and pieces you created and wonder, “How could we add these materials to the paper?” Step back and let kids get to work on their masterpiece! 

Let kids lead the way by allowing them space to choose which materials they would like to use and how they would like to connect or layer them on the paper.

Step 4: Support the creative process.

Try to resist the urge to direct, guide or model for kids as they create, keeping in mind that for kids, the process of art-making matters far more than the final product. You can support the creative process by sharing what you notice about the techniques and materials kids choose. 

Step 5: Share your creations.

Take photos and share your creations with friends, making sure to include the name of the artist who inspired them. What a wonderful way to honor Betty Blayton for her contributions and get friends more curious about creativity! If you do share them publicly, be sure to tag #Tinkergarten. We'd love to cheer on your creative process!

Why is this activity great for kids?

Breaking items apart is wonderful STEM work, building curiosity, engaging the senses and helping kids develop a greater understanding of how objects are constructed. Kids also flex fine motor skills when they pluck, pull and rip thing apart. Rearranging and layering different materials to make something new helps build flexible thinking and creativity. Finally, introducing kids to the work of diverse artists helps kids to see the infinite possibilities for how and what they can create and provides models for how they can remain creative throughout their lives.

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