Children need to be encouraged to explore, discover, and experiment with the endless possibilities they can have while doing art. They don't need to be given expensive art materials to explore their creative sides; all they need is encouragement to think for themselves about how to use everyday materials to make art on their own without creating a reflection of a pre-made adult sample or a copied mock-up.
If you’re looking for ways to encourage children’s creative endeavors without draining your bank account, check out Art with Anything: 52 Weeks of Fun Using Everyday Stuff by MaryAnn F. Kohl. Her book contains 52 weeks of creative activities you can use with children, and within each week, there are 5 activities—that’s 260 activities you can use to keep children entertained! Use this sneak peek week of activities with children so you can see just how much fun and creative these activities are!
You can recycle cardboard jigsaw puzzles with missing pieces into art activities. Puzzles with large or small pieces are both useful.
Day 1—Backwards Puzzle Art
- Old jigsaw puzzle (complete, no pieces missing)
- Crayons, markers, or permanent markers
- Puzzle storage: original box, clasp envelope, or sealable plastic bag
What to Do
- Find an old, cardboard jigsaw puzzle with large puzzle pieces. Turn all the pieces over on a table and put the puzzle together upside down with no picture showing. (If this is too difficult, put the puzzle together right side up on a sheet of poster board, and then flip it over on the table.) The puzzle should be completely joined together.
- Draw with markers on the back of the old puzzles, making a big picture that covers all the pieces. Some artists like to draw a little picture, make designs, or write letters or numbers on each individual piece. Other artists like to make one large picture that covers the entire puzzle.
- After you have colored or decorated all the puzzle pieces, the puzzle is ready to reassemble for fun. Take the puzzle apart, mix up the pieces on the table, and then put it back together, this time with the backwards puzzle design showing! To store, keep the puzzle in the original box, a clasp envelope, or in a heavy sealable bag.
Day 2—Puzzle People
- Jigsaw puzzle pieces (large and small puzzle pieces)
- Acrylic paint and paintbrushes
- Small collage items like buttons, sequins, pom poms, and yarn bits
- White glue
- Permanent markers
What to Do
- The shapes of many jigsaw puzzle pieces look a little like people with heads, little rounds legs, and little round arms. Spread a selection of old puzzle pieces out on newspaper. Large pieces are easy to work with, but smaller ones are fine too.
- Using a small brush and acrylic paints, paint each piece to become a person, character, animal, or creature. Add features with wiggly eyes or other tiny bits of collage materials, like little pom poms, yarn strands, buttons, and so on. Some artists like to leave parts of the original color of the puzzle pieces showing, using it as bright shirts or trousers for their character. You can use permanent markers to add additional features.
Day 3—Puzzle Poster Picture
What to Do
- Spread out an old jigsaw puzzle that is missing a few pieces, and sort the remaining pieces into piles by color. Small puzzle pieces work best. Set the pieces aside.
- Draw a larger, simple picture on white poster board or cardboard. Details are not necessary.
- Glue the puzzle pieces into the picture to fill the drawing with color. For example, fill a tree drawing with green puzzle pieces for the leaves and brown ones for the trunk, or an apple drawing with red pieces. In addition, you can fill the entire background with puzzle pieces so the whole poster is filled with color.
- Use the remaining puzzle pieces to glue a puzzle-piece frame around the edge of the artwork. Feel free to create a frame that has several layers of puzzle pieces.
Note: Some artists like to use pieces that actually fit together to make the frame.
Day 4—Puzzling Initial Plaque
- Jigsaw puzzle pieces (large and small pieces)
- Cardboard markers
- Scissors, X-Acto knife, or other cutting tool (adult use only)
- White glue
- Optional—jewelry craft pin-back or earring backs; old picture frame or homemade cardboard frame
What to Do
- Draw the big, bold initial of your name on a piece of cardboard, like A for Anthony, B for Beatrice, or S for Smith. Draw it wide and thick in “block letter style.”
- Cut the letter out. (Ask an adult for help, if necessary.)
- Use white glue to stick leftover jigsaw-puzzle pieces onto the initial to fill and cover it. Then, add a second layer of pieces, placing them this way and that so they fill all the spaces and the cardboard no longer shows. Let the glue dry completely.
- Add a length of twine taped to the back of the plaque for hanging, or simply lean the plague against the wall on a shelf. Some artists like to cover the back of the letter too.
- Jewelry Idea: Glue a puzzle piece to a pin-back or earring back to make quick-and-easy jewelry.
- Revitalized Frame Idea: Glue puzzle pieces to a scratched or dented picture frame to create a new frame.
- Homemade Frame Idea: Cover a homemade cardboard frame with puzzle pieces to use as a frame for any art or photo you choose.
Day 5—Old Is New Puzzle
- Jigsaw puzzle pieces (large and small puzzle pieces wok best)
- Paper the same size as the finished puzzle
- Crayons and markers
- White glue and brush
- X-Acto knife or other cutting tool (adult use only)
What to Do
Note: Work one on one with an adult to do this activity
- Find an old cardboard puzzle that you have outgrown, the kind with just a few pieces that are very large. Trim a sheet of paper as large as the exact size of the whole puzzle. Draw a picture on the paper, using lots of color. The more color you use, the more interesting the “new” puzzle will be to take apart and put back together.
- Put the puzzle together, with protective newspaper under it. Then, apply glue with a brush over the entire puzzle.
- Press the crayon drawing on the puzzle and pat and smooth to adhere to the glue. Let dry well.
- Ask an adult to use a sharp X-Acto knife to cut around all the puzzle pieces so each piece is separate. Allow the pieces to dry completely. Now, you have a brand new puzzle to play with that was drawn by you!