Friday, May 24, 2013

Friday's Art Smarts: Block Printing for Kids


Foam trays (Our local grocery store - Publix - gave us this entire stack.  Sometimes all you have to do is ask)
Tempera Paint (alternatively, you can use ink, but washable paint is a lot easier to use and less stressful)
foam roller
tool for carving into the tray (unsharpened pencils)
art paper (we used card stock)
art mat (optional)
scissors (not pictured)

Have you ever made a block print?  I've made several different prints.  My first was way back in college and I absolutely loved the instant satisfaction it gave me -- you roll the ink on, slap that baby down, and when you pull it up, you have one awesome picture.  Usually.

Today's art project modifies the process of block printing to make it child friendly, and it was a total success with the kiddos!  Here's everything you need to know to try this at home.

First, check out the back of your trays.  Ours had text printed on them (boo), so I cut out the center rectangle and used the front of the tray instead.

Give the kids a pencil and let them make a design on their tray.  Encourage them to press really hard to make deep marks and crevices.

Choose your paint color and pour a little paint into an empty tray.  Spread the the paint thinly and evenly onto your foam roller. 

If you don't have a foam roller, a regular paint brush might work.  My one caution would be to make sure that the paint is applied very thinly on the foam tray.  If it's too thick, it will seep into the marks in the design and not make a very clear image in the end.  

Apply the paint.  Natalie's technique was to roll super fast.

Daniel chose a slower approach.  I also love how Daniel used the pencil.  He didn't "draw" with it as I expected.  Instead, he pushed it down into the tray to make polka dots.  

Once you've rolled on the paint, the last step is to stamp it onto your art paper.  Turn the stamp over, place it slowly where you want it (once it's down be very careful not to move it), and press very hard.  Make sure to push down on the corners as well as in the middle.  Then gently remove the stamp to reveal the finished piece.

The kids were so excited about how these turned out.  They immediately wanted to make another one :)

So much texture!  That was an unexpected and delightful little touch.

A Map of the Whole World
Natalie, age 4

A Parrot with Mouth and Eyes
Daniel, age 3

If try this project with your kiddos, I'd love for you to leave a comment with a link to your pictures.  It's fun to see what each child ends up with!

Thanks for reading and have fun!


  1. The arts are what make us most human, most complete as people. The arts cannot be learned through occasional or random exposure any more than math or science can.

    Arts and Education

    1. I definitely agree that it's important to teach the arts deliberately!


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