Faith CoLab: Tapestry of Faith: Spirituality and the Arts in Children's Programming: A Resource for Religious Educators


Printing is a stylized form of painting. Although it is less spontaneous process, printing's repeated patterns and design elements can be both creative and decorative.

Printing Activities

  • Finger paint or paint directly on glass or acrylic or even cookie sheets; make monoprints by very carefully laying a white piece of paper on top of the painting to pick up the design.
  • Scribble a design on a piece of plastic foam or a printing sheet. Roll acrylic paint onto a piece of aluminum foil or a piece of thick paper with a soft rubber brayer to "ink" the roller evenly with paint. When the brayer is inked, roll the brayer onto the design.

Place a piece of white paper over the design and roll the paper gently with a clean brayer. Peel the paper off of the design and set the paper aside to dry. Roll a different color paint onto the design, and repeat. You can get a number of different "prints" from the same design using different colors of acrylic paint. You can also make two different designs with different colors and print them on the same piece of paper for a more intricate design.


Stamps can add designs to paintings, writing, or any other art.

Use cut up fruits and vegetables dipped into tempera or acrylic paints to stamp on a piece of paper or cardboard. Look for other design elements in nature that you might use for stamping: rocks, shells, sticks, leaves.

Cut up plastic foam pieces into shapes for stamping. Hot-glue several pieces of the foam together to form a knob to hold the stamp. Dip into paint, then stamp onto paper. You can stamp onto tissue paper and make wrapping paper.

Cut synthetic sponges into various shapes or designs such as the flaming chalice. Hot-glue them onto a piece of wood with adult supervision. When dry, use them to stamp tempera or acrylic paint onto paper or cardboard.

Older children can make rubber stamps. Take an old bicycle inner tube and cut a design from the rubber. Glue the design onto a piece of wood with hot glue or acrylic medium. After it dries you can use an ink pad for stamping.

Materials: You can use the same paints as for painting. Recycled scraps of wood or plain small jewelry boxes can serve as stamping bases. Plastic foam sheets may be made from grocery meat trays cut into rectangles; wash meat trays thoroughly in a dishwasher or with antibacterial soap before using.

Paper arts

Paper is a versatile medium all by itself. It can be cut, ripped, sewn, woven, punched, glued and constructed into three dimensional objects and used in many different ways.

Sample Paper Arts Activities:

  • Cut up a variety of magazine photos into small squares and have children assemble them into their own image.
  • Rip or cut out shapes from construction paper and assemble them, also using the pieces you cut shapes from.
  • Make a collage by taking images from magazines and combining them to create an image that expresses how the children are feeling or what they are thinking about a particular topic. This activity can be combined later with writing, or children may add cut-out words to the collage.
  • Make paper mosaics. Offer a variety of cut-up papers for children to assemble into their own images. You can use preprinted circles for making mandalas or other shapes for particular themes. Have children fill them with their own designs.
  • Make stained glass by gluing tissue paper colors on waxed paper. Make sure that each piece is coated well with glue and is placed so that the tissues' edges overlap. When the glue has dried, peel off the wax paper. You can cut the finished product into a shape and hang it in the light with yarn or string, or frame it with construction paper for a window effect.
  • Weave long strips of construction paper or other materials into a piece of paper with slits cut into it lengthwise.
  • Fold colorful photographs or paper into long strips that can be woven together with yarn, or make them into a frame for another collage.

3-D paper projects

  • Make paper beads by rolling strips of wallpaper or wrapping paper onto wooden skewers. Brush glue onto each strip as it is rolled. Let the strips dry slightly before removing them from the skewer, then coat them with another layer of glue. Be careful not to get glue on the skewer itself. The oldest children can place a drop of glue in the first round and then in the last round when the bead is thick enough. Let the beads dry, then dip them in hot paraffin and let the beads dry before removing them from the skewer. Heat paraffin in a tin can in a pan with water, or in an old crock pot. Have children be very careful when dipping or have them wear oven mitts. Children can "polish" the finished beads by rubbing with their fingers.
  • Paper making and paper mâché are both long processes to attempt with children over several weeks but are very good for ongoing projects to make their own book pages, or objects such as masks. See the bibliography for more resources on this topic.


Many papers are available in large squares in packages of 100 different sheets for a minimal cost, especially if you buy them on sale or with a coupon. There are many new printed papers available in scrapbooking centers or craft stores such as Michael's, A.C. Moore, or JoAnn's Fabrics. These three stores all publish coupons, usually in the Sunday papers, for 40% off one regularly priced item. JoAnn Fabrics has an online sign-up for coupons by email every two weeks or so.

Other papers for art include construction paper, tissue paper, old wrapping paper, wallpaper samples or leftover rolls, gold paper from candy bars, joss papers from Asian grocery stores, origami paper, newspapers, old magazines, and all the surfaces mentioned in the drawing section. Again, you can collect papers by recycling junk mail, old magazines, and other paper from your office or home.


For lighter papers such as newspaper or magazine photos, the best glue for children is the glue-stick. It is easy to manage and does not make a large mess. The UHU or purple Staples sticks are the best type as the glue is visible when wet (so you can see where you applied it), but it dries clear.

For heavier papers such as construction paper, wallpaper, or other heavy items, you can use Elmer's glue-all or acrylic matte medium from any craft store. This last item will glue just about anything to a surface, including metal. Use small inexpensive foam brushes to coat the paper with these glues. The brushes, available at any craft store, can be washed with soap and water right after use and used again. Once glue dries on the brush, the brush should be thrown away.


Fiskars make the best scissors for children. They have sharp ones for older children in a variety of sizes and blunt-ended ones for younger children. Try all scissors out on materials you wish to cut; if you can't cut with it, neither can a child. Be sure to have some left-handed or double-handed scissors available for those children who need them.

There are also a variety of edging scissors available that are great for children to use for decorative edges. Buy them in sets or individually from craft stores.

3 Dimensional visual art

This type of visual art has the added dimensions of depth and height and can be viewed from many angles. Again, make sure that you make a sample yourself with the materials you wish the children to use to serve as an example, and to test out the materials for the age group you are leading.


The class can make constructions with junk or recycled materials. Have each child bring a few items of trash (nothing with food or other items on it that could decompose). You might wish to give out a list of materials like plastic foam meat trays, old buttons, twine, wire, yarn, old envelopes, etc. Have each child choose a specific number of items and make something from them. You can link the project to a specific theme such as recycling or creativity, or to a particular feeling they are having about the earth.

Sculptures can also be made simply using a variety of wire. Ask for donations of wire from your congregation and you will get all different kinds. Electrical or telephone wire covered in plastic is good for younger children. Use small wire cutters or a heavy duty scissors for cutting. These sculptures can also have cloth, wire mesh, or pieces of cardboard added to them, along with beads and other small items.

After the children share how they felt about making their sculpture, see if the sculptures can be combined in some way to form a large sculpture representing the classroom community. As an extension, children could then write about their pieces as if they were alive, telling what they can do, and how they feel about who they have become.

Assemblage or shrines

Using shoe boxes, large gift boxes, or wooden boxes with lids, have children respond to a story or their feelings by creating a "memory" box or one that tells something about themselves. They can use the outside to show how they feel the world and school and parents see them and use the inside to show how they feel about themselves and the gifts that they have inside. They can use all sorts of materials for the inside. Pieces of paper, a drawing, or painting can be glued to the back of the box, or it can be painted. The children can place different objects inside the box to represent different parts of themselves such as a small monopoly piece or toy for the part of them that likes to play. The boxes can also be used to tell the life story of a favorite person, or made into a shrine to a particular theme such as peace or love.


Masks are particularly powerful responses to self-identity and feelings. You can make a mask that shows how you feel inside, or for something that you wish to let go of so that you can take it off, or for an identity you want to assume. Mask-making is an extended process and may require several weeks of work depending on the materials you use. You can make masks using cereal boxes, cloth, or paper; use glue guns on these materials. Wire mesh or other wire can be used as a base for paper mâchß or cloth masks.

There are also kits that can be purchased with face forms. Older children may wish to use plaster gauze on their faces; directions for this type of mask come with the forms. Be sure to cover any forms you use with the gauze with aluminum foil or plastic wrap so that you can re-use them.


Use acrylic paints from the paint section to paint assemblage, sculpture or masks. A low-temp glue gun available at any craft store with glue rods will attach any lightweight items to masks, but requires adult supervision. E6000 or Gorilla Glue can be used with adult supervision to attach heavy objects, but theses glues must dry overnight. Paper or cloth can be attached with acrylic matte medium painted on with a foam brush.

Have sharp and heavy-duty scissors available for cutting. For heavy cardboard or other materials you can have a mat knife available for use either on an old board or a self-healing mat. Again, adult supervision is required. Always teach children to cut away from themselves with any type of sharp instrument. You might want younger children to mark where they want a cut and then cut for them. Always have a first aid kit available in the room if you are cutting materials.

Plastic materials:

Clay and other plastic materials are ideal for kinesthetic learners who need something pliable to work with in their hands. Working the clay can promote contemplation, especially when there is music playing or during a guided meditation.

  • Give each child a ball of clay or Crayola Model Magic and have them work with it while you tell a story or lead a meditation. Ask children how what they made was related to the story or how it felt to make something out of nothing.

Have children make pendants with a symbol that they would consider sacred or spiritual to them. Give each child a ball of white Sculpey clay and have them flatten it to make a pendant, adding their sacred symbol to it with a toothpick or other small sharp object. Clay tools or small sharp relief stamps can also be used. When the pendants are finished, poke a hole in them so that they can be hung, then bake them according to the package directions; a tray full of pendants in a small toaster oven takes about twenty minutes. Be sure to have the children put their initials on the backs of their pendant before baking. When the pendants cool, the children can decorate them with permanent markers or paint and suspend from a length of string or yarn. This activity is recommended for 2nd grade and above.

Life beads

Have children think about the things they love in their lives and those things that they consider their gifts. Suggest they make beads to represent each thing. They could choose a different color, shape, design, or word on each one. They can also put two colors together or make a shapes such as a fish.

Make beads by rolling up Fimo(TM) or Sculpey(TM) clay into balls or cylinders or shapes. Pierce the beads with a wooden skewer used for barbecue. Make sure that the hole is large enough to thread elastic or string through when finished. Designs can be added before or after the beads go on the skewer.

Bake the beads according to the package directions in an old toaster oven used only for this purpose and well-ventilated, as the fumes are toxic. Have children wash their hands after working with this material. This activity is recommended for 2nd grade and above.

Afterward, the children can add some commercial beads or alphabet beads to their own beads and string them on a length of round elastic to wear. Check the elastic to make sure that it will be narrow enough to fit through the holes in the beads, or use a long craft needle with a large eye to thread the necklace.


Red or gray clay can be air dried or fired in an oven. I have found the clay that air dries can sometimes be crumbly when handled and may fall apart before the child gets it home. If you have someone in your congregation with a kiln who could work with the children, it is a great experience to have their work fired. Otherwise, I would avoid this type of clay.

Nondrying clay comes in blocks of colors. It has to warmed and kneaded in the hands to become pliable, so allow time to work with it. The colors will blend together. Keep nondrying clay in plastic bags or containers with lids; if it is left out to dry, the clay will be hard to work with. This material is recommended for 3rd grade and up.

Playdoh (TM) is not recommended for these types of activities. It crumbles easily when dry and can get mashed into the rug or floor. It can be used if the purpose is to manipulate the material and not to make anything from it.

Model Magic (TM) can be twisted and formed without too much pressure and seems sturdy when dry. It is recommended for all ages, although it is more expensive than some of the other materials.

There are also some newer clays that might work with children. Be sure to read the package carefully before buying and make a sample yourself to see how it holds up. There are also many recipes for inexpensive homemade materials.

Have a variety of tools available to help children manipulate the clays. Tools include small rolling pins made from fat wooden dowels, plastic knives, or anything that will imprint the clay such as buttons, metal findings, nails, or small deeply etched rubber stamps, along with burlap and other textured materials.