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Holiday Books!

Many holidays, we like them, here are books. Enjoy. It’s a great opportunity to shop local, your favourite bookstore can always order a book in for you if they don’t already have it in stock! If you have found our content useful, you can support by purchasing our Read with River merch, or adding to our tip jar here!

Merry Witchmas by Petrell Ozbay and Tess LaBella
Merry Witchmas by Petrell Ozbay and Sonia Labella illustrated by Sonya Abby from Astra Kids Books

Santa doesn’t believe in witches? Poor Ginger the witch wants nothing more than for Santa to visit her witch village, how will she get Santa to believe?

“Cookies for Santa: A Christmas Cookie Story about Baking and Holiday Traditions-Includes Recipe for Santa’s Favorite Cookies! (America’s Test Kitchen Kids)

By America’s Test Kitchen Kids and Johana Tarkela

“Sounds Like Christmas”

By Robert Munsch and Michael Martchenki

Another holiday hilarious favourite in this house!

“The Nutcracker in Harlem”

By T.E. McMorrow and James Ransome

“Santa’s Husband”

By Daniel Kibblesmith and A.P. Quach

“So Much Snow”

By Robert Munsch and Michael Martchenko

Not so much about holidays but about lots of snow!

“Our Favourite Day of the Year’

By A.E. Ali and Rahele Jomepour Bell

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Picture Books For Little Foodies

You can find the picturebooks here at any of your preferred retailers, and if you inquire at your local independent bookshop they can order it for you as well. If you have found my work useful and would like to show your appreciation we have a support page with merchandise as well as a tip jar here.

“Tea Time Around the World”

By Denise Waisselbluth & Chelsea O’Byrne

“What’s Cooking at 10 Garden Street”

By Felicita Sala

“Whopper Cake”

By Karma Wilson and Will Hillenbrand

This is my personal all time favourite most hilarious picture book!

“There Are No Bears in this Bakery”

By Julia Sarcone-Roach

“How to Feed Your Parents”

By Ryan Miller and Hatem Aly

“Fussy Flamingo”

By Shelley James Vaughan and Matthew Rivera

Kids Can Cook: Fun and yummy recipes for budding chefs by [Esther Coombs]

Kids Can Cook: Fun and Yummy Recipes for Budding Chefs

By Esther Coombs

“The Complete Brambly Hedge”

By Jill Barklem

This is an older series, and I completely adore it, the watercolour images reminiscent of Potter, have a delightful extra level of extreme detail. And SO FULL OF FOOD!

“Amy Wu and the Perfect Bao”

By Kat Zhang and Charlene Chua

Amy wants to learn to make Bao with her family, but it’s harder than it seems. This book was one of the winners of the Bookstagang’s Best of 2019.

“Swamp Water”

By Robert Munsch and Michael Marchenko

One of our all time faves, a little girl goes out to a fancy restaurant for her Grandma’s birthday, but she would prefer to order off menu.

“Bilal Cooks Daal”

By AIsha Saeed and Anoosha Syed

One of the winners of the Bookstagang’s Best of 2019, this gorgeous and inclusive story includes a delightful recipe for daal at the back. I’ve tried it out and can confirm it is delicious!

Each Peach Pear Plum

“Each Peach Pear Plum”

By Janet and Allan Ahlberg

This one is a classic on every baby’s shelf for a reason, comforting and sweet, I just want to dig into that picnic at the end.

“Foraging with Kids”

By Adele Nozedar

So this one isn’t a picture book but an actual illustrated guide, and it is such a great time, so fascinating. We used it during the summer and River and Willow had such fun. We ate a lot of dandelions.

“Dragons Love Tacos”

By Adam Rubin and Daniel Salmieri

“Secret Pizza Party”

By Adam Rubin and Daniel Salmieri

“The Prince and the Porker”

By Peter Bently and David Roberts

“Mr. Crum’s Potato Predicament”

By Anne Renaud and Felicita Sala

Based on the true story of the invention of the potato chip.

“Maggie’s Chopsticks”

By Alan Woo and Isabelle Malenfant

“Round is a Tortilla: A Book of Shapes”

By Roseanne Greenfield Thong and John Parra

“Dragons and Doughknights”

By Dee Leone and George Ermos

Big Cities Little Foodies: Tokyo

By Cheryl Yau Chepusova and Isabel Foo

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A Book List for Children who Love the Natural World

So I have been asked for Non-Fiction/ Dinosaur/Animal type books several times this week, and so I’ve gotten a good selection together for you here, they would be appropriate for readers 3 and up, with an explanation of what I like about the book. What makes it special.

I recommend you reach out to your local independent bookshop to order the books I have listed, if they don’t have it in stock they can place an order for you. If you have found my content useful and would like to show your appreciation we have merch available as well as a tip jar here.

You will find my recommedations below for

  1. Unique Books about Plants
  2. Dinosaurs
  3. Our Universe, Our World, Facts Facts Facts!
  4. Evolution
  5. Human Body
  6. Non-Fiction Animal Books
  7. Fiction Animal Books

Unique Books about Plants

“In the Garden”

Emma Giuliani

This book is an unusual masterpiece, it’s really big but not incredibly dense, it’s stunningly beautiful, totally interactive with tons of little flaps to explore and discover. Definitely the coolest Garden book I have ever seen.

“I Ate Sunshine For Breakfast”

Michael Holland & Phillip Giordano

Absolutely gorgeous, so many pieces to notice, fantastic bright detailed oriented illustrations. Includes science projects you can do at home. It is a great book for reading a page or two at a time, you can choose bits and pieces. I like a non-fiction book that is in bite sized bits!

“Over and Under the Rainforest”

Kate Messner & Christopher Silas Neal

Is part of an acclaimed series by Kate Messner and Christopher Silas Neal, what is interesting about these books is that they straddle the line between fiction and Non-Fiction. It is a fiction story in a traditional sense, a child observing nature, but it includes lots of non-fiction facts as well. The art, although not hyper realistic, pays particularly close attention to real life details. These books are very unique.

“Up in the Garden and Down in the Dirt”

Another book in the “Over and Under” series. This one looks at the Garden and it’s changes over the seasons. Lyrical, poetic, observant of nature. Plenty of opportunities to discuss what we notice in the world around us, and to explore new vocabulary.

Dinosaur Pop Up

“Encyclopedia Prehistorica: Dinosaurs”

By Robert Sabuda & Matthew Reinhart

This book is all about the pop up. It has all sorts of incredibly specific scientific detail, which is really better suited to a child 7 and up, but my toddler and kindergartener pore over this book, again and again. It is magnificent. Interesting to not Matthew Reinhart the artist also does a “pop up school” for young artists on social media. This book isn’t just about dinosaurs, it’s about the fact that art can be 3D in so many different ways, and it can be dynamic, innovative, and involve a lot of engineering.

Our Universe, Our World, Facts Facts Facts!

“Me and the World: An Infographic Exploration”

By Mireia Trius and Joana Casals

This book is so unusual, and definitely a reaction to the trend and love for Infographics. It’s about everything and nothing specifically, but it’s all taken from statistics and facts. Each spread is a different infographic, incredibly detailed, and graphed or mapped out differently. This is a great way to discuss graphing, and communication of information in different ways. There are infographics on different breakfast foods around the world, Sports around the world, even Birthday dates! It’s totally random, and yet some how really well unified. Really enjoyable.

“Sound: Shhh…Bang…POP…BOOM!”

By Romana Romanyshyn and Andriy Lesiv

This non-fiction book is conceptual but also concrete and factual, exploring different kinds of sound, how they’re made, how we hear and interpret them. But also exploring silence, sign language, different language sounds around the world. It’s a beautiful book and super inclusive. Not a dense read either, can be read all in one go enjoyably.

“Discovering Energy”

By Eduard Altarriba

This is part of a whole series too, I’ve only read two. But I think this one is more interesting and accessible. I really like this one, it goes through every sort of energy source and information to understand different elements about it. Really important read for a child learning about the mechanics of our world.


“Who Will It Be? How Evolution Connects Us All”

Paola Vitale and Rossana Bossu

This one is about evolution and starting at the smallest sells and growing and becoming, and guessing from these really interesting watercolour? Possibly ink? Illustrations what something will be. At the end it has info about Darwin, and Evolution.

Human Body

“Grow Secrets of our DNA”

Nicola Davies and Emily Sutton

This book is great, it follows one girl’s life and throughout it explains how her body will grow, it explains DNA and what it all means. Very nicely done.

Non-Fiction Animal Books

“Fanatical About Frogs”

(and below some of the other Animal books by Owen Davies)

By Owen Davies and Produced by Flying Eye Books

These books are incredibly special, and beautifully made, which doesn’t seem like that important? But the quality of these books really does stand out, the colours are so deep, the paper is thick, it lasts which is what I look for in a hard cover book I want to buy. The art is phenomenal, again it’s not photographic, nor is it photo realism, but the attention to detail on every element of these scientific illustrations is bananas. They’re just magnificent.

So these are really a reference book not stories, but what I also like about this series is that every block of text is broken up into something readable and understandable. So though there is a ton of information in each book, you can read it with a child as young as three over time. My child enjoyed them.

“Bird Watch”

“Bird Watch” (And “Beach Walk”)

Backpack Explorer

These are super fun, they have photographs, they include activities and are very interactive. They even both include a little magnifying glass. They’re the perfect handheld activity to bring with you out on a walk, or on a trip. They’re also quite sturdy so they’ll survive a tromp around in the woods.

“One Day on Our Blue Planet…In the Outback”

By Ella Bailey

I recommend a lot of Flying Eye Books because the quality is so consistently good. This one is also part of a series apparently, but this is the only one I personally have read and it’s very well done. It’s also formatted more like a read through story rather than a reference book. So it is a couple of sentences on each page about what is happening with the animals and the time of day and where they are etc. It’s Non-Fiction but it’s a nice pleasant read through.


So I know this is about Nature, and really celebrating non-fiction. But if your child enjoys animals and nature, they might enjoy these hilarious fiction stories. The following

“Fussy Flamingo”

Shelly Vaughan James and Matthew Rivera

This is one of River’s absolute favourite read alouds. It has so much good stuff happening, a story about a little flamingo who will not eat shrimp because she thinks they’re going to be yucky. It’s fun, it’s well written for early readers to chime in with, and at the back there’s a whole Non-Fiction section about flamingos! So good!


Judith Henderson and Andrea Stegmaier

This is my personal favourite story book of 2020. It’s about a boy who finds an alligator, who maybe wants to eat some people, but they become friends anyway.

Unstoppable: (Family Read-Aloud book, Silly Book About Cooperation): Rex,  Adam, Park, Laura: 9781452165042: Books


By Adam Rex and Laura Park

I don’t even know how to explain this book it is totally ridiculous, unexpected and hilarious. You should probably buy it.

“Animals Brag About Their Bottoms”

Maki Saito

Exactly what it sounds like. Delivers on title promises.

“Not Your Nest”

Gideon Sterer and Andrea Tsurumi

This one is just so silly, this poor bird keeps trying to build a nest, but every single animal keeps stealing it away. Poor bird just wants to sleep.

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Our Kindergarten Homeschool Plans Free Download: And a note on Goal Setting

Hello Reluctant homeschoolers! You may find yourself feeling virtual kindergarten is just not working for you. So I have laid out some of the main guidelines I use. I have been a teacher in Primary and Kindergarten since 2013. These plans are my regular Full Day Kindergarten plans modified for home and what I am using with my own children.

One of the most important pieces of this, that you need to really do for yourself is goal setting. When we plan a program, we centre it around long and short term goals that are tied to the curriculum (you can see my previous article that contains the curriculum document and a video explaining how to interpret it.) Because you are only teaching your own children, the goals you set can and should be individual to your children and their needs. Where are they at right now, and what is the next step?

Does your child recognize letters? If so then you can move forward with decoding words, recognizing sight words, etc. If your child has no interest in books and doesn’t know which way it should open or that text directionality is left to right, then your goals are going to be much more simple. Just reading together and beginning letter recognition.

When you set goals they should be achievable, specific, realistic, and within the range of proximal development. So they should be challenging but not impossible. You need to spend time really assessing what your child can do. Then plan from there.

Once you know where you are at, you need to pick some long range goals (a few months) and more short term goals (for the month, or week.) You don’t need to do a ton of fancy activities, but what you focus on when reading, writing, and discussing should all tie back to those long term goals.

With that being said here is our basic schedule.

Literacy circle Details, I do not do different activities for literacy every day. The books change but the format does not. I do sometimes do a specific and preplanned craft or activity in the afternoon (math, science, art) but not every day.

There is a lot of overlap in the different sorts of play. Some children have preference for one or two over others and those choices should be respected. But occasionally we encourage them to branch out!

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How to Decode The Kindergarten Curriculum Document: A Super Quick Guide for Parents

If you are looking for the Kindergarten Document for download you can access it


Or Download it below

Meet the Ontario Kindergarten Curriculum Document. It includes everything you need to understand the approach, principles, expectations and assessment of the Kindergarten Full Day Program.

If you have opted to keep your kindergarten aged child at home during the pandemic and do not feel that remote schooling is going to work for them or you, then you may wish to consult this curriculum document while making plans to home school.

I have included a longer explanation below of how to interpret this document!

Why should you consider this document? Essentially, it lays out exactly what skills and information a child should have by the end of Kindergarten, entering grade one. So, it is very helpful to look at these expectations when planning your long range and short range goals for teaching at home. That way your child will be up to speed when they go back to school!

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Reconsidering the Schism Between Process Based and Product based Early Art Education.

An example of Process Based painting made by River (4yo) and myself (32yo)

In the world of Early Years education there is a great divide, between educators who emphasize the process of art creation vs those who put the importance on the resulting product.

   This might not seem like a big deal, but between you and me, the resulting two sides can get quite judgemental of one another.  Especially if you happen to be working together with a partner who is of the opposite camp.  It can make for a heated planning session between teacher and ECE partner!

   Critics of product based art education deem the carefully coordinated and uniform projects to be void of any actual creativity or student voice.  Resulting in row upon row of identical cotton ball snowmen or cloned egg carton flower bunches. 

   Whereas those who oppose process based free form art wrinkle their noses at what they see as the inevitable muddy dishwater that child led activities produce.  Where is the learning in a big swirl of paint that resembles the contents of my stomach?  Who wants to frame that?

   I should start by admitting my bias, I have always been a Process based art teacher with an emphasis on Inquiry led projects.  I have a background in Fine Art, I attended Western university for painting, I have a minor in Art history from the University of Toronto and my original teaching subject qualification is Intermediate/Senior (high school) Visual Arts.  But my work experience has always been in Full Day Kindergarten as both ECE and Teacher, specializing in music teaching.  

   Coming from this background and a handful of years of teaching I want to question some of the basic ideas at the core of early art education.  And I want to suggest the need for a shift in the way we consider a holistic approach to early art exploration that can incorporate both process and product driven ideas.

  The major rule I want to question, that exists on both sides of the spectrum, is that a teacher or adult should not interfere in the execution of the student’s work.  Each child should be wholly and independently responsible for what you see on the page or creation.  Teachers should not write on the work, they should not even help label directly on a journal page but instead scribe on the back. 

With process work this means the students just go to town with the materials with some verbal guidance to try and observe and reflect on what they are creating.  With product work this means a carefully directed and controlled procedure that is directed by the adult and carried out by the student, then assessed.

  This dogmatic emphasis on a child creating totally independently is for two reasons. First and foremost, for assessment purposes.  At the heart of all school based projects is the directive to document, and assess for reporting purposes.  Everything a child does is ultimately evidence of their individual growth (or lack of growth to put it bluntly) to be written up on and filed away.  The second reason stems from the idea that if you interfere with a child’s work, you are telling them, they are incapable of doing it themselves.   Which supposedly has emotional and long term psychological ramifications (I strongly question this assumption.) 

What I am proposing is that we challenge this idea that art must always be an individual effort, (which is such a modern idea.) Instead look at art production as a community effort, a joint product and a way to share and cooperate.  For example when we teach music we use a community approach rather than individualist, teachers accompany on piano or guitar, children all sing or play together.  I think we should take this communal creation approach and apply it to visual arts.

An artist’s apprentice three hundred years ago would have worked with direct support, an artist’s workshop would have worked together to complete commissions.  At some point the view of visual art production as a group effort shifted from cooperation to individual genius.  And I don’t think this shift did anybody any favours.

So what would this mean for practical application?  What I am saying is that I believe it should be acceptable for adults to assist with the execution of some art projects not as a way to erase the student’s work but as a cooperative effort.  That students should work together on paintings and sculptures, that it shouldn’t matter if it is impossible to document and assess who did what exactly. There is so much more that you can get out of these sort of partnerships.

A shift away from individualism and instead a focus on exploration and social connection during art projects would have a huge impact on both of the existing approaches to art creation in the classroom.  It would mean that process work would have more of an aesthetically pleasing product and product work could have a little more complexity and depth.

Being able to intervene and work with a student during a process based piece for example would mean you don’t get that muddy dishwater effect. For example you could help them with some elements of painting, you could have a discussion about the pitfalls of overworking a painting, you could demonstrate technique and model right on the work.  Over all I find that working together also encourages students to take on larger products because they feel like they’re better supported. It also just looks better.  

In terms of doing product based craft work with adult and group support more complicated things can be accomplished. This allows for products that are a little more interesting and varied.  Allowing more than one student to work on a craft also means that your classroom bulletin board will have one or a smaller number of pieces on display but that they won’t look like a line up of tin soldiers.  

Will you still be able to assess? Yes. We manage to assess in music class while everyone is working on projects together so I don’t see how support and communal work would be impossible to assess in visual arts.  The only real difference is that it would make sending pieces home for each child a little harder to divide.  But, does anyone really keep every single macaroni decoupage?  No. So I think we can relax a little.

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The Curious Case of George: What is really Going on in “Curious George?”


“Curious George” (1941) M. & H. RAY

Hold on to your hats people because this is going to get complicated.  I want to preface this with saying that as a child I was very fond of Curious George, I had the original books and a large stuffed monkey who sat on a rocking chair in a little walk in closet where I had tea parties.  Despite that Nostalgia, I think we need to look at this critically.

  “Curious George” (1941) by Margaret Ray and H. Ray is about a monkey (with no tail) named George who is kidnapped from his home in Africa by a white man in a yellow hat.  He is told he must be a good little monkey and accept his fate and promptly jumps off the ship, almost drowns and is fished back in.  Once they get to the man’s home, George accidentally calls the fire department and is thrown in jail.  He escapes and eventually is “saved” by the man in the yellow hat and then promptly thrown in the zoo.

“Curious George” (1941) M. & H. RAY

   So this seems like an open and shut case of some seriously messed up allegory of racial power dynamics, pro colonialist imperialist bull crap.  Right? The white man is the saviour who must impose his values and will on George, and George is expected to not only be complicit and obedient but to love and be thankful for the man. Awful right? Just bloody grotesque.

“Curious George” (1941) M. & H. Ray

   Okay but here is where it gets a little more complicated.  The authors, the Rays were a married Jewish couple who wrote “Curious George” while fleeing the Nazis.  They fled Paris on bicycles with nothing but the drawings and a few belongings.  They went to New York where they, like George, had to navigate a frightening new world having been forced by a threat of racist, antisemitic evil to abandon their home. On top of all of this, they had no children, but instead owned pet monkeys. Does this negate our initial assessment? Or does it simply complicate it?

    So how do we untangle this? June Cummins in her compelling article, you can find the link to below, argues that despite their experiences, the Rays are writing with the voice of authority. They are functioning as The Man in the Yellow Hat, who they have portrayed as a force of goodness and rightness. But who is George in all of this?  

     George, symbolizes a human child, the decision to depict him with no tail is a pretty big indicator of that. They owned monkeys, they would have been aware that monkeys have tails. Given their relationship with monkeys it seems natural that they would select a monkey as the animal symbol for a cheeky human child in their story.

    So what about the racial connection, was it intentional? They clearly had their own personal reasons to choose a monkey. But, the Ray’s would have been aware of the plethora of pre-existing media that drew comparisons between Black people and monkeys. That was a pretty commonly used symbol by this time. Add to that the entire narrative of the white man in the colonial safari outfit kidnapping and enslaving George (who is representing a human child) from Africa, this is not something we can dismiss.  The level of intention on the part of the author in making a statement about race is unclear.  However, I don’t think it is possible to fully remove the story of Curious George from its ties to the enslavement narrative and colonialist values.

       At the end of the day, does it matter if they intended it?  Curious George is certainly a book that supports unjust power dynamics, obedience in the face of subjugation, and kidnapping. It also exists in the context of a time when art, writing, propaganda had been making these symbolic connections between Race and monkeys/apes. You cannot remove a piece of art from the context it was created even though yes, clearly there are many layers here.

   No, It isn’t as clear cut as I had initially thought when I began researching this but I do not think that the personal experiences and trials of the authors can erase the obvious context and implications that Curious George and his captivity has in terms of messaging about racial power dynamics, and pro colonial attitudes. 

I do not think “Curious George” belongs on a child’s bookshelf after having researched it and it’s context and implications. However I encourage you to do the research yourself, and consider it. I have linked some articles below for your consideration. 


Cummins, June. “The Resisting Monkey: ‘Curious George,’ Slave Captivity Narratives, and the  Postcolonial Condition.” A Review of International English Literature 28.1 (1997): 69–83. ARIEL. Web. 12 April 2015.

“The Unexpected Profundity of Curious George” Galchen, Rivka.  The New Yorker.  June 3, 2019.

“A Good Little Monkey: Curious George’s Undercurrent of White Dominance and the Series’ Continued Popularity” Terhune, Maya. Boston University WR: Journal of the CAS Writing program

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Help! My Child is Stuck in a Reading Loop: What to do when your child only wants to read the same books.


Reading Loops are Normal and Developmentally Appropriate 

   Toddlers and young children thrive on the safety of routine and predictability.  This unsurprisingly extends to every facet of their lives including the books they will want to read.  This is one of the reason you will end up reading the same insipid book about the puppy who has lost it’s ball 572920139009 times in one week.


The Growing Brain:

   Another element to this is the fundamental approach to acquiring skills and knowledge that is hardwired into babies and toddlers.  They will take apart and repeat a skill over and over until they have mastered it.  You might have noticed this in other tasks they get fixated on, such as opening and closing doors or squeezing all the toothpaste out of the tube whenever they get a chance.  They are focused on mastering this.  This applies to the books they have chosen.  They are going to learn every detail backwards forwards and upside down. 

Early readers should be reading each book at least 7 times..

Learning to Read:

    When we get to preschoolers and primary school children, the need for repeated reading is still incredibly important!  Studies have determined that early readers should be reading each book at least 7 times to really be able to comfortably read through and glean all of the lessons therein.

Should I Embrace the Loop?

     Embrace the loop within reason.  Reading books has many purposes and getting stuck on the same 3 books for four months limits the amount of new ideas, discussions, vocabulary and experiences your child is exposed to in reading.

Balancing is key.

How do I encourage balance?

   Rotate books like you would toys.  Every week, don’t keep them all out at once.

  Keep different selections in different areas, the car, their bedroom, the diaper bag, the kitchen, etc.

  “You choose I choose” I let my children choose two books each at night and I also choose 2 so that we have a variety.

  What other ways do you encourage your children to indulge in a variety of books?

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Twice Recycled Eric Carle Art

Eric Carle inspired Art


Do you have piles and piles of ambiguous blobby paintings?  We sure do.  River is a prolific abstract artist and it is just impractical to keep every single one.
So how do I mitigate the paper use?  First I give her paper that I have already used, I am a compulsive list maker.
Second, I find ways to then use her paintings again.  This activity is perfect for recycling paintings and gives you a style that looks something like Eric Carle’s works! I saw something like this on a library display board years ago.
I made one here as an example based on Eric Carle’s  “The Very Hungry Caterpillar.”

How to:




Tempera paint


Canvas or firm background paper (Bristol board will do)

Utensils for painting with (think outside the box, forks, old tooth brush, sponge, cardboard, cotton balls, you can use your fingers or feet!)



1. Have your  child make a bunch of abstract process paintings on a fairly thick paper, we did this over several days. (Abstract process paintings are paintings that aren’t supposed to look like anything and are all about the experience of painting.)

2. Each painting should use different colours, you may wish to limit their colour palatte by only giving them a couple of colours at a time.  Otherwise everything will  be muddy.

3. Let them experiment making marks on these paintings give them different tools for each one.

4. Once it is all dry cut shapes out of the paintings.  Make a variety of sizes and types and throw in some organic shapes for good measure.  You can let your child help with safety scissors.

5. Using regular glue make pictures with the shapes.  To get the Eric Carle feel emphasize layering the picture.  So add plenty of layers and details.

5.  This can be a great opportunity to bring in math discussion and exploration,  talking about shapes, patterning, and symmetry.

6. Show us your work! Tag @readwithriver


#bookishplay #kidsartactivities #kindergartenart