Passionate About Cincinnati
and the Moms Who Live Here

make a mess: Ella Sarah Gets Dressed

Hello again from ArtMama Kelli! I’ve got another great picture book and art project pairing for you, and this one would make a really fun play date (if you’re into setting up activities for play dates- I usually just make coffee, set out some Cheddar Bunnies, and let kids run wild in my basement, but to each their own, right?). Ella Sarah Gets Dressed


Ella Sarah Gets Dressed is a Caldecott Honor-winning picture book by Margaret Chodos-Irvine. That silver circle on the front means that it was chosen as one of the best-illustrated picture books the year in which it came out. This is a great read- aloud for toddlers and preschoolers (yes, even boys- GASP!) who are learning to choose their own clothes, and who may be a bit particular. We read the book, then did two projects- a dress-up activity and a printmaking activity, since the book is illustrated in various printmaking techniques and has beautiful printed wallpapers throughout.


Here’s what you need:

  • Cardstock and an X-Acto or  paper doll forms.
  • Scraps of assorted fabric and/or ribbon in many colors and patterns, cut into bits
  • Scraps of felt in “hair” colors, cut into bits
  • Glue (bottles or small containers and brushes if you’re into a more Montessori thing)
  • Crayons
  • White paper
  • Sponges
  • Washable paint
  • plates or pallets
  • Pre-made stamps or you can make these stampers I made from baby food pouches

Here’s what we did: To prepare for the dress-up project, I created paper cutouts of “Ella Sarah” using card stock and an X-Acto. This was time-intensive, and you could just as easily go to a craft store and get paper doll cut outs.


I read the book aloud to the group, and make a point to talk about the many patterns and colors that Ella Sarah wears. I even pointed out patterns on their clothing and in our surroundings.

Splay out your colorful, patterned fabric scraps and let your little friends go to town gluing the fabric pieces to their people. I made sure to say that their art didn’t have to be Ella Sarah, it could be them, their friend, anyone. Usually, they will tell me who they are making and what they are doing in their clothing choices. Here’s how they turned out (most didn’t add hair to their little friends)…


I also gave the children the option of using crayons to add faces and details, which I think would appeal to preschoolers more than toddlers.

The next part was super fun- we stamped backgrounds for our people (although some of my friends wanted to keep their person and stamping work separate.

We used my food pouch cap stampers, and washable paint applied to a sponge (when I used paint on a plate, it didn’t work as well) on white paper.

stamping collage

I absolutely love the variety of ways children use the tools and media, and how their artwork looks so drastically different even when given the same items. They are inventive, inquisitive, and inspiring, and their finding influence my artwork in many ways.

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