Passionate About Cincinnati
and the Moms Who Live Here

make a mess: To Be Like The Sun

Hi! ArtMama Kelli here, with a “make a mess” activity for our toddler and preschooler friends. This activity has been tested for children ages 2-4 at blue manatee children’s bookstore, and at home with my toddler, who really just wanted to play with his trucks.

Since I am pretty much obsessed with picture books, and I love inspiring art with the very young, I will be sharing some art activities based on picture and board books. Please keep in mind that with this age group, the process is the important part. I went to art school, so your child’s art really shouldn’t look like mine (or else my student loans are for naught).


My inspiration, given how sunflowers are at their peak right now, is the book To Be Like the Sun by Susan Marie Swanson, with illustrations by Margaret Chodos-Irvine. This beautiful book shows a young girl planting sunflower seeds and watching as they grow up into tall sunflowers, then harvesting the seeds for her bird feeder and to sow the next spring. Most striking are the illustrations, which are made using various printmaking techniques.

The materials you will need for this project are:

  • 12 X 18 white paper
  • paint brush
  • washable green paint
  • washable yellow paint
  • washable orange paint
  • washable black paint
  • a piece of brown or orange paper, cut into a circle (about 5 inches in diameter- I just grabbed something in my studio to use as a template)
  • a piece of foam or sponge, but into a leaf shape
  • plates or bowls to use as palettes
  • a fork

Here’s what you do:

I always read the book to the child/children before I begin the project. This way, they have an image in their head and some inspiration.

Sunflowers grow up from the ground, so we will use our green paint and a brush to make the stem of the sunflower “grow up, up” from the soil (you could also use torn brown paper for the soil, which I’m sort of sad I didn’t think of until right now!). Create some leaves with the green paint while you’re at it.

DSC_0009Now, take a big glob of green paint and put it right at the top of your stem. This will act as glue to put on the brown or orange circle in the center of the flower.





Dip your petal-shaped stamp in the yellow paint to create petals for your sunflower by going around the circle. You can follow it up with orange paint to give it some depth.


Our last step is to put seeds in the center of the sunflower. This is where we get a little crazy- we will use the fork to make rows of seeds by dipping the ends of the tines into the black paint, and pressing them down on the paper.

Your child’s finished product might look something like this. My work is on the right and my almost two year-old’s is on the left. Enjoy reading to your child and being inspired by the wonderful art form of children’s books!


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