The "guys" (stuffed animals) in our house are really family members.
They have backstories, relatives, fears, voices, theme songs...the list goes on.
Patches the horse arrived the day my son broke his leg, four years ago. He is so loved that his black eyes are now pushed in, and his fur is no longer white. His stuffing is lumpy, so he has a hard time posing for portraits. But he is the best friend to my boy. Puglet is Patches' brother. He is so loved that his ears, once stitched down into neat folds, now stick straight up. His fur is matted, and his body squishy. Puglet and Patches do not like to be apart. But they do both love to sing, and sleep nestled under the arm of my son nightly. And they pretty much run his bedroom when he's away at school.
Pooh Bear has been a special part of our family for about seven years now. My baby girl chose him from the crammed shelves at Disneyland after a long day at the happiest place on earth when she was just a toddler. I was a tired mama, just wanting her to make a decision from amongst the hundreds of pairs of plastic eyes staring down at her. But those toddler hands chose Pooh, and who knew what a treasured character he'd become. His ears are permanently matted from having been chewed on, then put in the washing machine, then chewed on, then washed...like a thousand times over. Pooh Bear sings his own Pooh Bear songs, of course, and is always looking for some honey. He snuggles under my daughter's arm every night.
So when I wanted to set my kids on a task today, I chose a little watercolor session, painting portraits of their best friends. I love their paintings so much, and these guys will be framed and hung on the wall just like we would our other family members. In case you want to try this simple project, here are some of our watercolor secrets:
It is very important to use a type of heavy paper intended for watercolor painting, especially with littler kids, since they have a harder time controlling the amount of liquid going onto the paper. This paper won't warp even with big puddles of paint on it. When you get a good coupon to the craft store, buy yourself a pad or two. (And then make sure it doesn't get used for other stuff.)
1. Have your child lightly draw his or her subject in pencil first (my six year old needed help with his outlines).
2. Then let them trace the sketch with black Sharpie. (Yep, normally I'm not okay with kid Sharpie usage.)
3. Erase all the pencil lines left.
4. Then paint.
I try to teach them to gently stroke the paint on, not "scribble" it with the paintbrush, as they are inclined to do, like they would a marker. It takes a much more delicate hand for them to wield the bristles of a paintbrush versus using straight pressure with a crayon or marker. I think it's good to teach a child (who is old enough to understand and has fine motor control) how to properly use all kinds of art tools. Each person gets a small brush for small spaces, and a larger brush for backgrounds. Each also gets a cup of water and a folded paper towel for dabbing off too much water or paint.
After the paintings dry, it looks a bit better to trace another time over the Sharpie lines. I do that part, careful to maintain the childish wiggles in their lines.
They can also sign their paintings with the Sharpie, and date them with the year. These will look so great in black frames, huh?
She had to put on the shirt that went with the project. Obviously.
I think I'm extra glad we did these today because someday in the future, Patches, Puglet and Pooh will be put on a shelf to gather dust (sniff). But the memory of little hands painting their likesnesses with love will remain.