Monthly Archives: June 2014

The 4th of July Comes Alive — with Puppets!


Summer where we live is famous for its rainy afternoons. So what do you do when your granddaughter is staying over a few days during the Fourth of July week when rain and more rain is predicted? Bring out the PUPPETS! Of course, store-bought puppets are great, but how about creating your own?

Our local Dollar Store is always a treasure trove of goodies, and true to form, they had die-cut shapes for the Liberty Bell, George Washington, and other patriotic figures all neatly packaged up.


Susan and her granddaughter used a small puppet stage cut out of a cardboard gift box, and began to explore ways to use the patriotic figures to tell the Independence Day story. Attaching straws to pre-cut figures allowed us to “drop” the figures into the scene from the above the stage. Attaching a bend-y straw to the Liberty bell, allowed us to move it back and forth as it “rang.” We added our own sound effects for the ringing bell!



While crafting the story, this sharp second-grader began to think of more things that we could add to the pre-cut pieces. We found a picture of Betsy Ross – yes, we definitely needed her to make the flag! How about the White House in the background? A little poetic license and Washington, D.C. was able to look into the future. Soon a whole array of props and puppets, including drawings of two happy faced puppets to show Susan and her granddaughter enjoying their freedom.


Plans are to add clothes to the hand-drawn people later this week. Susan keeps a box of fabric scraps, yarn, buttons, and all kinds of leftover goodies to adorn the puppets. The art box comes in handy and allows us to give wing to our imaginations and creativity.

Although Susan and her grandchild chose to tell about the 4th of July, you can choose any favorite story, or create characters for bugs, or even invent fruit that talks. (Remember “heard it on the grapevine….” and the Fruit of the Loom dancers?) Explore emotion by having your puppets show empathy, excitement, eagerness, or curiosity. Make up interesting voices, lip sync to a song, play an instrument – you’re only limited by your imagination. So whether or not you have rainy afternoons to fill, add a little drama to your life with homemade puppets – and have a wonderful afternoon of fun!

Mary and Susan


Make Summer Reading ARTS-FULL

School’s out! Have some quality time with the children in your life. Grab some arts books to have interactive fun that is (shhh… don’t tell!) educational.

Here are some of our favorites:

 photo_2-10          ZOOM  by Istvan Banyai

You might think that you know where you are, but when you turn the page to Zoom In or Zoom Out, surprises are in store. We used this technique to “zoom in” and focus on selected parts of art works in Teaching Through the ARTS: WRITING. This is a great technique used in combination with the Read the Picture strategy. Take some digital photographs of things around your house and print a few. Cut out a detail and see if a family member recognizes it.

Chair seat                Chair

            Have fun zooming in and out on things at home!

photo_3-6     LOOK CLOSER: Art Masterpieces through the Ages    by Caroline Desnoëttes

This book helps you zoom in on details. From finding bridges in Leonardo’s Mona Lisa, to naming the animals lined up to enter Noah’s Ark, you’ll be surprised how much you see in paintings by artists such as Paul Gauguin, Claude Monet, and Vincent van Gogh. After you’ve looked at some of the detail, pose like one of the people in the painting.

Thinking 3.14

On family travels, Hannah poses as Auguste Rodin’s The Thinker.

    photo_4-4 Come Look with Me: Enjoying Art with Children: Exploring at Landscape Art with Children byGladys Blizzard

There is an entire series of Come Look with Me books. This one is especially great to go with summer travels. On each page of the book are questions that parents/grandparents and children can explore together. An explanation of the artwork is provided to help get you started.


George Inness, Lackawanna Valley, 1856

Simply ask: “What do you see?” Or guide the conversation with “If you hike to these mountains, what route would you take?”


 photo_2-9     Unlikely Pairs: Fun with Famous Works of Art by Bob Raczka

Almost anything by Bob Raczka is fun, but this is a particular favorite because it is so humorous. You may laugh out loud when you see how Raczka positions Rodin’s Thinker so that the figure contemplates the Large Chess Board by Paul Klee. The self-portrait of an artist holding his palette and looking at Andy Warhol’s paint-by-numbers landscape is another really clever one. This concept is a great prompt for imaginative story-telling. You might find your own witty combinations. For inspiration, check out “One Met. Many Worlds.” at




Can You Hear It? The Metropolitan Museum of Art by William Lach We love this book! It begins with pictures, photos, and art images as well as a brief explanation of some orchestral instruments. Twelve works of art are paired with orchestral music; for example, George Gershwin’s An American in Paris is effectively combined with Dutch artist Kees van Dongen’s Avenue du Bois. A CD of the music is included. Each selection has “Can you hear…” questions to guide listening.  After you determine what artwork is a match for the sound of the flight of a bumblebee, you might move like a bumblebee flitting from flower to flower.

I hear it!     “I can hear the tympani drums!”

photo_1-9   Carnival of Animals: Poems Inspired by Saint-Saens Music edited by Judith Chernaik

This book has poems for every animal in the music suite and a CD of the music. Engage is some active music listening.What instruments do you hear? What is the tempo? Is the music loud or soft? Imitate the heavy deliberate steps of the elephant while listening to the music, or hop to the rhythm of the kangaroo. It’s great for a rainy day when you can’t get outside!

walk like an elephant   Walk like an elephant.

Cover_backcover.indd     Teaching Through the ARTS: WRITING, Volume 1 by Mary Palmer and Susan Rosoff

Experiences such as creating a soundscape or dramatizing a painting draw you and your child into the art work in ways that sharpen the senses and deepen the thinking. When learning is fun, it lasts. To order your copy, go to

Have a great summer!  We hope you’ll make it arts-filled.

Mary and Susan