top of page

Frame it! 7 ways to use an empty picture frame to invite children to create and learn.

So far, I have used picture frames in 7 different ways to encourage and invite children to create through:

· Transient or ephemeral art with loose parts

· Painting

· Stamping

· Drawing

· Eye droppers and dye

· Weaving herbs or garden goodies

· Invitations to tell a story (with & without books)

Each has different learning and opportunities but first and foremost is that they are all open-ended and focus on what is inside the frame. All these activities help children to develop their creativity, imagination, problem-solving skills, and fine motor skills.

First you need some frames, once you start *WARNING* it is hard not to keep collecting them! I pick mine up from the second hand store and look for solid wood. I have a few decorative ones but often the plain ones work best to highlight or show of the children’s ‘work’. You can also ask families to donate some.

You will need to remove the backing and any tacks or metal pins that hold the picture in. Pliers do the trick. I will share more about how to turn one into a weaving space later.

Here are some of my favourite loose parts to get you started:

  • A variety of natural loose parts such as stones, pinecones, shells, feathers, wood cookies, leaves, acorns, conkers and sticks or driftwood.

  • A variety of man-made items like buttons, lids in various sizes and colours, bracelets, pompoms, craft sticks,doilies, napkin rings, place-mats or coasters.

  • Number stones, story stones and wooden animals, peg dolls or ‘buddies’.

  • Soft toys.

  • Baskets or containers to put loose parts in.

  • A space, table or tuff tray to set out frames

Let's start with natural loose parts- you can use backing or contrast paper or material or just the surface itself-

Next man-made loose parts -

And of course you can mix them- encouraging early literacy and/or mathematics-

You can see that i simply set the items out for the children to discover and use BUT initially I needed to sit alongside them and 'play'.

There are many benefits to using loose parts and creating transient art and here are some:

1. Encourages creativity and imagination: Children can use the loose parts to create unique and imaginative designs. This allows them to express their creativity and explore their imagination.

2. Supports early literacy and mathematics

3. Develops fine motor skills: Picking up and manipulating the small loose parts requires fine motor skills, which are essential for tasks such as writing and drawing.

4. Builds confidence: As children experiment and create their designs and even stories.

5. Promotes mindfulness and relaxation: open-ended play activities can help children to feel more relaxed and mindful.

Framing art! This usually happens after the art is done BUT here you use the frame to guide and support a child to paint, stamp or draw. The frame seems to draw children in and they appear to focus more on what they are creating.

Process art offers more freedom for children to explore different techniques and materials.

Here's what you'll need to get started:

  • Paint, dye, or other colouring materials (including chalk).

  • Brushes or sponges.

  • Paper, tissue paper, paper doilies, or other material to make art on.

  • I don’t tend to use glue and scissors but this is an option.

I find that process art is one of the best ways to fosters self-expression as children can express themselves in a way that is meaningful to them. They can choose the colours and materials that they prefer, allowing them to personalise their art. This then builds self-esteem: Engaging in creative activities can help children to feel proud of their accomplishments and build their self-esteem.

Stamps and mark making materials are other ways to invite children to create within the frame.

I have also made a picture frame into a weaving frame. I simply attached eyelet screws and then tied elastic to them. This way children can create a picture with natural items like herbs, flowers and leaves.

Last but not least I have been using picture frames to support storytelling and inviting children to tell a story with items they add inside the frame. I introduced the storytelling by playing with the items and using a few words then modeled story lines and then storytelling if needed. As I use story baskets and storytelling suitcases many of the children are great and keen storytellers.

This has been with books (Taniwha & Two Homes)-

And art from calendars-

And without books, I add a blackboard with the invitation to 'tell me a story' on it-

Here is Sam’s Mauī ‘catching the sun as they told me. Sam loved that I wrote what it was and attached it to the frame and they wrote their name or signature as well. The pride and joy from this simple act was heart warming for the child AND me!

Are you ready to support children to frame it!?

Until next time.


P.S. there are some LINKS to BLOGS and resources and if you buy any I may get some moolah at not extra cost to you

302 views0 comments


bottom of page