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Collage Fun: This will get you hooked!!

Collage Fun: This will get you hooked!!


What do you do with a paper bin at home or in the art room when it is full of colourful remnants of children’s experiments: wild paintings and bright snippets. Do you really throw everything away? To be honest, I sometimes find myself fishing in the paper bin, when expressive brushstrokes or lavish colours catch my attention, because you can create such cool collages with those discarded paintings. Below I show you how you can create wonderful pictures in a fun child-parent art collaboration. This activity is mainly about letting go. You and your child will love it!

collage: coloured business notes, painting-by-numbers pages, stamp, masking tape, pen

collage: coloured business notes, painting-by-numbers pages, stamp, masking tape, pen

The challenge and chance in doing collaborative artwork with small children is their superiority when it comes to creative output: They are sometimes quicker, more radical, more spontaneous, and fearless. They are not such harsh self-critics as we adults are. Toddlers simply experiment with the way colour flows or scissors work. And when a four- or six-year-old tries to draw a house, but it turns out to look like monster, he will simply turn into a proper monster and that's it. No problem!

This attitude is why I love to collaborate with children. Your child will show you so many other good ways, how to finish a picture. The good thing about making collages with children and out of leftovers is that both, children and found material are not under your control. You become only partly responsible for the product. As a consequence, you loosen up. You can relax and let go. You haven’t made the paper you fished out of the trash bin in the first place and you can obviously not control which forms or lines or colours your child will add to the picture. Both, working with trash and working with children have a lot to do with chance. This is a great relief for everyone (like me) who tends to tighten up sometimes during creative processes.

Creating cool collages with children

All you need:

  • glue
  • paint or pens
  • scissors
  • Coloured colour-by-number pages. I love using them in this activity, since I like to see my children cutting these books to pieces. Here, you use them in a non-standard way, revolting against the confining rules of these books and turning them into something of your own. Pages can also be half-finished or done by small children who ignore the numbers and fields and simply paint all over the pages, which is good! As you can see in the walrus picture, numbers and lines will make it interesting later on.
  • discarded paintings that you find interesting, for example because of their colours, the brush strokes, the paper’s texture,…
  • paper to glue on
  • optional: newspaper, stamps, masking tape, old picture books

How to get started:

1.     Put all the material on a table and let your child decide if it wants to start cutting or drawing.

2.     Work side by side with your child. For example:

  • draw or paint on the already colourful pages
  • cut forms out of paintings, newspaper, children books or colouring books. Cut out abstract or figurative forms.
  • stamp on paintings or clean paper and cut the motif out
  • arrange (and glue) your cut-outs on a clean paper
Let a toddler experiment with ink and water colour, add a stamp, frame it. A perfect gift for proud grandparents! If you have created your own stamps, use them! If you don’t have your own stamps yet, have a look at the blog post  “How to make your own stamp”  !

Let a toddler experiment with ink and water colour, add a stamp, frame it. A perfect gift for proud grandparents! If you have created your own stamps, use them! If you don’t have your own stamps yet, have a look at the blog post “How to make your own stamp”!

3.     At some point collaboration comes naturally. You will inspire each other: Your child may want to add something to what you draw, ask you to draw something else, or it may want to cut your paper and so on. Your child will probably destroy some of the things you create. That’s Ok! Actually, this is the best part of it: your child comes up with associations, destroys parts, adds parts – it is impossible to control everything that happens. See if your child’s interventions make you come up with new ideas.


  • Be sensitive with respect to when you want to channel the process and when do you want to let things run. I sometimes put things aside, when I feel the picture is finished or a part of it should be saved.
  • I like how Rachelle Doorley says on her blog tinkerlab that doing art in collaboration with children is a lot like communication. Engage in the “conversation”. Like in a dialogue, taking turns and paying attention make it a great experience.
  • Also, Talk about your creations: What do you both see in the forms? Do you simply enjoy experimenting with the colours and material at hand, or do you invent a storyline? If so, can you add visual elements to make the story or characters visible?

What do you want?

Decide for yourself, what your aim is. This activity can simply be a way to have quality and artful time with your child. Or do you want a real good result that you can put in a frame at the end of the day? Who decides when the picture is finished? Is someone taking the lead in the course of time? I think both ways work fine: For the collage with the robin above, for example, I put the blue parts and circles that my son had cut out aside in order to finish the picture later, on my own. The walrus picture next to it and the framed picture at the beginning of the post, on the other hand, were real child-mother collaborations, where no one really took the lead.

Tips for teachers:

Here are two more good ways to use paintings that would otherwise end up in the paper bin with older kids or art students.

1) Give them pictures of animals they are interested in. They can then use them as templates to cut a couple of silhouettes out of the discarded paintings. Ask them to arrange the silhouettes on paper. This is a great way to get a feeling for composition!

2) Ask them to draw on their discarded paintings five geometrical forms and five lines. Then ask them to see in those lines forms they find interesting. Sometimes they immediately see figures which they cut out, sometimes they arrange interesting landscapes or monsters out of abstract forms.

I like these activities, because you create something valuable out of trash and experience how paintings that were originally created with a different intention can easily become something entirely different.

Does this article encourage you to go fishing in your paper bin for collage material? What are your ideas about working with leftovers? Do you have more tips for child-parent-art-collaborations? Please feel free to leave a comment below!

I am looking forward to hearing your ideas!

Convert your Kid's Mess into Art!

Convert your Kid's Mess into Art!