Kids Crafts – Thanksgiving Mosaic

Many of the world's great civilizations used mosaic art to depict important images in special places. During my travels to Italy in college, we visited Venice. The cathedral there had a dome over the alter that beautifully depicted religious scenes and icons in mosaic tile. While we can not create something of that scale with our kids, we can help them to see the beauty in mosaic art and gain an understanding of the effort that went into these great works.

Here's what you need:
– Tempera, craft, or poster paint (fall colors)
– Pumpkin seeds or dried beans
– Glue
– Card Stock or poster board
– Small disposable dish and disposable fork

Here's what we did:

1. We used dried red beans (because we had them in the house). However, any dried bean will work. A variety of beans can be used unpainted, or one type of bean painted for color. We painted ours with craft paint. I squirted some paint into the bottom of a disposable bowl, poured in the beans, and let the kids use a disposable fork to stir and mix the beans into the paint until they were all coated in paint. We did not get a perfect coating on all the beans, but we decided this would make our mosaic more interesting. We spread the painted beans out on a sheet of paper to dry, making sure that no two beans were touching while drying.

2. While our paint was drying, we took a 9 x 12 inch sheet of card stock. (This was actually part of the packaging from one of the kids' Halloween costumes.) We cut it into fourths. My son and daughter each drew a fall / Thanksgiving picture. My son drew the Mayflower, and my daughter a leaf. I drew them a turkey and a pilgrim hat on the remaining two fourths.

3. Once our beans were dry, we pulled them off the paper where they were drying. Then we squirted glue onto our pictures, in small sections. Carefully placing colored beans onto the glued sections, we proceeded to finish our mosaics.

4. Once all the beans were glued into place, we let our pieces dry.

A Few Quick Tips:

1. If your kids are really young, you may want to use bigger beans like lima beans or butter beans. These will be easier for little fingers and will cover a larger space more quickly.

2. Remember that your drawings will be colored in with small objects and these will restrict the detail possible. Remind your children of this when they are drawing their pictures so that they can use large, generalized shapes as opposed to very detailed line drawings.

3. Begin your mosaic with the most important item. For example, on our pilgrim hat, we began with the top of the hat. I squirted glue onto the top portion that was going to be black and we filled that in. Then we did the gold buckle. Following that the red stripe, then the brim.

4. If your kids are getting tired, or you fear that their patience will not last to completion of the project, you can remind them that they can space their pieces out a little. Again, on our pilgrim hat, the beans are very close on the hat, but spread out some on the background.

As always, there are limitless variations possible. You can do this project again and again. Change theme, do a Christmas one. Change materials, try pebbles, beads, buttons, tiles. You're only limiting factor is your imagination. So use your imagination, and have fun!