Mixed Media Memory Boards- AKA What to do with Squinkies and Other Tiny Annoying Toys

I am a collage artist.  I’ve had my kids gluing since they were in diapers.  If they could hold a rattle, they could hold a bottle of Elmer’s.  One of my favorite crafts are mixed media projects, where we paint, glue and glitter until we are as colorful as the project itself.  We’ve made birdhouses, and did a quartet of canvases as a family.  The boys have each made wooden initials that hang in their rooms.  They are a bit older now.  It’s been awhile since we’ve done one.  Why not break out the mess and see what we come up with?

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These boards are a multi-step process.  I think we broke it into about four sessions.  Which I love.  I set aside the work in progress on a shelf along with the supplies, and we just work until boredom sets in.  Come back the next day and do the same.

I usually have small wooden boards around my house for these sorts of projects.  I buy a large piece of plywood and have my husband cut it down for me.  If you don’t want to do that, you could buy a canvas at the craft store.

Step one is to paint a basic coat of paint, just to provide a background to the piece.  We had one black and one multicolored from using up leftover paint.

Next, we did a bit of puffy paint to add dimension.  You will see these as raised green and purple sections on the boards.  Puffy paint is just white glue, shaving cream, and food coloring.  To get the mountain-like peaks, we dip a cotton ball in the paint and stick it to the board.  Let the puffy paint dry overnight.

Step three should be to coat with Modge Podge or other sealant.  I did not do this until after we glued down all our other mixed media pieces, and it made it really difficult to get everything covered.  I knew this, but I was too excited to get gluing.

Step four, prepare paper plates or trays with a mixture of items to glue down.  Be sure to explain that once something is glued down, they can not use it again.  I provide some letters and words from magazines, pictures they have drawn, small toys, rocks, buttons, and items just for texture, like rice, beans, etc.  It is important to have a mix of things you know they will love and random items.  It is fun to see what they gravitate towards.  When Liam made his wooden initail, he covered 2/3 of it in unpopped corn- I would never have expected that, but it looks really cool!

Step four is where you are really going to break it into a couple of sessions.  I also provide the glue a couple of ways- in the bottle, but also in a small bowl with q-tips to spread it out.

You call add glitter, and if you like, add another coat of Modge Podge, although it can pool in weird ways on the toys and other items.

When it’s all done, you have this fantastic board capturing your child’s interests at a particular moment in time.  I look at Liam’s, and I am reminded of the time he handed me his name written on a small piece of paper, along with a drawing of a stick figure.  He said it was a picture of him that I could look at while he was at preschool so I wouldn’t miss him.  Kellen’S has a panda coloring page he did, and I think about how he has five pandas that he sleeps with.  Just this morning, we had to play “panda swim lessons” where we teach them all to float, kick and blow bubbles.  Both have things we picked up in Oregon, items we found on hikes in Arizona, and those dreaded Squinkies.  Seriously, the person who invented those must hate parents.

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The boards are messy, and colorful, and completely chaotic- just like the kids who made them.  I look at them, and I see my boys.  That’s the best kind of artwork.


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