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Dallas Museum of Art project

Art Corner with the DMA

Kids need something to do? You'll love these fun weekly art projects.

Week 5 Project

The time between the end of summer and back-to-school can sometimes leave us and our families feeling overwhelmed and excited. While back to school time might look a little different this year, our emotions may still feel the same. Enter the calm down bottle! This week’s art activity will leave you feeling mesmerized and relaxed by creating your very own calm down bottle.

As babies, most of us learn to self-soothe and self-regulate, but as we grow older it’s harder for children and even adults to decompress and get ahold of our big emotions. If you’ve never heard of a calm down bottle, think back to the movements of a lava lamp. The simple act of slowing down and really looking or paying attention to one thing can be therapeutic and rewarding.

Looking at art is a great way to practice close looking! On average, museum goers only spend about eight seconds looking at a work of art. In our family classes, we spend at least one minute silently looking at a focus work of art, followed by at least fifteen minutes talking about what we see. Close looking is not about having all the answers—it’s about creating our own meaningful connections. Whether you’re exploring virtually or in person, you can use the strategies below to help your children look a little more closely:

  • Make sure you’re comfortable! In the galleries, we tend to sit crisscross applesauce on the floor when looking for long periods of time, but you can also seek out a bench.
  • Don’t just focus on one part of the artwork. Sit on opposite sides of an artwork and then switch spots. Sometimes an entire work of art changes when we look at it from a different perspective.
  • Look for basic elements of art like line, shape, color, and texture. Draw the lines in the air or try to make your body look like the lines.

One especially fun thing about calm down bottles is the ability to customize them to fit your favorites. In the past, we’ve created bottles themed to the ocean, space, and all the colors of the rainbow! Most recently, we were inspired by Sandra Cinto: Landscape of a Lifetime, a mesmerizing large-scale mural that travels up the concourse of the DMA. Sandra’s site-specific mural envelops the concourse of the Museum in 24 shades of blue and is decorated with intricate celestial pen drawings. The deep blue colors and swirling white stars inspired our blue calm down bottle that looks like it was plucked straight from the movie Frozen.


Start by doing a bit of brainstorming with your child to find out what type of bottle they’d like to create. Pick a favorite movie, color, or DMA artwork to theme your bottle. To ensure safe and portable play, I encourage you to use a plastic water bottle. Gather glue, glitter, and water and start creating! Here are other tips for any first-time bottle crafters:

  • For babies and toddlers, feel free to throw in tiny objects that they ordinarily wouldn’t be able to play with outside of the bottle, like small toys and even rubber bands!
  • Older children can experiment a bit more with the different ingredients and hypothesize about the contents of their bottle, like what glue to water ratios will cause the glitter to fall slower or faster.
  • Avoid spills! Make sure you have strong glue around to seal the tops of your bottles.

Remember, the human body takes about 20 minutes to fully calm down after becoming excited or upset. The perfect amount of time for your child to spend watching swirling glitter in their calm down bottle. Download project instructions here and find more family fun at DMA.org.

Photo courtesy of Dallas Museum of Art.

DMA photo
Week 4 Project

I was never the type of child to draw on the walls, but I’m sure if I had, my mom would not have responded with joy. Joy, however, is exactly what DMA’s Senior Graphic Designer Jaclyn Le was going for when she designed the floral pattern you can see on the walls in the DMA’s exhibition Flores Mexicanas: Women in Modern Mexican Art.

DMA Exhibit Entrace

Jaclyn explains: “The hand-drawn floral pattern was inspired by Mexican lacquer ware from Olinalá. DMA Director, Agustín Arteaga, lent me a wonderful book full of different styles to look at, and I developed a monochromatic floral pattern illustrating common motifs I saw throughout the book. This floral pattern flanks both walls of the entrance to the exhibition and weaves its way up and over the ceiling in the space right before the monumental painting Flores Mexicanas by Alfredo Ramos Martínez.”

Now we aren’t advocating for your children to go crazy on the walls with a Sharpie, but Jaclyn’s process does offer another great way to engage your child with art. Sketching in the galleries is one of my favorite activities to do with kids because it encourages them to look closely, to engage their fine motor skills, and to be creative. In the classes I teach, sketching is never about reproducing an exact copy of the art on the walls—it’s about the process of connecting what a child sees and thinks with their pencil on paper, creating something new that wasn’t there before. Take a stroll through the virtual tour of Flores Mexicanas and challenge your child to find 3–4 different flowers in the paintings that they would like to draw in their own artful bouquet. Or, pull out a stack of favorite picture books or art books and have your child search for designs and patterns to incorporate into their own drawings.

DMA photo

Art Activity: Make a Floral Pattern

To make floral patterns like those in the exhibition, watch this video tutorial and follow along with Jaclyn as she draws. Use any marker, sidewalk chalk, or drawing tool you have to create this. Here, Jaclyn is using a Crayola Superfine tip marker.

  1. Start by plotting three dots that will be the center of your flowers. You want to plot them with enough space in between—a triangle shape would be perfect for this.
  2. Draw a ring around each of the three dots. These will be the bases of the flowers to draw petals around.
  3. Start drawing the petals around each ring, with about 5-6 petals per flower. It’s okay if they are not all equal in size—it will look better this way in the end!
  4. Once all the petals of your three flowers are complete, draw 2-3 lines coming from the center ring to about halfway across each petal. This will give your flowers more depth and interest.
  5. In the negative spaces between your three completed flowers, draw a few slightly curved lines. These will be the stems of your leaves.
  6. Starting with the longest curved stem line, create a teardrop shape around the stem center. You can make these as wide or narrow as you’d like. Draw diagonal lines out from it to create the lines in the leaves. Do this for the other curved line stems from step 5, but save one of the stems for a fuller palm leaf drawing (in the next step).
  7. For the palm leaf, create simple leaves by drawing small curved strokes of lines, starting from the top of the stem and working your way to the base. These curved leaf lines will gradually get bigger and bigger with each stroke, as you make your way to the base.
  8. Complete your floral set by dropping in dots or circles in the spaces between the three flowers and leaves. Show us your creation by taking a picture and tagging #DMAatHome!

Bonus:  Download our 5 floral coloring sheets for the kids to enjoy, inspired by the Dallas Museum of Art’s current exhibit, Flores Mexicanas.

Video and exhibit photo courtesy of Dallas Museum of Art; family photos courtesy of @theseayside – Stephanie Seay.

Week 3 Project

Full STEAM ahead! At the Dallas Museum of Art, we believe adding the Arts to STEM learning makes for innovative thinking, creative expression, and plenty of fun. This week’s activity is perfect for kids who like to tinker, experiment, and create, and is inspired by a STEAM curriculum we developed for elementary students.

When you visit an art museum, it’s likely that you come with your art glasses on–ready to think like an artist, perhaps talk about line and color and shape, and focus on the “meaning” of what you see. But for kids (and grown-ups too!) who are more excited by science and technology, this way of looking at art could be a real bore. That doesn’t mean you should avoid the art! Instead, challenge yourself and your children to look at the art through a different lens.

Squaw Creek Valley

The DMA’s American galleries offer plenty of opportunities to think like an artist, an engineer, and a scientist, and through our newly launched digital interactive, you can try some of these ideas from home.

  • Examine Frederic Edwin Church’s The Icebergs and look closely at the texture, shape, and color of the icebergs. Are there any hints in the ice that could explain why there’s a broken ship mast in the lower half of the scene?
  • Use your geometry skills to make sense of how Virginia Berresford used shapes and lines to spotlight the figures in Under the Big Top.
  • Take a closer look at Suspended Power by Charles Sheeler and see if you can estimate how tall the water turbine would be in real life (hint: use the human figures in the painting as a tool for measuring).
  • Pull out your microphone and give a weather report for Florence E. McClung’s painting Squaw Creek Valley and The Sharecropper by Jerry Bywater. How has the weather affected the landscape in each place differently?
  • Spend some time with Gerald Murphy’s Watch and act out how the gears would move to make the watch keep time.

Art Activity: Make a Machine

Now grab some construction paper, scissors, markers, and brad fasteners to invent your own artsy machine. This activity is great for encouraging design thinking as your child works as both an artist and an engineer.

First, come up with a problem that your invention could solve. Maybe you need a machine that cleans your room or would love a contraption that makes homemade waffles at the touch of a button. Sketch your basic design, and then cut out individual components of the machine from construction paper. Attach the parts to each other using the brad fasteners—these will allow your machine parts to be attached to one another and still move freely. Complete the blueprint-look of your drawing by adding in notes, measurements, and design specs.

Download project instructions here and find more family fun found at DMA.org. Happy inventing!

Image: Florence E. McClung, Squaw Creek Valley, 1937, oil on canvas, 1985.12. Dallas Museum of Art, gift of Florence E. McClung.

Erica Cary girls DMA
Week 2 Project

Now that so many of us have been forced to become homebodies, the phrase “home, sweet home” may have a whole new meaning! Whether your home is sweet, messy, or anything in-between, this week’s art activity from the DMA challenges your child to think like an architect and an artist to transform ordinary paper bags into an extraordinary miniature neighborhood.

The inspiration for this project comes from the DMA’s exhibition For a Dreamer of Houses, which explores how the places we live in are extensions of who we are, what we value, and what we hope for. The works in the show range from cheeky and fun (like a chandelier made out of clean underpants!) to heart-wrenching pieces that speak of loss and grief.

Perhaps one of the most iconic pieces in the show is Rubber Pencil Devil by Alex Da Corte, a rainbow-colored house made of neon lights. When kids see this piece, they universally ooh and aah! The artist took inspiration from the stage home of Mr. Rogers, and when you step inside this work of art, you can view a series of video segments featuring the artist in costume as favorite characters from Sesame Street, The Wizard of Oz, and even Mr. Rogers himself. The entire experience has a Saturday-morning-cartoon nostalgia to it and makes me think about how the home I grew up in as a child shaped the person I am today.

Take a stroll through the entire exhibition with your kids from the comfort of your couch, and discover paintings, photographs, sculptures, and immersive installations that encourage us to think about what makes a place a home. Spark conversations with your child by asking questions such as:

  • What do you see that makes you think of “home”?
  • How is this the same or different from our home?
  • What clues does a place give us about the people who may live there?
  • If you could visit one of these places in real life, which would you choose? Why?

DMA Erica Cary daughters

Art Activity: Create a house using a paper bag

At a time when our homes have to fulfill so many different roles—office, school, summer camp, gym, and so on—it can sometimes be challenging to remember what we loved about our homes before we were cooped up all the time. This art activity is a great way to highlight those things that make your home special. With just scissors and drawing utensils, you can transform a simple paper bag into a miniature house. Extend the project with a few of the following ideas:

  • Work as a family to create an entire neighborhood. You can make stores, a library, a fire station, and so on to build a paper bag community. (Don’t forget to make a museum!)
  • Experiment with using different size bags to make skyscrapers, cottages, and building complexes.
  • Place battery-operated tea lights inside the paper bags to make your buildings glow.

Download the complete instructions for making paper houses here and visit For a Dreamer of Houses at virtual.dma.org.

Photos courtesy of Erica Cary @theladycary.

Week 1 Project

Looking for a fun and relaxing wait to beat boredom and flex your art muscles? The DMA has just the thing! Let’s get to the point. Inspired by the dotted colors in European Pointillist landscapes from the late 19th and early 20th century, this painting project is one of those reliable, foolproof projects that everyone loves! Even better, all you need is paint, paper, and a q-tip!

Pointillism is a style of painting that derives its name from the technique used to apply paint to the canvas. A Pointillist composition is comprised of countless dots (or points!) of pure, unmixed colors that blend together to create an overall image. This technique was invented in France in the late nineteenth century and was employed by modern artists up through the early twentieth century. At the time, paintings with naturalistic colors mixed on the palette and applied in smooth, almost indiscernible brushstrokes were what was expected of fine art painting. Pointillism, with its tiny dots of pure, bright color, was perceived as very radical.

Whether your child is just learning about color mixing or a master mixer, Pointillism has a unique way of putting color theory to work. The practice is based on the idea that by putting two different colors  next to each other, one can create the illusion of another color without any actual color mixing. Instead, your eye does the mixing for you! For example, a dot of blue next to a dot of red would look like purple to the human eye from a distance . This is called optical mixing! Artists also found that by applying dots with a regular system, such as making them the same size, you could create the appearance of lines, shapes, and forms.

Pointillism is a helpful tool for teaching color theory because it shows all the parts of the color mixing “equation.” An up-close view allows you to see the two different colors of paint on the canvas. From a distance, your eyes “mix” the two initial colors to create a third new color. But then you can return to the up-close view to see the two colors you started with.

Is your family up for a color mixing challenge?

Experiment with different configurations of colors.

  • Challenge yourself to only use primary colors (red, yellow, and blue) and see how many variations of secondary colors (green, orange, and purple) you can make on your page. Or make brown by combining all three primaries!
  • If you want to adjust the tints, shades, and tones of your colors, practice mixing in white to make your color lighter, black for darker, and grey for a more muted hue.

Through the precision of each dot, we can see the abundance of colors that can go into creating a single hue. This also is a great exercise in patience. It can take a long time to fill an entire page with little dots!

Visiting a museum

When visiting a museum, either in-person or on-line, use some of the questions below to engage your child in a discussion about Pointillism:

  • What do you see? Can you find any objects you recognize? What about colors?
  • Have your child pretend to hold a paintbrush in their hand. How would they move their paintbrush to make marks like the ones in the painting? Together, mimic dotting in the air.
  • How long do you think it would take to paint the entire canvas with just dots?

Dallas Museum of Art

Art Activity: Pointillist Painting

Ready to try making your own pointillist painting?

Download instructions here. Need a little help getting started? Here’s the landscape sketch used in the instruction sheet. For further inspiration or to see the real deal, virtually hop into our galleries and explore Pointillism at the DMA! A few of our favorite Pointillist works in the collection include Mont Saint-Michel, Setting Sun and Comblat-le-Château, the Meadow (Le Pré) by Paul Signac and Apple Harvest by Camille Pissarro. You can find these paintings at the beginning of our virtual European Art Gallery tour here.

Promoted content and image provided by Dallas Museum of Art.