Rock Pools: Mixed Media & Salt Dough (February 2014)

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One of the children’s favourite stories at the moment is Julia Donaldson’s Sharing a Shell, and they love the lively, colourful and sparkly illustrations by Lydia Monks (below). Over two sessions, my three and four year olds created their own rock pools inspired by the story, and a starfish and spiral seashell to inhabit it!

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The rock pools were created on paper plates. Each child brushed blue paint over the centre of their plate, and then daubed white glue over the top. A sheet of cling film was placed on top, and the children used their fingertips to scrunch it to look like rippling, sparkling water.

The sand around the edge of the plate was created by sprinkling baby oatmeal over PVA glue. The finishing touch was the seaweed. The children sponged green paint onto some bubble wrap, and printed it onto some light green paper to create a spotty pattern. The painted paper was torn into long thin strips and added to the rock pools.  

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The starfish and shell were made from salt dough. I gave the children two small balls of dough. They flattened the first one with their palms and used plastic knives to cut out the star shape using a cardboard template as a guide. After shaping it with their fingers, the children used a pencil to prick holes in the surface for decoration.

With the other ball of dough, I showed them how to roll it between their palms into a sausage shape, with one fat end and one pointed end. After making a hole in the thick end with a fingertip, the dough was rolled up into a spiral (from the pointed end), to create the shell. The left-over salt dough was rolled up into balls to create rocks.

When the salt dough was hard, the children painted their shells and starfish with gouache colours. We decided that the rocks looked perfect already, with their natural colour and occasionally crystallised surface. 

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Finally, it was time to put all of the elements together to create a wonderful rock pool home for the children’s starfish! Nothing was glued or attached to the paper plate base, as I thought the children might like to play with their creations and rearrange the rocks, seaweed, starfish and shell as they wished!

This was a very popular project with my young artists – they couldn’t wait to take it home!


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