MaryLea Harris of Pink and Green Mama

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MaryLea Harris, a former elementary art teacher, blogs as Pink and Green Mama and offers her two daughters a plethora of arts and crafts materials and encouragement. Join me in learning more about what inspires her and see her list of must-have art supplies!

***Note: Readers will have a chance to win three of her art lesson plans at the end of this interview.***


JEAN:  What is it about kids’ art that resonates so well with you?
MARYLEA:  I am a stay at home mom with two daughters, “E” is 8 years old and “C” is 4 years old. I was an Elementary art teacher in the public school system for 5 years before staying home to raise my girls. I love children’s art and the way kids are so fearless when they create. They don’t have that inner critic’s voice inside their heads (yet) telling them what they should or shouldn’t do. As an art teacher, it was so important for me to make art-making fun for my students. I know so many adults who had a grown-up during their own childhoods that ruined art for them; I even had a mean art teacher and an unpleasant piano teacher so I swore I would never be one of “those” grown ups!
I majored in studio art and art history with an emphasis on printmaking and painting in college. I interned for a summer as an art therapist’s assistant at a local hospital’s children’s oncology ward. My experiences as an art teacher and art therapy assistant have greatly influenced how I raise my girls and the kind of projects we always have going in our house. For example, we always have a few sensory boxes going in our playroom (a throw back to my art therapy sand box days!) and a fully stocked art studio with a variety of art materials available to the girls (a mini art classroom at home).

JEAN:  What inspires you to offer your children regular art and craft opportunities? What are your favorite materials and activities?
MARYLEA:  Art Making Opportunities? We have an art studio in our home in what is supposed to be the formal living room. I call it our “second play room”. We’ll never be one of those play-dough-free houses, I think kids are supposed to get messy and experiment, that’s what childhood is for!  “E” asked me if every kid is allowed to have art supplies in her bedroom and I said, “I certainly hope so!”
Safe Art Supplies: When “E” was 6 months old, I went back to school part time and earned my MFA with an emphasis on painting and computers and art. I was breastfeeding at the time and as a former printmaker, started creating my graduate art work with non-toxic art materials, which led me to a lot of mixed media work. As soon as “E” was big enough, I started bringing her into my art studio with me and handed her art materials. She was painting with watercolors and acrylics well before her first birthday. I try to use safe art materials with my kids as much as possible but I also allow them to use materials that a lot of parents wouldn’t, like permanent markers (yes, I know they’re not non-toxic and they’re stinky!) and glue guns. With supervision (and an open window) of course! I think that kids should be exposed to a wide variety of art materials and opportunities to experiment with them.
Favorite art materials? It’s hard to name just a few which is why I wrote three different blog posts about my favorite art supplies for different age groups broken down into toddlers, preschoolers, and school age children.  


Quick list of my must haves:

  • Liquid Food Coloring (we make sidewalk paint with it, color water, color rice, etc)
  • Play-dough (store bought or homemade)
  • Sidewalk Chalk (for open air art!)
  • Paper! (all kinds = copy paper, cardstock, constructions, scrapbook, vellum, waxed paper, contractor’s paper, aluminum foil, tissue paper, sand paper)
  • Scissors (regular and the kind that cut with wavy lines)
  • Hole Punches (circles, flowers, etc)
  • Glue (Elmer’s White School Glue, Glue Stick, Glue Gun, Aleene’s Craft Glue, Mod Podge)
  • Tape (clear and masking – love colored masking tape from Oriental Trading supply, duct tape, electrical tape)
  • Cardboard  and Recycling (boxes, toilet paper tubes, cereal boxes)
  • Drawing Materials (Colored pencils, Crayola Twistables, Crayola Markers, Soy Crayon Rocks, Stockmar Wax crayons, Sharpies)
  • Watercolors and Watercolor Paper  (Crayola and Dixon for younger kids, Yarka for mommy and older kids)
  • Do-A-Dot paints or Bingo Markers
  • Stickers and Office Labels
  • Washable Paint and Brushes (acrylic craft paint and tempera paint from the craft store)


JEAN:  Will you tell us a bit about your summer art camps? What led you to start them?
MARYLEA:  I taught a series of summer art and craft camps last year in response to several friends asking me to offer kid’s classes and as a way to keep my own kids entertained while having fun at home with their friends. I did a month of little mommy and me camps for my youngest daughter and her friends since their preschool ends a month and a half before the big kids finish up their school year. Then, I taught a series of theme camps for school-age kids with themes like “Ocean Fun Camp”, “Rainbow Fun Camp”, “Exploring Great Artists”, “Backyard Fun”, and “Mom Would Never Let Me Do This At Home! Camp.”
I wrote up all of the lesson plans and activities from these camps and offer them as PDF lesson plans on my blog. They’re popular with classroom teachers, home-schooling parents, moms looking for a way to entertain their kiddos, camp counselors, and vacation bible school coordinators. They were so popular that people want to do them again this year but I’m having a hard time scheduling around travel and our own summer plans.

JEAN:  Where do your children’s interests lie and how do you encourage them and incorporate their current interests into current art activities? Are you ever surprised by what your kids come up with?
MARYLEA:  “E” is a miniature version of me and has always been “into” art. She is always drawing, painting, cutting, sewing, singing, and composing music on the piano. The music thing throws me for a loop because I can’t even read music but she’s a natural musician like her father, he’s teaching her how to play piano and guitar. She can sit down and play music by ear, she just figured out Fur Elise. Ummm…yeah, not from me! She also loves fashion design right now and is making beautiful fashion sketches so we put up some magnetic boards on her room wall for her to display her designs, I’m on the hunt for a small dress form for her to practice draping fabric on. She learned origami from some friends at school so I got her a book and some beautiful papers this Christmas. I try to say “yes” as much as possible when the girls come up with their own ideas, sometimes it would be easier to say no but I think experimenting, inventing, and creating are critical for their growth and development.
“C” also loves to create and is full of awesome ideas. One snowy morning at the bus stop this January, she came up with the idea to save pinecones to paint as “Easter Eggs” and she’s right, they are shaped like eggs. Throw on some pastel paint and they’re natural Easter eggs. I love the way kids can see something in a new way. She also likes to make artwork to hang in her Barbie house, collars for her stuffed kitty cats, and to make our own toys like a cardboard box puppet theater or a miniature bug house.

JEAN:  Anything else you’d like to add?
MARYLEA:  Thank you so much Jean for giving me the opportunity to talk to your Artful Parent readers today. I adore your blog and all of the fun projects you do with your girls! I so wish we lived closer to each other so the girls and I could come over for your art play dates. It makes me want to start my own art play group!

JEAN:  Thank you, MaryLea! We’d love it if you came over for art play dates!


Readers who leave a comment by Friday, April 29th at 12 midnight EST will be entered into a random drawing for MaryLea’s art lesson plans. The winner will receive three of your choice!

The random number generator picked #44 so Szkent wins the drawing for three of MaryLea's art lesson plans!

I appreciate that MaryLea has fully immersed her children into her art background. I love the idea of using a kiddy pool and paint covered balls to create works of art. What a great idea for a group project!

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  1. Alana Williams says

    Love all these ideas! I will keep offering my sensory sensitive child art supplies:)

  2. [email protected] says

    Great interview, I read and love both of your blogs already. It is nice to read you both in the same place. You are both an insperation to a not so artsy mom who wants to be.

  3. Holly says

    I love the interviews you post. This is a wonderful interview with great ideas…thanks!

  4. Alexis says

    I love the pink and green mama blog–I have done lots of fun activities with my daughter.

  5. Carly says

    Thank you for the wonderful interview. I’m always searching for new ways to inspire creativity in my two and four year old.

  6. Michelle E. says

    I love the fearless approach to art, especially since there’s plenty to enjoy even for people who aren’t gifted at drawing. Keep up the good work!

  7. elise says

    Pink & Green Mama always has the best ideas – and such pretty photos! Glad to find this blog, too :)

  8. says

    I love your site. I read whenever I can. I have used so many of your ideas in my classroom and I teach older two year olds. I loved reading your interview and I hope you keep on coming up with wonderful ideas for children.
    Thanks for all you do.

  9. Tiffany says

    I’m a big fan of Pink & Green Mama and check her site often. As a teaching artist and parent of a 4-year-old, I can tell you those ideas are priceless!

  10. Jennifer S says

    Great interview! I will be teaching some art camps this summer myself – lots of fun!

  11. Claudia says

    I really enjoy Pink and green Mama. She shares great ideas. I have used her ideas in my classroom and with my own children at home. I am glad to have found your blog. You have a lot of great ideas, too.

  12. Nicole says

    I love you MaryLea and follow your blog. I’ve been saying “it’s the process not the product” for years now. I just did your food color egg dye with my child and friends. We had so much fun and the eggs were beautiful.

  13. [email protected] says

    I am a HUGE fan of both of your blogs! Mary Lea – I would love a peek in your studio – I bet it is amazing! But the lesson plans would be awesome too! Thanks! Lori

  14. Jocelyn says

    Thank you for sharing another wonderful blog with us. It is so wonderful to get such great inspiration from other moms and artist. I’m a costume designer so my daughter has wonderful dress up costumes but I really appreciate getting the perspective of fine artist to get other project ideas! Thank you!

  15. Allison says

    I LOVE MaryLea’s blog. So much fun with my 4 year old and 18 month old. Would love her lesson plans.

  16. Keri says

    Jean, your blog constantly helps me with ideas fir my own kids and toddler art classes. I’m adding MaryLea’s blog to my list of ones I read regularly. Thanks!

  17. Jessica says

    What a great interview & giveaway! I’m inspired to create more art/creative spaces in my home. Thanks for the inspiration!

  18. says

    I’m so glad to have found you from Pink and Green Mamas Blog. You both inspire me to make art an important part of my kiddos days!!

  19. Stacey says

    How inspiring! I’d love the chance to have te lesson plans to implement with my little ones. How fun! Thank you so much for the generous and fun giveaway!

  20. Celeste says

    I really enjoyed this interview–it inspired me to get moving with my newly-1yo, not just my toddler and preschoolers.

  21. says

    She also has a great website with loads of inspiration for art with children. I am enjoying your showcase of art educators!

  22. says

    MaryLea, I always wondered how you were so knowledgeable about mandalas and sand trays (sensory boxes). I didn’t know you interned with an art therapist. I think it is wonderful that you had that opportunity (speaking as an art therapist myself! Also, the photo of your daughter painting in your lap almost brought me to tears. I love painting with my 20 month old, and it is truly inspiring to see other mothers engage so creatively with their children!

  23. Ann says

    Wonderful interview. I was thinking about taking a week off work this summer and doing an art camp with my boys and some of their friends so this is very inspirational.

  24. Szkent says

    I appreciate that MaryLea has fully immersed her children into her art background. I love the idea of using a kiddy pool and paint covered balls to create works of art. What a great idea for a group project!

  25. Danette says

    I would love to win these lesson plans! What a great idea for things to do after preschool ends, but before the official “summer vacation” starts!

  26. Saumirah McWoodson says

    Another fabulous feature with great, colorful photos! Thanks for sharing!

  27. Anne says

    I love your blog and now, thanks to you, will follow Pink and Green Mama. I had never seen her blog before and love it! I can’t wait to start an “invention box” for my 6 year old. He will be so thrilled!

  28. Rene says

    I just book marked Pink & Green Mama. The internet has truly become a wonderful resource for art and play ideas for children.

  29. says

    Great interview! I have looked at many of her lesson plans and there are many, many that I would love to have!
    Thanks for the chance!

  30. says

    I was so excited when I saw YOU were interviewing MARYLEA! Your two blogs were the first two I ever subscribed to and between the two of you, I am perpetually inspired. I would love love love to win some of MaryLea’s lesson plans! Thanks again for sharing this interview with us.

  31. Jenny says

    I have been looking for a summer art class for my kids and have come up empty handed. I would love these lesson plans to do something for them and possibly a friend or two. Enjoyed reading the interview!

  32. Susan says

    Wonderful giveaway! I would LOVE these to use with my friends and homeschool group. Thanks so much!

  33. says

    I read both of your blogs and always find they get my creative juices flowing, and up the quality of what I am offering to the kids I wwork with. Pink and Green Mama is fabulous, the pictures and the text as well as the way Mary Lea truly understands the developmental needs of children I am a therapist and teacher who works with inner city children. I do a lot of art and would put Mary Lea’s lesson plans to good use.

  34. kelli says

    Wow, those sound like fun camps. I’m interested in doing something with friends this summer, and the lesson plans sound wonderful!

  35. erin says

    this interview was inspirational. i hope to continue with the fun projects here at home.

  36. Michelle Webster says

    I love both of your blogs! Whenever I need inspiration I go to them. I am a homeschooling mom and teach an elementary art class once a week at our co-op. MaryLea’s art camps have inspired me to implement that at our church this summer. I cannot wait to do our Art Camp this summer as a different way to connect with kids and introduce them to our creative God. Thanks!

  37. says

    I LOVE this interview! I also try to say yes even when no would be easier. We forge onward through messes and stains and become happier, more thoughtful people. :)

  38. Krista Kiehl says

    Pink and Green Mama and The Artful Parent blogs have inspired a lot of art projects at my house. You both remind me that the beauty of life is the creative process — so get messy and have fun!

  39. Katy says

    Thanks for the interview, I had never heard of Pink and Green Mama and am glad that now I have :) Would love to win the art group plans, sometimes it’s just so hard to come up with something yourself and it sounds like the ideas were so fun!

  40. MaryAnn F. Kohl, art book author says

    The pictures you’ve chosen to highlight the article really inspire and delight. You know I love art, and this interview really hit home. Thank you,

  41. erica says

    I enjoy getting so many ideas from both of your blogs, thank you! We’re almost finished building our straw bale house, and planned on concrete floors just so that it is okay for our kids to get messy exploring and creating!!!!!

  42. Natalie says

    Wow! I lead art for preschoolers and would love to add to my lesson plans. Thanks for this information!

  43. says

    Thank you so much for this interview and all the inspiration you both provide.
    I am a mom of two fabulous, beautiful, creative daughters as well as a student teacher. I have gained so much personally and professionally from what you have to offer.
    I would love to have your give-away as a resource.
    Love ‘n Light

  44. Natalie says

    Thank you so much for introducing me to Pink and Green Mama! I would LOVE to win a copy of her lesson plans! Thanks so much!

  45. says

    love hearing about teachers’ experiences vs mothering experiences with making art with kids. i’m always on the lookout for new lesson plans! thanks for sharing!

  46. says

    Oh my goodness, I’ve just been planning a “backyard art” class for this spring/summer. Great minds and all that, hm?

  47. says

    What a fabulous giveaway – I enjoy both of your blogs & would love to receive the PDFs – we have so many supplies at home & I think getting the class “designs” would help me plan out using the supplies & making them more readily available throughout our summer. I would also have a great time inviting my kiddo’s friends over to share this experience together,
    thanks for considering

  48. andrea says

    I love the ideas i get from BOTH of your blogs! so glad i discovered them! those lesson plans would be great for summer fun!

  49. says

    I love both of your blogs. You both are why I felt the need to share what I do with my kids and especially document it in a blog form. Thanks for all your ideas and inspiration!

  50. Sarah says

    Great interview! Thanks for continuing to show how fun art with kids can be:) Loved the pictures.

  51. says

    What a wonderful post! I can relate on many levels. I am a former teacher staying home with my two daughters. We turned our dining room into a craft room. I have many of my school teaching supplies out and ready to use at any time. We love arts and crafts! Thanks for the inspiration!

  52. Brenna says

    Wonderful! this is exactly what I’ve been yearning for- My soon to be 2 year old artiste will love the fresh ideas too:) Thank you for sharing!

  53. Dana F says

    Thank you so much for introducing me to MaryLea’s blog. I am so inspired to stretch both my daughter’s and My artistic horizons with one of her lesson plans!

  54. Paige says

    Love this….I especially like the photo of mom with little one in her lap painting. My son is about that size and as an artist and art educator I totally love it!

  55. Michaela says

    Thank you both for a wonderful interview! I also used to teach elementary art, and I think that having done that makes me a better parent, and now being a parent I’d be a much better art teacher… which I hope to do again once the kids are a bit older. I’d love to try out your lessons plans!

  56. Kathryn says

    Thanks so much for this wonderful interview. I love your blog and being introduced to other blogs that give me such wonderful ideas for activities to do with my little ones. I am an engineer by training but I love art. Sometimes I’m not very creative with art projects so this gives me some great ideas.

  57. Leslie says

    MaryLea makes me want to try my hand at art again. I’ve been convinced that I can’t do a thing art wise and am willing to go at it one more time!

  58. christine says

    what a fun read. i’ve noted the list of art supplies to have on hand. We are currently shopping for a new house, and I’m certainly keeping my eye out for homes that have space for the kids to have a fantastic place to play/create (and store the myriad supplies). Thanks!

  59. JoAnn says

  60. Cynthia says

    I love doing art with my son and can’t wait to try some of these ideas! An art camp sounds really fun!

  61. Dana Lee says

    I read both of your blogs and enjoy the endless inspiration for art with kids. I’d love to win some lesson plans as I’m planning summer art camps as we speak!

  62. Kathy C. says

    This was a great interview! I just found Marylea’s blog a few weeks ago and it was nice to read more about her. Thanks!

  63. sarah says

    I really enjoyed this interview. The list of must have art supplies cracks me up because we have all that stuff in our house. I am not an art teacher or anything, but have a love for Art and Craft, especially with the kids. Looking forward to checking out your blog.

  64. says

    Fun! My son just turned a year old and since he still eats EVERYTHING we are just now getting into “fingerpainting” with berries on paper. So excited to watch him and encourage his artistic growth!

  65. Kenna S says

    Loved this post! I’d love to win a free art lesson plan to use with my 4 year old and 2 year old! I’m creatively challenged so any help is appreciated.

  66. says

    Just been over to MaryLea’s blog for the first time – its wonderful! So many arty ideas. I shall be going back again for more inspiration.

  67. Agnes says

    What a wonderful interview! I love hearing how other stay-at-home moms provide art opportunities for their kids. Our food cabinet has quickly turned into an art cabinet as I keep adding more and more art materials. I notice my kids are opening it more now that there is always something new in there. Thank you, MaryLea!

  68. says

    Jiji es estupendo, ver como los niños son esponjas jajaj que chupan de conocimiento a traves de su acitividad creativa, gracias por darnos a conocer su trabajo un abrazo

  69. Ann says

    I also have to add that I’m bummed because I was hoping I’d be under the wire for the giveaway since it’s only 10:28 p.m. my time! :(