Wire Sculptures for Kids with Buttons, Beads & Feathers

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Wire Sculptures for KidsWe had such fun yesterday creating sculptures with pipe cleaners and styrofoam blocks. Plus buttons, beads, and feathers… There was no shortage of colorful craft materials on the table.

This is yet another kids art activity that I have to thank MaryAnn Kohl for. It not only comes from her book, Scribble Art (my fave of her 20 something books), but she also gave me the materials for it when I met her last year at an early childhood education conference (they were leftovers from a session she was giving).

Here's how we made the wire sculptures:

Wire Sculptures for Kids

We started with our bag of materials (thanks, MaryAnn!):

Wire Sculptures for Kids

We stuck the pipe cleaners in our foam block (the base of our sculptures), bending some, curling some, and adding beads and buttons to others.

Wire Sculptures for Kids

I showed Maia how to coil a pipe cleaner around her finger for a curlicue, sculptural effect.

Wire Sculptures for Kids

And Daphne? Daphne LOVED this project! I hate to admit this, but I still underestimate her sometimes and find myself thinking of her as the tagalong for a big kid art project.

I've GOT to stop doing that. Clearly. Yes, she's a toddler (2 1/2 next week), and yes, she's at a different developmental stage than Maia (now 6 1/2), but she can get as much or more out of many of these art activities as her older sister.

Daphne concentrated so very carefully while pushing the pipe cleaners into the foam and she even strung beads and buttons onto the pipe cleaners. (She also concentrated carefully while unstringing each bead and button, and ultimately pulling each pipe cleaner back out of the foam…)

Wire Sculptures for Kids

Once Daphne had fully deconstructed her own wire sculpture, she sat and watched Maia, providing commentary and encouragement. "That's beautiful, Maia."

Wire Sculptures for Kids

Here Maia is inserting buttons into a foam block (after first making slits with a butter knife) as wheels for one of her trains.

Wire Sculptures for Kids

And here's one of the finished wire sculptures—a train.

My default art activity is two dimensional, whether drawing, painting, collage, or suncatcher. I need to remember how much fun we have with these three dimensional art projects!

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  1. rachel says

    oh how fun!!! a great new way to use so many collage materials we have floating around here. gotta find some foam. thx jean!

  2. says

    This looks like so much fun and so colorful. And, I LOVE the pictures of sisterly love and encouragement. They are so sweet.

  3. christine says

    i love this! especially because my own kids are 6.5 and 2.5!! And sometimes the 2.5 year old has more patience with art activities than the 1st grader! But this is why i enjoy reading your blog – when the art experiences you feature are so process-oriented, I am reminded that different aged children will explore the materials in different ways, and i am inspired to have 2 kids involved with the same mess at the same time, making me much more likely to provide them the materials in the first place. Thanks!

  4. Kate says

    My children and I recently read “Dream Something Big : the Story of the Watts Towers” by Dianna Hutts Aston. This is the PERFECT book to coordinate with this project. I’d highly recommend it! :-)

  5. says

    I’ll have to check that book out. In my classes we always read a story to inspire us before I introduce the materials. Jean, I can’t beleive I’ve never actually done this with my groups. I can’t wait to try it. Another great story for this sort of project is called, “If I Built A Car” about a kid with an active imagination who would build a car with all sorts of bells and whistles. It’s often the story I read before we build found object sculptures. But I like this idea as a no-glue option for 3-D art to try.

  6. says

    This is such a great idea! I can’t wait to try it with my girls, they are going to love it. I do the same thing with my two year old, and then find that many times she is more interested in an art project than her four year old sister. I’m going to check out Scribble Art because that’s one of MaryAnn Kohl’s books I haven’t tried. Thanks as always for the inspirations!

  7. Chelsea says

    FYI – I cut a section from a swimming pool “noodle” for the foam blocks. One of the noodles was star shape which was, of course, awesome! Thanks for sharing!

  8. MaryAnn F. Kohl, art book author says

    I remember the day you came to my workshop at ETSU in Johnson City, Tennessee — and it was so much fun packing you up with left-over art supplies! The fruit of that labor is in this delightful photographs! It’s like I’m there with you. Let’s do that again! Can I come to Asheville for a workshop???