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Make Your Own Multi-Media Collage 

click to enlarge Maggie and Aidan creating collages - COURTESY OF TRISH VAN VLIET
  • courtesy of trish van vliet
  • Maggie and Aidan creating collages

When my kids were younger, they loved "free art" time, during which I gave them a variety of supplies and let them have at it. The process — finger painting, gluing, cutting and ripping — was always well worth the effort. But the product? It was often a muddy, brown mess. Here's a project that gives kids freedom to experiment but also provides structure through a monochromatic palette of materials. The best part? You'll likely find most of the items you need in your home!


click to enlarge Materials - COURTESY OF TRISH VAN VLIET
  • courtesy of trish van vliet
  • Materials

The Essentials

  • Canvas or rectangular piece of cardboard
  • Mod Podge (for a DIY version, shake together 1 cup of school glue and ⅓ cup of water in a container with a lid until fully combined)
  • Acrylic or tempera paint
  • School glue and/or hot glue
  • Photographs

Drawing Tools

  • Oil/chalk pastels
  • Sidewalk chalk
  • Crayons
  • Fine-tip markers
  • Silver and gold permanent markers
  • Charcoal sticks
click to enlarge "Shades of Blue" by Sophie, 11 - COURTESY OF TRISH VAN VLIET
  • courtesy of trish van vliet
  • "Shades of Blue" by Sophie, 11

Mark-Making Supplies (for creating different shapes and textures on your canvas)

  • Paintbrushes
  • Bottle caps
  • Corks
  • Wheels
  • Forks
  • Cotton balls
  • A paper tube wrapped with rubber bands for rolled texture printing
  • Eyedropper for dripping paint
  • Bubble wrap
  • Kitchen sponges
  • DIY brushes made from items like sticks, leaves and grasses

Additional Supplies

  • String, ribbon or twine
  • Buttons
  • Glitter
  • Fabric
  • Magazines
  • Wrapping paper, tissue paper, craft paper
  • Masking tape or painter's tape


click to enlarge "Car Doing an Endo" by Aidan, 7 - COURTESY OF TRISH VAN VLIET
  • courtesy of trish van vliet
  • "Car Doing an Endo" by Aidan, 7
  1. Organize a scavenger hunt: Look around the house for color-coordinated supplies and interesting items for mark-making.
  2. Create a background: Paint the canvas or cardboard. Use mark-making tools like paintbrushes, bubble wrap, sponges, medicine droppers and the wheels of a matchbox car to apply paint to the background. This can be done over time, layering different shades of color. Once dry, seal the entire surface by painting over it with a layer of Mod Podge.
  3. Build a border: Decorate the perimeter of your canvas with collected items. Encourage tearing or cutting paper or fabric into different shapes. Once the border is firmly in place, apply a layer of Mod Podge on top of it.
  4. Add a photograph: Choose a special personal photograph as the focal point. Place on canvas and adhere with a thin layer of Mod Podge.
  5. Affix details: Hot glue trinkets and treasures; place layers of tissue paper; affix beads and buttons. There are no limits here, just plenty of imagination.
  6. Display!


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