Expressive art and design: One from the heart

Karen Hart suggests some Mother's Day card making ideas that involve children making sponge paintings, hand prints and 3D decorations. These are cards which will be treasured for years to come!

Mother's Day crafts are really important, because while most mums probably won't keep all the cards and hand-made gifts their children give them over the years, these early crafts will often become some of their most treasured possessions. Children love to look at them again when they're older too. The following activities are all really simple, low on resources and suitable for children from two-years-old with a bit of supervision.

Mother's Day Book corner

Create a special Mother's Day Book corner by offering a range of mum, grandmother and same sex parents books, including foster and adoptive parent books. Decorate it with special Mother's Day decorations of hearts and flowers, or even better, ask children to make some especially for the book corner using the hearts and flowers activity above. Ask parents if any children would like to bring in a favourite picture book they like to share with their mum so it can be shared during a circle time reading session.

Active learning

  • Children enjoy setting out to complete a project
  • They have a go at using scissors and develop their skill
  • They make a personal gift they can be proud of

Rainbow heart card

You will need: A heart cut from craft foam (or similar material). This works well with any size of heart; coloured paints and sponges; white A4 card; Blu tack or similar. Fold the card in half to form a greeting card and then to decorate the front, use a couple of small blobs of blu tack to position and fix your heart shape in the middle of the card.

Sponge paint blobs of colour all around your heart, making a multi-coloured rainbow effect. Make sure you cover the edges of your heart.

Ask children to help you carefully remove the heart from the card to reveal a perfect heart surrounded by a rainbow!

Pop-up heart card

You will need: Coloured A4 card; red card; scraps of coloured card – whatever's available; glue sticks/double-sided tape. Fold A4 card in half to form a greeting card. Cut out two simple arm shapes, two hand shapes and a red heart for each card. Fix hands to arms before fixing inside card so hands just touch in the middle – arms coming in from the sides. We used double sided tape to fix everything in place, which worked well.

Fix hands to the heart shape – so it looks like they're holding the heart. Close card and give it a bit of a crease so heart gets folded. Unfold and crease hands back as needed to give the desired pop-up effect.

Write your message in your card and you're ready to go. The front of the card can be decorated in any way you choose. Older children might like to draw a picture of their mum, while a photo of your child fixed to the front of a Mother's Day card always makes it extra special.

Playing and exploring

  • Children experiment with making hand print characters
  • They discover how familiar shapes can be transformed into art
  • They enjoy exploring the tactile properties of paint

Space creature handprint cards

These were a lot of fun to make!

You will need: A4 card folded in half to make a greeting card; coloured paints and sponges; googly eyes; cut-outs of mouth shapes, simple hats, boots, bows, mitten shapes; any extra stickers or craft decorations; print-outs of greeting ‘Happy Mother's Day from’ (optional); black felt tipped pen

Fold card in half to form a greeting card. Using sponges, help children paint their hand and press onto the card to make a hand print – if you don't get hands too wet with paint, you should be able to get straight on to decorating your card.

Suggest children decorate their hand print to make a space creature / funny monster character in any way they like. Maybe three eyes on the ends of fingers or one eye and two hats, encouraging older children to use their imaginations, with younger children given a bit more help. We added some flowers and hearts we cut from scrap paper to make cards more Mother's Day-ish.

We glued ‘Happy Mother's Day’ messages inside our cards with older children having a go at writing their name underneath, while others either traced over their name or had it added for them.

They looked lovely!

Creating and thinking critically

  • Children create their own Mother's Day message, using their own ideas
  • Children help to make their own craft materials, making links between them
  • They choose which pattern to make and message to include

Hearts and flowers

You will need: two paper plates per child; scrap coloured paper or coloured pages from magazines; glue sticks; safety scissors; felt tipped pen

Make this a two-day activity by having a confetti cutting activity on day one – a great way to encourage scissor skills and simple enough to allow even the youngest children to participate. Just supply a big stack of old coloured magazines, catalogues and scrap paper and sit with children while you all cut up lots of small, confetti style pieces to use in the craft activity. Cut strips for younger children so they can simply cut small pieces from the end of the paper. When I did this with a group of children recently, we kept stopping to look at interesting pictures in the magazines. Also, introduce the word confetti, explain what it is and how it is traditionally used at weddings.

Once you have your confetti, pre-cut paper plates into big heart and flower shapes and let children pick which shape they like best. Using glue sticks, help children pre-glue their shape before decorating with the coloured paper.

Once decorated, ask each child why they think their mum is special and write their reason on the back of their shape, such as; ‘Jack's mum is special because she makes him lovely sandwiches’. I still have one of these from my son who is now 15. It says; ‘Oliver's mum is special because she likes to read middle-sized books.’

EYFS Early Learning Goals

These activities can be developed for C&L observations focusing on ‘following instructions’ practice as well as many opportunities for children to answer questions about how they celebrate special days with their family and why they think it's important to have these special celebrations. Note how – ‘Children follow instructions involving several ideas or actions. They answer ‘how’ and ‘why’ questions about their experiences and in response to stories or events.’ By offering a range of picture books showing the diversity of family groups and by giving children the opportunity to talk about their family and family traditions you can observe how they – ‘talk about past and present events in their own lives and in the lives of family members. They know that other children don't always enjoy the same things, and are sensitive to this.’

Key learning points

  • Children practise early scissor skills
  • They discover a variety of paint and craft techniques - sponge painting, hand prints, finger printing, collage work and making 3D cards
  • They learn that families come in lots of different shapes and sizes
  • They learn about the heart shape and what it represents

Useful resources

  • My Mum Board book by Anthony Browne (Doubleday)
  • My Mum Is Fantastic by Nick Butterworth (Walker Books)
  • I Love My Mummy by Giles Andreae (Orchard Books)
  • Peppa Pig: My Granny (Ladybird Books)
  • Murphy's Three Homes by Jan Levinson Gilman (Magination Press)
  • The Invisible String by Patrice Karst (Little Brown Young Readers)
  • The Family Book by Todd Parr Little (Brown Young Readers)
  • Mommy, Mama and ME by Leslea Newman (Tricycle Press)

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