Here in Charleston our school year has begun to wind down with just a few scheduled weeks left.  The excitement of upcoming performances, recitals and field days are felt the air.  Soon the walls of our children’s classrooms will expand into the world around them and their learning day is about to change from the routine morning alarm and afternoon bell schedule.

By this time of year the once brown grass is now a vibrant green and the buds on the upcoming flowers are beginning to bloom into an array of colors.  Like the gardener watching his seedlings, our children watch as life opens up a virtual outdoor palette of education! Summertime yields opportunities for outdoor camps, games, sports, and just more time with friends.

A fun day outdoors can hold all the ingredients of a mini vacation.  Have your kids help organize and pack a big picnic basket and head for the beach. Plastic wagons work great for transporting toys but I use a bucket on wheels I purchased in the garden department of a home store. For those away from home, don’t overlook the uses of the recycle bags from your grocery stores. These are an inexpensive way to keep sandy toys separated too.  While the family gathers the shovels and pails, you can prepare some ‘special sand paint’.  Take three or four spray bottles, these can be purchased inexpensively in the travel section of many stores. Fill these with 3/4 water and then food coloring. After the sand castles and beach creations have been built, let the children spray ‘color’ their artwork. Now there’s a Kodak moment…. and we’ll talk about photography later.

As adults, we are drawn to enjoy the intoxication breathing in the oceans air.  Take a moment to point this out to your kids.  Let them see if they can smell the salt in the air. Here in the low country, a low tide brings with it its own unique scent. Look down the shore line and notice the mist and the haze. See if they can tell you why it gets lighter in the distance. My kids and I used to laugh watching our toes getting buried in the sand as the currents of waves splash up on the shoreline. As they look down see the sea bubbles pop off the foamy waters. The colors in these bubbles are very different from the ones we blow with a wand! Before you leave, as the tides move up, enjoy the anticipation of a precisely timed jump over the upcoming waves. Another moment to get that camera out!

With photography in mind, summer holds many opportunities for showing your children what the world looks like through the eye of the camera. Letting them learn to place the lens ‘frame‘ around their subject matter is becomes a fun new venture. As an instructor of art, I try and point out the importance of a foreground as opposed to a background. Put another way, let them decide on the part of the picture they find most important.  Even a simple photo of a shell can be center of attention when enlarged through the eye of a lens. So it is when drawing or painting it. On a day spent at home, select the special pictures your child has taken and have fun creating an album of their very own on the computer.

My daughter and I have made several presents of these books using the photo apps on our computer.  Most allow you to crop, enlarge and add comments to your pictures. These books are unique and individual and most important, give an opportunity to spend creative time together.

Here’s a fun and easy craft using your favorite shells from a special day at the beach, helping to preserve some of those special summer memories in a beautiful piece of art:

Gather large seashells (The chalkier and white inside ones work the best)

Rinse with fresh water and let dry in the sun then have fun painting pictures on the insides!

To preserve them, just spray with an acrylic gloss.

From young children demonstrating the oceans abstract colors to older kids going for the precise, the fun is limited to your imaginations and the ‘canvases’ are all there on the beach!

Enjoy your summer!

Andrea Seiderman is a commissioned artist and teacher who lives in Charleston, SC.

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