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Watercolor Relief Cards

It’s been a week full of toddler art–which is great, because it means the kids and I get to wallow in our materials and get paint in our hair, our toes, and sometimes…our mouths (non-toxic!). This project was great, because not only did it give a finished project that J. could play and learn from after our session, but the making was extremely tactile. Lots of paint splashing and fascinated puddle watching. There were some problems and things I would do differently (listed in detail below), but overall, success.


Watercolor Relief Alphabet Cards
*freely repost, but attribute to Doodles (*

Time: 1.5 hours (if you do multiple paint coats, less if you only do one)

Materials: two sheets of 15×20? nice watercolor paper folded into 4, then divided into 4 (so you have four rows of four), watered down tempera paint, sponges and containers, blow-dryer

Begin with two sheets of watercolor paper that are folded into four rows of four. Use a pen to make the creases sharp, and fold backwards as well as forwards. Later on the child will help you tear it apart, so you want it to be well prepared. With a white crayon, write one letter of the alphabet into each square. Make sure you press really hard and get plenty of wax on the paper. Go over the letters a few times. This was one of the points that I think could have gone better for us–I pressed firmly, but it didn’t seem as though the letters were assertive enough once the paint went on. I ended up having to retrace the letters between paint coats.

We started out with yellow paint, which J. began painting on in tiny little lines, making me realize that for this project, brushes should not be handed out. The paper needs to be completely covered in paint, so either use big house paintbrushes, or sponges, or just have them dump the paint water on the paper and spread it with their hands (messy, but the route that we took). My intent was to add a little bit of red at a time to yellow so that J. could watch how orange was made, but for whatever reason, the crayon really wasn’t showing up, so we ended up blow-drying that layer dry and then painting it blue. Blue worked better.

At this point, I still didn’t think the letters were coming out as well as they could, so I dried the blue and retraced the letters, then we tried adding a little red on top for variety’s sake.

This made a nice pattern on the paper, and the cards were a bit more interesting to look at. We dried the paper and then together ripped them apart (the adult holds one side and the child tears the paper away–kids LOVE this part).

We only used one piece of watercolor paper and did front and back sides, which was a mistake. It slowed us down and meant that we had to do a lot of extra blow-drying, and it also obscured some of the letters. But, overall, the project went well.

Alternative Projects:
Instead of using a crayon, tape the letters on with masking tape, and then let the kids peel them up when the cards are dry.