Have you ever tried sun prints? They’re a easy and versatile art activity with young children, both for indoors and outdoors! You could go on nature walks, explore and collect different sizes, shapes and colors of leaves, sticks and flowers; you could portray your shadow, make patterns out of foam shapes or use pretty much any other objects you have on hand to create a sun print. Due to rainy weather we decided to go on a indoor treasure hunt to collect different objects to use for our sun prints.
- Sun paper (we like this 10”x12” one or this 8”x10” one)
- Loose parts or objects from nature
- Optional for decoration: craft wire, tape and beads, mat board frames, crayons or oil pastels, paintbrushes and our favorite watercolor sets
Step 1: Talk about the power off the sun
Ask the children what would happen if you cover a part of a paper with an object and leave it in the sun for a while? Would it change? Would it stay the same? Show an example of something like a faded construction paper and explain that the sun has really powerful rays (UV rays) that can change the color of our paper, or give us a sunburn. But would we get a sunburn if we hold something above our heads and stay in the shade? No. Shade protects us! If we block the light, it can’t damage our construction paper and won’t break the bonds of chemicals and dyes in it. At this point you can show a sun print example and explain that we can make a picture with the help of the sun and are going to find us some interesting objects to block the sun light with that will show up on our magic paper! Give your children little baskets or containers and let them collect small objects to portray on their paper or create a picture with. Since it was raining outside we mainly collected toys and art supplies from our room. Rainstorms around here are usually quick so the sun was back out in time to work it’s magic for our prints.
Step 2: Arrange your Objects
Lay your sun paper onto trays or a wooden board and secure it with clothespins. Arrange your objects any way you like and place them on your sun paper (out of the sun!). Quickly show how you can create patterns and designs, pictures and stories with how you arrange your materials. If you use flat objects you can cover them with the included plexiglass to keep them in place. Or simply use heavier objects to make sure the wind won’t blow them away, no plexiglass needed.
Step 3: Expose your paper to the sun
Set your tray in the sunlight (follow the instructions on your sunkit), count down together and watch as the magic paper turns blue or creates blue imprints depending on which sun paper you use. You can also try this with normal construction paper to see how it would fade over time.
Step 4: Reveal your print
Remove the objects from the paper and reveal your design. Everything that’s been covered will leave a light imprint. Follow the instructions on your sunkit and rinse the paper. A rinse with water will stop the color changing process and fixes the images on your paper for good.
Step 5: Frame your print
Set out mat board frames, oil pastels and watercolors. Invite the children to decorate a frame for their sun prints. Add scribbles and designs with oil pastels before watercoloring right over them. Use one color at a time and watch how the oil pastels repel the watercolors (watercolor-resist).
Step 6: Attach a hanger
Tape one end of a craft wire to the back of each frame and let the children add beads to create a hanger before securing the other end of the wire on the back of the frame with tape. Voilà!
I love how many different ways you can offer sun prints for any age group. How about creating some Mandala’s with older children? Or framing your sun prints onto self sanded wooden blocks with a layer of Modge Podge? Or how about these fantastic treated fabric sun print hoops by the amazing Samara from Purple Twig? Or these gorgeous sun prints with beautiful colored inks…, sigh!