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Sculpting for Young Children

Updated on November 19, 2015
Alexander Calder-inspired standing mobile
Alexander Calder-inspired standing mobile

Do you have a young aspiring artist or are you looking for fun craft ideas for your children or classroom? Examine works by Leonardo da Vinci, Alexander Calder, Henry Moore, and others and the recreate their works through soap carvings, pizza dough sculpting, mobile making, and more! I created this "lesson" to do as a two hour play date with my young children and some of their friends (ages 3-7). Use this fun lesson with your class, family, or homeschool co-op group!

Sculpture Intro & Henry Moore

1. Pray. Read and discuss Psalm 150:1-2.

2. Read 3-D ABC: A Sculptural Alphabet by Bob Raczka. Have each child say one thing about sculptures that was mentioned in the book. Quickly define and explain sculpture.

Book to Read for Activity 2 if Reading to Ages 5+

3-d ABC: A Sculptural Alphabet (Bob Raczka's Art Adventures)
3-d ABC: A Sculptural Alphabet (Bob Raczka's Art Adventures)

This includes quite a variety of sculptures from classic to modern. Each page includes a photograph of the sculpture and a short bit about that specific work or about that type of work. It includes plenty of vocabulary words related to sculptures. This was short enough that even my preschoolers enjoyed the entire book and remembered what was said. As the name suggests, it also follows the alphabet theme.

 

Book to Read for Activity 2 if Reading to Preschool Aged Children

Look! Look! Look! at Sculpture
Look! Look! Look! at Sculpture

This would be a great read aloud option as well. It follows 3 mice as they sneak into an art museum and discover various sculptures. It is more simple than the above book.

 
Carving a soap sculpture of Henry Moore's owl sculpture
Carving a soap sculpture of Henry Moore's owl sculpture

3. Read Henry Moore: From Bones and Stones to Sketches and Sculptures by Jane Mylum Gardner.

4. Make soap carvings using Ivory soap and kitchen knives, spoons, and vegetable peelers. We made Henry Moore's owl sculpture. I outlined it on their soap first and let the children peel, chop, and carve out the soap to make the owl.

YOU WILL NEED PER CHILD: a bar of Ivory soap per child, a plastic knife, a piece of wax paper, and a vegetable peeler (optional)

Henry Moore: From Bones and Stones to Sketches and Sculptures by Jane Mylum Gardner
Henry Moore: From Bones and Stones to Sketches and Sculptures by Jane Mylum Gardner

Book to Read for Activity 3

Henry Moore: From Bones and Stones to Sketches and Sculptures by Jane Mylum Gardner covers the life and work of Henry Moore. It has wonderful photographs rather than illustrations. This book follows Henry Moore's daily routines as he walks around outside to appreciate the beauty in nature, collects objects for his sculptures, making maquettes, and more.
It is a good book to use to show how abstract art can be made using pieces made from a variety of materials.

Leonardo's Horse

5. Read some of Leonardo's Horse by Jean Fritz.

6. Talk about how a clay figure had to be created before the final sculpture was made. Have children use play-dough to attempt to make a clay model of a horse that can stand up on its legs.

YOU WILL NEED: play-dough and wax paper

Book to Read for Activity 5

Leonardo's Horse
Leonardo's Horse

This is a wonderful book about a horse sculpture that Leonardo da Vinci began but never finished. Hundreds of years later a man decided to finish the project that Leonardo had begun. It does an excellent job at explaining the difficult process of actually creating a sculpture. The book has beautiful illustrations on each page. The text is long enough that I didn't try to read it in its entirety to the group of young children. I did read the whole book to my 4 year old who enjoyed it.

 

Pizza Dough Sculptures

7. Show some of the the sculptures from 13 Sculptures Children Should Know by Angela Wenzel to inspire children.

8. Have children "sculpt" an animal using Pillsbury pizza dough. I offered raisins, shredded coconut, & colored sugar. (Despite the photos from the book, no one attempted a David or a Winged Victory sculpture. Most of the children sculpted dinosaurs. Oh well.) Sprinkle with additional sugar before baking. Bake as directed on the package.

YOU WILL NEED: Pillsbury pizza dough (or make your own dough), raisins, shredded coconut, colored sugar, sugar, baking sheets, & parchment paper

Book to Use for Activity 7

13 Sculptures Children Should Know
13 Sculptures Children Should Know

This shows 13 famous sculptures of various forms. It includes Michelangelo's David, Rodin's Les Bourgeois de Calais, the Winged Victory of Samothrace, the Shrine of the Three Kings, the Great Buddha, and Abala African Mask, and others. It has nice photographs with details of each work. In case you're wondering, it does tastefully omit the nudity from the David statue. Included is information about each piece.

 

Alexander Calder

9. Read Sandy's Circus: A Story About Alexander Calder by Tanya Lee Stone.

Book to Read for Activity 9

Sandy's Circus: A Story About Alexander Calder
Sandy's Circus: A Story About Alexander Calder

This is a fun picture book about the life and art of Alexander Calder. It begins with his childhood when he would make sculptures out of odds and ends around the house and continues on through his adulthood when he continued making his famous mobile sculptures.

 
Image credit: http://dolvinartknight.blogspot.com/2012/01/calder-style-sculptures-3-ways.html
Image credit: http://dolvinartknight.blogspot.com/2012/01/calder-style-sculptures-3-ways.html

10. Make a Calder-inspired standing mobile. Lay out scissors, construction paper, and aluminum foil. Allow children to cut out various shapes and then tape them to short pieces of craft wire or pipe cleaners. Give each child a piece of styrofoam or a container of play-doh to use as the base. Have them stab their wire/pipe cleaner pieces into the foam or clay or have them form a cone out of rolled construction paper and poke the decorated wire/pipe cleaners out of the top of the cone.

YOU WILL NEED: scissors, construction paper, craft beads (optional), aluminum foil (optional), buttons (optional), hole punches (optional), scotch tape, craft wire or pipe cleaners, Styrofoam or play-doh, & paint & paintbrushes (optional)

11. Eat baked pizza dough sculpture.

YOU WILL NEED: napkins and cups for water

12. Review what you learned about sculptures.

Materials Needed for This Lesson

Items for families to bring for their children:
-PER CHILD: a bar of Ivory soap per child, a plastic knife, a piece of wax paper, and a vegetable peeler (optional)
-play-dough
-scissors, construction paper, Styrofoam or play-doh, & paint & paintbrushes (optional), hole punches (optional), and scotch tape

Items to be assigned for families to bring to use for the entire class or group:
-3-D ABC: A Sculptural Alphabet by Bob Raczka
-Henry Moore: From Bones and Stones to Sketches and Sculptures by Jane Mylum Gardner
-Leonardo's Horse by Jean Fritz
-wax paper
-13 Sculptures Children Should Know by Angela Wenzel
-Pillsbury pizza dough (or make your own dough), raisins, shredded coconut, colored sugar, sugar, baking sheets, & parchment paper
-Sandy's Circus: A Story About Alexander Calder by Tanya Lee Stone
-craft beads (optional), aluminum foil (optional), buttons (optional), and craft wire or pipe cleaners
-napkins and cups for water

Marie in Fourth Position: The Story of Degas' "The Little Dancer" by Amy Littlesugar
Marie in Fourth Position: The Story of Degas' "The Little Dancer" by Amy Littlesugar

More of Our Favorite Picture Books on Sculpting and Sculptors

Also look for the following wonderful picture books on sculpting and sculptors. Alexander Calder (Getting to Know the World's Greatest Artists) by Mike Venezia is another good children's biography picture book on Alexander Calder that we enjoyed reading. Marie in Fourth Position: The Story of Degas' "The Little Dancer" by Amy Littlesugar is a fictional account about the young girl who posed for Degas's "The Little Dancer" sculpture and what she learned about sculpting and ballet as she posed for him. Norman the Doorman by Don Freeman about a mouse doorman to an art museum who enters a sculpture contest that is being put on by people who are trying to rid the museum of mice. Patience Wright: American Sculptor and Revolutionary Spy by Pegi Deitz Shea is about Patience Wright, who operated a wax-sculpting business during the American War for Independence/American Revolution. What is Art? Painting and Sculpture (What is Art? Books) by Nuria Roca is a book that describes the traits of sculptures.

Looking for Free Sculpture Lapbooks?

Click on the below links for find free lapbooks based on these sculpture-related books:

Leonardo's Horse by Jean Fritz

Norman the Doorman by Don Freeman

Michelangelo's Surprise by Tony Parillo: http://www.homeschoolshare.com/michelangelos_surprise.php (You will need to cut and paste this link to get this free lapbook and lesson.)

Great YouTube Clips on Sculpture

123 I Can Sculpt! (Starting Art) by Irene Luxbacher
123 I Can Sculpt! (Starting Art) by Irene Luxbacher
Discovering Great Artists: Hands-On Art for Children in the Styles of the Great Masters by MaryAnn F. Kohl
Discovering Great Artists: Hands-On Art for Children in the Styles of the Great Masters by MaryAnn F. Kohl

Need More Great Sculpting Project Ideas for Young Artists?

If you would like to add in more sculpting activities, there are so many other wonderful resources that provide great sculpting projects! We had a challenging time finding good sculpting ideas that would able to be successfully created by even the younger preschool-aged budding artists that could also be equally enjoyed by older elementary aged children. The following four books had some great sculpting project ideas that met this criterion: 123 I Can Sculpt! (Starting Art) by Irene Luxbacher, Discovering Great Artists: Hands-On Art for Children in the Styles of the Great Masters (Bright Ideas for Learning (TM)) by MaryAnn F. Kohl, Cool Sculpture: The Art of Creativity for Kids (Cool Art) by Anders Hanson, and Animals (Start with Art) by Sue Lacey.

Ready for more of my art lessons?

Stained glass window cookies made in the lesson on Medieval Art
Stained glass window cookies made in the lesson on Medieval Art
  • Sculpting for Young Children - Examine works by Leonardo da Vinci, Alexander Calder, Henry Moore, and others and the recreate their works through soap carvings, pizza dough sculpting, mobile making, and more!
  • Pottery for Young Children - Create pinch pots, form animals out of Rice Krispie Treat "Clay," examine various types of pottery and more in this fun, hands-on lesson or "play date" activity to explore the world of pottery!
  • Leonardo da Vinci: The Artist - This is part 1 of a 3 part hands-on unit study on Leonardo da Vinci: The Artist, Scientist, & Inventor. This lesson will cover his work as an artist. Sculpt a horse, use watercolors to paint a bird, practice drawing using perspective, and more!
  • Medieval Art Lesson - Mix together and paint with egg yolk paint, design and eat stained glass window cookies, create colorful tapestries, and more as you examine Medieval Art.

Looking for all of my lessons and unit studies?

My Lessons on Squidoo

Over the years I have posted over 30 science and social-studies based unit studies, compromised of more than 140 lessons. The unit studies include the Human Body, Simple Machines, Earth Science, Medieval Period, American Revolution, Pioneer Life, Countries of the World, and many more! For each lesson I have included activities (with photos), our favorite books and YouTube video clips, lapbook links, and other resources. I posted links to all of my unit studies and lessons at Fun, FREE Hands-on Unit Studies .

Konos Volume I
Konos Volume I

Konos Curriculum

Would you like to teach this way every day?

Konos Curriculum

I use Konos Curriculum as a springboard from which to plan my lessons. It's a wonderful Christian curriculum and was created by moms with active children! You can even watch free on-line videos as Jessica, one of the co-authors of Konos, walks you through a unit. (Look for the Explanation Videos tab.)

Konos Home School Mentor

If you're new to homeschooling or in need of some fresh guidance, I highly recommend Konos' HomeSchoolMentor.com program! Watch videos on-line of what to do each day and how to teach it in this great hands-on format!

Which Sculpture is Your Favorite?

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© 2013 iijuan12

What first comes to mind when you think of sculptures? - Or just leave a note to let me know you dropped by! I love getting feedback from you!

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    • iijuan12 profile image
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      iijuan12 4 years ago from Florida

      @DecoratingMom411: Thank you!

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      DecoratingMom411 4 years ago

      A fun way to also have a bonding moment with your kids. :) Very nice lens. Thank you for sharing!

    • iijuan12 profile image
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      iijuan12 4 years ago from Florida

      @inkymama: Thank you!

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      inkymama 4 years ago

      These are some neat ideas-- love that pipe cleaner "sculpture"