Spinning Art with Boys


For Christmas, my husband got me a salad spinner.  Yep, he did.

Anyway.  I’ve never had a salad spinner myself, because I don’t like single-purpose kitchen tools if I can avoid it, especially one so bulky, and also because I’ve never felt the need for wicking water off my salad greens.  But hubby noticed I was enjoying salads more lately, and so he thought it might be nice.  He had also forgotten to take the price tag off, and the spinner proudly displayed $40.   It’s true that it was made of a special safe plastic and was collapsible, but wha…?.  I tactfully asked, and he agreed, and the spinner was returned.  (For the record, he then got me a pair of skates – yay!)

But it must have triggered a tucked-away memory of an art project, because several days later I was in a thrift store looking around, spotted a bunch of salad spinners, and remembererd their possibilities.  So I bought one ($2).  Not for salads, but for spin art!

My boys and I just tried it, an idea from the Artful Parent, which is a blog teeming with accessible art activities for young children.  Spin art is totally satisfying, almost mesmerizing work.  To make it, basically you put a circular piece of paper in a salad spinner, plop some paint on it, and spin away.

I had to post about it here for two reasons:

1.  You only need 3 things:  a salad spinner, paint (we used tempera paints), and paper.

2.  It’s a great art activity for boys, and mine (5 and 3) worked at it together, in harmony, for almost an hour.

Each of these reasons needs a little elaboration.  Reason #1 needs elaboration because, well, this isn’t exactly true.  Because of course you need a place to do the art, some smocks or clothing you don’t mind getting paint on (or just turn clothes inside out), and scissors to cut the paper into circles to fit the salad spinner.  But most of us have these things, so the project still counts as accessible! The most important thing to add to this point for the non-salad spinning types out there is that you need a container of some kind to put under the salad spinner or you will be flinging paint all over the room!  I hadn’t realized this at first, but thank heavens before we started painting, the boys were playing with the spinner with pompoms dipped in water (please don’t ask) and I saw the water everywhere.   I used a large circular cake pan as the paint catcher and all was well.

As for Reason #2, of course this activity will engage girls also.  But it’s especially nice for boys (and at 4Mothers, we have boys, boys, and more boys) because there’s a lot of action in making this art.  First, they can shake up the paint in the bottle (warning:  ensure the caps are on tight!) and shake like their lives depend on it, they will.  Then they can undo the cap and squirt the paint on themselves with just a little guidance to avoid pouring too much in.  They can return the lid to the spinner, and of course they get to spin away.  My 3 year old could do all of these steps comfortably, and the full participation was great for him.  Also, his older brother was able to cut circles out of the paper while he waited for his turn, and wrote his and his brother’s name on them.  Which was really helpful, because it is very hard after the first few to remember who made what.

And a couple of miscellaneous thoughts…  First, thicker paper works better.  We used both paper plates and regular paper, and the plates worked better, with less curling around the edges once the paint dried.  And second, I only had one salad spinner and was initially sorry I hadn’t picked up another one.  But as it turned out, I actually think it worked better that the two boys had to share.  The wait added a bit of anticipation but was short enough not to cause frustration, and they got to watch and enjoy each others’ work.

Neither of my sons is particularly interested in sitting quietly and drawing pictures, but I’m convinced they can enjoy making art all the same, and this action-packed art project hits the spot.  The room was full of excitement (“My turn! My turn!”), curiosity (peeking into the hole at the top of the salad spinner while spinning), and encouragement of each other (“Wow, that looks great!”).

That was pleasure enough for me, but as a final bonus, we are making a mobile out of the artwork for their infant brother.  I hope seeing their artwork floating above the diaper table gives them the same pleasure it gives me, and I’ll be asked to give that spinner another whirl.


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5 thoughts on “Spinning Art with Boys

  1. This is one of our favourite activities to do at home. It works really well because regardless of age or ability it’s fun and easy to do – plus the results look beautiful (or at least I think so!).

    I have linked several “spinners” together and created a garland. A fun way to decorate for a birthday party.

    • I’ve heard of the garland idea too, that would be great. We have been using the boys’ everyday artwork for wrapping paper (with permission, of course), and I think attaching a spin art circle to the front would add some panache, no?

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