With the Kids

Fun with Chalk Pastels

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When I was a kid, one of my favorite activities at Grandma’s house was playing with her chalk pastels. They were like chalk, but more intense in color, a more serious art supply than we were accustomed to. She taught us a technique that amused us for hours every time we visited. Kids of any age can play with chalk pastels, but mid-grade school-aged kids will probably have the most fun with this technique.

Chalk pastels come in sticks and are commonly sold in the art supply section of big-box stores or craft stores. They range in price, but if you visit your local big-box store, you should be able to pick up a box of 12 for about $5. Be careful at the art or craft store, though, because they have boxes of chalk pastels that cost $50 or more! Also, don’t mistake oil pastels for chalk pastels. They won’t work for this particular project. You can probably substitute regular colored chalkboard or sidewalk chalk for this project in a pinch, but the colors won’t be nearly as dark because those types of chalks don’t have as much pigment in them.

Also worth noting: chalk pastels are pretty messy (but tons of fun)! Cover your work surface with newspaper if you value your table, and wash hands promptly after this activity!

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Supplies:

  • Paper
  • Chalk pastels
  • Tissue paper or paper towel

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Technique:

You can use any type or size of paper. Older kids might get a kick out of using larger newsprint-type paper to make an oversized piece of artwork.

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1. Tear first piece of paper across long side, varying the rip (so it’s not straight across).

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2. Place torn piece of paper over a full sheet of paper, and draw a chalk line near the ripped edge.

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3. Gently sweep your tissue paper over the chalk, across the rip, and onto the full sheet of paper.

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When you pull the torn piece of paper away, you’ll have a delicate line of color, kind of an airbrushed effect.

Repeat the process with different colors, and using the opposite side of the paper, until you have a “landscape.” My sister and I spent endless hours creating art this way when we were kids, and we LOVED it.

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To fix the chalk on these pictures, spray lightly with aerosol hairspray or clear spray paint.

When your child’s masterpieces are done, frame them in dollar store frames and hang them in her room, or cut them up into pieces and glue to cardstock to make cards (a set of four or six would be a great handmade gift for Grandma).

Heather Mann is a regular contributor at Make and Takes. She’s is the mother of two boys under age 3, and another boy on the way. She publishes Dollar Store Crafts, a daily blog devoted to hip crafting at dollar store prices, CROQ Zine, a print magazine devoted to hip crafting, and also CraftFail, a community blog that encourages crafters to share their not-so-successful craft attempts.

7 comments

  1. I love this! I have always loved chalk pastels – they seem like a decadent art supply to me. The kids love them, too – especially my daughter. I’m going to try this with her. I recently purchased a set of pastels for her, and this will be a perfect thing to do with them! :) Great job, Heather!

  2. I remember adoring this project when we did it in school. So glad you reminded me. Not only does it bring back fond memories, but it gives me an idea to fill up an afternoon or two of these long winter days with the kids.

  3. Actually, I do exactly this project with my Art 1 students using oil pastels. The colors blend really nicely and give a gentle sfumato effect. Good stuff! :)

  4. I, too, used to do this project as a kid. I was just thinking about trying it with my 2 1/2 year old. I’m sure I can at least get him to tear the paper!

  5. Thanks for putting this up. I learned to do this in my art methods course in my teaching program. I still have my sample but it’s been so many years since I did it, I couldn’t remember how!

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