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Making Sun Prints with Children: Burning Daylight– Sun Print Results

Jul05

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This project burned a lot of daylight and for that I am eternally grateful. First we burned about two hours collecting items for our prints on a nature walk, taking time to feed the ducks, skip stones on the lake and search for turtles on the shore. If this project had ended up burning down my house, it would have been worth it. I say that and mean even if I wasn’t desperate to unload my house.
We burned around an hour, maybe two over two days actually making the prints, which are incredibly simple and nearly fool proof to make. My eight-year-old seemed to have a more traditional view of what making a sun print was supposed to be about. She collected several leaves, a butterfly stencil included in our kit and even a duck feather (which she never actually touched with her hand because she is germ-phobic). Here was her first attempt.
maddie.jpg
Max, my six-year-old, seemed more interested in creating ‘scenes’ with his sun prints. Maybe these are brilliant metaphors for life, maybe my son will one day have sun prints displayed around the world. I mean, you don’t see things like this creation he calls, “Abraham Lincoln riding through the grass with a tree,” every day.
ridingthroughgrass.jpg
Or this one titled, “Dog and Horse Looking At Butterfly.”
doghorse.jpg
He appears to appreciate the literal, because it’s true, there they are looking at a butterfly. Or maybe he’s telling us the butterfly represents freedom to the dogs and horses of the world. He’s brilliant.
We also spent some time searching the house for things to try on our sun paper. Like limes which worked reasonably well, but the citric acid had an odd reaction with the chemically treated paper.
limes.jpg
lemonresult.jpg
We also, following my son’s love of the literal, tried putting trucks on our paper. We did these later in the day and the stretched shadows show that.
truckprint.jpg
trucksunprints.jpg
Instead of trying to manipulate the kids into doing what I thought might look good I channeled my inner Martha and came up with this version.
melissaattempt.jpg
While we worked on this project Max polished off an entire stem’s worth of grapes. As he finished he said, “This might look cool on our paper, like a dead Christmas tree!” After all his insistence on stencils and very literal items on the paper, I was happy to see him catching onto what shapes would give a clear image.
grapestem.jpg
I think these prints are my favorite and will be framed and hung on our wall in a set of three.
grapebranch.JPG
I obviously liked this project a lot. I’m not sure how young a child could be and still enjoy it, my friends with younger kids are all out of town right now. If you try it out with younger kids let us know how well it works with them.
One of my worst traits as a Crafty Mother is my inability to tolerate messes (no mess here!) and to let the kids loose doing whatever they can think up. This time, armed with the knowledge that more sun sensitive paper is quite affordable, I had an easier time letting go. When we do more of these prints I’ll try to let them do all the set up of the materials. I worried they’d drop things or expose the paper prematurely but it would have been more fun for them had I let them do it from start to finish.
If you decide to do this project with your kids it’s really quite simple and doesn’t require a lot of tricks. Keep in mind though, when the sun is strong the paper exposes much faster than you’d think. I’d thought it was better to overexpose the paper than to underexpose it. However, if you overexpose the paper the contrast is not as good. See our grape stem prints compared to the first print my daughter did.
Also, to get the paper to turn a richer blue, add a few drops of lemon juice to the water you rinse the paper in to stop the exposure. Finally, when the paper is entirely dry, put it between the pages of a heavy book to make them less crinkly.
I saw this related project at Design Mom, look at these great prints her kids created with their grandmother (very very wise…make gramma make the mess!) using Inkodye sun dye. I’d love to try this project but my goodness, this dye is expensive. How badly do I want to Burn Daylight? Maybe by Mid August I’ll be ready to plunk down $55 on a few bottles. The prints the kids made are absolutely beautiful, very Eric Carle.
As I mentioned before, one of my big craft hang ups is messiness. We’re going to work through that a little next week when we look at different ways to paint. Daylight Burning Potential: Excellent. Chance For Stress-Inducing Mess: Extreme.

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Melissa Summers

Melissa Summers was a regular contributor writing Melissa's Buzz Off.


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4 Responses to “Making Sun Prints with Children: Burning Daylight– Sun Print Results”

  1. Deb Jul 05 at 10:52 pm Reply

    A few years ago when my kids where younger I would double the burn hours per project ratio by brilliantly selling them on the idea that after activities they should make a video show demonstrating it, or showing their projects, or whatever. If your kids can work your camera, give it a go–or a used one is cheaper than that dye. My youngest in particular fancied himself a Bob Ross-Mr. Rogers hybrid and spent hours with his audience. They don’t even need projects– one lengthy session of Cribs took several days to make and watch and make and watch. Got tripod?

  2. Rita Jul 06 at 10:50 am Reply

    I remember doing this is elementary school, but we did it the old-fashioned way: You take an object – it has to be something flat, like leaves – tape it to construction paper (but not super-secure) and then tape the whole thing to a window, with the leaf (or whatever) facing out. A few days later, the paper is bleached out and the outline of whatever you put on there is still in color. So, you get sort of the reverse effect.
    You can also have them create their own stencils and do the same thing – cut a shape out of a piece of paper, and put that paper on top of construction paper.

  3. Lizzy'sMom Jul 06 at 1:06 pm Reply

    Have you tried “painting” with bleach on colored construction paper?

  4. CinAA Jul 09 at 1:42 pm Reply

    Aiiiiii! Not bleach. I get the sense I’m not as much of a control freak as Melissa, but even I say no no no to bleach.
    Freezing tempera paint and painting with ice cubes can be fun, though. I’d wait for a slightly cooler day (allegedly Thursday) so things don’t melt too quickly if you are doing this outside.

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