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Making Sun Prints with Children: Sun Print Results

By Melissa Summers

(Making Sun Prints with Children, Part 1)

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.

Sun print (butterfly)
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.

Sun Print art
Or this one titled, “Dog and Horse Looking At Butterfly.”

Sun print art (dog horse)
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.

sun print art (limes)
sun print art made from limes
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.

trucks on paper for sun print art
Sun print art (trucks)
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.

sun print art (flowers)
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.

grape stems
I think these prints are my favorite and will be framed and hung on our wall in a set of three.

sun print art (grape stems)
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.

More Ideas for Burning Daylight:

About the Author

Melissa Summers

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


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

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