At the beginning of the summer, my friend Clarissa at Munchkins and Moms shared this awesome Starry Night-Inspired Sensory Bin she made for her boys. As soon as I started brainstorming for our Art History for Preschool series, I knew I wanted to do one of our own. When researching the Impressionists, and specifically Claude Monet, I found the perfect inspiration. The girls loved this Monet Water Lilies Sensory Bin and have already requested to play with it again tomorrow – a sure sign of a hit project!
Monet Water Lilies Sensory Bin
My uncle was an art major in college. Growing up, a full size reproduction of Monet’s Waterlily Pond he painted hung in my Grandparents’ foyer. I always found it so inspiring and cheerful – capturing the beautiful, sunlit landscape and Monet’s famous Japanese-style bridge. It’s hard to believe when the Impressionists first introduced their style to the art world, critics rejected it for being left unfinished.
While painted with oil on canvas, Monet’s Water Lilies paintings almost have a water color effect. The colors he used, varying shades of blue and green, changed with the time of day he was painting. To recreate this effect in our sensory bin today, the girls helped me color rice.
Sensory Bin Supplies
Our sensory bin started with a handful of basic supplies… though the girls added their own touches and made additional requests as they played.
Pipe cleaners and cardstock (for bridge)
Mini cupcake liners (for water lilies, lily pads)
Green, curling ribbon (for weeping willow strands)
Clear, plastic bin
Cost: Less than $5
Prep Time: About an hour (including dry time for dyed rice)
Clean-Up Time: Less than 5 minutes
The girls helped with the preparation on this one. We examined several of Monet’s Water Lily paintings in our art books and talked about what colors to make the rice. Big M recommended blues and greens. They loved shaking the bags to dye the rice. I used this simple recipe from Powerful Mothering for making Colored Rice. We colored it just before lunch, then spread it out to dry on parchment-lined cookie sheets so it was ready to go post-naps.
When the girls came downstairs to play, I had the sensory bin set up with the dyed rice, a Japanese-style bridge, a few water lilies and lily pads, a stack of plain cupcake wrappers, and some strips of green, curling ribbon. I crafted the bridge from white pipe cleaners, a strip of card stock and a little hot glue. I made the water lilies and lily pads by coloring white mini-cupcake wrappers.
Recreating Monet’s Water Lilies
I put out the bin next to a few photos or Monet’s Water Lily paintings for inspiration. We had already talked about the colors when coloring our rice, but we briefly talked about it again. I told the girls the only rule was to try to keep the rice in the bin, and left them to their own imaginations.
Since Big M always travels with a princess or two in tow, she immediately introduced a princess to the sensory bin mix. They loved mixing the rice with their hands, filling up the ‘water lilies’, and Big M loved walking her princess over the bridge. Eventually, we introduced some spoons and funnels into the mix, and Lil’ M grabbed a pot from her kitchen.
They even did a fairly decent job of keeping the rice in the bin – what little shook out, our new Bissell Bolt did a great job cleaning up!
About Monet’s Water Lilies
Before the late 1880s, there were no colored water lilies in Europe. A gardener crossed white frost-resistant lilies with exotic ones to produce the new colored, hardy variety and introduced them to the public in 1889. They fascinated Monet so much, that he created his own water garden especially for water lilies outside Paris. The garden inspired many of his works over the rest of his life.
More Monet Inspired Art Activities for Kids
Monet’s free brush stroke techniques and vibrant colors are great inspiration for little artists of all ages. For a more extended study, check out these 10+ Monet Art for Kids of all ages. Featuring different techniques and mediums, there are great ideas for toddlers to teens.
Claude Monet (1840 – 1926) was one of the founders of French Impressionist painting, a style he practiced consistently throughout his career. He preferred to paint outside, always studying the countryside, landscape and people, and capturing them throughout the day’s constantly changing light. In 1890, he bought a home in Giverny (near Paris), where he planted his now famous water lily garden, and built the Japanese-style bridge across it. He continued to paint impressions of his garden well-into his old age, even when he was almost blind.
If you enjoyed this post, you can find all the posts in our Art History for Preschool series here. To date, we have covered Picasso Portraits and Matisse Cutouts. You can also find all the posts in our series on my Art for Kids board on Pinterest, along with our other favorites from around the web.
Stay tuned for the next post in our series, featuring Degas and his ballerinas!