Monday, July 15, 2013

Making Mosaics with Styrofoam Tiles

This idea came from Pinterest, and I am pretty happy to have found it. Styrofoam is one of the few recyclable materials that the recycling center we go to will not accept, to it is wonderful to find another use for it (and I was pretty much tapped out, for the time being). In addition to a neat craft idea, this website taught me a new trick for getting Styrofoam extra clean: putting it in the dishwasher! I never realized that was possible, without melting it, but now that I have tried it there is no reason to fear germs when re-using Styrofoam from meat packaging, for example. This project was one that I prepped one day, and then pulled out on another morning when my kiddos were asking for a craft project. It helps to plan in advance, but this is easily one you could do in an afternoon, with less than an hour of prep work. And, it's a craft that the littlest ones on up to the big kids (think intricate designs) can accomplish.

{Styrofoam Mosaics by Logan, Age 3 and Mia, Age 6}

  • black card stock (or another color you prefer)
  • glue (We used Aleene's Tacky Glue.)
  • scissors
  • Styrofoam (from food packaging)
  • acrylic paint (We used red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and purple.)
  • paintbrushes (Foam brushes work well.)
  • something to hold paint (more Styrofoam or a plate/bowl)
  • something to protect work space (cereal box liners, vinyl table cloth, newspaper)

  1. First make sure your Styrofoam is well-cleaned. I always used to hand-wash mine before I learned this handy Tip: Run it through the dishwasher for extra sanitizing power. What could be simpler? I put mine on the top rack, just to be on the safe side.
  2. Next, trim off the outside edges of the Styrofoam. You will have a flat, rectangular piece now. I trimmed my rectangle into strips before painting, about an inch in diameter, but that is optional.
  3. Protect your work surface and clothing since acrylic paints can stain. (Tip: I like using the liners from cereal boxes as "wax" paper. You can re-use them, too, but if they get really messy, I don't feel bad about tossing them.)
  4. Pour some acrylic paints onto another piece of Styrofoam (or onto a plate/into a bowl). Use one paintbrush per color and coat each strip or piece of Styrofoam. Tip: I found that using foam paintbrushes worked very well and I applied a thin coat in one direction. Let the paint dry, about 20-30 minutes. You don't have to rinse your brushes or paint "palette" in between coats. Although the paint on the Styrofoam will dry, the paint on the "palette" remains usable for the second coat. Tip: If having kids do this step, you may want to limit their color choices to 3 for simplicity's sake. Also, if you would like them to create art to fit with your decor, you can select 3 colors that go well, and only offer those color choices from the tiles you pre-painted.
  5. Apply a second thin coat of paint. Tip: I found that applying the paint in brushstrokes of the opposite direction from the first application made for good, even coverage with little streaking. Again, let the paint dry, about 20-30 minutes.
  6. Once the paint is totally dry, cut the Styrofoam into square tiles (or other shapes if you prefer). Personally, I believe that mosaics are typically made from square tiles, so this is what I did, although not all of them are the same size. (And that's okay!) Tip: This is also a step that children can do, especially if you want them to have scissor skills practice. (I just chose to do it myself because I was prepping for a future project, not one we were doing right then.)
  7. Now, it's time to create some mosaic art. (Note: Technically, mosaics should fill up the space as well as possible to create a design, and tiles should be placed tightly together with only a small amount of space in between. My kids did their own thing, and I didn't feel the need to "correct" them. Have fun with it!) Again, I laid down the cereal box liners for each child's work space, then I gave them some Styrofoam tiles and Aleene's Tacky Glue. (You could most likely use a regular white glue, but I felt that since this was a more heavy-weight item than paper, this would be an ideal craft glue. It's held up well so far.) We used black card stock for our art paper. Any color would work, but I thought black would help the bright colors to pop out. You could also use cardboard or box board (from a cereal box). Tip: If you don't want your kids to use too much glue (or they are not adept with the bottles) or you're working with a group, you may want to put glue into small bowls and let them apply it using Q-tips. This cuts down on excess glue and some of the messiness.
  8. Once kids are done making their mosaics, let the glue dry thoroughly, and then display their masterpieces. I am planning to look for frames the next time I am out garage saling, because these are much too pretty to not earn a permanent place on our walls (and this is coming from someone whose kids do crafts pretty much all the time).

{She rolled out of bed and asked for a craft. Good thing I was ready!}

{He's a bit notorious for using too much glue, but getting better.}

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