I have a little stash of “emergency” projects I keep in a list on my phone for situations that call for some kid entertainment STAT. The criteria for my 911 list are that the activity requires only 1 or 2 supplies, be mess-free & simple but engaging for any kid. These mini compositions are one of my favorites because, not only do they meet all the criteria, they offer endless options for art exploration and kids can do variations on this for-ev-er. I mean, for-ev-ER.
A simple frame from a piece of paper and paper scraps are all you need for this exercise in art, design, and spontaneity. Unlike more conventional collage activities, this one encourages using the frame as a viewfinder to find art using altered perspectives rather than gluing pieces down with intention and the goal of a “finished” piece.
I have torn up sugar packets and ripped a hole in a paper napkin to do iterations of this at restaurants and movie theaters, and it NEVER fails to entertain (at least long enough to change the mood or provide a bit of quiet entertainment). Take my word for it – this one’s a keeper.
To make your own scrap paper quick collages you’ll need:
Note: We prefer to shop locally or use what we have at home, but this list contains a few affiliate links from Amazon and/or Woodpecker Crafts for reference. As Amazon Associates, we make a small commission on qualifying purchases.*
- Pieces of scrap paper
- An 8.5 x 11 piece of paper (or similar size – I think white cardstock works best)
- Scissors or an X-Acto Knife
Scrap Paper Quick Collage Instructions:
- Cut a large square window out of a piece of paper
Cut a square out of the center of your sheet of paper or cardstock to make a simple frame. Gather pieces of scrap paper in an assortment of sizes, shapes, and colors.
- Layer scrap paper pieces
Let kids arrange the scrap bits – or – just toss them up into the air and onto a flat surface (which seems to be the favored choice around here). I quickly trimmed scrap paper into simple geometric shapes using a paper cutter and circle punches, but you can experiment with free-cutting and more organic shapes too!
You can cover up the surface you’re working on, or use it as part of your artwork. We worked on a couple of different colors of paper – when our colored background showed through the compositions, it became part of the artwork.
- Use the viewfinder to find different compositions
Move the viewfinder around to look for different cool compositions.
- Draw a simple pattern or shape onto a transparency sheet
Draw a simple pattern or shape/s onto your transparency. Slip it under your viewfinder (you can secure it to the paper with a couple of bits of tape if necessary) and move it around the paper again.
You can use a permanent marker if you think you might glue and keep your final compositions, or a dry erase marker (as we did) for art you can photograph then disassemble and wipe clean for reuse.
- Photograph your compositions as you move things around
Instead of gluing the paper bits down or trying to create finished pieces of artwork, I prefer just keeping it fast and loose. One of the great lessons in this project is the idea that art doesn’t have to be permanent.
As you find compositions you like, just snap a picture! There are no mistakes or forevers with this one – it’s pure play. I use Instagram’s Layout app to arrange the pictures into grids I can save, send, and share.
Creating a pictorial series of collages is a fun way to remember what was created, and there’s always a bit of a “wow” factor when they’re all seen together. Best of all, this exercise is just as fun and important for adults as kids.
Should you fall in love with your quick collages, you can always glue down your composition, affix your frame on top with a glue stick, then trim around the edge with scissors or a paper cutter to create a nice square frame (as I did with the series below). These look so lovely as a gallery grouping – and they’re a great reminder of the spontaneous joy you can find in art.
Variations for kids who just aren’t into it…
It happens. Sometimes, despite your best efforts, they are just NOT going to get into it. Here are a couple of variations to try when quiet art-making isn’t in the cards…
- Use the shake and dump method. A little like playing a big game of Yahtzee, this variation incorporates some fun full-body movement. Make a larger viewfinder/frame out of the side of a large cardboard box. Place a collection of large scrap paper pieces into a shoebox and shake, shake shake. Take off the lid and dump all the scraps right onto the floor. Like the smaller tabletop version, move the frame around to find compositions. This works well for kids who appreciate a bit more physicality and energy, or have a hard time sitting for a full art activity.
- Use the “move it….move it….move it….FREEZE!” tactic. You can use this when kids are drawing, or making a sculpture, or WHEN-EVER, but it works especially well for this project. Instead of presenting this as an art activity, turn it into a game – kids move the square around over the paper until you yell, “FREEZE!” I think of it as short-term entertainment that’s a long-term win. Plus…it’s really fun to yell, “move it….move it…move it….FREEEZE!” 🙂