Make: A Paper Playground Art Invitation

With the first signs of spring come the welcome sounds of excited shrieks, whoops, and hollers from the park down the street. Playground season is nearly upon us, and after a long winter, I have a feeling it’s in for some extra heavy usage.

I’ve been exploring movement in art this week, and after working through some kinetic pieces using basic shapes, the playground around the corner caught my eye. Chock full of simple machines in motion, it seemed such a natural variation on our geometric shape project.

Make moving art with this paper playground art project for kids! | via barley & birch

Rather than working toward the goal of a finished art piece, this is intended as an invitation to explore motion and how we can create it. It’s a chance to explore supplies and processes, as well as ask questions that lead to good critical thinking…

  • What kind of motion does a swing make, and how can we recreate that movement with our supplies?
  • Does your playground equipment piece move as one piece, or do different parts move independently?
  • Our swing has 4 joints, but how would it move differently if we had glued our black swing “seat” to the gray “chain” pieces and only used 2 moving joints at the top?

We used the colorful squares more as prompts than art pieces, but keep reading to learn more about turning these moving parts into a kid-designed, imagination-filled playground! If you listen closely, you can ALMOST hear the recess bell…! 😉

Dig the summery vibes of this paper art? Dive into the deep end of your scrap supply bin and invite your kids to create design their own pool party with our summer scrap supply pool art project!

To make your own kinetic paper playground art you’ll need:

Note: We prefer to shop locally or use what we have at home, but this list contains a few Woodpeckers Crafts and/or Amazon affiliate links for reference. As Amazon Associates, we make a small commission on qualifying purchases.*

BASIC SUPPLIES:

  • Construction paper in a variety of colors
  • Scissors
  • A Glue stick
  • Metal brads
  • A Hole punch

DESIGN-YOUR-OWN PLAYGROUND SUPPLIES:

  • A large piece of scrap cardboard or paper grocery bag
  • Other mark-making and craft supplies to add details to your playground design

DIY Kinetic Paper Playground Art Instructions:

  1. Cut paper squares for the backgrounds

    All you need to start is a piece of paper – I used two-tone squares to add a little interest and energy, but you don’t have to! This will be the background we connect our moving equipment to.
    Cut paper squares for the background | via barley & birch
    To create our two-tone squares, we cut 7″ x 7″ in squares in one color, then glued a strip of paper in the same color family over top. You can absolutely skip this step and just use a square of paper, but I think the look makes it all a bit more inviting and exciting.

  2. Build basic playground equipment with simple shapes

    Before trying to actually create the movement, use simple paper shapes to “build” the basic playground equipment like swings, see-saws, rings, spring riders, merry-go-rounds, slides.
    Use simple paper shapes to build basic playground equipment like teeter-toters, swings and more. | via barley & birch
    Discuss the kinds of movement you could add for each piece of equipment. A swing literally swings back and forth, a merry-go-round spins around, etc.

  3. Add an element of movement!

    Use a hole punch and small metal brads to secure your paper playground equipment to the background so it can move.
    Use a hole punch and small metal brads to secure your paper playground equipment to the background so it can move. | via barley & birch
    Tip: instead of a hole punch, kids can use a toothpick or ballpoint pen tip to punch through the paper pieces and background. It creates the perfect sized-hole without having to use scissor tips or other sharp tools, and can work for places a hole punch won’t reach.

You might notice that our backgrounds are 2 shades of the same color – yellow and yellow-orange, turquoise and royal blue, etc. Though you can create any background you like, these two-color combinations are an easy way to add in a quick lesson about tints, hues, and shades or monochromatic color palettes.

Make moving art with this paper playground art project for kids! | via barley & birch

Variations on our kinetic playground art:

Note: We prefer to shop locally or use what we have at home, but this list contains a few Woodpeckers Crafts and/or Amazon affiliate links for reference. As Amazon Associates, we make a small commission on qualifying purchases.*

  • Pick one piece of this project to tackle. For younger kids, the process of using simple shapes to create interpretations of play equipment may be enough of a creative workout for one art session. I have a small box of laminated paper shapes for similar exercises that can be played with over and over. Simply layout with a square of paper of painted cardboard and some photos for reference. Sit down and play along!
  • Explore a different theme. There are LOTS of things that move. You could recreate this concept with a sports theme or use the movements of art supplies (scissors are the MOST amazing simple machines!). The sky is the limit.
  • Pair with a picture book for inspiration. David Jumps In, Rulers of the Playground, Swing, and Tangled: A Story About Shapes are all wonderful stories with lovely illustrations for visual reference.
  • Design your own moving playground. Instead of mounting each piece of equipment on a piece of paper, paint a large square of cardboard to use as a background. Invite your kids to design their own playground, adding hand-drawn details, collaged foliage, cut paper paths, and (of course!) their pieces of moving playground equipment.
  • Make it collaborative!

If this study in motion has you riled up and ready for more, take a winding trip down one of our rainbow roads, hit the waves with some scrape painted standing surfboards, or discover a quick collage you can make by tossing your paper willy-nilly!

Looking for something on the quieter side? Look no further than our meditative memory mapping activity, or visit our cardboard secret garden for some peaceful flower and landscape collaging.


*A note about affiliate links: We strive to use simple, earth-friendly supplies that can be purchased locally whenever we can, but sometimes we find the best universally available options, a rare eco-friendly find, or a niche product only available on Amazon or Woodpecker Crafts. When included in our supply list, these products are affiliate links, and if you click-through to make a purchase, we receive a small commission that helps us re-order these supplies!

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Amanda E.
With a passion for cultivating imagination, Amanda aims to help kids and families discover their creative potential through art, play, adventure, activism, conservancy, and community. Amanda has a background in graphic design, environmental design, and art curation. When not playing with ideas and designs for barley & birch, she enjoys working in freelance design, art, and illustration.

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