May 9, 2012

Torn Paper Mosaic Cards

I love homemade gifts for Mother's Day.  I gladly pass on flowers and boxes of chocolates in favor of home-cooked meals (not made by me of course!), kid crafts, and cards...I love all the thought and effort that goes into making the day a special one for me.  And besides, my kids usually can't share in the chocolates due to their milk and nut allergies and flower pollen often sends me into a sneezing, eye-rubbing spiral!

A Mother's Day flower gift without the pollen!
My kids love to make cards and "books".  Cars, dinosaurs, Batman, and Angry Birds seem to be their subjects of choice lately and they usually just use pencil, markers, scissors, and the occasional puffy alphabet sticker.  For Mother's Day this year I wanted to introduce a new kind of technique they could use for making cards so that they will have more crafty ideas for the future.

For the past month at preschool Callan has been studying mosaics.  The kids there have been experimenting with different textures, shapes, and materials to create pictures.  Some kids have approached their mosaics with a definite plan on what they want to make, and have been drawing with pencil and filling their pictures completely to make their mosaics stand out.  I decided that making paper mosaic pictures would be a beautiful way to decorate a Mother's Day card while also reinforcing the techniques taught in Callan's class.

Before I led the kids through the project, I made a couple of cards myself.  Going through the process first was handy because it helped me figure out how to lay out the steps and where my kids might run into some trouble.  It was nice to have finished products so that the boys could see what I meant by filling in the spaces.  After making the sample cards, I picked up a couple of key steps right away: glue the white paper onto your cardstock first and only apply the glue to the edges of the white paper.  Otherwise, the white paper becomes bumpy and you can see the streaks of glue coming through the back.  (See my flower card below.)

Ryken and Callan were excited to try the art project.  Each step was challenging -- especially their first task of making a drawing big enough to fill the page and simple enough to be able to create a distinct picture.  The kids had to draw and erase a couple of times before they came up with good-sized drawings.  Tearing the papers into small pieces proved to be difficult for the kids.  They risked losing interest (especially Callan) so I had them choose the colors and magazine pages and I tore up pieces for them. 

Callan (age 4) was ready to quit on his mosaic pretty early on.  The kid just wants to draw cars all day!  The novelty of mosaics wore off fast and he was back to just paper and pen and car drawings once again.  Ryken (almost 7), however, was really interested in the task.  He wanted to make a Star Wars card but with a Jedi mindtrick of my own, I convinced him to make a simpler design that didn't require face, hair, clothes, lightsaber, and body.  I wasn't able to persuade him to make a Mother's Day-friendly flower or heart card, though as he finally decided on an Angry Bird.

The cards came out better than I expected!  They loved being able to incorporate their drawing skills in the card.  The kids were so fond of their mosaics that they wanted to keep them instead of sending them as Mother's Day cards.  We got around that by taking lots of pictures and promising the kids we would include a note in grandma's card to ask her to display them so we can see them on our next visit.

Paper Mosaics

White construction or 8.5"x11" paper
Cardstock or 9"x12" construction paper
Old magazines, construction paper, colored paper -- any paper material that you no longer need and don't mind tearing up
Glue or glue stick
Muffin tin for separating the torn paper by color  (I didn't do this but sure wish I had!)

  1. Fold and cut 8.5"x11" white paper in half to create two 8.5"x5.5" sheets.
  2. Choose a 9"x12" cardstock paper for the background and fold in half.  
  3. Apply a thin layer of glue just along the edges of one 8.5"x5.5" sheet.  Adhere to one side of the cardstock.  The white paper will be your canvas for your paper mosaic.
  4. Lightly draw a simple picture on the white paper.  Have your child draw something that fills up most of the page.  It may help kids to use another sheet of paper as a draft so that they can fiddle with their drawing and figure out how big it needs to be.
  5. After your child has his/her drawing, talk about the colors that they will need to complete their art.  
  6. Look through magazines and old colored papers for colors and patterns that can be used for the mosaic.  If you are going to be doing something in red, look for a few different shades or patterns of red.  Variety adds interest to the mosaic.
  7. Tear the pages and papers into small pieces.  (We tried to make ours about as big as the kids' fingernails.)   For ease of use, group similar color pieces together.
  8. Spread a thin layer of glue over a small section of your drawing.  Stick paper pieces one at a time on to drawing being careful to stay just within the drawing's borders.  Glue pieces close together or slightly overlap them so that the white paper underneath is completely covered.
  9. Continue to glue paper pieces on to the drawing one small section at a time until you are finished.  When you have filled your whole drawing, double check to make sure all pieces are glued flat.  Dab with more glue if needed.
  10. Once glue has dried, you may want to put the finished cards beneath a stack of heavy books overnight in order to flatten them.  Glue or any wet substance (like watercolor paints) can warp paper.
  11. After you have flattened the cards, write your message to your special someone!

I'm thinking of helping the kids make torn paper mosaic self-portraits such as these.  I think they would be pretty neat gifts for the family!


  1. Oh, I just love the look of these cards, and I can see the personalities of the kids in them. Just wonderful!

  2. How creative! They turned out beautifully!