I used our first hot air balloon art project to teach the children about gradient or a graduated color wash, using water color paints for the background. We also practiced tracing, cutting, and gluing while making our pop-up hot air balloons.
First, I showed them a simple watercolor gradient I made as an example. It took less than a minute to make, but I wanted them to see the gradient without being thrown off by the pretty colors of the balloons. I asked them to make observations about the paper. The preschoolers said, “One side is light and the other is dark.” The older children observed that the color faded across the page. Then we learned the word “gradient”.
We talked about other things that have a gradient and looked at some examples online (just use Google image search or Pinterest with “gradient” or “ombré”). We found fall leaves and flowers, hair color, paint, cake layers, dyed fabric, and rock formations, to name a few.
My sample gradient was done with one color, but I advised them to add some purple on their darker side and some green on the lighter side for their landscape background. I was impressed than even my 4 year old understood the concept of fading from one color to another. His background might even look the most realistic.
For the pop-up hot air balloons, they traced and cut three matching shapes on a fold. They glued two of them back-to-back, and then I helped them straight stitch them together with the sewing machine. In hinds’ sight, they could have done the whole thing themselves with glue by sticking half of a ballon to one piece and the other half to the third piece (if that makes any sense). But I sew and stitching paper is a fun trick…so that’s what we did.
The cutting was more difficult than I expected, especially for my lefties (even with lefty scissors). Cutting curves is a skill they haven’t mastered, so I helped them clean up the edges so that they would line up when we glued them. The preschoolers chose all of their papers and I cut for them. With a group of little ones, pre-cutting the paper would be more efficient. They did all of their own gluing and placement. At the end we drew little baskets on the balloons to finish them.