Introduction: String Art for Kids

About: Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math (or STEAM) programs at Boston Children’s Museum foster children’s curiosity, creativity, and learning as they try things out and explore the world around them.

At Boston Children’s Museum, we use this String Art activity to support kids in practicing skills such as thinking creatively and expressing themselves while practicing how to safely use tools.

Overview: In this activity, kids will plan a design and create a 3-dimensional work of art using simple tools and materials (hammer, nails, wood, yarn).

Skills Focus:

· Tool Use

· Thinking Creatively

· Persistence

· Envisioning

Recommended ages: Best for ages 6 and up (see the Toddler Adaptation section at the end of this lesson for suggested ways to engage younger children in the same concepts)

Estimated project time: 20-40 minutes

Step 1: Materials

For this project, you need (counter clockwise from top):

1- Safety goggles!

2- A hammer. We use 8oz hammers; these are the right amount of heft without being too heavy for little hands.

3- Multicolored yarn. You can experiment with other materials like ribbon, twine, embroidery floss, etc.

4- A pencil with an eraser.

5- A piece of wood. We use scrap chunks of pine wood. This wood is soft enough that it’s easy to hammer into. We try to use wood that is ~1 inch thick.

6- Nails. We use 1 1/4” box nails.

7- Thumbsaver tool. We found ours on Amazon. (clothespins work just fine too!)

8- Examples of string art projects. Seeing a few finished examples can help some kids understand what the project is all about.

Step 2: Sketch Your Design

Using a pencil, draw a design on your piece of wood. Our advice for producing the most successful designs:

- Don’t cramp your design; try to fill up most of the space on your wood.

- Keep it simple, details won’t show up very well.

- Draw dots where you want your nails to be. Try to keep them evenly spaced.

Step 3: Hammering

Before you break out the hammer and nails, make sure you’re wearing safety goggles!

Hammering with children can seem daunting, but we have a few tips that can give you and your kids confidence.

#1: Hold your hammer at the bottom of the handle, not by the top (see photos 2-3).

#2 Same thing for nails. Keep your fingers away from the top (see photos 4-5).

#3 If holding nails makes you uncomfortable, we recommend using a Thumbsaver tool (see photos 6-7). These are great for kids AND adults. Just clip your nail into the right sized notch and the tool will hold the nail in place (and far away from your fingers!) while you hammer. If you don't have a Thumbsaver tool, try using a clothespin instead!

Once you’re ready to hammer, start hammering your nails along the edge of your design where you’ve marked circles for the nails to go. Don’t hammer too deep-- leave your nails sticking up above the wood (see photos 8-9). You will need them to loop your string around (and you don’t want them to go all the way through the wood and into your work surface).

Step 4: Wrap and Weave

Choose the colors of yarn you want to use. Tie the first strand to one of your nails so it’s anchored in place.

Weave in and out of the nails or wrap the string around each one. To turn corners, wrap the string around the corner nail.

Once you’re satisfied with your first color, tie the yarn tightly to a nail and cut the extra off. You can stop here or keep adding more colors.

When your creation is complete snip off the tied ends and you’re done!

Step 5: Toddler Adaptations

Toddlers love to hammer! Hammering is a great activity for developing fine and gross motors skills. However, most children aren’t ready to use a real hammer and nails until they’re older. For our mini makers, we have a few suggestions:

  • Get crab mallets! These are safe and the perfect scale for little ones.
  • Use the mallets to…
    • Hammer crushable cereals like Fruit Loops.
    • Hammer golf tees into play dough, cardboard boxes, or Styrofoam.