Doodlebug Club: Secret Message Paintings

secret message watercolor paintings title

This week at Doodlebug Club, we made art with secret messages.  Well, sort of.  Mostly, we just explored using watercolors for the first time.  The idea (to start with) was use a white crayon to write a message  or draw a picture or design, then paint over it with watercolors.  The wax in the crayon keeps the water-based paint from sticking to the part where the drawing is, thus revealing a secret message or picture.


This was my example.  It was hard to see the white crayon on the white paper.  I forgot exactly where the lines were when I was painting.  Ah well.  I call this one “Person on a hill watching the Northern Lights while, for some reason, the moon and stars are out.”  Catchy title, huh?


The Doodlebug kids’ moms helped them out with the secret messages, after the kids also concurred that white crayon on white paper was just too hard to see.


We just used the old-school watercolor palette that all of us used when we were kids.  After one use, all the colors are blended together, but these kids didn’t care (not like the older kids we teach at the museum who are sort of picky-picky about such things).

One of the moms asked if we’d ever sprinkled salt on watercolor paintings and though I’ve seen it all over Pinterest and mentioned it on my last Doodlebug Club post, I had never tried it.  I had a container of salt on hand for another project I had prepared for the class, so I showed one of the Doodlebug kids how to sprinkle it on his painting, and whaddaya know, it turned out pretty cool:


Here’s a close up of that one:


Here’s another Doodlebug artist’s’ painting:


Close up:


You can really see how the salt absorbed some of the paint and made the texture of the painting change, too.  Pretty fun stuff.  And the kids thought sprinkling salt on their paintings was the best thing ever.  Seriously?  Yep.

After making a couple of pieces of secret message art, we tried out some peppermint-y playdough I made.  I had an ulterior motive – in a few weeks, we’re going to try a project using modeling clay, and I wanted to see how familiar the kids are with working with semi-squishy stuff.  Conclusion: they’re pros.

Here’s the recipe I used (click on the title to see the original), if you want to try it.  Super easy and really quick to make.

Sparkly Peppermint-y Snow Playdoughsnow dough


1 cup of flour
1/2 cup of salt
2 tbsp of cooking oil
2 tsp of cream of tartar
1 cup of water
1 tsp of peppermint extract (optional but smells oh so good!)
iridescent glitter (optional but makes it sparkle)

Mix all the dry ingredients together. In a small pot, heat the oil, but be careful to not get it so hot that it’s bubbling (trial and error – trust me!). Remove the hot oil from the heat and mix in the water and the peppermint extract. Then, mix the dry ingredients. Return to a low heat and stir continuously until it begins to get firm like playdough (should be super-quick).

Let it cool on wax paper for a few minutes.

Knead in the glitter and package in take-home containers.

Over & Under the snow

After about 15 happy minutes playing with the playdough, using cookie cutters to make fake cookies and such, we moved over to our little green rug for a story.  This is one that I was sure they’d like.  They did, I think, but it was a little loud (one of the younger siblings picked that moment to begin a vocal protest of who knows what).

Anyway, we read Over and Under the Snow by Kate Messner, about a kid and a parent skiing along and talking about all the animals they encounter, while meanwhile, under the snow, there’s a whole different world going on, with critters snuggled up waiting out the winter.

The illustrations, done by Christopher Silas Neal, are fantastic.  Judge for yourself:

Over & Under the snow1

Over & Under the snow4

Over & Under the snow2

Over & Under the snow3

The kids especially liked this  last page with the constellations of all the animals from the previous pages.

While I hope we don’t always live in a place that’s coooold like it’s been this winter (no more Polar Vortexes, please!), this was a pretty neat book to introduce to very young kids the idea of animals hibernating.  After the past few weeks, I don’t think I would mind hibernating until spring, myself!

doodlebugWhat is Doodlebug Club?
I work at an art and history museum, and one of the best parts of my job is working with kids.    I teach a weekly preschool art class called Doodlebug Club, where I get to try out all sorts of ideas that will become some of the fun things that we will do with our Littlest Brooks-Livingston.  I’ve never had any real art training, but I think it’s a lot of fun, and to me, it’s very important to make art more approachable than it ever seemed when I was a kid.If you’d like to read about more of the projects we’ve done in Doodlebug Club, click here.  Check out my Doodlebug Club Pinterest board here.



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