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Halloween Art Project – Build a Monster

This art project is for kids ages 5-12 and includes Sendak’s classic “Where the Wild Things Are.” Children build a monster based on the wild things.

Need a fun and educational Halloween project for your elementary school children or students? Begin this art project by reading Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak. Even 5th graders still love to be read to and some may not have had the pleasure of being exposed to this classic children’s book. Make sure the children are close enough that they can enjoy the amazing illustrations in Wild Things.

For this art project you will need:

  • black paper
  • oil pastels

After reading Where the Wild Things Are, ask the children to talk about the monsters in the book. What makes monsters bodies different from our bodies? Talk about the claws, the teeth, the fur, the tails, and the textures of these wonderful illustrations by Sendak.

Black Paper

Using the black paper, children are exposed to using a different background color for beginning a work of art. The oil pastels are a wonderful medium to use on top of black paper as the opaque color really looks good on the dark substrate.

As the children build their own monster based on Where the Wild Things Are, remind them of the different monster parts that Sendak includes.

Exquisite Corpse Monster Building

For older kids ages 9-12, I introduce them to the Exquisite Corpse drawings of the surrealists from the 1920s and 1930s. These drawings were created as a collaboration among a group of artists. To begin a monster-building, exquisite corpse drawing have the kids fold a 12″ x 18″ piece of paper into thirds.

Demonstrate how the first person begins by drawing the head of the monster, leaving neck indicators for the second person who takes up the drawing. As the drawing progresses, no one is supposed to look at what has been created before. The child needs to use the various body part indicators to create a head, body and arms, and legs and feet of their own monster.

When the drawings are complete, collect them and unfold them and show and tell them quickly to the class. This project takes some patience, demonstration, and trust on the part of the kids who are used to working on their own art projects. The final product, the completed monster, is often surprisingly successful and imaginative because of the collaboration.

Purpose of the Project

This project teaches the architecture of the body, encourages closer observation of illustrations, and suggests that kids don’t have to be afraid of monsters. After all, the monsters are afraid of Max and call him the most wild thing of all. For older children, this art project teaches working in collaboration, following directions, and introduces them to the work of previous artists from art history.

Post Script

I also like to let the kids know that Maurice Sendak was one of the most successful illustrators of all time who had a very long and lucrative career. Not only did Sendak write and design children’s books, he also designed theater and opera sets. This is a reminder that children can go on to become artists, illustrators, and designers — all legitimate and successful career possibilities.

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