How to make a Pendulum Painting & “Blue Chicken”

A Fun Book & Pendulum Painting!

After reading Deborah Freedman’s “Blue Chicken” we decided to try out pendulum painting! We used recycled water bottles, paint, and lots of trial and error. I’m excited to walk you through how we made this incredible art, so let’s get started…

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Summary of “Blue Chicken”

pendulum painting artwork swiring rainbow colors

Blue Chicken” by Deborah Freedman is a playful & beautifully illustrated book. The unique perspective it takes visually helps you feel as if you are in the book. Adorable farm animals splash around in paint, chasing the chicken who accidentally spilled the blue paint. Yep, you’ve guessed it; that’s why its called “Blue Chicken” lol. Luckily the chicken and a few ducks work together to correct this mistake. I don’t want to give away the ending, but I will say with a shifting perspective it gets even cooler.

How We Made Pendulum Paintings…

We tend to keep the activities as simple as possible around here. We’re not interested in complicated or costly. We are also all about fostering independence. This activity was more involved than most but lots of learning happened and we would do it again. For this activity my daughter helped gather the materials by following directions.

pendulum painting artwork splattered & swirling rainbow colors

We cut the bottoms off the water bottles, punch 3 holes in each, tied some string from each hole and made an even knot connecting all three. Next we needed a hole in the cap for the paint to pour out of but we weren’t sure how to go about making the hole. I asked my husband for help and he showed us how to, using a drill, along with safety instructions. It was good for my daughter to see me ask for assistance when needed; just like she does.

Ready to head outdoors for some pendulum painting!…

Once the bottles were turned into pendulums, we headed outside with all the materials. We decided to use our backyard geodome as the location since it was a good height and could easily hold the broomstick across the top. There were some more rules and safety measures for this activity. For example, hang the pendulum in the center, watch that the broomstick doesn’t bonk you in the head, etc…

hands squeezing red paint in to water bottle pendulum with blue painted paper underneath in the grass

After more preparation for this activity than our usual activities, my daughter excitedly squeezed the watercolor paint into the bottle. As I mentioned, “Blue Chicken” depicts watercolor so I thought it would be cool if we tried making watercolor pendulum paintings. Well, it didn’t work, at all. The watercolor was way too thin and came gushing out of the drilled hole making a puddle of watercolor on the paper and no design at all; other than WET.

Uh-oh Now What?

a birds eye view from above the pendulum painting water bottles with red and blue paint in them and the red and blue painting underneath

We are not shy about admitting when things don’t go perfectly (that’s why we’re called Parenting NOT Perfection after all 😉 ). So we did what we always do when mistakes happen; learn, adjust, and try again.

Its actually really awesome when things don’t go as planned (no, I’m not being sarcastic, lol). Its an opportunity for my daughter to see that grown ups don’t know everything, sometimes things don’t turn out how you imagined, and most importantly, how to handle it.

a birds eye view from above the pendulum painting water bottle with yellow paint in it and the red, blue & yellow painting underneath

There are lots of different ways to react when things don’t go your way, but when your child is watching, remember this is the most teachable moment in the entire activity. You have a choice, to accept what happened, work together to come up with a solution and to try again. So I asked her, “What do you think we can do to correct this?” After some thought, we decided that regular paint would be a better option.

If at First You Don’t Suceed, Try, Try Again

a birds eye view from above the pendulum painting water bottles with red, yellow & blue paint in them and the red, yellow & blue pendulum paintings underneath.

Take 2, she squeezed the regular paint into the water bottle pendulum. It didn’t work, again, lol. The paint was too thick. If we stuck with that idea, we’d still be out there waiting for it to drip out. 😮

Take 3, we added water to the paint (just enough to thin it out a bit, but not enough for it to turn into a wet mess again). It worked!!! Our perseverance had paid off (another great lesson 😉 ). Watching the pendulum swinging around dripping paint on the papers underneath, making cool designs was awesome. It was definitely worth all the effort and trial and error we went through (so you don’t have to 😉 ). You can see our pendulum painting in action by watching it in our “Story Highlights” on Instagram.

What We Did with the Colorful Pendulum Paintings?

hand lifting symmetrical pendulum painting from wet painted paper.

The papers were very wet; so we added more paper on top of it, and lifted, like you would when creating symmetry prints. This gave us twice the amount of artwork and sped up the drying time!

Once our pendulum painting artwork was dry we decided to use some of it to make friendship bracelets using a new paper bead making tool we had gotten. Although I haven’t tried it yet, I have heard you can make the beads by rolling it with your fingers as well.

rainbow colored pendulum painted paper cut into thin triangular strips

First we cut the paper into very thin strips that were triangular at the end. Next, we placed the paper into the tool and began to wind the handle which spun the bead. When it was almost at the end, we added glue from a glue stick and continued turning it until the bead was complete. We both took turns and found it very relaxing. Once we had enough paper beads, my daughter strung them on the very thin clear elastic string that came with the tool. Lastly, I helped her tie a knot at the end after she asked for assistance; and that was it!

close up of paper beads and triangular strips of pendulum painted rainbow paintings.

Keep in mind the beads are paper; so getting them wet is not really an option. However, if you take it one step further and coat them in Mod Podge or watered down glue; I think it might make it more water resistant. I still wouldn’t recommend getting it wet, but if it gets splattered with water while your hand washing it would probably be okay.

A few other ideas for this your beautiful pendulum paintings…

  • Use one as the background in a picture frame.
  • Cut bubble letters out of some to create a festive party sign or room decor like we did here.
  • Do some “Drawing with Scissors” Henri Matisse style with them, like shows you here.

Wait?!? Am I Supposed To Be Making One Too?

I highly recommend getting hands on and doing art projects with your child. If you’d rather not, thats okay too, but please do not correct anything they do. If you want the art to look a certain way – make your own.

close up of paper bead friendship bracelet

Especially if your child is little, its okay if it doesn’t look the way you imagined. Maybe its how they imagined. Also, its a process. They are learning. They will learn more through trial and error than if you correct them or do it for them. All they will learn if you “help” is that they didn’t do a good enough job on their own or they can’t do it; not exactly the message you want to give your kid. Am I right?!?

Believe me, I know it can be really challenging to let them make “mistakes”. Try doing the project along side them. It will allow you to focus on your own work, give them appropriate modeling of how to use the materials, and show them that you like art too! A lot of what I talk about in “What about the Sensory Mess?” applies to Art projects as well, you might wanna check it out! I love how artwork has its own identity. I would suggest Pendulum Painting if you’re looking for an interesting, educational, messy outdoor art activity to connect with your child.

Materials We Used

  1. “Blue Chicken” by Deborah Freedman (from the library or buy it here)
  2. Paint (we used red, yellow & blue)
  3. Water
  4. Plastic water bottle
  5. Drill
  6. Tape
  7. Hole puncher
  8. String (we used yarn)
  9. Broomstick
  10. Cardstock paper (or large poster board)
    To make Friendship Bracelets…
  11. Artwork
  12. Scissors
  13. Glue (we used stick glue)
  14. Paper bead maker tool (or you can roll the paper manually)
  15. Fishing wire or very thin elastic to string the beads on.
    Click HERE for Free Printable copy (Email Subscribers Only)

How to Make a Pendulum Painting?

Step 1…

  1. Gather three recycled plastic water bottles.
  2. Cut the bottom off (an adult should do this).
  3. Drill a hole in the cap while it is on the bottle (an adult should do this too).
  4. Punch 3 holes in the bottom of the bottle equal distance apart.
  5. Tie one string about 24 inches long to each hole (there should be a knot at the hole and a single string coming from it).
  6. Take each of the 3 strings and tie them together in one big knot (each string should be of equal length).
  7. Do the same for all 3 water bottles.
  8. Mix a little water into the paint (so its not too thick or too thin).

Step 2…

  1. Get a broom stick.
  2. Figure out where you can lay it above where you want to paint. (Note: You can rest one side on a tree branch or on a deck while holding the other end up).
  3. Place thick cardstock paper or big poster board paper on the ground under the broomstick.
  4. Place tape over the hole on the cap so the paint won’t pour out until you’re ready.
  5. Slide the water bottle pendulum onto the broomstick and center it in the middle above the paper.
  6. Pour the watery paint into the pendulum.
  7. Hold the bottle towards your chest.

Step 3…

  1. Rip the tape off the hole.
  2. Release the pendulum with a push.
  3. Watch in amazement as it creates a pattern of movement and awesome painted design.
  4. Repeat with the next 2 pendulum water bottles; each getting a different color.
    To make a friendship bracelet out of it…
  5. Cut thin triangular strips out of the pendulum painting artwork.
  6. Place one of the strips of paper in the paper bead tool.
  7. Wind the handle to turn the paper into a tight rolled up bead.
  8. When only 2 inches of paper are left; add stick glue to the inner side.
  9. Continue winding up the paper until the bead is closed.
  10. Remove from the tool.
  11. Once you have enough paper beads to make a bracelet; string the paper beads onto the very thin clear elastic string.
  12. Tie a knot in the string.
    Click HERE for Free Printable copy (Email Subscribers Only)

Wait, There’s More…

Sample of “Communicating & Connecting FREE Bonus Printable.

I believe you can easily strengthen communication skills and foster independence all while playing and connecting with your child. To help you do this; I’ve created a FREE printable for each activity called, “Communicating & Connecting”. It will give you a list of suggestions I’ve found very helpful as a Mom & as a special education teacher; to help you build lifelong skills. Please don’t feel obligated to do everything on the list (but if you do, you’re a rockstar 😉 ).

As a Thank You for subscribing; this is a special FREEBIE for our Email Subscribers Only. 🙂 Click here if you’ve already subscribed. Otherwise, Sign Up below to get the password & access to our entire FREE Printables Library today! 😉

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