“The Invisible Boy” Hidden Surprise Painting

"The Invisible Boy" and hidden surprise painting

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A Meaningful Book & Hidden Surprise Painting!

After reading Trudy Ludwig’s “The Invisible Boy” we decided to create a Hidden Surprise Painting! We used a cool new baby oil technique inspired first by a brilliant Instagram post by @muddly_puddly, showing the awesome technique of turning oil painted on paper into a magic mirror to uncover book illustrations!

Then I was further inspired by @buddiesbabiesandbiscuits amazing Instagram post; where they used their own drawing to bring a haunted house to life. Combining both ideas and some color as an added twist; we were able to create this awesome art!

I’m eager to walk you through how we made this fantastic Hidden Surprise Painting, so let’s get started…

Summary of “The Invisible Boy”

“The Invisible Boy” by Trudy Ludwig and illustrated by Patrice Barton is a very thoughtful book about a boy named Brian. Brian feels quite invisible and blends heavily into the background of elementary school life. He longs to be included, to be chosen for a team during recess, to have a buddy to share his lunch with and to feel like everyone else.

"The Invisible Boy" book with heart drawing next to it

The illustrations in this book are amazing, not only are they adorable, they are clever in the use of colors and shading. Brian is depicted in monotone colors until he begins to feel noticed and eventually welcomed into the group; when that happens color begins to emerge in his character until he is just as vibrant as the rest of the children!

I highly recommend this book & it is a terrific fit for our #BullyFreeReadtoMe Reading Challenge, I hope you join in!

How We Made a Hidden Surprise Painting…

hands drawing heart on white paper with a black pen

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. For this activity we gathered the paper and a pen first. We used thick cardstock paper, if you’ve been following me for a while, then you know its a favorite of mine. I asked my daughter to draw a big heart and leaving the center of it blank. Then I told her to write some words that describe “The Invisible Boy” book we just read. She decided to write “Friendship”, “Inclusion” and “Kindness”.

We’ve been talking a lot about those words; as we’ve really been focusing in our #BullyFreeReadtoMe Reading Challenge, reading many books on the topics I mention here.

heart drawing with the words "friendship", "inclusion" & "kindness" written inside of it

Next I asked her to give me a few minutes to prepare something for her. She of course knocked on the door several times because she’s not used to not being included, lol. 😉

I used the portable light table her Godfather gifted her for Christmas & took the time to trace the main character, Brian, in the center of the heart…on the back of the paper. I also wrote some other words to fill in more of the heart and make the things appearing factor much more fun.

page from the book showing the invisible boy on a light table with a black pen

Don’t worry, clear directions are written below and of course there is a printable version as well, if you’re an email subscriber. It is simple, but I break it down into many steps so there’s no room for confusion, so it might look overwhelming…I promise it isn’t.

What We Did Next?

I placed the paper with the heart she drew face up onto a blue tray. The invisible boy and newly added words written on the back were invisible. I got a bowl, placed a squirt of baby oil in it and added a cotton ball onto the tray.

pen traced drawing of the invisible boy character on paper on top of a light table.

Then I had a lightbulb moment and thought about coloring the baby oil to make it more artsy. But then as I was reaching for the food coloring, I remembered that you can’t color baby oil because water and oil don’t mix. I’ve also tried paint before and it doesn’t work either because it’s mostly made of water.

But then…I had another lightbulb moment! What if we used powdered tempera paint!!! :O Could it work? I added a tiny bit of the powder to the oil and it mixed great! Then I made two more so that she would have the primary colors to paint with.

I called my daughter back into the room and excitedly watched as she dipped and dabbed the cotton balls into the colored oil. She thought it was water at first, but then felt it on her fingers and smelled it (love how it spontaneously incorporated sensory) and correctly guessed that it was baby oil. She noted that the blue and pink were more vibrant than the yellow, it could have been that I put less powder or because the color is naturally lighter.

Did She See the Boy?

The ironic part is that she didn’t see the boy! I was waiting for the reaction, I was even taking a video and it didn’t happen the way I imagined (rarely does amiright?!) She painted the entire heart & background without noticing the boy or the words, lol.

hand dabbing pink colored baby oil onto heart hidden surprise painting

I realized it was mostly because I had used thick paper & put it on a dark colored tray, but it was also that I knew he was there so I couldn’t “unsee” him, lol. But its okay, remember parenting NOT pefection lol.

When my lesson in patience and not having expectations was complete and she was finished painting with oil and was ready to run off to wash her hands, I told her there was one more thing I needed her to do. I instructed her to lift the paper in a way that would catch the light from the window that was right next to us and…Bam!

hidden surprise painting held up to the light revealing the invisible boy and added words

She saw him! And it was incredible, even better than I imagined because it was literally just like in the story, he really was invisible and he came to life so vibrant at the end! 🙂

You can see the video of her lifting the Hidden Surprise Painting and revealing the invisible boy in my Story Highlights on Instagram 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.

Especially if your child is little, its okay if it doesn’t turn out the way you imagined. Maybe its what 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 each shark has its own identity. I would suggest making a Hidden Surprise Painting if you’re looking for a unique and engaging art activity to connect with your child.

Materials We Used

  1. “The Invisible Boy” by Trudy Ludwig (from the library or buy it here)
  2. Cardstock paper
  3. Baby oil
  4. Cotton balls
  5. Powdered tempera paint
  6. Bowls
  7. Tray
  8. Portable light table (optional)
    Click HERE for Free Printable copy (Email Subscribers Only)

How to Make a Hidden Surprise Painting?

  1. Draw a heart (or other design) on the front of the paper.
  2. Secretly add more details on the back to the design by using a light source to see through the paper.
    *We used a portable light table, you could also hold the paper up to the window to draw the hidden features.
  3. Turn the light table on to the brightest setting.
  4. Place the image from the book you want to trace on top of the light.
  5. Place the cardstock paper on top of the image from the book.
  6. Trace the invisible boy (or other design) onto the cardstock paper.
  7. Remove the book from the light.
  8. Placed the cardstock paper back on the light.
  9. Write some words backwards inside the heart that was drawn on the front.
  10. Place the paper onto a tray with the heart design facing up and the boy & backwards words or other design) hidden from view.
  11. Add a squirt of baby oil into a bowl.
  12. Add a 1/2 teaspoon of powdered tempera to the oil.
  13. Mix until well blended (it might look a bit grainy, its fine)
  14. Place the colored oil and a cotton ball for each color onto the tray.
  15. Have your child paint the heart (or other design) with the colored oil using the cotton ball.
  16. If the image doesn’t appear while they are painting, have them lift the paper at the end to reveal the hidden surprise!
    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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