If you’ve got a kid who loves art projects, then this kid mosaic project is going to be a rainy day hit!
In this project, kids will use dyed dried beans to create a kid mosaic inside a clear CD case. When the mosaic is dry, you can close the case and have a lovely, self-contained art piece that can hang in a window or on a wall.
Related: 10 Rainy Day Activities for Toddlers
Best of all, you likely have all the supplies for this dyed bean kid mosaic already in your house. Here’s what you need to dig through your cabinets to find:
+ great Northern beans. Great Northern beans are white, and so take dye well. If you prefer to use no dye in this project, then simply gather a bunch of different types of beans, all of different colors. Your kid will have plenty of variety!
+ cheapo liquid food coloring. I don’t tend to put this stuff in actual food (I have a natural liquid food coloring that I prefer for edibles), but cheap liquid food coloring is an excellent art supply.
+ cheapo white glue. Elmer’s or an equivalent brand is just fine.
+ old-style clear CD case. Modern CD cases are too thin to use, so look for the older style of CD case, the kind with an insert that holds the actual CD. Pop out that insert and you’ll have a clear square container that is the perfect depth for this bean mosaic. If you’re using several different types of beans, you may want to double-check that they’ll all fit in the case with the lid closed.
If you can’t score an old CD case, don’t worry–you can do this project on any sturdy surface. My other kid created the dyed bean fire-breathing wyrm that you see on the right on regular canvas board, and it’s currently hanging up in my bedroom, because it’s awesome.
FYI: If you want to make this kid mosaic project with a group of children, old-style CD cases are just the kind of thing that you could ask for on Freecycle or Facebook; loads of people have junk like that kicking around their houses because they don’t want to trash it. They’d LOVE to pass the responsibility on to you!
Related: 20 Ways to Reuse CD Cases
1. Dye the beans. I use the dyed beans recipe from 150+ Screen-Free Activities for Kids, but there are plenty of recipes for dyeing beans online. Here are a couple that I also like:
dyed beans from Fun at Home with Kids: This is the same recipe from the book above.
metallic beans. Combine these beans with the above tutorial for the widest variety of colors to play with.
These beans will keep forever in airtight containers, so they’re good to have on hand to let sensory and art play happen spontaneously. For this project, however, just remember to dye these beans at least a day ahead, so that they have plenty of time to completely dry.
2. Set up the CD case. Remove the CD holder insert, and wash and dry the case. If there are scratches on the case, set that side up to be the back of the mosaic; otherwise, it’s easier for the kids if you put the side that has the tabs that hold the liner notes at the back. Tell the kids that they shouldn’t place beans on top of those tabs, or the CD case won’t close over their finished mosaic.
3. Let the kids create! Since the CD case is clear, you’ll want to put a piece of white paper underneath it; otherwise, you can cover the kids’ work area with newspaper to protect it from glue, but this is actually a quite tidy project.
The project is also especially suited to kids because you know how they love to squeeze out WAY too much glue? Perfect! Let them do that. Encourage the kids to squeeze out plenty of glue over the bottom of the case, and then they’ll have plenty of time to place their beans.
Warn the kids that once a bean is placed into the mosaic, they won’t want to try to rearrange it or mess with it too much; my younger kid once fussed with some of her beans so much that the dye began to bleed into the glue, but that’s never happened otherwise or with regular play.
4. Close the case. Let the glue dry completely somewhere undisturbed, and then close the CD case, gluing it closed if you’d like. We’ve very occasionally had pests get into our edible artwork, so that closed CD case is VERY important to me. You can now display your beautiful bean mosaic anywhere you’d like!
Interested in other upcycled mosaics? Try collecting plastic bottle caps, or glossy magazines that you can cut into 1″ squares, or smashing broken pottery and teaching the kids how to make REAL mosaics.