MaryAnn F. Kohl

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About the Author

Award-winning author MaryAnn Kohl has written 14 books for Gryphon House. Her philosophy, “It’s the process, not the product,” guides her writing as she provides open-ended art activities for young children. MaryAnn’s activities focus on the experience of art, not the final product a child creates.

MaryAnn presents at workshops and keynotes around the country for teachers and librarians interested in teaching art with young children. She has appeared on various television shows, including Home Matters on the Discovery Channel, Take Part! (Canadian children's television) as the 'Mudworks lady', and was a featured guest on 1, 2, 3 Grow! (Health Network). MaryAnn was also a consultant for a children's activity television show produced by the Jim Henson Company (Odyssey Network). In addition, she consults for Fisher-Price, and works with SUNY-Albany as one of their expert guests for numerous educational video conferences. MaryAnn enjoys being a columnist for Family Fun magazine, and writes for numerous other magazines including Parenting, Cricket, Scholastic, Early Childhood News, and Daycaring. MaryAnn also writes books for her own publishing company, Bright Ring Publishing.

MaryAnn Kohl lives in Bellingham, Washington.


Praise for MaryAnn Kohl and her books:

"Projects listed in the book are fun and easy, and require basic supplies that most parents have around anyhow, such as information on great art recipes (such as finger paint, play dough, goop, and bubbles), the process of art, and cleaning up. It also offers older toddlers variations, as well as ideas for the youngest toddlers too."
Parent Line Newspaper, on First Art

"Preschool Art is a lifesaver…All the activities are easy, all are fun—the emphasis here is on the process, rather than specific results—and none require any elaborate materials…a real find."
—Sesame Street Parents, "Picks for Parents", on Preschool Art

"A multitude of playful projects for busy youngsters promises to provide delightful fun. Kohl, a former elementary teacher and college educator, produced another easy-to-follow book in her award-winning series…Parents and teachers will find this a rejuvenating creative resource."
—School Arts, on Primary Art

"What child wouldn´t like to make, and eat, airplane cucumbers, a toastie arctic igloo, snail bread, a banana snake or an erupting lava apple? Cooking Art has all of these recipes and many more which younger children can easily make with some assistance and older kids can complete on their own. There´s even a chapter where you can decorate your own apron, oven mitt, tablecloth and napkins... This is a great book for beginning chefs."
Indy´s Child, on Cooking Art
Scribble ArtScribble Art

First Art for Toddlers and Twos - eBookFirst Art for Toddlers and Twos - eBook

First Art for Toddlers and TwosFirst Art for Toddlers and Twos

Preschool ArtPreschool Art

Global ArtGlobal Art

Art with AnythingArt with Anything

The Big Messy* Art BookThe Big Messy* Art Book


First ArtFirst Art


Discovering Great ArtistsDiscovering Great Artists

Preschool Art: Craft & ConstructionPreschool Art: Craft & Construction

Preschool Art: Collage & PaperPreschool Art: Collage & Paper

Cooking ArtCooking Art

Primary ArtPrimary Art

Preschool Art: PaintingPreschool Art: Painting

Preschool Art: Clay & DoughPreschool Art: Clay & Dough

Preschool Art: DrawingPreschool Art: Drawing

Good Earth ArtGood Earth Art

Making Make-BelieveMaking Make-Believe

Great American Artists for KidsGreat American Artists for Kids


Storybook ArtStorybook Art


Art with Anything - eBookArt with Anything - eBook

Click HERE to read a sample excerpt from MaryAnn´s book, Art with Anything

Q) How did you first become interested in fostering children’s development through art?

A) When I was an elementary school educator teaching kindergarten, grade one, and grade two, I noticed that whenever children "did art," they were not only happy, they were deeply involved. There were no discipline problems! Their interest was high and questions and research increased along side joyous energy. I began to think that maybe art was not just fun, but it was important!

Q) Your books all mention the phrase, "It’s the process, not the product." What does this mean and how does it relate to working with young children?

A) Process means "doing." Product means "finished object or outcome." Therefore, in child development this means that the process of exploring and experimenting through art has more value than the final product or the way the art project looks. The product can be enjoyed too of course, but it is what happens to make the product that has true value for the child. Many children do not even wish to save their finished product, but they certainly love to tell how they achieved it.

Q) Why is fostering young children’s creativity so important to their future learning?

A) We have two sides of the brain. As we know, the right brain is dominant for spatial abilities like art, visual imagery, and music. The left brain is dominant for calculations, math, and logical abilities. If we talk about the whole child, then we must help a child use both sides of the brain. There is research that shows that children who draw frequently without adult interference do better in other subjects and academics. Aside from these reasons, art feeds the spirit, as does music, drama, and dance. To be a fully functioning person who can learn and apply learning, art and creativity must be part of that mix.

Q) How does encouraging artistic creativity help to build literacy skills in young children?

A) It has been proven that art is a language of its own. Art communicates. When art is an important part of a child’s activities, literacy skills develop more completely and more easily, improving and enhancing a child’s relationship with reading and writing.

Q) Your books have won awards in publishing, parenting, and educational categories. Why do you think they are so popular with both parents and educators?

A) First of all, my art activities encourage the use of common, inexpensive materials that parents and educators tend to have on hand, or can easily be found or purchased. Everyone appreciates saving a penny and recycling. Second, the projects are generally not difficult, and require little adult interference or planning; no expertise is required, which anyone who works with children appreciates. It’s good to know that you don’t have to be a pro to bring valuable art experiences to children. And third, the art in my books encourages each individual child to explore and discover his or her own unique ideas and creativity. Educators and parents recognize the importance of giving children a way to develop their creativity as part of a broad educational experience.

Q) What advice do you have for teachers who are trying to embrace children’s creativity as part of their teaching philosophy?

A) Art should be a consistent part of a child’s education, but it doesn’t have to be difficult. My advice is to relax and not worry about doing “fancy” art projects. The simpler the better, especially if doing art with kids is new to them. For example, have plain paper and drawing or painting tools available for easy access by children. What children draw or paint is their choice, and will often relate to topics of focus within the classroom as a natural outcome of their studies. Let children’s artwork progress freely with simple materials. Another idea is to provide a shelf with boxes or tubs of collage materials for children to use freely with tape, glue, scissors, and staplers. Again, let the children have easy access without a planned outcome to how the materials are used. Encourage children to think openly and enjoy exploring and discovering. Show them that creativity and imagination is respected and valued. And last of all, understand the difference between art and “crafty activities.” Art is open and does not follow absolute steps to reach a final product; the final product is unknown. Crafty activities follow steps that produce an outcome that copies what an adult has made, so there is no creativity on the child’s part. Though crafty activities can be fun now and then, they should not be the entire art experience for children.

Q) Doing art at home with young children seems so messy. What tips can you provide for parents to make the clean-up easier?

A) Set aside an area of the home where art is allowed. Newspaper is always a great protection material that is carefree to clean up and easy to replace. An old shower curtain is a great floor or wall cover, and inexpensive plastic party tablecloths are highly recommended for protecting tables. Keep a damp sponge on the table for kids to wipe their fingers as needed, and an old towel for drying hands. Kids can wear a simple apron or an oversized shirt to protect their clothing, if needed. One of the most important things you can do to make clean-up easier is to use only small amounts of art materials as kids learn how to use them. For example, put a little puddle of paint in a jar lid instead of a huge cup of paint. As kids learn to navigate art techniques, larger amounts of materials can be allowed.

Q) At what age do you think it’s important to start doing art with young children? Why?

A) Some people allow infants to crawl right in. Literally! I think when a child can hold a paintbrush or a crayon, or when they can look at paint smears from their hands on paper, they are ready. Perhaps around ten months, and certainly by age one, children are ready to begin exploring simple art materials. Art exploration increases eye-hand coordination, helps kids learn how materials act and react, and opens the brain to discovery and creativity. Also, when children know creativity is valued, it expands their intellect and gives them room to make decisions that control their own expanding world. Did I say art is fun? Art is fun!

The following Professional Development opportunities are offered by this author:

Enhancing Literacy Through Easy Art Ideas
Inspire life-long readers through art! Learn how to enhance children´s enjoyment of their favorite books through easy companion art experiences. Perfect for anyone who works with children, this workshop relates to early readers, emergent readers, and reluctant readers. With lots of tips for classroom application, these ideas require no prior expertise. A Hands-On Workshop is available as a follow up to the group presentation.

Kids Discover the GREAT ARTISTS
Hands-on art for children in the styles of the great masters; this includes demonstrations of art ideas and possible audience art experiences, full-color slides of art by the great masters and corresponding children´s art, and a detailed hand-out. A Hands-On Workshop is available as a follow up to the group presentation.

Nurturing Creativity in Children
This full-color slide presentation provides methods for actively encouraging creativity in children of all ages, and includes suggested art projects with either hands-on art experiences or art demonstrations by the author. A Hands-On Workshop featuring MaryAnn´s favorite art activities is available as a follow up to group presentation.

Creative Art for Teachers of Primary Aged Kids (K-3)
This workshop includes a vibrant PowerPoint presentation of amazing art projects to delight and teach children from 5-8 years of age. Each art project includes three levels to meet a variety of needs: simple and basic; more experienced and exploratory; and intricate or challenging for advanced artists. Teachers, family members, after-school caregivers, and anyone working with children will benefit from how these art activities encourage creativity, promote the process of art exploration, and appreciate the significance of the resulting art. Activities include "Shimmer Paint," painting on aluminum foil with tempera and dish detergent; "Squeezy Batik," a batik resist using a flour-water mixture and watercolors; "Crinkle Scruncher," crinkled paper formed into sculptures; and "Jellie Dangles," ornaments made with gelatin! A Hands-On Workshop is available as a follow up to group presentation.

A presentation may be tailored specifically for your group.

To request information about this author´s presentations, please contact Robyn Clark at
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