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Flower Painting with the Monroe Street Arts Center and Spring Book List

Transitioning to a new season often feels rejuvenating and hopeful, especially when we’re transitioning from a long, cold winter in the Midwest to a sunny and warm spring. In this blog post, we are thrilled to showcase some of the incredible work being done by young artists at the Monroe Street Arts Center.

This flower activity can be adapted and completed by children of all ages, but is especially joyful and fun for our youngest artists. We also compiled a list of our favorite books for welcoming spring and new beginnings.

The Monroe Street Arts Center is a community school of the arts located in Madison, WI. It offers a variety of classes for artists aged from birth through adulthood. The MSAC also partners with a number of community organizations, like, the Boys & Girls Clubs, Attic Angels, St. Jame's school, Gan HaYeled Preschool, and most recently One City school.

This flower activity was completed in their Storybook Art class for children aged 2 to 5 - be sure and check out their spring and summer class schedules to find the right one for you or your family!

Before diving into this fun project, the group read and discussed the book, Chrysanthemum, by beloved local children’s book author, Kevin Henkes. Chrysanthemum is a wonderful book to facilitate conversations about self-love, compassion, and acceptance, and is told across a backdrop that just feels like spring. When we think of spring, we think about bright, lively colors, the beauty and wonder of nature, and outdoor exploration.


  • White paper

  • Paints of various colors

  • Plastic forks

  • Green markers or green construction paper cut into strips

  • Glue

  • Sponges cut into shapes (optional)

For this project, artists will paint flowers with forks rather than traditional paint brushes so they can explore ways to apply color and create texture. Like some of our favorite process-oriented projects, this artwork can turn out many different ways - there’s no one way to go about it, so every painting is sure to be unique!

Feel free to demonstrate your creativity for students first, and then set them off on their own to create works of art. This is also a great collaborative project for partners to work on together, and one that would be especially fun for celebrating Mother’s Day!

In addition to Chrysanthemum, we suggest pairing this art activity with a book like, Have You Ever Seen a Flower?, or another one from our spring book list. Our list features more than 40 of our favorite picture books perfect for this time of year! You can review the complete list here, or read about a sampling of favorites below.

Everybunny Dance!

Author/Illustrator: Ellie Sandall | Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books

Everybunny Dance! is such a fun story to read aloud! It will have the littles in your lives jumping, dancing and singing along with the cheerful and spirited bunnies. This book is also featured as part of our collaboration with the Downtown Madison Storywalk. Make sure to visit the shop windows downtown for a family reading experience and to help us “hop into spring!”

Little Seeds of Promise

Author: Sani Rafi | Illustrator: Renia Metallinou | Publisher: The Innovation Press

Little Seeds of Promise is a beautiful book about Maya, a Pakistani girl who moves to a different country, and feels lonely and lost. At first, she is hesitant to plant seeds that her grandmother sent with her. She is afraid that they may bloom somewhere new, and that she may, too. This book is about the courage it takes to hold onto your roots while also developing your wings to fly. Little Seeds of Promise will especially resonate with immigrant children who are balancing the anxiety and emotion that comes with searching for belonging.

The Digger and the Duckling

Author/Illustrator: Joseph Kuefler | Publisher: Balzer + Bray

This is the sweetest new release! Digger and the other big trucks love to work hard and build. They certainly do not know what to do when a duckling wanders into their construction site, and for some reason, does not want to leave. This book is about what it means to be family, and the care and support we give to those we love most.

Tiny Perfect Things

Author: M.H. Clark | Illustrator: Madeline Kloepper | Publisher: Compendium Inc.

Tiny Perfect Things is a wonderful book to read for bedtime - it’s a quiet, lovely story about the joys of noticing all the tiny perfect things that surround us every day. It can help facilitate conversations about being mindful and present, and the power of connecting with nature and your surroundings.

I’ll Hold Your Hand

Author: Maggie C. Rudd | Illustrator: Elisa Chavarri | Publisher: Farrar Straus Giroux

Step aside, Love You Forever and Goodnight Moon, I’ll Hold Your Hand is the quintessential book to give new parents and caregivers of babies and small children. It is beautifully inclusive and authentically represents the world we live in. I’ll Hold Your Hand is about the millions of big and small ways that families care for, support and love a child through the phases of their lives. The bright and floral illustrations feel like a breath of fresh air - perfect for spring!

You Are a Beautiful Beginning

Author: Nina Laden | Illustrator: Kelsey Garrity-Riley | Publisher: Roaring Brook Press

You Are a Beautiful Beginning is a magical story that is both deeply affirming and wholly uplifting. It is a wonderful story for discussing friendship, community, self-love and potential. This book showcases inclusive characters, and is full of lively and whimsical illustrations. You Are a Beautiful Beginning reminds us that we are all worthy of living joyful and passionate lives.

Busy Spring: Nature Wakes Up

Author: Sean Taylor and Alex Morss | Editor: Emily Pither | Illustrator: Chinyee Chiu | Publisher: words + pictures

Follow two children and their dad as they observe nature waking up from a long winter. This joyous celebration of the season includes plenty of new vocabulary words and non-fiction information so that kids can learn the science behind spring!

Apple and Magnolia

Author: Laura Gehl | Illustrator: Patricia Metola | Publisher: Flyaway Books

This is a beautiful story about friendship and how we can be caretakers of our environment. Britta is sure that the trees she visits every day are best friends - after all, Apple and Magnolia live right next to each other! One day though, Magnolia’s branches begin to droop and she looks unwell. Britta enlists help from Apple in an effort to save Magnolia - will they both survive winter to enjoy another spring?

In a Garden

Author: Tim McCanna | Illustrator: Aimee Sicuro | Publisher: Simon and Schuster

This rhyming picture book celebrates a year in the life of a beloved community garden. It details the transformations that plants and wildlife experience in a soft and poetic way that is sure to captivate young readers. In a Garden also beautifully illustrates how a community can come together to care for something that is special to them.

Spring After Spring: How Rachel Carson Inspired the Environmental Movement

Author/Illustrator: Stephanie Roth Sisson | Publisher: Roaring Brook Press

This non-fiction book celebrates the life and achievements of Rachel Carson, the iconic environmentalist who developed a love for nature and all its sounds at a very young age. She loved observing all the sounds in nature and one day, observed that everything was starting to get quieter. This book details her journey of becoming one of the pioneers of the environmental movement, and while it’s full of lots of facts and information, it’s still accessible and engaging for young readers of various ages.

Mel Fell

Author/Illustrator: Corey R. Tabor | Publisher: Balzer + Bray

Mel Fell is such a fun and interactive story to read aloud. Mel is a kingfisher bird who decides one day that she is ready to learn how to fly! Kingfishers catch fish by diving into the water from tree branches or wires. With the support of her siblings and their friends in the tree, she takes on the challenge with gusto and spunk. Her journey to fly will delight any reader!

Check out more of our favorite springtime reads at our Bookshop.

Thank you to the Monroe Street Arts Center for graciously sharing your flower painting lesson with us.


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