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Preschool Art – It Is All In How You Look At It

“Ms. J!  Ms. J!  Come look what I painted!”

Ella beamed at me from around our art easel in my 4 year old classroom yesterday, barely able to contain her excitement.  It was catching.  I wondered what I would see as I rounded the side of the easel: her name written across the white paper?  A rainbow with pretty flowers underneath?  Maybe an ocean with all sorts of sea creatures that only a 4 year old imagination could conjure?

Nope, I saw BROWN.

Brown.  Brown paper, brown easel stand, brown paint brushes.  Oh, they didn’t start out brown.  They were initially red, yellow, green and blue.  But now, each of the easel’s paint pots were a murky brown and each brush was dripping with the same goopy concoction.

This story could take two turns at this point.  I, as Ella’s teacher, could have chastized her for mixing the colors, rendering the easel unusable for the rest of the day and the rest of the class.  I could have reminded her of our rule to take care of our room and the things in it so that everyone could enjoy it.  And, I could have taken her paper down and thrown it away, calling it a “mess”.

If you know me, though, this is absolutely NOT something I would do.  Instead, I told Ella that her work was “impressive”.  It was a good word choice; it is quite neutral while still sounding encouraging.  I then asked her to tell me about her painting.

Ella, in her own words, described to me her exploration of the primary colors.  She mixed yellow and blue on the paper and realized she had a green color, but it didn’t match the green in the paint pot.  So, she tried adding some red.  And then some more yellow, and some more blue.  Pretty soon, she was swirling colors together and making a “yummy chocolate pie” on her paper.  Yes, that’s exactly what it looked like to me – pie, but without the boundaries of a crust.  Free exploration with a lesson in color making.  Wow.

That is what art needs to be for children – free exploration.  Children need the freedom to create and explore in a non-threatening environment.  They need encouragement and praise, even when all we see is a mess of brown.  Becasue, in that brown is a lesson to be learned, and it is much more valuable than keeping the paint colors separate.

Homemade Fingerpaint!

I’m one of those messy moms.  I buy playdough every couple of weeks (that is, when I’m not making it myself).  I let my kids draw with markers that aren’t washable from time to time, and we even create art with pudding and other foods.  Making a mess is part of exploring the creative side of yourself.  So, fingerpainting is definitely a “must do” at our house!  However, I don’t always have fingerpaints on hand, so I came across this great recipe for making some at home.  The best part is, it is completely washable.  So, make up a batch, set the kids out on the porch with some paper and fingerpaints, then hose them down when they’re done!

Ingredients
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 T sugar
1 cup water (cold)
Food coloring of your choice – to make it truly stain-free and washable, use liquid watercolors to tint the paint, or try different flavors of Jell-o.

Directions:

Put the cornstarch, salt, sugar, and water into a pot. Cook over low heat for about 10 minutes.  Be sure to stir constantly. The mixture will start thin, but it will eventually become thicker. When it is finally thick, take the pot off of the stove and let the mixture cool off. Once it is cool, divide it into small containers (small jars or leftover yogurt containers work well) and add a few drops of food coloring to each. Stir in the coloring and voila! It’s time to paint.

An Easy Watercolor Activity For Anyone!

Picasso is not my maiden name.  Nor is Renoir.  Or Michelangelo.  I am a great copier, but I am a horrible creator.  It just isn’t in me.  Give me a calculus equation and I’m all over that, but throw a bunch of open-ended ideas at me to run with and, well, you’ll get the same thing over and over. 

However, I did an activity with my preschool class this past week that is sure to be fun for you and your children.  Find yourself some good sturdy paper (like white construction paper or heavy stock typing paper) and some watercolors.  Let your little kids make all kinds of blobs and splats on the paper.  Keep them separate for best results.  No set shape, just blobs of paint: different colors, different sizes, and different shapes. 

After they are dry, sit down with your child and look at them.  What do you see?  Like looking at the clouds rolling by, use your imagination to find shapes of things you know.  Maybe it is a frog leaping in the air.  Perhaps you see a boat with its sails open.  Or maybe you’ve found a dinosaur lurking on the page.  Use a permanent marker to draw details of what you see.  As you turn each blob into a recognizable form, you will find that being creative doesn’t take much more than fresh eyes and a little conversation.  Between you and your child, you’re sure to have a paper full of new and exciting pictures!

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