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Jack started painting when he was about 6 weeks old. Sarah was about the same age too. We used old clothes… or no clothes… washable non-toxic paint and lots of space to explore.
I knew from very early on that I wanted my children to experience the world; its textures, its colours, its sights and sounds; all of it. When they were babies I sat them on the grass, they played with ice and mud, paint and sand. I wanted to fill their senses.
I am often asked how to get started with painting, and how to get children to spend more than five minutes at the table; my advice is always, paint, and paint often.
Paint with no product in mind, paint just to explore. Paint with the expectation that your child will run it through their fingers, up their arms, over the table and yes, in their mouths. Paint expecting the mess. Prepare for it. And enjoy it!
Setting up the Paints:
How does your child like to paint? How do they usually approach paint?
Even though Jack (5 yrs) can paint pictures, he still enjoys creating abstract art and exploring paint in a very tactile and often whole-body way.
Sarah (3 yrs) is starting to create pictures but still prefers to see what paint can do by slopping it on and pushing it around with different tools and her hands.
How do you usually set out paints?
I think similarly to playdough, we can often overlook paint; not thinking too much about which colours we put out, the type of paper we provide and the quality of the brushes. However being mindful of these three things can completely change the experience for our children.
Think about red, blue and yellow fingerpaints…
- they can be claggy and when used together, mix to give a very unappealing brown muck colour.
Think now of blue and white poster paints…
- or red and white… or blue, yellow and white…. poster paints can still be washable and they have a nice smooth texture, however when these colours are mixed together they create much more pleasing colours.
- And it doesn’t matter if your child mixes the brushes up because each colour compliments the other
Think now of paint pots.
- It’s difficult to see the colours inside and so less appealing to children.
- Instead, try some old baby food jars, transparent containers or simple take-away containers. Now we can see which colours we have to work with.
- An ice-cube tray is a nice way to make new colours from the colours available
- choose two complimenting colours along with some white and a little black
- present them in some clear open containers
- include a container (like an ice-cube tray) for paint mixing and some small spoons or a chopstick
- offer a selection of brushes – different thickness
- if you have one, pop a mirror underneath the clear containers of paint to further emphasise the colour – I picked up some lovely round ones from Top Bargain (dollar store) recently for less then $3 each
- if you like, include some still life objects (something of interest to your child) – something you found on a nature walk, a favourite toy, a collection of beautiful treasures
- have lots of paper ready – keep an eye out for when their paper becomes saturated with paint and offer a new piece
- sit back and enjoy the creative mess that will follow
Some wonderfully inspiring art books that I think you will enjoy –
- The Language of Art: Reggio-Inspired Studio Practices in Early Childhood Settings – Just wonderful! My FAVOURITE art book
- Rapunzel’s Supermarket: All about Young Children and Their Art – the pictures are a little dated but still a really good read
- First Art for Toddlers and Twos: Open-Ended Art Experiences – this was the first art book I bought when Jack was a toddler. I still use it now. Lots of really simple open-ended art experiences which focus on exploring different materials, textures and techniques
Some posts you might like:
- Setting up a Reggio-inspired Activity
- Authentic Art Materials for Toddlers – Part 3: Paint
- Finding Art in Nature: A Starry Night | Exploring Vincent van Gogh
If you missed a post, here’s the rest of the series.
Don’t forget to check out Rachel’s posts on Racheous – Lovable Learning