Saturday, February 5, 2011

Observations from a morning of painting

Painting with kids can be wonderful or a disaster...

Nate and Elli started painting while still in their highchairs.  It was easy then.  I'd strip them down to their diaper and give them a piece of paper, a couple colors, a brush (or not) and let them go.  I'd have the tub on stand by and tada! we'd have some great  baby art!  It was actually amazingly similar to eating spaghetti.

Today with an almost 3 and 4.5 year old we've reworked and refined the process a little more and, while a bath was still needed for a certain little girl who ended up with some purple hair, it went incredibly smoothly.  I took great delight in watching the evolution of their creativity.  Here are some of my observations:

Sense of Story - As they were painting both Nate and Elli were talking about what was going on in their paintings.  Nate's was a little more developed, but he's been at it a little longer and for Elli I was able to ask questions to bring out a greater level of thinking.

Sharing - There was one paint jar for each color with one brush.  They had to wait their turn.  More often than not, I observed them using their "please" and "thank-yous."

Appreciation of Other Techniques - At one point Nate commented that "Elli wasn't doing it right" when she was dabbing her paper with the brush.  We were able to talk about how different people do things differently and with painting Elli would get different results with spots.  I referenced a book we had read, The Dot by Peter Reynolds, about a little girl whose art teacher's insight changed her view of her artistic abilities.

Pride and Care - Each took time with their paintings to do them well.  They were focused on their creations and were happy to tell me about them.  They were excited!

Curiosity in the Other's Work -  Throughout our time of painting, Nate and Elli were asking each other what the other was painting.  There was an awareness and joy that they were doing something wonderful together and they didn't want to miss out on what the other was doing.

Pride in Others - At one point Nate excitedly said, "Elli you made a perfect dog!"  While Elli's dog didn't look a ton like a dog it was somewhat recognizable.  Nate had recognized her hard work and affirmed her.  Elli was so proud at Nate's praise.

Articulating Needs/Wants - Neither one of the kids had any trouble letting the other know exactly what they needed.  "Nate, I want green!"  "Mama, I'm all done!  More paper please!"

Basic Color Recognition - Both in choosing paints and mixing colors on their papers, the kids were routinely recognizing colors.  When we first started painting  in the highchair days, I would put out two primary colors and say their names often while the kids were painting.  When they'd make a new color we'd excitedly name it.  "You just made orange!"

Following Basic Instructions - While this is sometimes a challenge, I laid out clear and simple expectations which, on this day, were pretty much followed.  Each paint had its own cup with its own brush.  One expectation was that we not mix brushes, although mixing colors on the paper was embraced.  The second expectation was that we use brushes on the paper.  The final expectation was that when they were done with a color they would put it back in the middle of the table for the other to use.  Both Nate and Elli eagerly embraced these expectations and it showed in their finished artwork.  I'm happy to say that our paints are still relatively unmixed for our next color adventure!

Creative Thinking - This was evident throughout our time painting in the discovery of new shapes, use of color, and techniques.  It was also evident when Elli got tired of painting and started building with our unused paint brushes.

Problem Solving - "Mama, we don't have any green!" turned into an opportunity to figure out how to make some!

Responsibility - When the final painting was finished I watched as they embraced the cleaning process, something that we often struggle with (If you visit my house on short notice you will most likely see bits of paper, markers, crayons, and glitter adorning our floors and tables).  After our painting adventure I asked Nate and Elli to bring their brushes to the sink where they each washed some.  They learned that when the water ran clear their brush was clean.  Part of their eagerness to clean the brushes related to the lack of said brushes due to poor cleaning of recently deceased brushes.  They want to paint again!

Simple Math - Simple questions.  "How many colors do we have?"  "What shape is that?"  "Is that a pattern?"  Also we did a matching game as part of clean up with the paint cups and their matching lids.

This list could go on... I was amazed at what I saw in about 45 minutes when I took the backseat and primarily just watched Nate and Elli's creativity.  It was awesome!

In the near future I'll post tips for setting up a painting station.

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I'd love to hear about your adventures!