Art is such a vital part of any early childhood program. I spend a lot of my time thinking and searching for creative ways for my little ones to have fun in our art studio. Each week my goal is to provide ample opportunities for kids to explore art freely, without an ending product in mind. Often time art in the preschool years can be very “product” focused. What I mean by that is there is usually an outcome that the teacher is hoping the children produce by following a series of steps.
When we allow children to make their own decisions about their art we are empowering them. We are showing them that we respect their ideas about their work and give them room to make mistakes by not having the pressure of a final product in mind. Teachers and parents who respect children’s ideas help them to learn to think and solve problems for themselves. Children who feel free to make mistakes and to explore will also feel free to invent, create and find new ways to do things.
The photo above shows children working freely at the easel. I have two easels set up daily for their use. Right now we are keeping the easel materials simple with dot art, markers, and colored pencils. Children can pop into the art studio any time during free choice time and work at the easels. I will pull the paper down to a clean fresh spot every once in a while, but they even enjoy adding to each other’s work.
You may have noticed that lots of the art coming home is just what I have described, open ended opportunities to try out the different art materials in the room. Above was the set up for our fall leaves painting. The table had many different colors to choose from along with different sizes and shapes of leaves to use for stamping.
Below is a picture of our first few days of school when we were just learning to explore the dot art paints. It takes time to “open” up the materials for exploration. Children need to know how to care for the materials, put the tops back on and keep our room clean before they are allowed to freely use them during choice time. They have mastered dot art, so it is always available to them now.
Another process art activity was our “stained glass windows.” Children were giving a variety of paint choices to use. I showed them how they could put a big dollop of paint on the waxed paper. Once their paper had lots of dots, we took a bottle top and squished the paint to make the larger circles. This also created a see-threw look to them when you hang them on the window. You can see how different this explanation and outcome ended up from child to child.
This is another example of freely exploring materials. I had watercolors, large pieces of watercolor paper, and flowers out for inspiration to paint a picture. This was the first time both groups used the water colors. I didn’t give any instructions, other than how to care for the materials, when to change the water, and how to use the water to get the paint from the paint pallet. Every child visited this table, who wouldn’t want to sit down and create?!
This is M from my younger group working on her painting. You can see her progression from start to finish through these two pictures. She stayed at this activity for much of the morning. Younger children also love to explore colors, paints, and color mixing. M mixed her colors so much both in the tray and on her paper. I didn’t stop her or tell her what to do. When she was finished I just used a baby wipe to clean the paint colors for the next child. This is all part of respecting their decisions, and allowing them the freedom to explore without giving them a right or wrong way to do so.
Below is a painting activity we did outside. Children were given large bowls filled with shaving cream and sand. Then we added liquid watercolors to each bowl. They did all of the mixing and the painting. The texture of this paint was really neat. It was puffy from the shaving cream, yet gritty from the sand. You can see from the series of photos below how engaged they were in this activity. Some of the children stayed painting for most of our time spent outside. It was very messy and fun! The paint just crumbled off the paper once it dried, so it didn’t get to go home with the kids.
Rolling out a large piece of butcher paper also is fun to paint and explore as a group.
It is also fun to incorporate art into themes in the classroom. Below are some examples of our apple stamping activity. Children were given a few different paint colors, along with an apple cut in half for stamping. It was interesting to see who mixed colors, and which children were more precise with their art.
This was a simple invitation to glue that I had out for the children over a number of days. They had cut up pieces of cardboard, glue and paint brushes, and then a few different art supplies to glue down. I provided cut up paper squares, yarn, and sequences. Over the past few weeks many children have done this activity, and some of them have come here a number of times to explore with the glue. The more glue the better!
If you would like to do open ended process art at home here are the first two books that I would buy:
Mudworks by Mary Ann Kohl is a wonderful book packed full of different types of art experiences using clay and dough. There are pages and pages of simple dough recipes. Mary Ann Kohl is one of the pioneers of process art in the early childhood curriculum.
First Art by Mary Ann Kohl is another go-to book for beginning process art. The ideas are supplies are simple, and have lots of things you can find around your house.
I hope you all will try out some process art at home too!