Materials Workshop: Painting with Children

self-service painting space

This image displays all the necessary tools for a self-service painting session appropriate for children ages 5 and up. I will set up one muffin tin, sponge and water bucket for two students to share. You can of course use this set up with younger students, just know that the act of filling each circle with paint takes precedence over painting on paper. Which could actually be a great way to focus a lesson on color mixing rather than painting. Muffin tins make for a wonderful mixing palette as students can create a new color mixture in each circular space. I only offer students the primary colors, white, magenta and turquoise when painting. This helps them to build personal knowledge of color recipes and also makes for vibrant and colorful works of art that don’t look like they came from a bottle. I share with older students that by mixing a little white along with the primaries will make the colors more opaque and less translucent, if that is the effect they want to achieve. Students tend to mix small amounts of colors and I will remind them frequently to take a large brush full of paint when mixing a new color. This way their colors will be opaque (when there is less paint students tend to add more water) and they will have a large quantity to paint with. A sponge will help students dry their brush before changing colors so that the paint does not become saturated with water. Have various sizes and shapes of paper cut for students to chose from. I begin with rectangles, then move to squares and on to long rectangles or fat strips of paper. I have also cut zig-zags and circles and offered colored paper when setting up for a painting activity.

varied brush sizes

After students become familiar with the painting set up and process, you may want to introduce different size brushes. First allow the child to explore each tool on their own and take note of how their marks may change with varied brush sizes. Talk to them about what you notice. Then offer suggestions like how to drag a brush or dab with the tip or side. After a few sessions with the brush, you may want to introduce stamping with paper towel rolls, corks, bottle caps, balloons, textured stamps, sticks, etc. This will open students up to a wide variety of ways to create works of art and help them to understand that art making has no boundaries.

crayola washable tempera

I find that Crayola brand is the best type of tempera paint out there. Primarily because the shade of blue they produce mixes well with both yellow and red producing a pleasing green and purple shade. Have you every tried to mix green or purple and created a brown ugly mess? It is because your blue was not secondary compatible.  When I am forced to use other brands, they tend to be watery which produces a chalky translucent product. I always opt for Crayola when purchasing tempera.

Clean Up can be a learning opportunity for students as well. I purchase the large block sponges from a local grocery or hardware store and have them on hand when there is time to wash the tables after a painting session. Students enjoy holding the large, soft cleaning sponge and feel a sense of responsibility when caring for their workspace. I rarely have students wash brushes, rather they place them in the “brush bathtub” a large container of water near the sink where they soak for a few hours or even overnight. This makes for easy clean up the next morning.

Litte Blue and Little Yellow by Leo Lionni

Little Blue and Little Yellow is a sweet and silly text about color mixing and making friends that is appropriate for younger students. Mouse Paint is another text for young children that is tells the story of three white mice who discover the three primary colors and the magical mess that happens when they mix them together.

Do you play music during studio work time? I find that students are eager to listen to music in the art studio. The rhythm keeps them focused and engaged in their art. What type of music has created a successful work environment in your classroom?

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