Excited About Paint!

I have been doing quite a number of art workshops around the country in the past few months. In addition to those conferences, I have been organizing art projects for several of my university classes. But, this past Friday, when I attended a local Head Start Conference, I was reminded again how excited early childhood teachers are with paint! Every place I went had the same reaction from the teachers. They should be excited about paint because when it is used correctly in the classroom, paint can provide open-ended activities that inspire creativity and can encourage critical thinking. IMG_0826

One of the most difficult parts of my profession comes when I enter a school or classroom and see pre-made crafts that the teacher is calling ‘art.’ I get stressed by these inappropriate activities. I witnessed a teacher looking at her wall display of cut-paste-color all the same scarecrows and saw her detach one of the heads and glue it on straighter. This is a teacher who is only concerned with a final product to go on the wall. Anyone who knows anything about art and early childhood knows that it is the process the child goes through that is the learning experience. Although the final product is always wonderful when made completely by a child, it is the thinking and creative process that is the essential teaching tool. It would have been so much more appropriate to see individual scarecrows, totally made by each child, displayed on that wall. Child-centered art activities display the child’s personality and thought processes. Plus, he has much more ownership than he could possibly have with a project that an adult created for him to ‘finish.’

At the Head Start Conference this past week, I remembered how excited we can be about paint and children. If I was in charge of the world, all coloring book-type art would disappear and all children would have paint, crayons, and paper, along with a teacher or parent who knows how to help ignite creativity.

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4 responses

  1. I couldn’t agree with you more. But I have a question as well, has anyone encountered the philosophy of using only the primary colors of paint. This has been part of an ongoing debate in our center. I would love to know what other teachers feel about this.

  2. Thanks for your comments, Mia. Yes, I know that High Scope and some other programs encourage the teacher to just use the primary colors. I know that their focus is to allow the children to explore and discover what happens when colors are mixed. There is something to be said about the process of creating their own paint colors. Although I certainly believe that is critical and I always provided children with that opportunity, I also think that sometimes there are other skills and processes I want the child to discover. If they are expected to color-mix all of the time, many children will not get beyond that activity. There are times I might limit the child’s materials so that his/her thinking and creativity goes completely into the process, not just in decision making about colors. I provide many other decision making opportunities, as well. So, when I want to focus on the critical thinking skills of organization, planning, and creating, I often provide the paints in all colors. To me, that reserves the child’s energy to focus on their creation. I do understand all these skills may be addressed when the children create their own colors, etc. But, I want to offer all the encouragement I can to focus energies in all areas. We know through some creativity research that children may work out personal problems and worries by creating art. I don’t think that color mixing provides enough thinking opportunities to allow children to address issues they might be feeling at the time.

  3. Thank you so much! Most of us feel the same, it just depends on the focus of the activity-. I really enjoy your articles, Thanks so much for your time.
    Mia Olson

  4. Reblogged this on Veditum and commented:
    A brilliant post highlighting the need for the child to explore its way through art and how the educator should not focus on the final product. Art engages children’s senses in an open-ended play and develops cognitive, social-emotional and multi-sensory skills

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