Sunday, June 24, 2018

Building Independence in the Art Area

Building independence and a sense of responsibility in young children is an important job for a teacher or for anyone with young children in their life.  When children are given little jobs or tasks to complete, it builds their confidence, competence, and self-esteem.  (A side bonus is that it generally makes life easier for the adults around them, too!)

My classroom was always busy with art activities.  Children needed to be closely supervised with certain tools, and large easel paintings had to be hung by an adult.  That busyness necessitates children helping out in lots of ways, so that the classroom can run smoothly, and so everyone can feel like an important part of their little classroom community.

I used two drying racks in my classroom.  One was for easel paintings to hang from (this was a teacher job), and one was for smaller works involving paint or glue.  It's at this drying rack that the children really helped out--they placed their own work on the shelf, carefully placing it so it wasn't on top of another item.

This is such a simple task for an adult, and at first having the children do it themselves probably makes things a bit more difficult for everyone.  They need to balance their bodies as they bend or reach to fit their paper in an empty spot; they need to keep the paper face up and relatively flat so collage materials don't fall off and paint or glue doesn't drip; sometimes they need to use one hand to pull a shelf out to get their work put away.  All of those aspects and the challenge they present for the kids are what make the job so valuable.  The children feel so accomplished when they master this skill!  They feel helpful, confident, and an important part of the classroom.  And the teachers are able to monitor all the other activity going on in the classroom with one less thing to worry about.  Win-win!

Do you encourage independence in this or similar ways?  Are you tempted to just do things for the children to make things faster?  I'd love to hear your ideas--leave a comment!

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Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Starting off Small

At the beginning of the school year, it's so important to start off by building strong relationships with each child. During those first couple of weeks we make an even more concerted effort than usual to spend as much quality time as we can with each child. That might be reading a story with them, joining them as they build with blocks or do a puzzle, helping them say hi to a new friend, or any of the other million and one things that are new and sometimes intimidating to a first time preschooler.

Although I'm often tempted to jump right in with providing super fun and messy art activities, those tend to require quite a bit of teacher involvement and supervision, especially since many of the children have rarely even held a paint brush! Staying stationed in one spot for most of the morning means that those important relationship building and one-on-one teacher-child interactions aren't happening with many of the children at this important stage in the game. The kids are just learning how to navigate this big new space and all the new people and things it contains, so they really need us to be with them every step of the way.

But I still want to provide something in the art area! I want them to know there will be fun activities awaiting them every day in that wonderful area. So I start off small:

A contac paper collage, with large scraps of construction paper needs little to no supervision.  It's a nice little sensory experience, and can be switched up easily simply by providing different kinds of scraps.

A tray full of large stickers (I got mine at Discount School Supply) and small pieces of paper is simple and fun, with that bonus of fine motor development thrown in there.

Tape a huge piece of paper to a table with cans of crayons and pre-cut pieces of colored tape.  So simple. So fun!

Various types of crayons spice things up a little :)

I always start off the year with my youngest kids with only one color of paint at the easel.  Looks a little boring to us, but it's new and exciting for most of the kids.  They'll quickly work their way up to being able to handle more!

How about you?  How do you start off your school year in the art area?  Have any simple activities the kids can do all by themselves?  Share down below!

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Bubble Wrap Painting

I. Love. Bubble. Wrap.  It started when I was a kid, and my parents would let me pop the bubbles when a package arrived in the mail.  There is something so satisfying about that activity--and I've brought bubble wrap into my classroom for the kids to pop lots of times.  We've pinched it, poked it, stomped on it, and spread out long strips on the playground to run on (SO fun!) 

But painting on bubble wrap is a whole different cookie :)  There's no popping involved, but the process is equally satisfying in a completely different way.  There's something  fun?  sensory?...about rubbing a paint brush over those bumpy sheets of bubbles!  Thick brushes, thin brushes, small bubbles or big--it's all just great fun!  

Painting on the bubble wrap can be the beginning, middle and end of this activity--or you can make prints too!  Just show the kids how to place a piece of paper on top of their painted bubbles, rub it lightly, and peel it off.  Bubbles!  Yay!

Have you painted on bubble wrap with your children?  Do they love it?  Do they just want to pop those bubbles? I'd love to know your ideas--leave a comment!

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Painting with Tiny Tools

What is it about tiny things that is so appealing to kids (and me!)?  All those coins, acorns and rocks that end up in their pockets are definitely proof of this obsession.  So let's go with their interests! 

Painting with tiny tools builds strength in the fingers--children have to grasp these little items and try to keep a hold of them as they dip them into paint, and then concentrate as they make various marks on the paper.  Challenge them to try lines, squiggles and dots!  Watch as they come up with ideas you hadn't even thought of!

I like to use tiny (or at least small) trays, papers, and paint holders when I'm setting up this activity.  I've gone much smaller than the paper you see pictured above.  Sometimes a little loop of tape to hold down the paper is helpful.  Try small papers in different shapes to mix things up even more.  Painting on pennant and triangles can be particularly challenging (and fun!) with this activity.

Need ideas of tiny tools to use?  A short list might include:
cotton swabs
marker lids
film canisters
makeup sponges
small blocks
mini shampoo bottles
golf tees

What are your favorite small things to paint with ?  Have you done this in your classroom?  I'd love to hear your ideas in the comments below!

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Sunday, June 3, 2018

Open Ended Play Dough Tools

The play dough table is often one of the most-used spaces in the classroom.  I switch up the color and smell of the dough every couple of weeks.  Depending on how much use it's getting it can sometimes last a bit longer, but usually it's getting a bit crumbly by day 10.

There are SO many things you can do with play dough.  If you have nothing to add to it, kids love pinching, pulling and poking the dough.  Rolling and stacking and smooshing are also popular!  Over the years I collected as many gadgets and gizmos as I could find.  I avoided cookie cutters as much as possible since they aren't exactly open-ended, though I found simple shapes like stars and circles could really add to the imaginative side of playing with dough.

(A tray that encourages the children to sort items by type as they put things away is a great way to sneak math into your day!)

 Hardware stores are your best friend when it comes to play dough tools!  That's a caster cup pictured above, and it pokes a million tiny holes into the dough.  Peeling it off is so fun, and if dough gets stuck in between those pokey parts, oh the joy of digging it out!

 Simple little cups with snap on lids (I found mine at the dollar store) are so fun for the kids to fill with tiny pieces they've cut or pinched off a big lump.  They love to stack them, fill them, take the lids on and off...

 Mini PVC pipes!  YES!!!

I always liked to have something to cut with at the play dough table, whether it was plastic scissors or knives.  These (Discount School Supply, of course) plastic scissors are great because you don't have to have a teacher hovering at the table--these can go out even at the start of the school year with 2 or 3 year olds.

What do you like to put at your play dough table?  Have you thought about the open-ended qualities of your tools?  Do you have  a favorite scent or color of dough?  Leave your comments below!

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