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Thursday, August 26, 2010

Here is my favorite little artist! My grandson, Ben, is shown here last year enjoying finger painting!

I've been promising to give some ideas on my blog about encouraging children in art. As you look at the delight on Ben's face and the hands all paint covered, you know this is where the action is with little artists. Ben's mother, my daughter, Julia, was " into" art from an early age, also. She now has a studio in her home and Ben shares that area with his mother. Not only is he encouraged to work on a flat activity area, he also, has an easel of his own.
This love of art is multi-generational in our family. My mother was an artist and I grew up doing my art next to her in her "studio" (our dining room table, that had to be cleared for dinner each day!)
Finger painting is always a great way to get little artists going!

When I was a child in school, finger painting was a once a year deal, and then only with some teachers. My standout memory there was that I was all excited to do finger painting in the afternoon with the traveling art teacher who came once a month to our classes. Late in the morning I developed pains in my stomach and tried to ignore them, but soon the teacher discovered I could not get up from my seat, the pain was so bad. My mother was called and I was whisked off to the hospital with appendicitis. The doctors told Mama that I kept saying as I was put under, "I want to finger paint!" over and over! LOL!

Doing finger painting with little kids in my teaching years (pre-kinders to second grade), the thing is that they so enjoy it that they will not give up until they wear right through the paper and have nothing to save, to take home or hang up. So, to help with the mess and to help them have some paintings to hang up, I bought a stack of old cafeteria trays at a flea market and would give each child who was painting a tray to paint on instead of paper. They had just as much fun and whenever they got a picture they liked, I would press a paper down on the tray and they had a "print" of their design and could go right on painting!
Also, as another lark, when we were highlighting the letter "P" in reading, I would let them "Print with Pudding". Now that is fun! Same trays, (washed completely clean!!!!), and I gave each kid a little tub of their favorite flavor of pudding.
We would not do any prints of this! Soon they would "eat" their "paint" ! Finger licking good art!

I've been known to do some finger painting in my watercolor washes....great fun!


  1. Awwww, he's my favorite, too! I'd say one of the most important things about art with children is not to expect or promote subjectivity. For young children, art is more about the tactile experience of handling the materials, rather than attempting to depict subject matter. Instead of asking your child, "What are you drawing?", instead say, "Tell me about your picture." If your child doesn't know how to respond yet, model some answers like "This part is straight" and "You made dots here" and "The blue turned to green." If you start in too early with "Oh, are you drawing a picture of Mommy?" or "This is how you draw a circle," that suggests that depiction is more important than tactile experience, and the child misses out on an important stage of artistic development. You have to know what your materials can do for you before you start trying to control them.

  2. Wonderful, Julia!
    When you were a budding artist, I would say to you,
    "Tell me about your picture."
    I love the delight on Ben's face in this photo!

  3. What a cutie!

    Your story made me so sad! Poor little Elise! :) Did you get to do any finger painting when you were better?

    I read a fantastic book for doing art with children called Young at Art by Susan Striker (an art teacher). She promotes the same things Julia mentioned and lays out a fantastic plan for introducing colours and media to children (one at a time). There are story and song suggestions and so much more.

    Funnily enough, my son's never been big on finger painting. He doesn't like messy hands, but he's loosening up a bit now. In fact, he wasn't much into art at all when he was little. He didn't like to colour or draw at all, but now he loves it. He's currently in that "drawing the same landscape" over and over phase. He also likes to draw Mr. Men characters and lately has been doing some abstract work. I also caught him drawing the cat, and he was "sighting" it. I think he's one of the lucky ones for whom artistic "seeing" is going to come naturally. I've not taught him to "sight" because he's a little resistant to art instruction right now, which I know is normal for his age. But I did encourage what he was doing (spending lots of time looking at the subject) and gave him one little pointer about "seeing": don't think "cat" or "ears" or "nose", think about what shapes you see.

    The cafeteria tray thing is a great idea! What little finger painting my son did do was done on that plastic freezer paper. Unfortunately, once the paint is dry it cracks and falls off.

    Oh, I just remembered something that he did love doing. I stretched out a long sheet of paper from a paper roll onto the table. I gave him some temperas in shallow bowls and he used a little plastic car that had tires with defined tread on them. He dipped the car into some paint and "drove" the car around on the paper. That made for some beautiful art! ( He also enjoyed rolling a paint-coated marble around in a baking tin lined with paper.

    Doing art with kids is so much fun. :)

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  5. Ben is super cute! I'm definitely finger painting tomorrow with my little girl.Thanks for the great ideas!

  6. Thanks for commenting on my blog!
    Michelle: Oh, yes, I did get to finger paint later! :-)
    I love the idea of the tempra powder and the wet tires driving across the paper! Such fun! That book sounds interesting.
    Drawing the same thing over and over....that's so his age! It is just their way of making it their own.
    The main thing is he is loving it and doing it!

    Amie:Glad we inspired you! Have fun!

    Happy Painting and drawing and cutting and gluing etc.