Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Messy Summer Art

Our school is in a building that doesn’t appear to have undergone any significant improvements since it was built in the 1950’s. We’ve painted the walls, of course, and keep it relatively clean, but the shine is off the doorknobs and there are more than a few things repaired with duct tape and zip ties.

Several years ago, a parent wanted to take on the project of replacing our dull, cracked linoleum floor. It’s a bit of an eyesore, I’ll admit, but the thought of a brand, spankin’ new floor worries me. I don’t want to be responsible for it. I can see myself swooping in with a sponge with every drop of paint. I don't want to spend our precious classroom time keeping things clean. It’s bad enough having nicely painted walls and ceilings because we tend to get paint on those surfaces as well. No, we ultimately decided, the money would be much better spent on toys, art materials, and other curriculum supplies. The floor is just a floor.

As far as I’m concerned, preschool should be messy and the ideal preschool should be as much like a garage as possible. The only real improvement I can imagine to our current floor, for instance, would be a large drain in the center of the room so that it can just be hosed down at the end of the day.

Parents regularly tell me that one of the reasons they’re enrolled in our school is because their children get to have art and sensory experiences that would never be permitted at home.

Be that as it may, it’s now summertime and a comment to my post Art As Process by EvaC got me thinking that patios, backyards and garages are perfect places to get messy while school is not in session. For those of you (like Eva) with kids who delight in being up to their elbows in something gooey or who tend to involve their entire bodies in the creative process, here are a few messy painting ideas for the summer:

Bubble Printing
Mix water and a little liquid dish washing detergent in small bowls then add a few drops of food coloring to each bowl. Give the kids drinking straws and let them blow until they’ve created a frothy mound of bubbles. Make a print of their creation by showing them how to gently lay a piece of white paper on top. Use that same piece of paper to collect prints from the other bowls.
Note: The younger your child, the more likely she’ll be to suck instead of blow. The solution won’t hurt anyone, but it’ll taste pretty yucky. Also, if you can find liquid water color, it makes for more vibrant prints and easier clean-up than food coloring.

Bubble Painting
For older kids, try mixing the same solution as for Bubble Printing (you might want to make the colors a bit more intense) but instead of drinking straws, break out the bubble wands and let your kids try to blow bubbles that then “pop” on a piece of paper hung from an easel or taped to a fence. Another technique is to let the kids chase the colored bubbles around the yard with blank notebooks or pre-folded paper and try to catch them between the pages.
Note: Blowing bubbles can be very challenging for young children, so be prepared to change the game if your child starts to get frustrated.

Body Part Painting
This is a good one to try when the wading pool is already out in the yard. Pour tempera paint into a shallow container (like a pie pan) spread out some newspaper, butcher paper, or even an old sheet or towels. Let the kids use their feet, hands, arms, legs and bottoms to paint, then wash themselves off in the pool.
Note: Tempera paint can get very slippery. Also, it could be fun to break out some paint brushes and paint each other! What a great way to learn about respecting other people’s body space and treating them gently while still having fun.

Splat Painting
Put the tempera paint in large-ish containers. Get out a small step stool (or chair) for the kids to stand on. Let them saturate an old balled up sock in the paint, climb onto the ladder and let it drop. You can use newspaper or butcher paper on the ground, but you don’t have to: tempera paint should hose right off most concrete or asphalt surfaces.
Note: Try putting the balled up sock into the toe of another sock or, even better, the toe of cut-off panty hose before dipping it into paint. This will give your child a "handle" should he be squeamish about getting his fingers “painty”. Of course, this also gives your child the ability to swing your paint “bombs”, which, in turn, makes them easier to launch off in all directions!

Fly Swatter Painting
This is one of our most popular classroom art projects (and one that always results in paint on the floors, walls and ceiling). Hang some paper on an easel, wall or fence, then swat it with paint covered swatters. I like to draw little flies on the paper as targets.
Note: The younger the swatter, the more likely he’ll be to want to try his swatting technique out on things other than the paper – like other people – so this is one you’ll really want to monitor closely.

Spray Bottles
Fill a spray bottle with food coloring tinted water (or diluted liquid water color) hang paper on an easel, wall or fence and squirt away. A long piece of butcher paper along a fence makes a very fun group art project.
Note: Like with fly swatter painting, there will be a tendency to want to see what happens when one squirts something other than the paper, so stay alert.

Cardboard Boxes
There is nothing more fun for young children than a large cardboard box. Appliance boxes are the best, but anything they can get inside is fun. You can even connect a series of smaller boxes. Painting them is a messy way to have fun with them. This is another fun group art project.

Mud Painting
Hey, they’re already making mud, right? How about cutting some pieces of heavy cardboard, help them mix a batch of thick mud, then give them putty knives, small shovels, forks and other spreading tools to work their canvasses. If you mix some white glue into the mud you might even get to keep the result when it’s dry.
Note: You can make this project an extra crispy bucket of educational by helping your kids mix up several batches of mud with various consistencies. Talk about “thick” and “thin”. Notice the way the different batches feel and move. Make paintings with the various types of mud, then follow the results as they dry.

These are just a few messy things we do normally do inside that you might want to try outside. If you have other ideas, share them in the comments.

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Anonymous said...

I agree about your school and great ideas!

Anonymous said...

you make me want to be in preschool again...not as the teacher, but as your student!

Teacher Tom said...

That's the cool thing about co-op preschools Tracy: parents DO get to be in preschool as both teachers and students.

Kirsten said...

Oh! That discussion about the floor makes me so happy. I'm so grateful that my kids got to have their first experience of school with you!

Teacher Tom said...

I'm just grateful that you let me play with them, Kirsten! I have a story about Henry that I always tell to my incoming families.