Saturday, March 22, 2008

Creative Preschooler Wants to Know?

"Is there such a thing as TOO much paint?"

While visiting Cornerspring recently I had a chance to observe the art lesson as well as the children during the creative process. The lesson was Ways to Create Texture with Paint and the art teacher, parent and artist Eva, did a beautiful job of demonstrating the use of different tools: Natural sea sponge, paint brushes, foam brushes, paper towel etc. Some of the children, as is often the case, had creative ideas of their own.

One child used his fingers to create texture and another just kept adding paint, paint, paint and more paint. When I asked her if she felt she had enough paint her quick and quiet response was,
"Is there such a thing as too much paint?"
I enjoyed the moment and took this photo to share with you all.

*Point of interest: My role in the classroom this day was as an observer, therefore I did not want to interfere with the art teacher's lead. I did point out to Eva that allot of paint was being used at that end of the table and she took it from there.

But it made me think about how I would have handled the situation ...
I think my answer might have been, "That is up to the artist to decide."
I would also point out to her that she was welcome to use another piece of paper if she wanted.

Most likely the piece she had been painting on, would tear when she tried to carry it to the drying rack. When this happened, I would comfort her if she was disappointed (of course) but I would also try and facilitate learning from the experience by asking open ended questions such as, "Why do you think the paper tore?" and "I wonder if your paper had less paint on it would it have torn?" It is important when asking these questions to keep your tone non-judgmental.
"You could do an experiment," (I would suggest) "you could use less paint with your next piece of paper and see if your paper ends up tearing."

Our goal as Montessori teachers/parents who lead art exploration with young children, is to:
  • Provide the materials and space,
  • Give a brief introduction of how to use the materials respectfully and the intention of the activity (as well as how we would clean up something specific, if this is a concern)
  • Allow for freedom of creative expression (i.e. coloring outside the lines, using too much paint, making a mess)
  • Make observations and share appreciative praise with every child in the group.
*I also feel that while leading an art activity it is not the time for me to create. Children may compare their art to mine and feel less confident about their abilities. My goal is for all the children to feel successful and to enjoy themselves. I will (when possible) share with the children examples of the style of painting or sculpture done by famous or local artists. We admire and appreciate but I make a point to express it is not our goal to recreate something someone else has already done, we are unique and special and so too is our art work.



MumatCraft said...

I can see the therapeutic value in what the little girl was doing, exploring how the paintbrush made the paint move and how the layers were created. I'm not a Montessori teacher, so I may be wrong, but I would be more inclined to offer some paper of greater strength so it wouldn't tear. After all, isn't the process more important than the end product? Looks like fun :)

~ Cindy

Montessori Mama said...

Absolutely Cindy, I also can see the therapeutic value and the value in the little girl's desire to apply the paint (which I think was the reasons she was repeating this over and over). When working with a group of children, making sure you have enough supplies for every child to complete the project has to be a consideration of the teacher. Balancing this with individual creative expression can sometimes be a challenge. Our wonderful Art teacher Eva offered the child less paint in her paint bowl for her next picture, a different weight paper was not an option (although a very good suggestion) and the child was able to apply ALL the paint from her paint bowl to her next paper (which she happily did :)
So yes, the process is more important than the end product, however sometimes the 'finishing' of a project is the goal of the child (i.e emptying the bowl of paint). It would be my job (as I see it) to recognize this and to allow it to happen without interruption
Other ideas I just thought of after reading your comment:
When I observe something a child is drawn to or enjoys and repeats (often a signal to me they are learning from it) I try and create works that will help them come closer to the concept they are grasping. Some different thoughts I have for this child....
painting with water
washing objects
and yes, more painting.
Thanks for the comment!

writinggb said...

Such a smart question -- is it possible to have too much of a good thing?! What a sweetheart. Perhaps a hard lesson to learn at such a tender age, though, huh? :-)

I know, kids are very concrete at that age. But I can't help thinking of the symbolic significance of what she was asking....

Cindy said...

Hi again,

Thanks for responding to my comment. I hope you didn't think I was trying to 'correct' or criticise your actions. I definitely wasn't. I was actually thinking I'd have fun and would be quite relaxed painting thick paint on something. I paint from time to time too but have so little spare time right now with a newborn.

I was thinking another option for your little student who loves to use thick paint would be painting a mud mixture on some ply board or piece of wood. It's cheap, reusable and changes colour when it dries! It's also an outdoor task, because I know you guys love outdoor work. We actually added dirt to paint for a university project we were doing, to add an interesting texture to a path.

Anyway, quick question for you: I don't have any copper in the house, so what other polishing tasks can I set up for my three-year-old?

Montessori Mama said...

Dear Cindy,
I appreciate the dialog and the suggestions! That was my original intention for this blog. So, No, I did not feel criticized, I just felt the need to respond. Thank you for your comments, truly.
My favorite polishing work is Mirror Polishing. Most of us have a full length mirror (or sliding glass door?)a spray bottle (or sponge) and towel. It's fun and easy, if you are a neat-nick and cringe when she is finished, ALWAYS ALWAYS remember DO NOT clean it again in front of your child, wait until she's asleep before you break out the Windex :)
I hope this helps.

Cindy said...

Hi again :)

That's a relief!

Re. the mirrors: Believe it or not, I don't have any mirrors in the house that are suitable for that. I'm afraid that if I let my daughter polish those, they'll fall off the wall and shatter (it's an old house with large mirror tiles on one bathroom wall). Maybe one of the low windows would be better. Do you have any other ideas for items she could polish whilst sitting down? Or any similar tasks that use the same skill?

Montessori Mama said...

Hi Again Cindy,
Items to polish...let's see
door knobs (obviously not sitting down)
napkin rings
pot lids
and trinket type objects you may have
I hope this helps!
I'd love to see photos.

Montessori Mama said...

Hi Again Cindy,
My friend (and mentor) Paula just offered me some more suggestions to give you:

..wood is so much fun to polish and you can use linseed oil..or even olive oil. Also a leather shoe...metal it isn't but it does shine.

I'll keep thinking on this.

Anonymous said...

Hi MM,

Thanks for all the great suggestions. They're so simple that I immediately think, "Oh, of course!" Must be having a newborn has turned my brain to mush.

I'm sure I have some wood up in the shed. If I cut them up and sand them (or get her to help sand them!), my daughter can polish some extra natural blocks to add to the ones I've already made and painted for her. Love it!

I'm sure I also have some glass pot lids that could do with a shine ;)

Tell your friend thanks a lot for the suggestions too!

~ Cindy

(I hope this works - it won't let me save my comment...)

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