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Art : exploring the media


These activities are designed to introduce children to the properties of different materials.  Once they are familiar with these properties, invite children to mix media in different combinations.  Throughout this process children's knowledge can grow alongside their creativity.

Enhancing the Skill

Encourage children to move from larger to smaller spaces as they become more familiar with the artistic medium.  For example, when they use watercolors, invite children to paint with water on sidewalks. Then move inside to a smaller easel.

Offer children a wide variety of materials that are appropriate to their various levels of development.  Children at age five are beginning to show greater finger and wrist control.  By using materials they feel comfortable with, children are likely to feel more control over the outcome of their artwork.

Have a Painting Party : ages 4 and up

Materials: different surfaces such as shelving paper, sandpaper, egg cartons, paper bags, adding machine tape, and boxes, tempera paint of various colors, paintbrushes in different sizes, newspaper

Once the area is set up, help children choose their paint surfaces.  Encourage them to paint and experiment with the available materials.  When they finish with one surface, invite children to switch painting surfaces and continue their explorations.  Encourage children to talk about the different textures.

Discuss with children how the paintings they created can be used.  For example, some flat paintings could be mounted for display, and painted boxes could become a creature or vehicle for play.  They may want to combine their painted objects into one special work of art.

Wind-Powered Painting : ages 4 and up

Materials: large sheet of paper, tempera paint thinned with water, Ping-Pong or small plastic-foam balls, shallow pans, newspaper, straws

Gather children for a discussion about the wind.  Talk about how wind is moving air and how it can move things like trees or flowers.  then discuss different ways that people can make air move, like blowing out with their mouths or waving their arms. 

Clear an area of the floor and cover with newspaper.  Place mural paper in the center and invite children to sit around it.  Pour thinned paint into the shallow pans, and set them on newspaper along with the Ping-Pong balls. Ask children to dip the Ping-Pong balls in paint , and then challenge them to move the balls without using their hands.  Encourage them to try blowing the balls but be flexible about other ideas they come up with.  Talk about the patterns the balls leave on the paper.

Sculpture in a Bag : ages 4 and up

Materials: small lump of clay, measuring spoons, plaster of paris, water, plastic bowl for mixing, plastic spoons, 1 self-sealing plastic sandwich bag per child, masking tape, markers

Initiate a discussion about sculpture.  Ask children how they might form a lump of clay into a different shape.  Invite children to alter the lump of clay, and discuss the changes they make.  Together, talk about the different materials that can be used to create sculptures.

First, help children make the modeling plaster.  Measure two tablespoons of water and four tablespoons of plaster of paris per child into a bowl.  Invite children to take turns mixing the ingredients with a plastic spoon.  Help children pour a portion of the plaster mixture into one corner of a plastic bag and then seal it.  Then put masking tape across the self-seal to keep the plaster from oozing out.  Let the mixture set in the bag for a few minutes. When the mixture has set but not hardened, invite children to squeeze the outside of the bags to shape the plaster inside.  When the children are finished, ask them to open the bags so air can get to the finished shapes.  Allow at least 30 minutes for the sculptures to completely dry.  Then provide markers for decorating.

Beads, Beads, Beads : ages 4 and up

Materials: paper, wooden beads in different sizes, shapes and colors, paper grocery bags, spray bottle filled with water, plastic straw and toothpicks, potter's clay

Cover your table with grocery bags, and spread your bead collection in the middle.  Offer each child a small ball of clay,  Invite children to roll, push, and pull the clay.  Encourage children to use the clay to make their own beads (if clay gets to dry mist with water).  Note that the beads on the table don't have to be copied but are meant to help inspire their own ideas. When children are ready to make holes in their beads, put out the pencils, straws, and toothpicks.  Invite them to experiment with different hole-punching materials.  Place beads on pieces of paper to dry.  When dry provide tempera paints to color beads.


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