Some of us are totally comfortable setting up the easel and letting our kids have a go, but I know others who want to hide under a freshly laundered sheet at the thought of setting up what’s essentially a painting extravaganza. And you may be surprised to learn that I can easily fall into both camps!
I don’t leave our easel out all the time because our house is small, it quickly blends with the scenery if my children see it all the time, and lately I get a little stressed when my kids request paint. This is mostly because my one year old is learning her boundaries, and I don’t trust that the furniture and walls are yet beyond her consideration as potential canvases. However, once the painting station is up, I breathe easy knowing that the painting area is as organized as it can be, which will help keep my youngest focused on the task at hand. And it’s worth the effort! Through easel painting, children learn how to hold a brush, they learn to have control over their marks, and they can experiment with color mixing, paint thickness, and variations in pressure (to name a few). The way art teacher Nancy Beal explains the experience of paint mixing emphasizes the importance of learning through doing.
“The paint is in charge. The paint is teaching them. You can’t teach someone to dive into a pool by saying, ‘Walk to the end of the board and jump in.’ He has to get on the diving board himself. He has to do his belly flop into the water and keep doing it until his body teaches him. It’s the same with mixing colors. You have to do it until you know that you can’t get orange by using equal amounts of yellow and red; you have to use more yellow.”
-Nancy Beal, The Art of Teaching Art to Children in School and at Home (pp. 83-84)
Can you imagine only learning colors through a color wheel or crayons? The nuance of color that can be achieved through paint is so varied!
Like following a recipe and making something that actually tastes good, the trick to successful easel time lies in planning ahead and having all of the ingredients ready.
- Drop Cloth
- Paint Cups
- Fat, round brushes
- Tempera Paint
- Large sheets of paper + Bulldog clips (if your easel doesn’t have clips) or a Roll of Paper
- Set up the drop cloth and easel in an open space, away from furniture and walls. Move furniture if needed.
- Clear an area or make room outdoors for completed work
- If using sheets of paper, clip as many as you can to the easel so that you can easily peel completed work off and your little artist can keep right on painting without too much fuss. Remember, they will be holding at least one paint-loaded brush!
- Fill paint containers with a small amount of paint (about 1/3 cup). You can always add more. I like to limit the number of paints with small children. In this case (above), I gave my 16 month old two colors: one for each hand. It was perfect. She likes to paint with more colors, too, but fewer choices makes clean-up easier too!
- Place the bottles of paint on a high shelf near the painting area so that you can reload as necessary.
- Cover your child in an apron, smock, or old clothes.
- Play some music to inspire your little mover/s with rhythm.
- Step back and enjoy the process. Snap some photos. Drink a cup of tea. Email your best friend. Do some online shopping. Okay, dreaming just a little bit here, but it will be fairly stress-free.
- When your child is done, pick up the paint buckets + brushes and place them in the sink, wash hands, wash brushes + buckets, wipe down the easel, wrap up the cloth, and put it all away for another day.
What camp are you in? Do you love easel painting or does the thought of it stress you out? What’s in your recipe for easy indoor easel painting?