Creative beginnings for tiny tots

Once again, children’s author and illustrator extraordinaire, Lois Ehlert, provided the inspiration for our classes this week.  The colorful folk art images and farmers market theme was a great springboard for lots of engaging imaginative play, role playing and
art-making with mass appeal (with built in cognitive and fine motor skill-building)!

As you can see, we prepared for our market day by making our own shopping bags and decorating a bit of spending money.  The kiddos reveled in the simple task of drawing on brown paper bags and blank paper money.  It’s always good to remember how a commonplace activity like drawing takes on a whole new level of interest when we introduce a bit of variation (paper bags instead of plain paper, for example).  Then I threw in a few basic stickers from the office supply store, and they could have “stuck” with this task for hours.  Anything that gives them the chance to use “real” supplies (office labels, money) and skills (pretending to write) that they associate with grown-ups is sure to be a hit, because we all know that at this age, they are little immitators, highly motivated by tasks that allow them to pretend to be like their parents or other admired adult figures in their world.  Plus, all this “practice” writing and sticking and unsticking of stickers is a great workout for those little fingers that will be doing “real” writing just down the road.

After we had our supplies ready (and believe me, we could have spent the whole class time just on this), the kids went shopping at our makeshift market.  They each counted (with help, as needed) three items to place in their bags.  Then they could use their play money to make their purchases, although I wasn’t too strict about this, since some became very attached to their money which had become works of art in their own right.

Before (most of the kiddos) settled in to start snacking on their “purchases”, I showed them how their fruits and veggies made excellent painting tools.  In the past, I have always used large stamp pads soaked with washable liquid watercolors for this activity.  The results are beautifully detailed prints.  This week, however, I mistakenly misplaced my stamp pads, so in a moment of semi-panic, decided to try an alternate version of this activity, simply dipping the cut produce directly into shallow pans filled with washable temperas.  The kids responded so well, I decided to stick with this version in the rest of my classes.

They caught on quickly…

For many, the tactile experience of paint on fruit and paint on hands was a wide open invitation to dive right in to a full blown finger painting extravaganza.

The colors, shapes, and textures that emerged in their paintings were often messy, sometimes beautiful, and truly unique.  Those are three of my favorite ingredients for what I would deem a successful art experience!

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