Open-ended art is the way to go with preschool-aged children. When we say "open-ended" it means that we provide the materials and then let them create without our interference and thoughts. Something else to remember is that "it's the process not the product" that matters. There are times where showing a technique is acceptable, but in the end, remember...it's "their work" and whether they choose to use that technique or not is up to them. If you really want them to use a certain technique then that's fine, have them do it...but then provide another piece of paper for them to do what they wish!
Painting is the easiest type of open-ended art. You can vary it in so many different ways that it stays interesting. Also, remember that children need repeated experiences. It's often the adult that has the thought "well, we've already done that!" but the children need to be able to explore many times with the same materials. So "no worries" when you repeat open-ended art experiences! The product is usually quite different from one time to the next.
With our transportation theme, I had planned to do a car track painting activity. Typically I try to provide at least 2, many times more, colors for the children to use in their work. It's a great way to explore coloring mixing. I love to hear, typically from my youngest student who hasn't experienced much of this type of work before, "Look what's happening, Ms. Amber!" Back to the topic, we happened to have a thunderstorm this morning and we got on the conversation of what's happening to our road and yard (mud) so we decided to make a "mudhole" and use brown paint with our art experience. The children loved it! The picture below shows how I set it up to minimize "mess" and encourage children to work from left to right.
Other painting variations:
* Provide 2 different size brushes.
* Work at the table one time and at the easel the next. If you don't have an easel, put newspaper or plastic table cloth on the wall and under where they are standing and voila!
* Vary your colors...primary, secondary, a color + white, a color + black
* Make your own paint tools! Many kitchen tools make neat prints. We've used yarn, straw, rubberbands, raffia, foam, sponges, potato mashers, forks, as well as some purchased texture painting tools, etc.
* Don't forget fingerpainting!
* Add texture to the paints.
* One day play fast classical music and "warm" colors the next day use the same tools but "cool" colors and slow classical music. (Interesting results for sure!)
* Paint with marbles in a shoe box or oatmeal container; use a large box and use golf balls and large marbles.
* Sponge painting or cookie cutter painting.
* Tape paper on a slide and dip a plastic ball and let it roll down!
* On a nice warm day, use a water bucket and large paint brush out on the sidewalk.
* Water down paint and put a big piece of cardboard up against the side of a fence, house, shed, etc. Provide a big brush and show them how to dip and press at the top of the cardboard...it will drip down to make a neat effect.
* Sponge rollers with a large appliance box to make forts or "vehicles".
* Water colors (water color/crayon resist is fun also!)
Oh the list is endless!
Tips to minimize "mess":
* Whenever possible use child size table and chairs. However, many home settings do not have this option. So, plastic table cloth over the table and booster seats on the adult size chairs. If you do not have booster seats use a towel covered stack of telephone books or something similar. Why? When they are on their knees they often lose their balance and reach out and touch something you really don't want them to touch. It's also a lot easier for them to wipe their hands on their clothes when they are on their knees vs. sitting right up to the table and arms right at the table level.
* Paint shirts. I do have a couple plastic sleeveless paint smocks that I purchased from www.discountschoolsupply.com. And I do use them. But with children younger than preschool...it's easier just to strip them down to their diaper! :-P With preschoolers, a old tshirt a couple sizes too big works nicely. It slips over their own clothes and the sleeves usually go down past their own rolled up sleeves. I typically have clothespins clipped to the bottom of our paint shirts to use at the neck after gathering the material so ALL of their torso is covered.
* Add dish detergent to even the "washable" paint. It will help it easily come out of clothes, tools, and off hands...because yes, even some "washable" paint do not come out very well.
* If you are using 9"x12" construction paper, a plastic tray works nicely to help keep the paint all contained. For any size paper, roll masking tape placed on the back of the paper to secure the paper to the table.
* Placing smaller amounts of paint into egg carton sections allow for less paint, easy clean up (just throw away) and the ability to use more colors without wasting too much. You can always add a little more to the sections if a certain color is getting low!
* I purchase a case of store brand wipes and we call them 'art wipes'. These are perfect to help get majority of the paint off their hands before sending them to the bathroom to wash their hands! (Otherwise you will get a new paint color on your sink, walls, and cupboards if they are indendently washing their hands). You can also have a bowl of warm soapy water and paper towel to rinse off hands also.