Sunday, 4 November 2012

Painting a zoo

"that's not green"
 Last term I read the book  Polar Bear Polar Bear What Do You Hear? To my group of 2 and 3 year olds and they immediately fell in love with the story and the whole idea of zoos. We even turned it into a song (one is always grateful for the talents of others - and I work with a pedagogue, Niclas, who is very musical) and this became the children's favourite song too. The children wanted to paint a big zoo to fill the wall so of course we went into the atelier to do this. The children were very confused when on the huge paper on the floor there was just blue and yellow paint - they had been very clear that we needed green. So I asked them to mix up the paint and see what would happen...

wow, wow - it turns green!
 They were totally amazed that the paint turned green. The children were stripped down to their underwear/nappies so that they could have a full body experience - and they painted themselves and the paper everywhere.
handprints, foot prints - even bum prints!!!
The energy was fabulous, as was the sense of collaboration - they showed each other different techniques and also the different kinds of greens that could be mixed depending on how much yellow or blue was mixed.
making grass with fingers

tissue paper polar bear
Once the paper was covered in green - and we had washed the children ( a big bowl of soapy water - and the children had admired their footprints from the paper to the bowl) it was time to let it dry and consider what else we needed to create a zoo.

Animals of course.

We used the exact same animals that were in the book and instead of the animals being a part of a creative "lesson" they became part of our morning meeting. An opportunity to talk about the animal, talk about what colour tissue paper we needed - and then an opportunity to take turns. Each child was given a little pile of tissue paper (those who understood the concept of tearing it into small pieces could do this themselves, others received a pile of ready made small pieces). I had drawn the animals so that the children could glue the pieces on. They needed to listen - where should the pieces be, they needed to observe - was there anywhere on the animal that still needed some tissue paper, they needed to be patient and wait their turn, as not everyone could stick on their paper at the same time. There are ten animals and a zookeeper - and by the time we got to the zookeeper the children were able to sit and appreciate each other's work, even offer advice without feeling stressed about "its my turn its my turn" or pushing in to stick down their paper while its someone else's turn.

Sometimes you need to be clear in your own head, as a teacher, what is it that I want the children to learn from this? Is it to experience new materials? To learn to collaborate? To learn to be patient and take turns? To learn a new technique? To learn how to express themselves? To learn how to have fun creatively? Not all creative experiences are going to have an obvious learning outcome - they are an experience - it is play. But sometimes we need to understand more about the learning involved in what we are offering so that we can then supply the right activities for those children in need.

For example

  • the spaghetti painting was due to the need for a sensory experience - little hands that NEEDED to squish and squeeze
  • the dragon skin painting was done because of the need to do something fun and not with an obvious outcome to help take the stress out of creating a product for a few of the children.
  • the still life painting of a bowl of fruit was due to the need to discuss how we all view the same things differently.
  • bubble painting - to help children with pronunciation problems, to help train the mouth muscles to allow them to more easily make certain sounds...
I could go on, but then this post would end up far too long. No doubt more examples will make their way to this blog as time goes by...

I do though surf the internet looking for art projects - and then just wait until the right moment turns up - either as a project or as a need for the group or an individual. Most often adapting what I see to fit the circumstances and needs of the children. 

OK time for me to post - and then go surf for some more ideas....


  1. What a wonderful sensory and learning experience, Suzanne. I love how you describe all of the skills that the children learn while doing even the simplest of activities. We take for granted sometimes that play is just PLAY, but there's always so much more going on, isn't there?

    1. I so agree - many often forget the learning potential of the simplest things - its like as adults we take so much of what we have learned for granted - like riding a bike - we forget all the hard work that went into it as a child to balance, to get the right speed, falling down again and again, but getting up and being determined to learn.
      I think as adults we forget about the fun of learning, the play of learning - the PROCESS of learning and think only about the product of learning which makes failing much harder and not so much fun!!