Saturday 16 February 2013

The Love Tree

it started with a discussion about LOVE - what is it? The children came to the conclusion it was a tree -  oranges, stars, butterflies and hearts grew in the trees. Love is pink, green, blue, red, yellow and purple. They saw their footprints and handprints in the snow as traces of love.
 During the last week we have tried to piece together the children's thoughts about love - to allow the tree to grow - and hopefully over time the tree will continue to grow. In a way this is a kind of philosophical artwork - not just the discussion about "what is love" but also that the artwork will continue to stimulate the children's thoughts and musings about love and friendship.
the children had seen their own footprints as traces of love in the snow - so I wanted to capture this in our artwork. Painting the soles of their boots with daddy-coloured paint and walking on paper was our first step to creating the tree. The colour we mixed together - yellow with a hint of red - and the children said the first attempt at making daddy colour was right (I wonder if they will be so easily pleased in the future when they get used to experimenting - I was certainly surprised that the first attempt was satisfactory - but there again maybe it WAS the exact shade they were after)
I soon saw that the prints were going on top of each other - so that when I added a little more paint to the pot I slightly altered the shade - it was still acceptable. It made it easier to see the individual footprints. The children laughed a great deal at the experience - the sort of laugh that as a teacher makes you aware that the children are excited and thrilled to be doing this - that they were sharing a new experience together.
The group was divided into two - the 2 year olds were in a group exploring ice and gross motor skills, and the 3-4 year olds continued with the love tree. Creating the oranges was the next step. We had blood-oranges at preschool so I thought we would experiment first to see if we could make prints without paint first. And it certainly worked.

we then tried using blue paint to dip the orange halves in to create patterns

full exploration of the oranges occurred. Since this is a new group of children, and for many I get the feeling that this is a new approach to learning and experiencing I quickly saw that the children did not want to make prints, but to explore - so I talked with them about if it was OK for me to make the orange prints for the tree so that they could concentrate on experiencing the materials. They thought this was a good idea. As you see they smeared, squeezed and turned the fruit almost inside-out. They smelled it and inspected how the fruit looked afterwards - and how the blue paint turned to purple (another LOVE colour) as the red juice mixed with it!
in the same session as the oranges we also stamped with butterflies. They quickly filled a page with butterflies so that they could then get on with experimenting with the butterfly shaped sponges.
it did not take long before they abandoned the sponges and started testing hand painting. The prints did not last long either as the next goal was to fill the entire paper with paint. There was a little competition between them as to how fast they could fill the paper.

they wanted to continue experimenting with colour - the butterflies had been pink, yellow, red and yellow (love colours - but also one that would not create brown - as even though I wanted to offer an experimental experience I also was after a product too - the product of the children's thoughts about love). The children wanted to try out blue - so I said maybe we could change the yellow for the blue to see what would happen - this they thought was a good idea - and they were aware of the shift to a more purple colour once I encouraged them to see it - BUT their focus was not at all in the colour but on filling the paper and feeling the paint.

I asked them what would happen if they used their fingernails on the paper - and there was excitement when they saw patterns on their paper. But again this was just a little detour in their mission of the day - the sponges came back into action and smoothed over the patterns to ensure there was no white paper showing anywhere. 

The next day we worked on the hearts and stars part of the tree. Using heart scouring sponges (to stimulate the fingers - a different feeling the the previous day's sponges) and cookie cutter for the stars. Having witnessed the previous days spreading and wiping of the butterfly sponges I was expecting the hearts to be the more popular tool - but I was wrong - the stars were the most popular.

This time we used green, blue, yellow and white paint.

for both the hearts and the stars - there were more heart prints this time as the children seemed more capable to make prints - maybe as a result of having been allowed to experiment the previous day so fully.

yet again the multi-coloured paint trays became works of art in themselves.

and then paper was no longer required. The children only wanted to experience the paint on their hands - laughing at the farting noises it made as they squeezed it and admiring how far up their arms they could spread the cool paint.

A few handprints were made - but not many at all - the paper was not required - this was body art.

the tree is starting to grow in our window - the footprints have been cut out to create the trunk and branches of the tree, and the hearts, stars, orange and butterfly prints have all been cut out and added. We have also been drawing around the children's hands and cutting them out. For one child it was an amazing experience - she just could not believe that she was holding a pair of her own hands cut out from paper - she laughed and squealed with delight (for me it was an amazing experience to witness - pure joy and wonderment) The reason for hand "leaves" is based on the children making handprints in the snow as signs of love - and it is orange because they discussed that love was daddy-coloured - which turned out to be orange (maybe I will find out one day why orange is daddy coloured - but my suspicions are that it was simply due to the fact that when I asked more about daddy-colour one of the children had an orange pen in her hand)  
 (oh, and in the background you can see one of the snow piles that we like to play on!!)

a detail of the tree. Of course there will be more things added - I am hoping that it stimulates more discussion about what is love - why they have chosen the things that they did, hopefully their thoughts will deepen and expand - and as they do the tree will continue to grow with their thoughts. There are more thoughts we still have left to add - one child has said her cuddly cat is love, as is dance, and all of them have mentioned their family - so how these thoughts are to artistically created I am not sure yet - its a case of observing the children and seeing how their thoughts and their developmental needs can be woven together to create an activity to stimulate and emulate at the same time...


  1. What a beautiful tree!!!! I love how there are so many different techniques being used.
    Really neat that they were able to make prints with the oranges without paint!
    Thanks for sharing!

    1. it has been a fabulous experience - and yes the orange prints without paint took me by surprise too!

      On Wednesday we are going to sit under the tree and reflect upon what we have done - and see if there is anything missing from our LOVE TREE!