Friday, 2 August 2013

painting with one year olds

paint on a reflective surface and a one year old's first encounter to explore with their whole body... we had chosen a child we knew would feel comfortable with this through our observations of painting with hands and brushes
as expected there was an interest in how the paint felt
the child was being observed by other children - and there was constant connection of laugh and smiles and small noises.
then the hands explored how the paint felt on the body...
and the surprise that it left paint on the tummy too!
then it was time to see what happened with paint on feet - this really caught the attention of those watching...

and the joy of spreading out the paint across the surface - sliding and gliding - and yet still with complete control.

washing up afterwards is still VERY much part of the process - watching the water turn blue - watching the colour change and disappear on the body...

the one year olds that had been watching made it very clear that they wanted to try paint on their feet too... this took us by surprise as they were two children who did not like to get messy at all...

and once they had put paint on their feet, they were satisfied - there was no need to be a part of the collaborative artwork more than that - but it did give the chance to discover their own footprints on the floor!

Small children need time to explore on their own terms... and it can be wonderful to give children opportunities to work alone/small groups and inspire others, who are watching, to test something new out.
It was a magical time - and I feel so lucky to have experienced it - it was not just about the artwork but about communication... how the children communicated with each other throughout the session and how the children communcated their desire to try out something new... it was not planned ... but its important to listen to the children... even the ones without words - as they have so much to say...


  1. Even if you can't understand what they are saying all the time, they still have lots to say. Very true!

  2. Fantastic, Suzanne! This looks very much like what we had going on here yesterday except we used a large piece of cardboard as a canvas. The process lasted about an hour, the child was completely covered, and our morning ended in a bath as well. I love that we can give children these opportunities to explore.

  3. Can I ask what type of paint you used. My one year old puts everything in her mouth.

    1. I use non-toxic ready mix paint (a kind of tempera)
      Over the years I have seen children put paint in their mouth, but never consume it... as it does not taste particularly good. None of the children have ever had problems after digest a small taste of paint.
      If your child decides that it is tasty then maybe it is more appropriate for your child to have sensory experiences with edible things...

      let them play with spaghetti and tomato sauce on a large white surface (a tray maybe) so that art shapes can be seen, but can be eaten at the same time

      Blueberries are also a great food to mush and play with on white paper and eat at the same time... the small berries can help with fine motor skills (although European blueberries are more pigment rich than American ones)

      a bowl full of yoghurt that small drops of food colouring can be added and mixed in for a colour sensation experience that can then be eaten

  4. Thank you. I'll try the blueberries and yogurt.