Every child is UNIQUE!

Even such a simple activity as printmaking/painting with shapes can be interesting and educational for kids of various ages if you allow them to explore and do whatever they want. It is especially important to keep it in mind if you plan to do something specific like I did today. Letting kids explore can bring lots of surprises and lessons, even for mom. And it is important not to forget that every child is UNIQUE!

What I planned:

I wanted to explore color mixing, shapes, and printmaking.

What we used:

1. Finger paint: Yellow, Blue, Red.
2. Plastic shapes.
3. Plastic tray as palette.
4. Paper (A3 for 4 and 6 y.o. and A4 for 20 m.o.).
5. Masking tape for fixing paper on its place.

Twenty months old:

He doesn’t have much experience with painting using different objects, so I showed him how I put the shape into the paint and then make a print on the paper. (I should have probably skipped this step because he could watch brothers and repeat, but I needed to attract elder boys into the activity by showing an example). My little one watched what I did and repeated. He started with putting several shapes into the paint. Then watching how I did more prints on the paper, he took the shapes from the paint and put them on the paper. Now his fingers attracted his attention – THEY WERE DIRTY! He looked at his brothers’ fingers that were dirty too! He made more prints. Looked at his dirty fingers. Looked at his brother who was painting with fingers. And finally wiped his finger using my hand, or, probably he painted on it, who knows.

It was his first exploration after which he abandoned the activity for a while but came back in ten minutes.

This time he intentionally pained with his fingers! He painted, then watched his fingers, pained again and then watched what was happening with his fingers. He also loved when I squeezed new paint on the palette.

Did he do what I intended:

Not really.

Did I expect it from him:

From twenty months old? NO!

Did he learn something:

YES! He explored his senses: what he feels when his fingers get dirty, how he feels wiping them, or putting a finger into a paint. He even explored his senses when he was washing his hands after the activity. He explored colors and practiced watching and repeating. I am sure that it is not all!

Four years old:

He started with making prints using shapes. He was curious about this activity exactly 10 seconds until his fingers got dirty. He told me about this fact, and when I answered that they SHOULD get dirty, he put all the shapes aside and started to paint with his hands.

He was mixing and mixing the paint on his paper, the scratched it with his nails and mixed again, scratched and mixed. He shook his hands. He mixed the paint on the tray. He was absolutely involved in creating a mess, huge mess.

Looking at him and recollecting that before this activity he said that he doesn’t like to paint, I assumed for a moment that probably it was true. But the emotions on his face were saying otherwise.

That is the reason why sometime after we all were done with the activity, I started a dialog about painting:

Mom: “Don’t you like to paint?”

4y.o: “I like it”.

Mom: “Don’t you care how nice your painting looks like?”

4 y.o.: “I don’t care how it looks like AT ALL!”

Mom: “So you like the feeling of the paint?”

4 y.o.: “YES! I like it A LOT! I like to feel the paint on my fingers and hands. That is what I like in painting. “

Mom: “And don’t you mind that there is only a mess on the paper?”

4 y.o. “I DON’T CARE!”

Thank you for opening my eyes, darling! We, adults, are so absorbed with the final results in our lives, that even when we are doing a process art, we still think about the paper and what we see on it. Sometimes we forget that in such kind of activities a sheet of paper is simply a layer which protects a table from the paint, but the child’s effort and energy should not be aimed into creating something on it. 

Did he do what I intended:

NO.

Did I expect it from him:

Honestly, I hoped to discuss color mixing with him. We kind of started this dialog a couple of days ago.

Did WE learn something:

YES! I’ve learned a lot! I’ve learned that this boy does not care about the painting, but he cares about the PAINT on his HANDS (and his body as well! He always tries to get as messy as he can when we paint! And he often dances on his paper or a palette!). The most important thing in painting for him is sensorial! That is why this boy doesn’t care about the colors, he always wants blue! All he cares about is the process! And there is so much to learn from him!

Almost six years old:

He took the first shape put it into the paint, looked at the paint on the shape and said:

6 y.o. “Look how cool it looks!”

Then he started to create telling me what he was doing:

6 y.o. “These things look like veins!… I am doing your organs, mom! Here is the heart. Blood goes through these things… I can use yellow, but only for your fat, because you have fat!”

Mom: “Why do you tear the tape that holds your paper?”

6 y.o. “I need it for my painting!”

I often used the masking tape to hold their paper in its place, but it is the first time, when this boy decided to use it in his creation! He just recollected how we used it in our other projects and understood that it could be useful here! I am impressed.

Did he do what I intended:

Not really. He didn’t think about color mixing, and almost didn’t use yellow (luckily he doesn’t think that I have lot’s of fat), and he made prints only a little bit, he mostly painted with his fingers.

Did I expect itfrom him:

YES! There is so much to explore and discuss with shapes and colors! NO???

Did he learn something:

YES, at least I think so, or hope so! With this boy it is hard to say what he actually got from the activity. He can do something for an hour or more (that is how long he was paining), then when I ask him after a while if he liked it, he says: “It wasn’t really interesting to me!” Ok. At least it looked like you enjoyed the prints, feeling the paint, imagining mommy’s organs and fat, and that you loved exploring the abilities of the masking tape.

My boys almost didn’t use my shapes, they didn’t explore color mixing as I imagined it while setting this activity, but each of them discovered and explored something for himself, and that is much more important! As the result, I’ve learned a lot while doing this activity and discussing it with them!