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Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Easel painting in the preschool classroom

Photo taken by Deborah at NAEYC 2009 early childhood conference!

A wonderful addition to any preschool environment is an easel. 

The easel is open ended
An open ended activity is one in which children are able to freely participate in the process - the outcome is ultimately based on the preschooler's ability, interest, creativity, skill, and desire to participate. Easel painting is very much open ended!

In this blog post by Brick by Brick, you will see a beautiful painting done on the easel - it is an amazing example of keeping art open ended and the result you can get from the easel.  Notice the difference between the painting in Brick's post and the one in the photo above. Clearly the one above lacks the imagination of a small child (it was painted by an adult).

Changing it up
Children will go back to the easel over and over again with nothing but paint being supplied. But you can change the easel up a bit...

  • Rotate the colors of paint
  • Rotate the type of paint
  • Rotate the size of brushes
  • Rotate the kind of brushes
  • Rotate the size of paper
  • Rotate the type of paper
Spark creativity
There are also different ways you can invite interest or spark creativity at the easel...
  • Try playing different styles of classical music as the children paint - tell them to listen to the music and paint the way the music makes them feel.
  • Bring in items that are unusual for painting with like a small limb from a tree or a feather duster.
  • Add other mediums such as chalk, markers, crayons at the easel every once in awhile but the children like the paint best!
  • Tape small words or pictures or photos around the edges of the easel for the children to view as they paint.
  • Set the easel up in different places like near a window or close to the block center.
  • Try letting two children paint at the easel together.
  • If you have more than one easel, put them near each other so the children can view each other's work and to promote conversations about their work.

Choosing an easel
There are many kinds of easels to choose from but the most important things to consider is how tall the easel is and how sturdy it is.  You will also want to make sure that the easel has a good holder for paint and possibly a place to store or hold paper.

Lakeshore Learning has a pretty nifty easel you might like to check out!

Keeping it clean
Be sure to wipe the easel down regularly and to protect the floor, you can put a plastic tablecloth or mat underneath the easel. Teach your preschoolers to be responsible with the paint - don't give up and lock the easel up in a closet due to the mess. Instead, teach your preschooler to be successful in the care and the use of the easel and at the same time, be flexible and observe the growth and learning that is taking place.

An Easel Review
Be sure to read this touching little easel review from 4 Crazy Kings!


Scott Wiley said...

Some great tips. We always have the easel out, and we've done some of the "change up" ideas that you listed. Since our easel has a dry erase/magnetic side and a chalkboard side, we use those things with the easel, too. But paint is the favorite.

(P.S. Thanks for the link.)

Launa Hall said...

My daughter briefly attended a preschool where they didn't get out their lovely easels most days, because the resulting mess was "a chore to clean up." Thank you for this reminder of the simple joy and pleasure of a fresh easel, ready to go, in a child's preschool environment. So important, so fun!

Deborah (Teach Preschool) said...

Yes, the clean-up is a popular reason many teachers stash the easel or just set it out but never add paint. Too bad for sure! The easel is such a valuable tool for learning - and little elbow grease is good exercise!

Teacher Tom said...

The best thing about teaching in a cooperative is that I have tons of parents in the room to take care of clean-up. =) Although to be honest, I couldn't care less if they get cleaned off. We just let the paint dry on them over the course of the year, then give them a new coat of "real" paint each fall before school starts. I like our funky rainbow easels.

I have 3 free-standing easels, solid, wood, old-timey. A few years ago one of my parents was a professional furniture maker. One day I mentioned how cool it would be to have a series of 4 easels mounted along the wall under our windows with hinges so they could be pulled out when needed and folded flat against the wall when not in use. He came in one weekend and surprised us. Pretty cool!

Deborah (Teach Preschool) said...

I need a handyman like that!

mamabare said...

We take our easels out onto the grass every couple of days with some buckets and soapy water and let the kids go for it - clean in no time :)

Deborah (Teach Preschool) said...

And fun too! You could paint the easels with the soapy water:) Add a paint brush and watch the colors of paint start to spread out and bleed together. I suppose the sponges have the same outcome:)

Anonymous said...

We put a large piece of clear lamination (just a few inches bigger than the surface of the easel) over the easel to protect it from the paint. It can be cleaned or it can be thrown away.

Another helpful tip is to add a bit of dish soap to your paint. It makes the paint washable so it comes off very easily!

Sherry and Donna said...

If you're child's teacher is not putting easels out with paint because they don't like having to clean up a messy area at the end of the day ... clearly they are in the wrong profession! ... busy, busy play = busy, busy mess ... and as mamabare suggests, turn the easel clean up into a fun, sensory experience for the children ... they will LOVE IT!

Originalkat said...

I just bought a new easel for my home based preschool classroom. I LOVE easel painting! In fact I think it creates less mess than painting at the table because everything has its place. I have started a new challenge with myself. Easel Painting EVERY day and so far it has been wonderful.I change the type/size of paper and am in the process of buying more variety of paints including tempera, dot dot painters, water colors, finger paint, and a variety of brushes.

I never find clean up to be too difficult. I cover my easel painting surface with clear contact paper and the paint wipes off like a dream. I have a fresh easel each morning!

Here is the link to the easel I bought which is VERY sturdy and just the right height for 1-5 year olds.

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