This week was April break numero dos in our house. My kids go to schools in different towns so this week my little guy had his mom all to himself. We decided to explore some new watercolor paints.
Here’s my recipe for watercolor painting with little ones using tube paints. There is nothing fancy, and we use recycled things from the house as much as possible.
~ Paint brushes – big is better for the little ones
~ Water – we use recycled jars, but anything will do, filled up 1/2 way and change frequently
~ Sponge – make it damp, and squeeze it out every so often
~ Palette – plastic egg cartons are the best
~ Smock – optional, and not that important for watercolors, but it’s good to get in the habit. Ours is made from dad’s old shirt. I just cut off the sleeves and sewed a little elastic around. If you don’t sew then just cut the sleeves off altogether.
~ Squeeze a bit of paint into each compartment of your palette. Use about the same amount that you would on a toothbrush. Use some colors straight, and mix others by combining a squeeze of this and that.
~ Pour in a bit of water into each compartment. A tablespoon of water will get you light colors, a teaspoon will make your color more saturated (darker). Mix with your brush until all of the paint is dissolved.
~ Teach your child that there is a method they must follow: Paint, paper, water, sponge. Paint, paper, water, sponge. It’s amazing that if you have them practice this method over and over, even two-year-olds will soon get it! You may have to guide their hand at first, and make sure to explain that this method will keep their paints clean. Clean not muddy (this is a good mantra to repeat while painting).
~I like to encourage kids to cover their whole paper. I’m all for artistic expressions of a “swoosh”, but that should come later when they are actually meaning to make a “swoosh”. When they are young, I want them to really focus on covering the whole page with paint, and to be deliberate. Believe it or not, when my daughters were little they never really liked to spend much time painting (figures!). So when I would ask them to make sure to cover their entire page, it helped them to have a goal and it also made them get into their flow. Once in their flow, they could slow down and start to enjoy the process.
~Talk to them about their color choices and about what is happening on the page. You could say things like: “I see that you chose red first, that’s a bright color”, or, “Wow, that yellow ran into the blue and now it’s green!” Painting will little kids should be about process, not product.
~I’m a big believer in exploring mediums in depth. If you have brought the watercolors out, then leave them out for the whole day. They may want to come back later. You could provide large paper, or even brown paper bags (use the inside), and then later in the day you could provide small pieces of paper, or strips. Variety is the spice of life!
~ Once the exploring is done, have them help you clean up! I know, it’s faster and easier to do it yourself, but it’s important to start good habits young!
So remember: As parents, we are never going for perfection. It doesn’t have to be pretty, and it will in fact sometimes be a mess! Prepare for a mess, leave it out all day, and encourage them to talk about what they see, think, wonder.