Hello, my fellow home child care providers. I hope your day is treating you very well. Today, I write about our process art based on the book The Dot by Peter Reynolds. We will also dig deeper into why children need to know the rules and expectations of our home child care that is saying yes – to boundaries.
Supplies the children used to create their masterpieces.
- Watercolor paint (any will do)
- Clothespins – the larger ones
- Pom Poms (we used the medium-sized ones)
- Small container for some water (just enough water to saturate the pom poms)
- Tray to contain the messy paint
Our little daycare is located on the lower level of my home (it is not a basement). Within our daycare, we have a little art area; it is not an atelier but serves us very well. The children can access materials, especially watercolor paints, brushes, small containers for water fills, and paint trays. Next, we have punch holes, papers, cardboard, and stencils, and under that shelf, we have clay, molds, and some other items. Here is a toddler getting her paint supplies. The pom poms and clothespins were already on the table, waiting for the children.
We love using different materials to transfer paint, unlike regular paintbrushes. This activity combined clothespins and pom poms, which made the painting apparatus. Some other apparatus we have concocted for process art are leaves, twigs, grass flowers, cars, bottles, lids, lotus, celery, lettuce, and lemons – with creativity, just about anything can be used.
At first, we tried using the pombrush (the pom pom inside clothespin) by dipping it in a little bit of water, hoping it would remain wet. We soon realized we needed more water to help transfer the paint to all the paper.
I strongly encourage providers, yes home educators, to incorporate art into their everyday activities. Art is very valuable in the early years. It is beneficial beyond creativity – it helps with fine motor skills, problem solving, hand and eye coordination, prewtriting skills, and self-regulation; it promotes independent work and allows artistic creations. We can see some of the benchmarks for incorporating art into our program here taken from the Illinois Early Learning and Development Standards.
Look at how the little fingers hold the clothespin; the joy, oh joy, of making learning fun. Yes, art helps with writing skills.
Blending Colors = Color Inquiry + Science
Children have a genuine knack for mixing and blending colors. Leave it to children, and you can witness the instaneous and effortless color blending techniques of getting all things brown or black; I am sure we have all seen this. Today though, we see how one child blended colors to get pink; notice there is no pink color in the paint pad. That’s another reason I love having watercolors in my environment; it allows children to mix colors without rules. It is entirely left to their imagination to extend their basic knowledge of one-part color mixing into two and many more parts.
So, you don’t like the mess!- Then contain it. Cut your watercolors and place them in a tray.
For educators who do not like to see a messy paint pad or the bleed of several colors, then cutting your watercolor pads maybe an option. Here is an example of using a bead storage container with our paint activities – similar ones can be found here. Here is a tip – different colors can be added to each section; add a little water to your paint chalk, and that is it. Doing this creates liquid watercolor that is readily accessible. Caution – if you do this method, please be mindful not to store it on the sides, as the liquid can drain and create more mess. I usually store this sitting on the bottom with the lid closed (the flat position).
Again, a tad bit of water helped avoid paper saturation or splats; it also allowed the pom pom to absorb more colors, thus having a mixed color effect on the paper.
Please look at how this child made the art her own. She didn’t stop with just creating dots. Instead, she took ownership of her creative process. Given time, she created various dot sizes that morphed into an animal. Over the years, I have learned and observed the value of allowing children time to finish their work, yes, their masterpiece. And you know what? – the ability to do this takes a lot of practice.
Same child, same paper, same event; however, given the freedom to create, she made a bigger dot around a medium-sized dot, added arms, and named it a Butterfly.
What other children created
- This child loves to create circular scribbles.
2. Splats made by another child – she liked to dip the pom poms in lots of water.
Do we allow children’s independent art – that is, art not influenced by an adults perfectionistic will? I am guilty of producing those artworks, the ones we couldn’t differentiate, the ones that lacked the children’s input but looked cookie-cutter. You know, similar to a manufacturing plant, producing the same product. Looking back, I made lots of those – notice, I didn’t say the children made them, I forced my will on them, and I dictated the layout of the legs, eyes, colors, and shapes – it was my art show (sigh). I’ve shifted my lenses, allowing more process art than product art, a mindset change that requires learning. relearning, reframing, doing yes, that dreaded – ACTION steps.
My Tradional Classroom Versus My Play -Based Classroom
In the past, my framework was hurried – I wanted to achieve many activities and lessons in as many content areas as possible, and it looked like I was on the clock. I had the children on the clock too. Our daily routine looked like athletes on a sports field with timers. Hastily trying to accomplish so much in one day, not because of the children but because I wanted to look like a traditional school. Our day was filled with start-stop moments, and I mean abrupt start-stop moments – even when the children were deeply invested in their creation. Back then, children didn’t have voices about the flow of their day; oh, how I have grown and changed since then.
If this resonates with you, please know that I have lived that life for years before; I reframed my mindset, learned, and shifted the flow of our day. Now, the children in my care learn confidently, and they get to create. And it doesn’t mean we don’t have routines because routines or schedules are important to young children. What I am describing is when we do not allow children enough time to make transitions, that is, when we do not allow them to finish their work before we (the adult) jump and signal, stop what you are doing; we are going to do something else. I know in my adult world; I hate; yes, I loathe when I don’t get enough time to transition from one thing to the next. I will write more about our process in a different post. However, timers have helped us a lot.
Set The Rules
I talked about being patient with the children, but now, I want to address the rules of our daycare. I have learned to set the RULES – we talk about the expectations of daycare. Setting these boundaries has tremendously helped me, even with the very young children in my care – however, it depends on the child their personality, needs and cognition. Like many home child care educators, I offer services to mixed-age children—sometimes with infants. When we have an environment with infants, toddlers and preschoolers simultaneously, it can present a challenge. A challenge in a small space where we make items available for children to USE them.
Suppose you have infants crawling around your home. In that case, your school setup will look very different from those that offer services to older children (toddlers, preschoolers) – just a few months difference in ages elicit different kinds of behaviors. I gained a lot of knowledge about their brain development while completing my Psychology degree, which has helped me in my practice. However, I am not extensively qualified to speak on children’s neuroplasticity and extreme cognition. Still, I encourage you to read and research this topic, as this will help you understand why children cannot comprehend specific commands at certain ages (ages stages).
How can we make Art possible in our Daycare Homes?
- There have been moments when I placed objects a little higher out of reach, a tad bit out of the way of crawling infants, crayon-eating toddlers, and marker-sucking children – all to save my nerves and sanity. I have also created partitions making access to the art enjoyed by older children challenging for younger children to get into. Baby gates, yes, I have used those too, and dog gates. And there are also larger play pens or gyms, and many other forms of partition, which I am sure are used in many family child cares / daycare homes—ultimately creating a safe, happy, and playful in-home childcare environment.
- I often remind home educators that the unique environment we share as a living space often can not replicate mainstream schools. We are very proactive about children writing on our walls and furniture and are intolerant to that – full stop. So how can we train the children to know what to do, to know our rules and expectations?
- We do this by modeling the behavior we want. Set the stage by helping children learn what is acceptable in your space. Yes, it may look and sound different from what is done in their homes, but these are our rules. The essence of what makes everyone happy in that atmosphere. Some children are not there yet; they can’t understand – do not write on the walls or do not write on my furniture; instead, they hear write on the wall, write on the table and chairs. Semantics or not, I now encourage the children to write on paper – leaving out the do not write on the table part of the sentence. I model write here – pointing to the papers, cardboard or wood pieces etc. Picture using sign language or gestures pointing to the paper, which hopefully we will make available to all. Repetition is the mother of learning, and the process takes time, a lot of time – it is never a one-and-done thing. Instead, we repeat these expectations daily; it becomes part of my classroom conversation and management strategy. Yes, it is embedded in our daily talks outside of a specific activity time.
- The same is true for behaviors or anything we want to work on. I make it part of our routine, and it becomes our rhythm, the vein that runs through our playschool. Maybe that is why I no longer have a lot of behavioral issues in my playspace; we respectfully speak openly about our expectations, and we tackle those that need improvements. Weaving them through the flow of our day or routines, our schedules, expectations, boundaries, and rules are all woven into our learning environment.
- Here is what happens overtime. My older children becomes my allay, my assistants, the co-teachers who help to implement the rules. They are like watchmen and women looking out for what is going right or wrong. I love these moments because those little whole beings help to oversee the daycare; yes, they champion harmony. They are quick to call out – Connor is writing on the wall, and Jily is writing under the table. I love these little mentors, my coteachers. To get to that place of camaraderie, we must speak lovingly and respectfully to all, leaving room for dialogues and inputs – they help me with the rules.
- How can children help you eleicit rules? Simply by asking them to help. What should Miss Sue do to help Ingrid play and make art with the bigger kids? Maybe Miss Sue was missing a small chair with straps, one that could help little Ingrid do art at the table without pulling down the crayons.
Like the book The Dot, may we find our talents, and may you continue improvising and turn things inside out, recycling old tricks into new ways. I am your fellow daycare provider, your nature home educator, and your early years’ professional ally who is walking alongside you in the trenches. I am Suzette Salmon, aka Miss Sue, a proud home-based educator who LOVES to facilitate the children. The lady who overcame daycare burnout and found her passion again.
Until next time – xoxo Miss Sue, now also called Sue Sue by these kids who touch my heart daily – the ones I can’t live without.