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Toddler Talk: Guided Painting

Most painting activities set up for three to five year olds are wonderful, open-ended and creative. The kids are in charge and can paint or design anything they wish. This is extremely important. Kids should be able to pick up a brush and paint whatever their hearts desire. But, as a life-long painter, I think there is value in taking a moment to learn about painting tools, artists, and styles with your kids. One fun activity I enjoy each year with the preschoolers in my life is painting a still life. We enjoy this whole-group activity during a week when we explore pottery, watercolors, and several famous artists. Whether you have one child, or a large group of kids, this is a meaningful art activity that kids will cherish for years to come!

Introduction: I spend some time discussing artist’s tools with my preschoolers. This is a great chance to talk about taking care of art tools. We try out a variety of brushes, explore paper and canvases, and look at some famous paintings. I love showing the kids examples of still life paintings, Picasso’s famous cubism artwork and self-portraits. We discuss how there are many different styles of painting to explore. At the end of our discussion we focus on what a still life painting is, and how you can paint one yourself.

What You Need:

A mini canvas for every child (I get them a real canvas from an art store)

Paint brushes

Fruit or vegetables (I usually pick two pieces)

A dish or plate

Paint colors to match your fruit and vegetables

With a larger group I like to put out two identical plates for the kids to look at while they paint. I model for them, showing how I can look at the plate and then try to paint it on my canvas. The modeling will help show the kids your thought process. After I model the activity, I set the kids free to take what they will from our discussion. I do not do any correcting once they have started. I will talk to them about what I see, but I allow them to make their still life in their own way.

Kids are always very engaged during this activity, and they are always very proud of what they have created!

Extension Activity: If your child really enjoys this, it may be fun to set up an art gallery in your home or school. We always set up a small gallery on one of our shelves after this project so that kids and parents can go and take a look at our wonderful paintings. You can also rotate in different things you create. We have had a great time displaying self-portraits, pottery, and our fun with cubism in our gallery as well.

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