The children participated in an art activity this week by making a fall masterpiece using leaves. The project started by their utter fascination with the leaves outside on the trees, so we encouraged them to express their knowledge and interest in leaves in a multiple ways, one of which through this activity!
We gave the children large leaves and set up an area for them to paint with various warm, fall colored-paint and a variety of paintbrushes, and some paper baking cups. We actually weren’t sure what they were going to do with the materials, for examples: use the leaves to paint, paint on the leaves, use the cups to paint, paint on the cups, use the cups to hold the paint, use the leaves to hold the paint, etc.
The children ended up painting on the leaves and cups and spent a considerable amount of time simply feeling the leaves, rubbing the leaves against their hands, against another leaf, and just exploring the texture of it. One child liked to rub the leaves together to hear the crackling sound that was produced. Another child used her paintbrush to paint all of the colors on the leaves. Another child used his hands to cover his leaf in paint. The children slowly incorporated the paper baking cups into their artwork by using it to help spread the paint and to paint on themselves!
This project was substantial in the children’s progress because the entire activity is based on the children’s interest: leaves. Creating projects and activities based on the children’s interest is one of the core philosophies in the Reggio Emilia approach. Moreover, it gave the children an outlet to engage in sensory play and express their knowledge of the world. The children were about to feel the contrast between the texture of the leaf, the smooth and slimy texture of the paint, and the texture of the leaf when paint is applied. We’ve noticed that children are naturally drawn to pouring, rolling, or sliding materials and objects down ramps, chutes, tubes, and across tables. So observing them smear paint across the leaf and table was a wonderful experience for the teachers as well!
During this activity, we discussed warm colors and compared them to the color palette we used for this activity. We also discussed fall, what happens, why these colors correlate to the fall, and why leaves are falling from the trees. While the children might not completely understand now, this activity helped create a link between leaves falling from trees, warm colors, and cooler weather! Moreover, there are several learning benefits the children experience during this activity through engaging in sensory play. The benefits include cognitive development, social skills, a sense of self, fine motor development, and communication skills. Even if the children aren’t verbally speaking to one another, they are constantly communicating with each other. Before children can even verbally communicate, they are developing an understanding of things in their environment by actively exploring them with all their senses. Eventually, when children do become verbal, these sensory experiences will help them describe similarities and differences in what they see, hear, taste, touch, and smell!