One day when the Toddler two class was visiting the atelier, one child made a snowman out of clay. This simple snowman sparked an entire activity based on various shades of blue, silver and white paint. We provided the children with tiles, q-tips, and shades of blue, white and silver paint. They were free to explore on the tile and express their knowledge of snowmen. We placed the original clay snowman in the middle of the table as inspiration. 

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What unfolded was a beautiful learning experience. The children worked on making circles, identifying the different shades of blue, the fact that silver and white are indeed two different colors, and engaging in sensory play. Some of the children covered the entire tile in blue paint and practiced drawing circles with the q-tip. They were exploring the use of turning a positive space into negative space, a complex concept in the art world. The children painted with the q-tips, sponge-brushes, and their fingers. One child in particular created a piece that highlighted the texture differences in each painting utensil… you could see the marks from the sponges, smooth lines from the q-tip, and prints where he used his fingers. We discussed what would happen if we mixed the blue and silver paint, blue and white paint, and white and silver paint together… and then demonstrated this to see if the children’s hypothesis were correct. This opened the opportunity for us to explore shades, tints, and what happens when you mix two things together. 

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Painting provides numerous opportunities for advancing physical abilities including fine motor skills, hand-eye coordination, and visual perception. According to Emma O’Hanlon and Laura Berquist, research has been conducted and shown that the act of painting promotes lateralization of the left and right brain hemispheres, improving the brains ability to integrate functions such as creating thinking with planning and execution. Painting aids in emotional development by having the ability to transform feelings and ideas into visual form and supports the development of a self-concept.

Painting also provides several cognitive tasks for children, such as experimentation, exploration of cause-and-effect relationships, critical thinking skills and visual discrimination. Our favorite part about painting is engaging the children in discussions involving their own observations and evaluations. A core philosophy in the Reggio Emilia approach to learning is that children are human beings too, not just children who need to be taught. We love hearing their reasons for certain strokes, compositions, and representations!

“Given an easel, paper, and paint, and no directions, every child will paint!” -Katherine H. Read

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