I can’t believe I haven’t yet posted on painting.
I have so many pictures of my kids painting, it’s going to be hard to decide which ones to add to this post. My pre-schooler was starting to annoy her older siblings today, so I asked her if she wanted to paint, which she did happily for an hour. I have a wooden tray full of washable tempera paints, a lot of brushes, and aluminum pie pans stored on top of a high bookshelf, ready to be pulled down in an instant. (There are benefits to not making your pie crusts from scratch!)
In the Montessori “sensorial” materials for ages 3-6, there are color tablets for learning the names of the primary and secondary colors, as well as learning about and being able to recognize varying shades of color. Painting is a practical life activity which complements the color tablets perfectly. Over the years of very frequent painting at our house, I have developed my own little theories about introducing painting, and I hope every reader will take these guidelines with a grain of salt, and just do what works for your family.
Painting begins at age 2 1/2 here, but really steps up at age 3. The child sits at a small, completely empty table, usually wearing an apron. I provide one color of paint (red, blue, or yellow), one paint brush, one cup with about an inch of water in it, one napkin, and one large sheet of (preferably) white paper.
As the child progresses in skill and desire, the 3-year-olds are eventually offered all 3 of the primary colors. They will mix and mix and mix these colors with total concentration and fascination. Their paintings will lay flat to dry, or be hung up on an easel with clothes pins (another favorite practical life material.)
Age 4 is a great age for permitting trays of only black and white, and then later adding these 2 colors to the primary colors. More mixing, mixing, mixing. In the photo below, you can see the difference between a 4-year-old’s interest in mixing (on the left) and a 6-year-old who has mixed enough already and is ready to start trying to paint recognizable pictures.
Age 5 (and anytime after) is a great age to add secondary colors and metallic, glitter or neon paints for fun. You can give a child a canvas panel to paint, let dry, and frame – and then let them paint over it the next time. (Canvas is expensive!) Or hang the pictures on the fridge, or on the walls or windows with ScotchBlue tape. Children also love to paint the little wooden or paper mache crafts you can find in stores like HobbyLobby.
After tempera, we move on to water-paints. The tubes I have are less “washable” and reserved for ages 5 and up. I am hoping over the next year to learn more about water-painting with my kiddos!