One of my life’s missions for all preschool teachers is to teach the importance of play in preschool. I strive to use play-based learning for all my preschool classes, especially with preschool art projects. Learning by doing is key for all ages and especially this age group!
Let’s start with the subject of Art projects for preschoolers; it is essential. I use art and creativity to teach textures, colors, science, math–all subjects. The mediums that are available are so varied and your preschoolers are ready to participate. They don’t need to be able to read or count to start right and the learning takes place as they go along.
Children enjoy using pencils, charcoal, pastels, and chalk. Using these encourage them to vary the intensity or depth of colors. Markers have a place but they are not my first choice.
Two of my favorites are charcoal on white cardstock paper (so that it can withstand the intensity of the interaction and not tear) and finger paint.
Worthy of note here is the use of paint smocks for either activity. If your preschooler has to stop and worry about getting dirty or messy, it interferes with the discovery process.
Charcoal and Pastel Drawings
Let’s start with charcoal. Set your kids up with large sheets of white cardstock. I have even bought a poster board and cut it in sections so that everyone has a canvas to work on. Give your kids charcoal pieces and encourage them to draw whatever they want. Show them that they can use their fingers and hands to smudge the designs, thus creating different effects. They can even put a handprint on it. Ask them to discover what happens when they use different pressure or use an entire side of the charcoal rather than the tip.
Your preschoolers will need to use more pressure to create the color they want and this helps with their fine motor skills. The creations are endless as are the discoveries.
Finger Paints and Discovery
My other favorite is finger paint. Before you say “oh no, the mess” let me offer some ideas. Again, remember the paint smocks and pushed up sleeves. Then you can use your water table to put the finger paint on. Let the children smear it around, use different objects such as a fork, a feather, a comb, to create different designs. If you use the primary colors on the table, let them experiment with color mixing. This never ceases to amaze them.
If you or your children prefer to not get their hands messy, you can use plastic zip-lock bags. Put the paints into the bags and tape them closed just to be sure they don’t come open. Next, put these in the water table and let the children press, squeeze, pick up, and observe what is happening. ( I do like to put these into a deep water table or if you don’t have one, you can use plastic tubs. This is just a second precaution in case the bag comes open.) Your kids can take the different color bags and overlap them to see what new color they see; another way to discover color mixing. They enjoy the feel of the bags, the paint, the texture, and the coolness of the liquid inside.
I use this time to ask questions such as: “Who has the blue paint?”, “who can make purple?”, “what happens when you put red over the yellow bag of paint?” You can teach color recognition, directionality such as “over, under, next to, on top of”.
If you use these ideas with your preschool art projects you too will understand the importance of play-based preschool activities. Your kids will be engaged, discovering and learning throughout your time together. They will remember what they did and what they made happen. Play-based learning is far more effective than worksheets or simple class instruction. Learn by doing. That is my motto for preschoolers.