Children’s Participations with Teacher Initiated Art

In my combined first and second grade classes, teacher initiated art provided experiences for children to participate in the art center during Choice Time.

Activities provided: various types of collages; string painting; ink blots; clay; finger painting; rubbings; mixing colors, sometimes with medicine droppers; potato printing; object printing; tissue paper art; sponge painting; straw blowing; and large and small brush painting.

Some techniques would be explained for using the materials, but never how to make a finished product. For instance, if beans, peas, seeds, and rice were on the table with cardboards for making collages, they would be shown how to use the glue, and because the materials were heavy, if it were immediately picked up at an angle, all would fall off until it had time to dry. If introducing clay, they would be shown how to make a ball, roll it, and by using different utensils are able to make a variety of designs, but it was up to them to create.

In using the materials, children were developing their small muscles. An excellent addition to making bean collages is giving them tweezers to use. Some first graders may still have difficulty using scissors. It’s not wise to force this or teach them how. They will accomplish cutting with confidence if they have enough time to develop the necessary small muscles. If an issue is made, they may become self conscious and resist even more. Children who can’t cut, every so often will pick up a pair of scissors and try it out. If it doesn’t work they put them down and choose something else to do. But one day, when they try it, it works!!! So they may spend the rest of the time cutting over and over again. And, as with everything else, when they’ve had enough time to cut in a haphazard manner, enough time to experiment with this new tool, they will begin to use them very purposely for their projects.

Some things were not offered very often. For instance, paper maché is not in the above list. It took too much time to finish – just ages before the whole class finished. Clay was expensive, so it wasn’t readily offered even though it was an excellent medium for them to use. They had an art class once or twice a week which included clay more often than in our class. For potato printing, since the potatoes didn’t last long, it was an occasional activity to make patterns on large paper to use as wrapping paper for parents’ presents.

It was important to begin offering materials a little at a time to see how the class handled all that was involved – to see how they used the materials and how much responsibility they had in caring for all. This determined how much variety could be offered. The rules that we had were only enough so that children could function comfortably. Accidents of course happened, and it was only important that they were willing and able to clean up the messes.

These concrete experiences added to their joy in creating and provided opportunities for increasing their cognitive development.

Read more about Choice Time and programs in my book, Early Childhood Programs: Opportunities for Academic, Cognitive, and Personal Success. Included is a web site where programs and activities can be downloaded for use in a classroom. Also, see 7 reviews on

Young Children’s Cogitive Gains Through Art

Art for young children entails an exploration of materials, a way of learning further about their world. When children are engaged with paper-cutting, gluing, constructing, coloring, designing, collaging or whatever, they should be able to participate at their own maturity level. Piaget believed that children need activities that they can relate to in their own past experiences and from there, will seek novelty. It’s this novelty that fosters a child’s growing intellect. Therefore, it’s important to offer as many different materials as possible to stimulate interest and provide opportunities for new and interesting creations. As they interact with old and new materials, to paste or construct or paint, each child is able to thrive and grow. It is the process of art that should be emphasized. When participating in art using their own ideas, children are learning a tremendous amount. They have opportunities to develop the very same cognitive traits necessary to succeed in academic areas.

In many art activities, there are possibilities for understanding transformations and reversibility. A child who doesn’t understand these characteristics while cleaning tables with sponges will squeeze the water out all over the table. Then he will saturate the sponge with that same water squeezing it out on the table and this is repeated over and over again – until finally realizing that the saturated sponge must be squeezed out in the sink. So, he has watched the water from a small sponge spread out over the table, a liquid being transformed, and then is able to soak up the same water into the sponge again, and see that same liquid reversed. Transformations are evident in all kinds of painting – brush painting, finger painting, ink blots, and string painting. Paper folding after cutting out designs for snowflakes shows transformations, and then reversibility is evident if after the paper is unfolded, it is re-folded to show the original state.

There are opportunities to become aware of similarities and differences by discovering objects that will print and not print, can be pasted or not pasted, can be taped or not taped and the possibilities of recognizing things that are larger or smaller, smoother or rougher, darker or lighter.

Similarities and differences plus transformations and reversibility are pre-requisites to understanding classification. This requires a recognition of the relationships between the parts to the whole – using separate paints to make one whole painting; the whole to the parts – a piece of paper cut into separate parts; and the parts to the parts – whenever engaged in making symmetrical designs.

There are numerous opportunities to aid in understanding conservation – the ability to recognize that different substances are the same amount no matter what types of transformations take place. This occurs when realizing, with that sponge full of water when it  spread all over the table, that the same amount of water can be contained within the sponge again, and understanding that one ball of clay or play dough made into many different shapes is the same amount when put back together again into one ball.

Overcoming egocentrism, the ability to understand other viewpoints than what is first observed, occurs when constructing with paper or boxes, or working with clay, or making mobiles. A child is looking at all sides and angles – offering the ability to see all aspects.

And through social interaction with others while listening to various viewpoints, there are chances for good logical thinking, and problem solving.

So, art activities for young  children keep their minds active in numerous ways and should always be an important part of the classroom.

Read more about Choice Time and the Art Center in my book, Early Childhood Programs: Opportunities for Academic, Cognitive, and Personal Success. Also, see 7 reviews on

Children’s Explorations in an Art Center

In my combined first and second grade classes, children freely participated in the art center during Choice Time.

Readily available materials bought with school supply money included: all types of paper; scissors, pencils, crayons, and felt pens; masking tape and scotch tape; staplers; craft sticks; string and yarn; wallpaper books; paint; rulers; and plasticine. Then parents supplied a huge variety of junk materials.

It has been long understood that when children are participating in art, they are in a process that includes nourishing expression, an acuteness of the senses, experimentation and risk-taking, developing imagination, and creative development. However, in addition to these assets, it’s also another way of communicating.

Much of art for the young child involves exploring a wide range of materials. It should include the process that is emphasized. When children were given directions for making a product, like making a present for their parents, I didn’t consider it art. It may have been following directions and the product important, and it may have been very attractive and artistic and a valuable activity in itself – but it wasn’t art for young children. It wasn’t using materials creatively. One’s own creations allow a child to thrive and grow emotionally and cognitively.

Young children’s initial art experience is pure investigation, but as they grow older and have more involvement, the maturity of their art unfolds. With various materials, there were three stages while making collages, working with clay, and with different types of painting. At first there’s pure exploration with sometimes smearing and dabbling. Sometime in the middle of messing around, an idea begins to take place. This stage is finally replaced with attempts to replicate a preconceived idea.

When participating in art activities using their own ideas, children are learning a tremendous amount. Using many materials, they are learning about similarities and differences, transformations and reversibility, and opportunities for overcoming egocentricity during any type of construction, constantly seeing all sides of a structure. So, they have opportunities to develop the very same cognitive traits necessary to succeed in academic areas.

Read more about Choice Time and programs in my book, Early Childhood Programs: Opportunities for Academic, Cognitive, and Personal Success. Included is a web site where programs and activities can be downloaded for use in a classroom. Also, see 7 reviews on

   Teaching Young Children © Peggy Broadbent 2011 - All Rights Reserved