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Okay, so we all have heard that messy play is good for kids. Not just good, but totally beneficial when it comes to encouraging creativity, inspiring imagination and even improving critical thinking skills. That said, sometimes we have to be practical. Let’s say you’re at grandma’s house for a week in the summer. The kiddos are begging to do a finger painting art activity. But, grandma’s white carpet or couldn’t-be-cleaner kitchen just can’t handle the splatters that are sure to ensue. What now? I have an answer that let’s your child ‘finger paint’ without actually using anything that’s a liquid.
I used to teach a preschool art class in a museum – entirely in the art galleries. If you think grandma freaks about getting teeny tiny droplets of tempera on her tile floor, imagine what the museum higher-ups thought about the prospect of having 3- to 5-year-olds making art in the same space as original Monet’s, Van Gogh’s and Pollock’s. Obviously, no paint was allowed. But, the kids always wanted to paint (and the parents always asked about it).
In order to get a paint-y feel, without actually making a mega mess, I swapped in soft modeling clay. The clay sticks to the paper underneath, and almost acts like actual finger paint (if it’s soft enough your child can mix colors, create textures and explore with lines/shapes). It’s also a tremendous fine motor workout!
In the past we’ve done general exploration types of clay paints as well as famous artist-inspired ones. This time we’re adding some math (and a recycle/reuse theme). Instead of buying paper or board, have your child search the house for a cardboard source to reuse. Cereal and cracker boxes are great options. The cardboard is thick enough so that the clay doesn’t soak through, but thin enough that the kids can still cut it.
How does the math come into play? Your child is going to make her own geometric shapes to cover in clay paint! Use these instead of flash cards or ready-made products to learn shape names.
Here’s What You’ll Need:
· Soft modeling clay (in at least two different colors)
Here’s What to Do:
1. Draw shapes onto the cardboard. Your child can make them as small or large as she wants. The bigger the shape is, the more clay (and more work) it will take.
2. Pull the clay apart into pieces.
3. Smooth the clay onto the cardboard, finger paint style. Your child can use her hands to mix the colors together, blending red and yellow into orange, red and blue into purple or yellow and blue into green.
As your child works, she can layer the clay to make textures, uses her finger tips (or simple tools such as craft sticks) to make patterns/marks or add more colors.