For the museum’s preschool art class this week, I borrowed the idea of painting with mittens from Teach Preschool, a great website / blog dedicated to all things preschool learning. There are tons of ideas on that site for things to do with preschoolers, many of which are art-related, and lots of which tie into books and reading. This project was simple, after I found little-kid sized mittens. Sounds like a simple thing to look for, but they turned out to be not so easy to find, let me tell you. After trolling through various online sources and turning up with only nicer / expensive ones, I finally discovered the cheap polyester ones I had in mind on the winter clothing rack in the infants section of Wal-Mart, where they were 4 mittens (2 pairs) for 88 cents.
So, you need paint and you need mittens. Paper upon which to paint was, as I saw, a nice plus, but entirely optional. But then, that’s usually the case with preschoolers and art, right? 🙂
Each artist started out with a paper plate with 2 large-ish puddles of washable kids paint, a sheet of paper, and two mittens. There was no initial reluctance over the mittens – I think they rather enjoyed the squishy coolness of the paint as it seeped through the mitten fabric (oh yeah, be forewarned – this is a smidge messy!) I encouraged them to get the idea of making mitten prints by putting one mittened hand into one of the paint puddles, pressing down firmly so as to soak up lots of paint, then transferring that painted hand to the paper, pressing down firmly and lifting straight up to make a good print. Here are the results – I think they turned out nicely!
This last one has thumbprints as well as mitten prints – that’s what those orange dots are.
The controlled press-squish-press-lift technique lasted, oh, 5 minutes before, as you might imagine, the boredom sank in and the bigger curiosities of “what happens if I turn my mitten into a paintbrush instead of a stamp?” and “what happens when you mix these two colors together?” and “is this paper really necessary? What will Mom look like with a mitten print?” and “what does this paint taste like, anyway?” At that point, the paintings began to look a little more like this:
Actually, these are the more refined ones. The others looked not unlike large brown blobs and had to be saved before more paint was gobbed on them (use thick paper for this project – did I mention that? We started out with the thin stuff – bad idea for paint gobbers (i.e. all preschoolers).
Also, as you can see from that last one, the mittens were rejected after about 20 minutes in favor of just using hands – which had paint on them anyway because these were cheap mittens. I expected as much. I might have even encouraged it, as I showed the kids how to make a lighter color by mixing in white paint – using a mixing tool I carry around all the time – my index finger. So there you go.
We started out the class by doing a mitten match-up activity that I found on Happy Hooligans, another great site for preschool and early childhood education. When the museum first opened, a local interior design company donated [waaaay too many] last-year’s-design wallpaper books and we’re always trying to come up with ways to use them. This was a good one, if I do say so myself. It’s just a simple matching game – I traced a mitten outline that was approximately the same size as a kid mitten onto a wallpaper sample page, flipped the outline over and traced it again on the same sheet of wallpaper (so there would be a left mitten and a right mitten – a pair). I cut out far too many pairs (I think about 50 pairs – overkill for just a small group of kids). I was amazed that only one of these kids had ever played a matching game before – I played Memory all the time when I was a kid. (Actually, I played it with my grandmother, who always remarked that this game always proved to her how old she was – I didn’t understand that then, but I get it now…). The kids picked it up quickly – and they really liked it. I’m sure it’ll make an appearance again in the next few weeks. I’ll probably divvy it up for the kids who are really into it so they can play at home.
We wrapped up our art activity and matching game with a couple of wintery-themed books, Holly’s Red Boots by Francesca Chessa, and Here Comes Jack Frost by Kazuno Kohara. Both of these are great books for winter – and for wintery art projects other than this one.
Holly’s Red Boots is about a little girl whose mom says she can go outside and play in the snow if she finds her elusive red boots. The search is on for all things red, only to determine they are not the boots she is looking for. She finds them, a few pages from the end, but it’s too late – the snow has melted. Lucky thing snow boots and galoshes are pretty similar…
Here Comes Jack Frost is all about Jack Frost, who ushers in the cold and snow of winter. These kids had never heard of Jack Frost – someone I remember my mom telling me about when I was very small. I don’t know if I thought of him as an actual person or not, but I remember being told that the ice paintings on the window panes were Jack Frost’s work. This little book was about a boy who befriends Jack Frost, who tells him that they can be friends and play together, but the boy must never mention anything warm around him. All is well until, many days into their adventures together, the boy spots a plant sprouting from the ground where the snow has receded. He says “It’s time for spring!” and poof, Jack Frost is gone, with a whisper of “see you next winter…”
I might return to these books some other wintery time when it’s time to learn about things that are red or if we do salted-watercolor paintings. The book I planned to use when I first did this activity (but had low attendance because of the weather) with the Doodlebugs was Jan Brett’s The Mitten, which recounts a Ukrainian folktale about a boy who loses a white mitten in the snow and quite a few forest creatures take up residence in it. Great activities with that one too (each kid is a different animal and must climb into a small mitten shape taped out on the floor – there are 8 animals total, it gets comically crowded). The Mitten is definitely headed for The Littlest’s library.
Yep, I’m looking forward to realizing my own age through matching games and making all kinds of mitten art – and the inevitable handprint art – someday very soon with our own little ‘un. Filing this project away for later use…
What is Doodlebug Club?
I work at an art and history museum, and one of the best parts of my job is working with kids. I teach a weekly preschool art class called Doodlebug Club, where I get to try out all sorts of ideas that will become some of the fun things that we will do with our Littlest Brooks-Livingston. I’ve never had any real art training, but I think it’s a lot of fun, and to me, it’s very important to make art more approachable than it ever seemed when I was a kid.If you’d like to read about more of the projects we’ve done in Doodlebug Club, click here. Check out my Doodlebug Club Pinterest board here.