Yesterday marked the start of school holidays in our household and with a six year old, three year old and one year old… it’s certain to be a busy three weeks! We started the day with some outdoor play – hours spent riding bikes, playing in the cubby and jumping on the trampoline. After lunch we decided to do some painting. Here is where it all went a little haywire!
We set up the acrylic paints (you know the ones… they don’t wash out of anything!), some jars of water, brushes and some canvas sheets. The three year old and six year old were in their element, mixing colours and narrating their process and their product to me. But the one year old… was not happy. See, she had been left out. I had not made a place for her to explore and so she began climbing on the table, stealing their brushes and making a general nuisance of herself. I quickly found some less permanent paint and paper for her and gave her a brush. A brush which she promptly cast aside in favour of a pencil that she use to stir and poke at the paint. She wasn’t interested in “painting”, she was interested in the paint.
And so, I let her explore the paint. She dug in it, she poked it, she rubbed it between her fingers and held it out for me to inspect. And it was then that I began to think about the way in which we often (not always) approach painting in the early years. Over the years I have heard phrases like “keep the paint on the paper” or “don’t mix the colours up, you are ruining them” countless times. While we claim to value process over product
, in saying things like this, we undervalue the fact that paint is simply a material. Sure, it often is used to make marks on a page, but it’s not its only purpose.
When we provide materials and experiences for children we need to just let them be. Let them explore, create, discover… let them just play