Thursday, May 9, 2013

Making Painting Supplies Available

If we want our kids to experiment with and learn to paint, the supplies have to be readily available. All of the classic art books say this. It's also a Montessori principle: we help the kids to help themselves. This is a great idea, but actually doing it can be a bit tricky. What if I don't have enough space to make a paint corner or shelf? What if my kids get paint all over the house?

We live in a small apartment in Berlin and space is a huge issue. We are constantly getting rid of things to avoid clutter. It is a constant battle. And for years, I would pull out the paint supplies each time the kids wanted to paint, and then we would put it all back when we were finished. And then, for a long time, we didn't paint much at all because it was so much work to go through this process each time. 

Here is a simple idea that I want to share with you. One morning as the kids trekked into my bedroom for the 100th time to get the painting supplies (as I was trying to wake up and enjoy my first cup of coffee in peace!), I decided there had to be a solution and I was going to find it before the morning was over. I ended up emptying the books from one of the bookshelves in my son's bedroom and turning it into our painting shelf. (I sorted through the old books that we didn't read anymore to give away, and relocated a few others.)

In the picture above, you can see that I put paper, two trays, two sponges, paints, and a jar of paintbrushes. There are also two picnic tablecloths that the kids can spread on the floor to put their materials on. Behind the bookshelf are also two wooden boards that they use as a hard surface to paint on. With the tablecloths, each child can paint on the floor in his/her room without risk to the furniture and upholstery.: )

I then showed each child how to clean their supplies and put them back in a more or less orderly fashion. After a couple of times helping them, each child can now clean up after him/herself without leaving a mess. 

As for the paint itself, my kids use quality tempera or gouache paints that can be easily washed off of walls, rugs, furniture, etc. just in case an accident happens.

The result is that my kids have been painting much more frequently in their free time! You can see some of their work in my last post.: ) 

So, even if you you think you can't find a place in your house or apartment for the kids to have their own paint area, I encourage you to think again. Even a tiny space where the kids can get to things on their own can make a world of difference! 

 . . . . . . 

Ein großes Prinzip in der Kunsterziehung ist das Material den Kindern zur Verfügung stehen, unabhängig von Hilfe der Erwachsenen. Aber in der Tat kann das ziemlich schwierig sein zu realisieren. Was macht man, wenn es an Platz in der Wohnung mangelt? Wie meidet man eine große Kleckerei mit der Farbe?

Unsere Wohnung ist ziemlich klein, und mich quälte schon jahrelang die Gedanken, eine Malecke bei uns ist nicht zu einrichten. Eines Morgens nachdem die Kinder tausend mal in mein Schlafzimmer kamen um die Malsachen zu holen, müsste ich einfach eine Lösung finden. 

Ich habe dann alte Bücher bei einem Bücherregal im Schlafzimmer von meinem Sohn aussortiert und die Malsachen (oben im Foto) da verstaut. Jetzt kann jedes Kind sie unabhängig von mir nehmen und danach aufräumen. 

Die Kinder benutzen immer eine Tempera oder Gouache-Farbe, die man ohne großen Aufwand auswaschen kann.

Das Ergebnis: viel mehr Kunstwerke bei uns zu Hause!


  1. I've been thinking the same but too much afraid the little one would paint everything else))) Too often I'm too busy to pull out all the stuff they need and it makes me sad.

    1. Hope this inspires you to look around your apartment and see if there isn't a small space that would work. I think your youngest is old enough to learn some rudimentary clean-up skills with paint, although you should plan on fully helping for about 5 sessions before he really gets it.: )

  2. Thanks for this! I confess that I have never been brave enough to offer paint in our Junior Church classroom. Not least, I worry that some children come wearing their "Sunday best" and that even having smocks might not adequately protect their clothes.