The other day I was watching my 4 year old daughter paint with our favorite tempera paints. My daughter loves sensory experiences and was rubbing the paints on her arm watching the different colors move up and down her arm. “Mama, why don’t we fingerpaint anymore?” What a great question. Too often we move from fingerpainting to painting with tools like brushes and never return to the former. But why? Using our hands to explore materials is an essential part of learning that should have a place in the educational experiences of older children. Here are 5 Reasons to Fingerpaint with Older Children.
5 REASONS TO FINGER PAINT WITH OLDER CHILDREN
1) It stimulates the senses
Finger painting involves all the senses which is an important component of learning. The bright colors of the paint swirling together are pleasurable to the eye. Activitely feeling the paint on the hands and wrists (and sometimes arms) is the perfect way to focus on the textures of the paint. Children can describe the smell of the paint and the different sounds the paint makes as it is squeezed in their hands and drops onto the paper. When you finger paint with older children they will have more language skills to describe the painting experience and could even use the experience as inspiration for writing.
2) It is therapeutic.
In the 1930s Ruth Faison Shaw recognized the therapeutic components of finger painting for children. When children finger paint the focus is on the sensory experience first rather than the necessity to make art “be something”. Modern school is increasingly becoming more academic and results driven. Even Kindergarten is missing large periods of free play. Finger painting with older children is the push back to to this movement. Older children need exploratory play just as much as younger children. Even high schoolers could benefit from a break from the stress of academics to get back to the basics of finger painting.
3) It celebrates creativity.
How often do you watch a child painting only to have an adult say “I like it. What is it?” As adults we are programmed to be results driven and force this concept on our children. Why does everything have to be something? Why do we always have to have a goal in mind? Finger painting is the ultimate process over product experience. Give older children time to simply sink their hands into paint without any direction in mind. Make the simple act of experiencing the paint the full experience. This gives children the ultimate freedom for creativity. Children can explore the way the paint moves under their hands, how it lands on the paper when flicked and how different colors can blend together.
4) A new (old) way to explore color mixing.
Understanding the concepts of how colors mix together should happen organically. Children learn by doing and mixing colors with hands is the perfect exploratory experience. Colors are more than red, orange, yellow, green, blue and purple. Give children the time to observe the swirling colors on their hands and in their paint dishes. Can the children name the new colors? How many colors do they see? Simply taking the time to enjoy the beauty of the array of colors is a learning experience worth taking the time to enjoy.
5) It is FUN!
While it is important to understand the developmental reasons behind the importance of play, let us not lose focus that childhood should be fun. No explanation needed. Just fun. No end result. No plan in mind. Have fun!
A few things to keep in mind when finger painting with older children
The Set Up
People often shy away from finger painting due to the mess. While I believe messy play should be embraced here are a few tips to keeping the mess to a minimum. Use washable paints. Here are our favorites. If you are worried about your floors place a plastic tarp on the floor for easy clean up. Even though the paints are washable dress in old clothes. You do not want to be worrying about whether the paint will stain during the finger painting experience. I find smocks inhibit the movements of children, but you are welcome to use them.
Join the fun!
Trust me, adults can benefit from finger painting too! Remember the part about finger painting being therapeutic for children? Same goes for adults. Put the lists down. The chores can wait. Sink your hands in to the paint. Swirl it on the paper without a thought. Smiling yet?