I have often professed my love of the dollar stores for finding some great art materials-cheap! That's where I picked up a bunch of these HUGE plastic fly swatters. They are light weight and flexible making for a wonderful gross motor painting tool for young children. It really encourages children to use their whole bodies as they reach and stretch and slap the easel with the large "brush".
We poured tempura paint onto trays and set them on the ground in front of our large outdoor plexi-glass easel. The easel was covered with a long sheet of mural paper and a swatter was placed in each tray. ( I think the paper drop cloths with the plastic backs would have been more durable for this activity)
This was set up as the children arrived in the morning on our playground.
Not only did the children get to experience the large movements of this kind of painting, they also talked about how the colors were changing as the paint splats mixed together. They commented on the noises the swatters made as they hit the paper. They compared how high each of them could reach. They also noticed intricate details that I might have missed such as how the paint bubbled up on the paper wherever there had been an opening in the plastic grid.
I had students who never came over to the inside painting easel clamoring for a chance to try this activity.
The paper could not handle the amount of activity this area induced, but that didn't matter. The final result was not the important part of the activity-it rarely is. The ripping and tearing of the paper led to more discussions about how heavy the paint was on that side of the mural and how there was still space down on the end. We had to go inside to meet with a visiting naturalist or we would have replaced the paper with another fresh piece and freshened the paint for more action.
Some of you may ask-did the kids where smocks? No, we have smocks available at times for those who may want one, but we never insist on smocks. For some children the thought of having to wear a smock discourages them from the activity. Instead we talk to our parents about wearing clothes to school that can-and WILL- get dirty. Our students keep at least one full set of clothes at school for times when they get wet, muddy or paint soaked. We talk with our parents about not sending children to school in fancy or special clothes. Play clothes..for playing with paint, mud, glue, ooblick, water, sand, clay and more.
A great book to read with young children who are coming home dirty is Kid Tea by Elizabeth Ficocelli. It tells the tale of the bath water changing colors depending on what the children played with during the day. A fun one to share at bedtime or even...at bath time.
What flavor tea will your children make tonight?