Why is it finger painting is often left at preschool? As my children move through the school system, I notice that it is mostly about sitting, following closed instructions and when they are free to move around, games lessons with yet more rules! Yes they do get recess and lunch that are unstructured, however, what about time spent in the classroom? There are few times in the 21st century curriculum that are unplanned – a time for children to think creatively and define their own thoughts.
When do, our children get time to think?
The kids who are 11, 8 and 7 still love painting and making messy art. It got me to thinking about the positive sensory experiences children have in preschool – surely, older kids could benefit too. Whatever age you are, finger painting is fun and messy, but messy can be fun and if need be having some wipes to hand for a quick clean up is a must.
A word on MESS, painting is generally always messy. I don’t mind mess to a point! Being a primary school teacher for many years and specializing in the early years has probably helped that. I think we probably keep the baby wipe companies in business and we should have taken shares out a long time ago! We are well past the preschool age and we still buy lots of wipes. Here are my top 5 tips to keep mess at bay…
- I try to keep the art contained to either our kitchen area or the outside eating area.
- Don’t be scared of paint – we use lots of washable paint normally poster paint or watercolours and always old clothes. We do use acrylic paint — this will stain, doesn’t wash out of brushes as well, is hard to get off little hands and thus, is far more high maintenance.
- I always have wipes, damp face cloths and old towels to hand. We have an old box of towels especially for art and craft.
- The kids are not allowed to just wander around covered in paint- the kids need to respect our home and be responsible for their own mess.
- Setting ground rules before beginning a new project always helps, we live by the motto – if you have helped to make the mess then you have to help clean it up! After clean up we are all normally rewarded with a yummy snack. No clean up- no snack.
Here are 10 reasons to love finger painting whatever your age
1. It Is Fun
First and foremost – let’s do the activity for the sake of it, not because we have to. Activities should be fun. Childhood and even adulthood should have lots of fun moments— No plan, no end result, just fun!
2. Back To Colour Mixing
Finger painting can be a great way for kids to colour mix. Learning by doing has proven benefits and finger painting can help children take time to observe the swirling colours and discuss the new hues made. Once kids know their colours —colour mixing can take on a whole new level as colours mixed can be discussed in different ways. New colours named by how light or dark they are e.g. Is it just blue or midnight blue or maybe sky blue? New names for colours can be made too. Recently Mr. O named a colour “Captain America blue.”
3. It’s Creative
Life seems so results driven now. Grading children for subjects like art and music in primary school has no benefit. Commenting on the progress of skills learned is different and positive feedback can really aid skill development. How can anyone fail art in primary school? Isn’t it about perspective? We seem programmed to ask closed questions and inflict this on our children, instead of being open to the possibly that not everything has to be beautiful or something e.g. a cat. Can’t it just be a splodge? Finger painting is process over product. Older children can gain so much satisfaction from sinking their hands into paint and having nowhere to go and nothing to do — some finger prints, a pattern, a mess, or a handprint, it can simply be an experience. Creativity comes from freedom to just be. Finger painting is an exploratory process.
How does it feel?
How does it land?
How does it mix?
Fingerprints can turn into fun experimentation and discovery!
4. Develops Communication Skills
Painting is a great group activity. Talking about the colours mixed and what the splodges, fingerprints, handprints may be or could turn into is a great creative way to talk about the process.
5. Promotes Social Skills
In most art and craft activities equipment needs to be shared. As equipment is shared children learn over time that using their words is beneficial and collaboration begins, turn taking happens and as the adult in charge you can model correct words and behaviour.
6. Improves Fine Motor Skills
Squishing paint through your fingers can strengthen hand and finger muscles, thus improving the pincer grip and handwriting in the long run. Flexing your fingers and stretching them as you make your fingerprints, splodges and handprints gives the tiny muscles in your hands and wrists a good work-out.
7. Emotionally Soothing
Having time to just be is a must in such a busy world. Finger painting is often used in Art Therapy as a method to help people express their compressed emotions when words are not enough. Finger painting is all about self-expression and with that comes freedom. The freedom to create and freedom to be yourself even if you cannot find your words.Finger painting is an age old art form, however, it is Ruth Faison Shaw who is credited with the discovery that finger painting can aid mental health and is one of the founders of Art Therapy. The story goes that whilst running a school for English speaking children in Rome she sent a young boy to the bathroom to cleanse his cut finger with iodine, Shaw discovered the boy using the iodine to draw on the tile walls with his fingers instead. The hands, she realized were a natural medium for expression.
8. Hand Eye Coordination And Control
Hand eye coordination is the ability of the eyes to guide the hand movements. Watching your hands go from paint to paper and remembering where they have just been and where you want them to go is a collection of many skills, that as adults we just take for granted. Finger painting naturally teaches children to manipulate their hands and eyes together, without the inclusion of added equipment to hinder progress.
9. Stimulates Spacial Awareness
Spacial awareness is the ability to be aware of oneself in space. Moving your fingers around the page and directing your hands to go exactly where you want them to go is a skill in itself. What we think we can do is not exactly what we can achieve at times? Over time, children learn how to manipulate their own bodies to do what they want and can control their own movements more readily.
10. It Is Therapeutic
Finger painting is all about the sensory experience, rather than the art made. That’s not to say sensational art cannot be made by finger painting, but the focus is on the experience. Finger painting is a great tactile experience as it stimulates the senses of touching/feeling, sight and smell and can be relaxing- in most cases! Just like squeezing playdough or sieving sand. The act of squishing the paint through your fingers and onto your hands can be therapeutic and cause relaxation. According to a recent paper published in Creativity Research Journal, finger painting can improve mindfulness and enhance attention. As schools hurtle towards being more academic activities such as finger painting, art/craft and exploratory play are a must for any older child as well as young children. Down time that is not structured and technology free is proven to make us all feel happier, more relaxed and healthier.
Why not try finger painting sometime — I would love to see some of your creations. hashtag #tinystepsmakebigstrides
Be creative, be happy and enjoy time together xxx
References and Further Reading
1. Creativity Research Journal – Effects of tactile sensation during finger painting on mindfulness, emotions and scope of attention. Stanko- Kaczmarek, M and Kaczmarek, L. 2016, Vol 28, Issue 3, pg 283-288
2. Art Education Journal – Self Expression or teacher influence: The Shaw system of finger painting. Stankiewicz, M. 1984, Vol 37 pg20-26
3. Mindfulness in schools project
4. Why technology should not be in bedrooms – The Conversation