Sunday, May 18, 2014

Smart Art for Your Burgeoning Mini Monet

Piper Van Gogh, my little artist in the making!
If you read the labels on tubes of finger paints, crayons, markers, etc. it usually reads for ages 3 and up. Well, that's a bunch of malarkey! I, for one, believe that it's never too soon to start letting your wee-one explore their creative side via coloring...with any media type.  If they can hold a crayon, marker, or like to get their hands dirty (and what child does not like to get their hands dirty?), then your child is ready to channel their inner Van Gogh.

See that 3+ in the upper corner?  Ignore it!
For Christmas this year, "Santa" brought Piper a 8-tube set of washable finger paints.  As she was just under 8-months old, some may say this gift was Santa's little joke and wonder why he would be so brazenly daring to let such a young baby get anywhere near a set of paints, especially ones that are in and of themselves notoriously messy as all get out.  For me, there is an easy explanation.  Babies are smarter and more capable than some people allow them to be.  They really are more advanced that a lot of people think, and giving them a chance to explore their artistic side is as much fun for the parents as it is for the child, at least I think so.

Start with little dabs of paint on the paper...
Let the artist do her thing...
OMG, I forgot the bib!!! :)
I'll be honest here, I didn't immediately pull out the paints and let Piper go to town.  It was a good month before I got up the nerve to let her get down and dirty.  I first did extensive research on possible harm they could cause if ingested, and couldn't find anything of much importance.  I'm sure if you let your little one eat an entire tube of paint in one sitting, then you may be asking for trouble, but a little in the mouth just to taste, much like the chewing on a crayon, well that's not going to hurt anyone.

Letting Piper finger paint at around 10-months was a trial and error endeavor.  The first time around, I placed a few paint globs of various colors on a small disposable pie tin so that she could dip her fingers into the colors and then onto the paper.  I quickly learned this was not the right method for such a young child. The painting concept she understood, the needing to go back and forth from pie-tin to paper...not so much.
After this initial trial and error, I figured out a much better way to let her self-lead the painting sessions.

Make sure the paper is close to the edge of the work service for less mess!
She's very curious about the texture of paint!
First off, I should mention that her finger paints came with a large made-for-finger-painting pad of blank white paper.  If you're going to let a baby paint, you better offer up a lot of area for them to work their magic.  Also, I found it a good idea to make sure this paper stays where you want it to via taping it to the work surface, which in our house is the kitchen table.  Piper is an enthusiastic child, and unless I tape the edges of the paper down , it could end up just about anywhere.  Only drawback to this is that once in awhile she will feel the urge to flip the paper over, and might accidentally tear the paper, but that is easily fixable with a bit more tape once her masterpiece is complete.

See, the tape is working it's magic!
Secondly, it's a good idea to make sure even washable paints don't get onto to fabulous clothing.  So, either going sans clothing except for a diaper, wearing an old onesie that's okay to dirty up, using an old adult t-shirt as a smock, or making sure at least a bib is being worn, is a must!  I'm always nervous that "washable" doesn't necessarily apply to all fabrics, so this eases my mind when it comes to possibly forever soiling clothes I'd rather not have destroyed...or having to change clothes mid-day, cause less laundry is a good thing.

Yes, I finally remembered to bib-up!
Next thing, don't do the pie-tin thing with a young child.  It's pointless and requires you to be almost too hands-on when you really want them to be the facilitators of their own work.  I discovered that placing little dabs of paint of different colors here and there on the paper, allows Piper do her own thing.  She can easily get her hands right into the art rather than having to dip and paint.  Now that she is old enough to decide her own colors, it's even more fun doing it this way.  And believe me, for a one-year-old she is quite demanding about which colors she wants to work with.  I do a little bit of leading, asking her would you like yellow, blue, orange, etc., and she replies yes or no, or points at the tubes and says purple or whatever other color she has in mind.  As you can tell from the pictures, she likes to point to which colors she wants, a lot!  I often have to interpret which ones she wants since she can't exactly read the tubes yet, but if I ask her the color name, such as "do you want the yellow?" she will nod and repeat "yellow" or shake her head no and let me keep going until I've come to the right tube for the job.

As you will see, she does a lot of pointing and requesting!

And sometimes she is very demanding about it! ;)
Once the dab of paint is on the paper, then she really gets down to serious business.  When I took these pictures of this last finger painting adventure, she barely smiled once.  The girl was seriously into her art!  Her usually giggly self turned very austere, and I could just see those wheels of concentration and decision making turning rapidly behind her eyes.  She was creating and creating is no laughing matter.  She had a plan, and I was just there to get her what she needed when she needed it.  Aw, my little Jackson Pollock!

Serious art face!
Next word of advice to parents, don't be afraid of a little mess.  Piper may get paint on her face, a little in her mouth (although not much as I don't think she's likes the taste all that much), on the table, and yes, even when protected, some on her clothes sometimes, but none of that matters.  The washable paints come off remarkably easy and clean-up is a snap!  The end product is definitely worth the mess that may come with it.
Messy is fun!
The messier the better! 
Discovering new texturea is nice, too!

Can't you see the wheels turning?
So far, a fantastic piece!
This last finger painting session, I taught her how to sign her artwork.  Of course she can't write her name yet, she's not that far advanced, but a good hand print is a perfect signature for a young child.  She loved watching me paint her entire hand and then showing her how to make a hand print on the paper.  As a matter of fact, she liked it so much we did it a few times.  And then when she was done painting and went to using markers on her second art piece of the day (also washable and non-toxic, btw), I found her trying to color her own hand with the markers and making hand prints.  I ended up having to help her color her entire hand, but she picked up on the signing of her art amazingly fast.  She's a smart little cookie, I'll give her that.

Finishing up, right before signature time!
Sometimes you just have to take a taste!
But the taste is not quite up to par!
The final piece, with hand print signatures!
Another good idea is to devise a good way of storing all your art supplies in one general location/container. Piper has a tendency to want to mix it up a bit, and I like giving her choices.  My genius idea, I took one of the plastic containers that I received at my baby shower, it was from a gift set that included baby shampoos, lotions, q-tips, etc., and re-purposed it as art caddie.  It's durable, has a handle, and perfectly fits all 8-tubes of paint, one box of 64 crayons, and her 8-pack of markers.  I love having a single container that holds all her supplies that is easily carried and also keeps everything in a central location so I don't have to go searching around to find where I put all her art goodies.  Of course, as she gets older I'll have to expand into more caddies, we haven't yet gotten into sidewalk chalk as I think they may look too appetizing still, but for now it's the perfect accessory for all her art needs.

The re-purposed art it!
I'm very proud that Piper has turned into such a little artist.  I love watching her create and it is a wonderful way to stimulate her mind...and keep her busy when mommy needs a break or time to cook dinner, lol.  It's also a great educational tool as it helps her learn her colors, expands her fine motor skills, and givers her an outlet of self-expression so important to her developing personality.  If you haven't been brave enough yet to let your wee-one delve into the world of art, I say it's high time to douse those fears and go for the gusto. You'll be pleasantly surprised at what you'll both discover about your little artist in the making.

And now on to some working with markers pics....

Still serious!
Still demanding!
Working on her fine motor skills!
(Taking top on and off)

Trying new techniques!
Really getting serious!
Love her style :)
She's not sleeping, she's hugging her picture!

And one final pic...the Instagram version of her finger paint masterpiece.  I hate that it crops it, but I love the framing effect!

What is there not to love?  Amazing work for a 13-month old!
I hope you have all enjoyed this little adventure into Piper's creative side.  She's an artistic child through and through.  Whether it's singing, dancing, playing instruments, or painting, she simply just loves being creative. Of course, I encourage everything creative she does.  I hope it leads to a lifetime of appreciation and participation in all things art related, no matter the media or style.  It just proves, you're never too young to let your imagination run wild!

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