Shortly after arriving, she walked to the art cart and bent over slightly to pick up the watercolor paint set with one hand before selecting a paint brush with the other. As she straightened back up and turned around, I asked, “Would you like to paint?” … “Okay,” she said as she turned and walked with the paint set and brush to the work table. She had clearly remembered that the white table was the place she had painted in the past. She set the paint set and brush on the table and started to pull the chair out from beneath it to sit down. Following her lead, I knew this was the moment to step in to begin guiding and sportscasting.
Before actually painting, she had many important steps of preparation ahead and it was my job to slow her down and guide her through each one. It would have been easy to have collected the materials for her, open the paint set and let her paint. But at almost two years old, she had so much more to gain from the set-up process than from the few minutes of painting.
I had prepared the art cart earlier in the morning hoping there would be something that would catch her eye. Sure enough, the paint set was the the visual invitation that sparked her interest.
I sat at her level and asked that she please “find my eyes.” Once she made eye contact with me, I knew she was listening and reassured her that she would soon be able to paint, but “first, we have to set up the work together. Hmmm…Let’s see, (slowing down and pausing to give her time to process and follow my lead). I think we need a mat to protect the table from paint spills. Do you remember where the mats are kept?” With several color choices to choose from, she selected yellow and set it on the table. Next, using the same approach, she chose a soft cloth for spills, a piece of paper and a small ramekin bowl and carried each to the table one at a time adding important movement to the activity.
As she began to set the ramekin bowl on the table, her balance was challenged. I watched and trusted that she would recenter herself and the bowl. Both her small and large motor coordination was working hard to stabilize, and they did.
Once centered, she gently placed the bowl on the mat showing great focus. I was delighted to have captured that moment!
As a reminder, I said, “we will need water for the painting activity. Would you like to pour the water into the squeeze bottle?” I demonstrated with exaggerated movements slowly and carefully unscrewing the bottle’s cap and placing the bottle under our “work water” dispenser (there are two water dispensers: filtered for drinking and unfiltered for activities.) I then opened and closed the dispenser’s tap as she watched before inviting her to try.
“Would you like to add work water to the squeeze bottle?” Normally, I would offer the child a small ceramic or glass pitcher to hold the water and pour from. Instead, I opted to offer her a squeeze bottle for this activity. Because of the pandemic and our recent move, she hasn’t had a lot of pouring opportunities here. With the many steps already involved, I felt the squeeze bottle was more familiar and therefore offered a greater chance for a successful water transfer outcome. With a little verbal and hands-on support from me, she filled the bottle with water, closed the dispenser tap and and tightened the bottle top before carrying it to the table.
Coordinating her movements and positioning the small wooden chair was the next step. She had to make spatial judgements both with her body and the connection between the table and chair.
Once she had settled in, I asked, “Would you like me to push you closer to the table?” She smiled and said, “Okay.”
While she joyfully added water to her ceramic bowl, I offered the simple language, “squeeze.” In between, she took a turn and said, “squeeze,” too.
After all her set-up work was done, she dipped the brush in the water and then a paint color before making long horizontal strokes across the page. She continued for a short time and then paused to touch the paint with her fingers. After collecting the necessary sensorial information she needed, she returned to her brush strokes.
She painted for all of about three minutes. Was it worth all that work for three minutes of painting? Absolutely!! Painting was the invitation; however, the greater learning was in everything that led up to the painting. Simply by preparing an art cart with items that interested her, she left innately satisfied from her “work” and with a colorful painting to remind her of all she had accomplished that morning: her growing independence, coordination, language, dexterity, balance, confidence, judgement, reasoning and so much more!