The art easel is a staple in most preschool classrooms. Our students love ours, but the truth is — it is a lot of work to keep up with that thing!
At the beginning of the year, we always start with crayons or colored pencils at the easel. By this time in October, though, they are ready to free paint. The creativity that preschoolers exhibit when given a blank canvas, some paint and brushes, and plenty of time is amazing. The mess and chaos that often ensues in the process is equally amazing. Here are a few tricks that we have learned over the years to maintain our sanity!
Stack the blank paper! One day I was helping a little artist move her painting from the easel to the clothesline to dry, and when I turned around another friend had painted all over the empty easel. To prevent this from happening, we stack the blank paper. When we remove one work of art, another sheet of paper is already waiting for the next artist!
Use binder rings to make the smocks easy to hang. We have smocks hanging on the end of our art easel as well as on the bathroom door adjacent to the easel. Our students are really good about remembering to wear the smock when they paint, but they are not as good about hanging it up when they are done. Part of the problem is that the smocks are tricky to hang on the hooks. We added a metal binder ring to each one, and that has made it much easier. We still find smocks that have been left on the floor, but for the most part the rings help the kids hang them up when they’re done.
Use a shower curtain to protect the wall! PreKinders posted a great idea about protecting the art easel with a shower curtain. It is a terrific idea, but I’m afraid our art easel is too far gone! I should have found that tip 10 years ago. 🙂 Instead, we added a shower curtain to the wall next to the easel. In their flurry of creativity, paint often lands on the wall. Many paintings are so thick with paint that it will drip off the paper when we hang them. This shower curtain solved our problems. (Plus, it looks so cool with the wall color, don’t you think?!)
Line the paint cups. We use spill-proof paint cups from Lakeshore and love them! Before we figured out this little trick with the baggies, though, we hated to clean them out… soak, rinse, soak, scrub, soak… Ugh. It is so much easier to place a sandwich bag (the fold-top type, not the ziploc ones) in each cup before adding the paint. When it’s time to change them, we discard the bag and fill it up again. Quick and easy.
Model, practice and repeat. It takes a lot of modeling and practice to make the routine at the art easel a smooth one. Students have to learn to only paint on their own paper (unless they decide with a friend to work together). They have to remember to write their name on the paper or ask a teacher to do it. We also ask them to find a teacher when they are finished to hang the picture to dry. If they forget to do this last step, we will sometimes have other kids come over and paint on top of the picture. Yikes. We practice these routines with crayons at the beginning so that when we add the excitement of paint, they are ready to roll.
Do you have an art easel in your classroom? What are your tricks for utilizing that center?
Have fun playing and learning with your children today!