The art easel is a staple in most preschool classrooms. Students love it, but the truth is — it is a lot of work to keep up with that thing!
At the beginning of the year, start with crayons or colored pencils at the easel. This is a fantastic way to introduce rules and routines…without the mess! By October, though, students should be 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 tried and true tricks to help maintain order and the teacher’s sanity!
Art Easel Tip #1: Stack Paper
Stack the blank paper! It is difficult for students to wait their turn. If the teacher is removing and hanging up some artwork, it’s very possible that an overly eager artist jumps at the opening and starts painting…before a new sheet of paper is in place! To prevent this from happening, stack the blank paper. When one work of art is removed, another sheet of paper is already waiting for the next artist!
Art Easel Tip #2: Binder Rings for Smock Hanging Ease
Use binder rings to make the smocks easy to hang. Smocks often are hanging on the end of the art easel or on a door or wall adjacent to the easel. While students are really good about remembering to wear the smock when they paint, 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. Add a metal binder ring to each one to make hanging it much easier. Some smocks will still make their way to the floor, but for the most part, the rings help the kids hang them up when they’re done.
Art Easel Tip #3: Protect the Wall!
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, so why not take the idea a step further? Add 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 the teachers hang them. It is easy to do inexpensively, and there are so many choices – it’s easy to change up.
Art Easel Tip #4: Easy Clean Up
Line the paint cups. The spill-proof paint cups from Lakeshore are perfect, but cleaning them can be difficult. It is so much easier to place a sandwich bag in each cup before adding the paint. When it’s time to change them, simply discard the bag and fill it up again. Quick and easy!
Check out this amazing resource for budding artists!
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Art Easel Tip #5: Color Coordination
Color coordinate the supplies. To avoid getting an easel of muddy brown paints, teach the students to keep the same brush in the cup. If possible, color code the brushes and cup lids. Students will mix paint, of course, but encouraging them to use an art palette at the table might extend the life of the paint a little bit longer.
Art Easel Tip #6: Routinely Build Good Habits!
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. If necessary, encourage them to find a teacher when they are finished to hang the picture to dry. If they forget to do this last step, sometimes other budding artists come over and paint on top of the picture. Yikes! Practice these routines with crayons and markers at the beginning of the year so that when we add the excitement of paint, they are ready to roll.
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Thank you for the useful information. We have a two sided easel and we use yogurt cups for paint cups. We don’t color coordinate the cups and paint and paint brushes. We start with one color and then I ask “what would happen if we added this color?” and we find out that it changes the color either drastically or slightly. We talk about value and tone dark and light depending on what color we add to it. The paint cups get washed right away or sometimes we soak them but I use the brush to scrub the old paint off as the water is running over it. We have a drying rack so we can lay the paintings flat to dry. I believe a dirty easel is a well used easel. Paint on my friends.
Jamie White, M.Ed.
Great ideas! I agree about the dirty easel. 😉
Do you hae any suggestios on how to stretch out the tempura paint? I have a tight budget and we are going through a lot of paint.
Jamie White, M.Ed.
I wish I had a trick. We go through it so fast as well.
It is also great to add a squirt or two of soap into your paint cups as it allows for easier clean up if the paint gets on anything other than the paper like teacher clothes amongst other things 🙂
Jamie White, M.Ed.
Fantastic tip! Thanks