Why acrylic paints might be the best $50 you ever spend on your kids
Acrylic Painting with Children
So anybody that knows me well, knows we aren’t exactly floating in cash…but I have a few things I think are really important for quality play at home and I make sure we have these supplied all the time. I’m going to lay out why I think that good quality paints are right at the top of the list from a few different perspectives: as an Allergy Mum, as a training child psychologist, and as a proponent of free and natural play. But at the end of the day, they are just a really fun medium to work with.
From an allergy perspective
For cultural and allergy reasons, we try to stay away from food-based activities as much as possible, so obviously painting is a natural choice. My youngest one is a sensory-girl and does love to eat paint, sand…anything she can get in her mouth, but I’m happy to report, she’s no worse off for it and has never had an allergic reaction to acrylic paints. That’s not to say you couldn’t be allergic to it, but all three kids have been fine.
Miss 4 has a terrible time with allergy-related eczema and she just loves to paint herself (ALL OVER!) with paints. It’s not super fabulous for her skin, but I bath her in her fatty cream afterwards then reapply another coat of the cream before dressing her and she copes with it just fine.
Any allergic reactions we’ve had to paints have been with face paints (all three of my children have reacted to these) so we now have a no-face paint rule.
If anybody is interested in the brand, we use Chromacryl.
From a psychology perspective:
-it is a beautifully natural way to develop fine motor skills important for writing later on. These processes involved in manipulating paint brushes help develop the muscles in the arm and hands important for writing and a number of other skills. For this reason, I provide a range of different shaped and sized brushes, sponges and rollers.
-I’m not a believer in sitting preschoolers down ‘in preparation for school’, but sitting at a table to paint is just easier; it also requires focus and concentration necessary for school life should you choose it. It also requires moving the paper to a correct position for making marks which they need to master before writing effectively.
-for me, most importantly, it fosters an appreciate for art and the process of being creative. I never guide their painting or set limits. If you are worried about mess, I take a small kids table and chairs outside, cover with an old sheet and strip them down naked. More often than not, the result is what I call ‘process art’. So, you might not end up with something ‘frame able’, but they sure had a good time doing it. They will let you know when they are ready to create something specific.
-it provides a myriad of learning opportunities.
For example, during this recent painting session, Miss 4 told me she wanted to draw a rainbow. She drew it inside out, but it really doesn’t matter. As she was drawing it, we discussed each colour and talked about what colours we needed to mix to get the right shades. Then she told me in order to have a rainbow, you need both rain and sunshine so she set about creating those. She had drawn a blue sky with white clouds so we had a discussion about the type of clouds which create rain. She knows about different types of clouds and said that the cumulus clouds she had drawn were not rain clouds, so she then drew some rain clouds. So that was a great Science lesson. Then she decided she wanted to count all the drops she had made, then we talked about more and less, and she added some numbers together. So in one painting session we had really nicely covered Science and Maths.
Free and Natural Play:
I believe painting is one of the most enjoyable ways of fostering a love of free and natural play with children. This type of play is central in my household and has a number of benefits:
-encourages imagination and creativity.
-enables healthy play alongside each other (whether that be children alongside or parents and children alongside).
-enables a huge amount of sensory exploration.
-it provides a different medium for expressing feelings, thoughts and sensations. This is fabulous while language is still developing.
-it encourages the natural curiosity that children possess and they can choose which direction to take their learning.
-it enables a way for parents to provide guidance and support without driving the play/exploration/topics/themes.
-lets the children take charge of their own education.
-has links to optimal brain development, and its association with emotional regulation.
By the way, if anybody is wondering why I choose acrylic paints over non-staining water paints….the colours don’t mix together as easily, meaning we have less ‘brown all over’, pretty ugly finished pieces. Also, they have a much more interesting texture for the children to explore. The finished piece dries with the same texture and my children love rubbing their fingers over it when it’s dried. Oil paints are also lots of fun….but they take an age to dry!