At our house we do a lot of process art. Not only is it fun and different every time, but process art tends to be pretty quick to set up -- bonus. Process art is the term used to describe art that is created with no specific end result. Rather than making a craft that should look a certain way, a child makes whatever comes to mind. It's big hit with toddlers.
Here's how to get started.
Since children have the space to explore as they paint because there are no set steps and no one showing them what they should be making, there's more room for creativity and innovation. I am continually amazed by the things my 4-year-old daughter discovers as she paints in this open-ended way -- things I would otherwise miss. We still do crafts, of course, because those are fun, but most of our art projects are process art.
What you'll need for this activity: A large sheet of butcher paper; a paper plate (or other paint palette); washable tempera paint (we used neon); LEGO and DUPLO bricks in various shapes and sizes.
1. Tape down a large sheet of butcher paper (it can be frustrating to the artist if their canvas is constantly moving).
2. Dispense a variety of paint colors onto the paper plate and set it on or near the paper.
3. Select the LEGO bricks. I had my daughter pick six bricks of different shapes and sizes for the project herself, but if your child is younger, you may want to select the bricks yourself ahead of time.
4. After presenting the materials, sit back and watch your child explore. If you have a toddler or a child new to this type of art, you may need to model investigating by trying a few different LEGO painting techniques yourself. Once they see what to do, they will likely take the lead themselves.
As your child works, ask questions about what they're painting or narrate what they're doing as they do it. The latter can be very helpful in language building since there are lots of fantastic new vocabulary words you can use to describe the shapes and patterns they are likely creating with the bricks.
My daughter discovered that the long narrow red DUPLO brick made train tracks. She used a scraping technique and the oddly shaped blue DUPLO brick to write the letter H. She created a thin rainbow colored line by painting the long narrow edge of the red DUPLO and dipping it in one color at a time, then stamping, and so on until she'd created a continuous color-changing line. She even thought to use the bottom of a square DUPLO dipped in neon purple paint to make a flower!
Your child will investigate, explore, and create an entirely different set of artwork. In fact, this is a favorite activity around here (in part because it's just so easy to set up), and every time my daughter paints, she creates a new, original piece of art.
When she's done creating, I set up a washing station for her and the LEGO and DUPLO bricks we used. We always wash our bricks right away and we've never had any staining.
Images via Asia Citro; © iStock.com; Asia Citro