Montessori at Home: Setting Up an Art Studio or Cupboard for Your Preschool Child

Here are a few tips and tricks for making this area a simple and enjoyable place to work. These are based on years of work with young children and art-making, as well as Montessori principles that help children gain coordination, concentration, order and independence.

  1. Create an individual set or kit for each artist; trays work nicely for order and containment.
  2. Offer small amounts of materials and tools that present a manageable process from beginning to end. This is also considered the control of error. Why risk spilling the whole bottle of paint when a very small one can be used and cleaned up by the small artist him or herself?
  3. Ask open ended questions that invite the child to share ideas, thoughts, language, and feelings. Set realism aside and enjoy the invitation into the child’s world. Consider the motto: Compare and despair!
  4. Another adage: Resist the assist! Let your child work on his or her own piece, at his or her own pace, without interruption or assistance. Helping a child to do something they are learning is great, except when it comes to art. Everything they do, especially on their own, is just right the way it is. For the tiny perfectionists, questions such as, “Did you want that to be more round, like a circle?” might be help them move forward with a frustrating work.
  5. Put process before product. It is the doing, the enjoying, the conversation, the persistence, the focus, and the self-expression that matters. The work, while beautiful, funny, insightful or skillful, is secondary to the inner life of the child.
  6. Make cleanup part of the joy and ownership of art-making.
  7. Hang children’s work at their viewing height! Scribe their descriptions on index cards or mailing labels to post in the “gallery”.
  8. Have fun!

Children respond deeply to the feel of really good materials. They honor their own work and have a sense of the respect paid to their creativity when they are offered beautiful things with which to create. Here is a short list of items that we like to use in our art integrated Montessori classroom:

  1. Brand/Product: Caran D’Ache/Neocolor CrayonsDescription: these water-solvent crayons are smooth and vibrant for drawing, can be dipped (lightly) in water, or one can apply a brush with water to the working drawing. We have used them for observational drawing and for color spectrum work.
  2. Brand/Product: Crayola/Portfolio Oil PastelsDescription: these water-solvent oil pastels are smooth and vibrant for drawing and can be blended and used like traditional oil pastel. These have an added dimension in that they can be dipped (lightly) in water, or one can apply a brush with water to the working drawing. We have used them for observational drawing and for landscapes and portraits.
  3. Brand/Product: Prismacolor/Berol Pencils
    Description: these color pencils are particularly durable and super vibrant for drawing. They offer a wider range of color choices that make specific accurate palettes for drawing from still life or nature. We have used them for shading exercises and drawing, both creative free drawing and observational works.
  4. Brand/Product: Sakura/Origami PaperDescription: we use these square decorative, sometimes handmade, often silkscreened sheets for matching, folding, collage, paper sculpture and kirigami (Japanese papercutting).
  5. Brand/Product: Biocolor/Liquid Watercolor ConcentrateDescription: this super-saturated and concentrated watercolor pigment can be used in a myriad of ways. It can be diluted for regular watercolor painting or left concentrated for experimenting with a wet brush for gradation of color. It is lovely for color mixing work on diffusion paper, such as a coffee filter. It can be applied with a dropper, cotton swab, brush or even blown with a straw!

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