When he looked a bit nervous about the
splattering, I simply moved the other children
out of the way and asked the splattering child,
“Well, who is the artist?” He replied with a
creative and authentic art 39
the children can learn strategies for sharing space.
The teacher could remind the children that this is
a group project, and all the classmates are working
together. Perhaps the child who wants more space
could move to a less crowded space near a teacher.
If working together is too difficult that day for the
child who wants more space, the teacher could offer
the child a small sheet of paper for solo painting.
Through collaborative art, children develop un-
derstanding of space and proximity. They develop
a plan together and work together to carry out the
plan. The artwork hangs on the wall for all to see
and take pride in.
To Smock or
Not to Smock
Painting with a lamb tail
Children can learn many things through collabo-
rating on art projects. They get a chance to exercise
their large muscles when they produce big artworks
together. They build community in the classroom.
They learn how to work together in a confined area,
sharing space and materials. They get many oppor-
tunities to practice problem solving.
If two children want to use the same paintbrush
or the same paint color, they can learn strategies for
sharing materials. The teacher could scaffold this
learning by steering the conversation. For example:
“Linnea, when you are all done with the pink paint,
will you pass it to Maddie, please? She would like
a turn when you are finished. Maddie, would you
like to use purple while you are waiting?”
If a child paints on top of another child’s work,
Is this a crazy question to ask? Even if it seems ri-
diculous, it’s still a worthwhile question if it helps
us reflect on our teaching practice.
Many teachers require children to wear smocks
if they wish to engage in art. And indeed, insist-
ing that children wear smocks for messy work
seems practical and logical. So what’s the prob-
lem? Younger children and children with sensory
issues often do not want to wear smocks. Many
children will avoid art altogether if the smock is
nonnegotiable. If you notice this happening in your classroom,
you might want to offer the children a choice about
wearing smocks. Be aware, though, that optional
smocking makes some adults uncomfortable. Ex-
plain your philosophy clearly to families as soon as
possible. It’s better to let a child get messy and have
an artistic experience than to let a child miss out
on the experience because he won’t wear a smock.
Remind families to dress their children in clothing
that can get messy.
You may still want to encourage the children
to wear smocks or aim toward the goal of wearing
smocks if mess is likely. You can also make the chil-
dren aware of their clothing as they begin to get