When we talk about our bodily senses, usually we think of the five senses most of us have been taught - sight, sound, smell, touch, and taste. But scientists agree we have more senses than just the five
Two of these lesser known senses deal with movement. Our sense of where our bodies are in space is called proprioception. It is our understanding of where our limbs are in space. It helps us climb stairs without looking at each step and balance our bodies. People with poor proprioception may be clumsy and uncoordinated.
The sensation our muscles apply to our skeletal joints, like when we are lifting objects or changing directions, is called our kinesthetic sense. This sense helps us to distinguish between light and heavy or whether the our muscles are stretching or contracting.
Children are natural born movers because their movements instinctively activate and strengthen their senses. Today’s class was all about leaning into those instincts, as well as shaking up the way we normally move.
One way we exercised a new way of moving was writing with our toes! It’s a lot trickier than it looks! I loved that some adults got in the action too. Mini Makers had the option to sit in a chair and draw on the floor or lie on the floor and draw on the wall.
My personal favorite station was the yo-yo painting. Mini Maker’s dipped a nylon stocking filled with marbles in paint, and then bounced it up and down over paper to make prints. I loved the sensorial feedback I got in my arm from the stretchy yo-yo. It felt like a trampoline in my hand. I highly recommend people try this activity again at home.
A clear favorite among the kids was feet painting. Just the act of painting feet is a big sensory experience. Some kids were giggling from the tickly paint brush touching their feet. Once kids placed their painted feet on the butcher paper, they naturally experimented with their movement. Sometimes they tip-toed across the paper. Others twirled and jumped like they were performing a ballet. There was a lot of joy at this station. Kids kept returning to it again and again.
For those kids who didn’t enjoy feeling paint on their feet, our No-Mess Painting station was perfect for them. I have done this activity in the past with a wide range of audiences. Simply put paper inside a bag, squirt some paint, seal the bag, and then squish the paint around through the plastic. Even though there is no mess, the squish of the paint under the plastic is a pleasing sensory experience. Mini Makers had an option to have their own personal sized No-Mess painting. Or Mini Makers could explore a large-scale version that used butcher paper sealed inside a shower curtain. I was so busy with this class; I was disappointed I didn’t get any pictures of the large-scale version.
At another station, we pretended we were making snow angels with crayons. Children laid-down on their bellies and with crayons in their hands, used out-stretched arms to draw arcs. If you want inspiration for repeating this at home (maybe using chalk outside), check out artist Heather Hanson’s kinesthetic drawings. It will get you and your child thinking about other visuals you can create with your body.
At the ball painting station, children covered a ball in paint by shaking it in a container. When children were satisfied with the amount of paint that covered the ball, they rolled it down a ramp. Because our balls were spikey, the balls left a fun dotted trail as they rolled.
If you kept track of the number of stations we had in this class, we had a total of SIX! In an average class, we have three stations. But in this fast-paced class, I knew children wound be moving through each station quickly and energetically, so I doubled the amount of activities. It was a lively class and ton of fun!
Sometimes when we do process art, there is no product in the end because maybe the art got too wet or destroyed in the process. Or maybe the art was a lot of fun to make, but the product isn't aesthetically pleasing. However, sometimes when we do process art, the process is amazing AND we end up with a gorgeous product. Today was one of those days. I wanted to keep each and every child's art.
We opened the class by warming up our sense of touch. When children arrived, they were invited to play with some Oobleck (cornstarch and water). If you have never played with Oobleck, it is a unique sensory experience. If you move your fingers along the surface, it feels solid. But if you pick it up and hold it, it should drip through your fingers. I added a little too much water to the Oobleck for my second class, but the kiddos didn't seem to mind the extra drippy mixture.
Our first art station was something new and exciting for the kids. Instead of using crayons on paper like students are accustomed to, we used crayons to draw on sandpaper, and then melted the wax with an embossing gun. An embossing gun is like a hairdryer, but doesn't blow air. It provides a gentle heat. Kids were excited to be able to use the embossing gun themselves with some adult supervision.
We learned that the crayon color darkens when it melts and an artist can continue to add layers of crayon after they have already melted one layer. We were curious to see if this technique would work on paper, but we found the grit of the sand paper created better results than the smooth paper.
At our second art station, students painted aluminum foil. Aluminum foil is a more slippery surface than paper and provides a new sensory experience.
A two year old in class wanted to preserve her aluminum foil artwork, so I provided her with some paper to push on top. This led her to explore the concept of printing.
Our third art station was so simple but it was the star of the show. Students were given a wooden square and they used their fingers to push air dry clay around into a design that pleased them.
When they were done designing with the clay, they chose from a variety of gems and sequins to add finishing touches.
The end result was eye candy! All the kids were delighted with the results and I selfishly didn't want to let them take their artwork home.
This week, our class focused on exploring art through sound, creating some new and exciting experiences.
When students arrived, I had some classical music playing. I asked the students to paint how the music made them feel. While they worked, I briefly told them about the painter Wassily Kandinsky and how he actually saw colors when he heard music. To all the adults' amazement, a quiet blanketed the room while the students immersed themselves in their artwork.
Over the weeks I have gotten to know this particular group of girls' art style. It was interesting to observe that during this exercise, they each pushed themselves into a style of artwork that was different than their usual work.
Once we got into our art stations, the noise level drastically increased. Our first art station is an activity I usually like to do outside on pavement, but it worked nicely inside on some black paper. I prepared some chalk bits and showed students how they could crush the chalk by hammering it. The explosion creates a fun firework effect. This was not a station that required a long exploration time, but it did provide a loud thrill.
Our second art station was marble painting. Students put paper, paint and marbles inside an oatmeal can, closed it up, and shook as hard as they could. We started with beans instead of marbles, but we learned the beans gunked up too much in the paint and got stuck. We experimented with the amount of paint and how hard to shake until we came up with results we were pleased with.
Our third art station took a closer ear to hear the sound. Hidden in our watercolor paints was some baking soda. We learned that the baking soda likes to settle on the bottom and it is best to stir the paint before using. After students finished their painting, I gave each child a cup of vinegar and encouraged them to apply the vinegar onto their painting. Children were surprised to see bubbles erupt onto their artwork!
I added a forth station to this class because I knew a lot of the stations were going to be fast moving. At our fourth station, students had the option to design musical instruments - a shaker or a music stick.
I started the shakers by taping one side of a cardboard tube closed. Students filled the tubes with beans and then their adult helped them tape the cardboard in the opposite direction. Once the shaker was closed, it was ready to be decorated. I originally provided stickers and gel crayons for decoration, but many students requested to use paint.
The music sticks activity was perfect for refining fine motor skills and developing independence. Students started by sliding bells onto pipe cleaners. This was tricky, but doable. I loved hearing one little girl telling herself, "I can DO this." And she did! Once bells were strung onto the pipe cleaner, the pipe cleaner was simply wrapped around a piece of drift wood. The activity was enough of a challenge to make it captivating and some students enjoyed making several.
Children are naturally drawn to activities that stimulate their senses. They want to touch, taste, smell, and move. That's because children's senses play an important role in their health and development. Through sensory play, children build cognitive skills and learn about their world.
In our 'Sensing Art Beyond Sight' series, we used children's natural interest in sensory play to explore art. Our first class in the series focused on taste and smell. There was an excited buzz about this class because, who doesn't love edible art?
We began class by waking up our senses through a classic Montessori activity - smelling jars. Kids took their time smelling various spice jars and tea tins. Soon the kids were discussing the best smells and their least favorite smells. This led the kids to share a bit about what foods they eat at home.
At our first art station, children created their own snack using bread, milk, and food coloring. I explained to students that we can't normally eat paint because it is full of yucky things. But today's special paint was made from just milk and food coloring, so it was safe to nibble. Children painted their bread like they would normally paint paper. Then we toasted it in an air fryer. It was exciting to taste the finished artwork.
Our second piece of art we created was also edible. When I was a little girl, I remember creating many keychains with Perler beads, little plastic beads that you arrange and then melt together. I was super excited when I learned that Twizzlers can be used in a similar way. Before class, I had prepared "Perler beads" by cutting up Rainbow Twizzlers into 1/4" pieces. In class, students used a stencil to draw a picture on parchment paper. Then students arranged the Twizzler pieces inside the stencil marks. When the picture was complete, I put another layer of parchment paper on top and melted the Twizzlers with an iron. What fun to munch on a sweet piece of art!
At our third art station, we painted as if we were using liquid watercolors, except our paint was made from powdered drink mix. While the artwork smelled AMAZING, we were a little disappointed that the four drink flavors all had a similar color. So we did some experimenting and decided to include actual watercolors. Our pictures still smelled great, but they included more color.
I challenged my students to go home and see if they could collect colors from natural things in or around their home. I was delighted when a student returned the next week with a paper full of color, collected from dandelions, grass, dirt, and a variety of materials. I can only imagine what ideas and creativity will be sparked by this art exploration.
To develop awareness of form and shape, our last class in the 'Elements of Design' series focused on 3D sculptures. Sculptures can sometimes be hard when working with preschoolers because the process of building requires a lot of fine motor skills and problem-solving. When creating this class, I made sure to allow for a lot of options so that the art was accessible to a variety of skills and abilities.
We began class with a classic preschool sculpture activity - playdough! The playdough creatures were so silly and adorable, making everyone laugh at their absurdity.
After our playdough fun, I introduced Mini Makers to three makers stations. At the first station, I had set out pipe cleaners, beads, wooded bases with pre-drilled holes, and styrofoam. Mini Makers were able to twist and manipulate the pipe cleaners into endless possibilities.
Some students were able to poke pipe cleaners into pre-drilled holes in the wood, making a sturdy base. For those who had not yet developed the eye-hand coordination to thread such a small hole, styrofoam was a great option to use as a base.
Our second station also used wood bases, along with a variety of cardboard rolls. Because we had limited time to dry our sculptures, we used quick-drying tempera paint sticks to decorate and adults assisted with a glue gun. Mini Makers used their creativity to crumple or glue cardboard rolls into new shapes and designs.
The third station was a kinetic sculpture that reminded me of the bead mazes for toddlers often found in waiting rooms. Students started by pulling a wire hanger into a circular shape. Then they used their fine motor skills to twist craft wire onto the hanger. Through a series of twisting and adding beads, Mini Makers created something that looked like a dream catcher that slid and shifted when turned.
Texture is simply how something feels when it is touched. In art, we often talk about the texture of an art piece without touching the piece. We are able to do that because we've had lots of experience actually touching things. To give preschoolers the knowledge to speak about texture, we have to give them the opportunities to explore and touch.
To start class, we woke up our senses with a texture walk. Children took off their shoes and felt a variety of sensations - rough/smooth, soft/hard. The walk led us to sensory bins full of water beads. Water beads are made from a water-absorbing polymer that expand when placed in water. They were actually created to help hydrate plants, but they make an awesome tactile tool. They feel like a bunch of slippery, squishy bouncy balls. This was a popular activity that could have entertained for hours.
I wanted kids to explore painting on surfaces beyond just paper. Before class, I glued together a patchwork of recycled materials onto a large piece of cardboard. I looked for materials with a strong contrast in texture - aluminum foil, sand paper, bubble wrap, drift wood.
After exploring the water beads, students explored painting on this multi-surface collage. Painting on something other than paper was new for some students. There was lots to explore along the lines and bumps. Each material took the paint a little differently. The wood and cardboard sucked the paint up like a thirsty plant. The paint glided smoothly across the foil like an ice skater.
Students then had an opportunity to create their own multi-textured masterpieces. Some kids were drawn to a single material, while others used everything that was offered.
Students learned from experimenting with art media and found objects to better understand what they are and what they can do. These open-ended explorations will guide Mini Makers in their abilities and creativity as future artists.