Today we got out the finger paint for the first time this year. Which is surprising, since I typically use it more often than regular tempera paint and brushes with this age group. When toddlers paint, the hands almost always become a paint tool at some point in the process. They are still in the sensori-motor stage of development according to Piaget, so they use all of their senses to learn about the world. They tend to touch, taste, smell, listen every time they are introduced to something new.
Today was no exception. We did have at least one child taste the paint. Thankfully they decided they didn't like the taste and didn't continue eating it. They used their sense of touch the most. Most of them started off just moving the paint around on their trays. After a few years of dealing with paper that tears because the toddlers don't like to stop painting once the paper is completely saturated, I have learned to just put the paint on the tray. One of the younger toddlers pushed his paint around, then squished it around in his hands. I commented on how it felt to him, and soon enough, other children were imitating. By the time they were finished, most of them had paint up to their elbows.
I let them choose their color from a selection of fall colors. Most started with one color but as soon as one of the boys asked for two colors, most of the other children followed suit. They talked about the colors mixing together as they moved the paint around. They saw that they could use a finger or two to draw and write in the paint. After I made an 'S' for one of the children, I had to make the first letter of the other children's names as well. They delighted in rubbing the paint around and covering their letters up again. When they were finished, we took a piece of paper and made a print of their painting. Upon seeing the first print, they were amazed at what they made and couldn't wait to see what their picture looked like.
I love watching the children explore with new art materials. They don't have an end product in mind, they just take the time to explore and see what they can create. They learn about the properties of paint, color names and other more academic skills when they paint sometimes. They talk to each other and often imitate what they see a peer doing, so they are practicing social skills, too. But, in the end, it's all about getting absorbed in the process and seeing what happens. And being delighted with the end product, no matter how it turns out.