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Finger Paints and "The Lonely Dragon"
August 4, 2001
Class Five Session One


As we welcomed families to the final class of the first session, parents were given evaluation comment forms. This is an opportunity for the ArtPlay program to solicit input and comments about their childrens' experiences in the class, which is helpful to us to steer the classes and create stimulating curricula.

Children and parents then gathered in a circle on the floor for a story and introduction to the class. We clapped our hands rhythmically and chanted out our names as the beat went around the circle. Of course, several children were too shy to say their names out loud, and their parents introduced them, while others had no problem at all introducing themselves.

We began with a delightful story about a boy who invites a lonely dragon to his birthday party. The story utilized a lot of audience participation as everyone had to very forcefully call out the name of the dragon to get his attention….. and they did!! Oh my, that dragon came roaring out with claws bared. The adults were as enchanted as the children, and in some cases, even more so, if open mouths and smiles were anything to go by!

Following the story, the children were invited to the small tables where finger paints and paper awaited them to create whatever they wanted. The finger paint had been made with an easy at home, and worked perfectly. Finger painting paper (a slick coated paper) is essential for the success of finger painting to allow the paint to slide and slip and stay gooey for long enough. Paint was placed in containers in the center of each table and the children were invited to dip their hands in and get started smearing. We were a little surprised at how tentative some of the children were about touching the paint with their bare hands. They started cautiously with just a fingertip. We really had to encourage them to reach in for a gob and work it into a painting. Some of them asked for brushes and other tools to work with the paint. The idea of using only the hands was quite foreign…. which surprised us. They were not at all sure about getting their hands covered with sticky paint. Is this really okay? You could see them wondering. But once past the initial barrier, they scooped out handfuls and smeared, dotted, blended colors, and schmooshed. Eventually, enough paint was on the paper and hands to make a perfect opportunity to make hand prints on a clean sheet, or to pull prints from the painted paper by laying a clean sheet on top and pressing lightly. We had brought spray mist water bottles to the class so that paintings could easily be moistened and kept workable. Too much water wasn't a good idea, and the bottles were kept for adults to administer because the children just loved spraying.

We supplied two buckets with soapy water for the children to rinse their hands in during the session, and many of them visited the buckets over and over, just for the fun of cleaning and then painting their hands in an endless cycle of fun.

Many children did two or more paintings, and some of them reported that this was their favorite class. Very few children did representational pictures…. Sky, trees, flowers, horizon line etc., most just squished and smeared, and made layers of hand prints á la Jackson Pollock.

The paintings were very wet, and were laid out to dry in the sun, while we proceeded with the rest of the clean-up. We realized that drying time is essential when doing a finger painting class, and thought a hair dryer would have been a good idea. Several of the children couldn't take their work home because of the wetness.

This was an easy class, and stimulating for the children to cross the taboo line of getting 'involved' with their hands in their work. We thoroughly enjoyed the class ourselves and so did the parents. It is becoming very clear to us that the children are so proud of their work that they simply must take it home if at all possible, so we are allowing them to do so, with the promise that they will bring it back for our annual Kid's Point of View art show in September.