Process art is one thing all preschoolers love, and it is so good for them, too! The possibilities within process art are limitless! Recently, the preschoolers explored art through painting and decorated tree branches.
One morning I was driving home with the kiddies form doing some errands and saw our HOA was trimming the trees in our neighborhood. I immediately pulled over and grabbed a few of the tree branches they had just cut off. At the time, I wasn’t sure exactly what my preschoolers would be doing with them, but I knew I would find a fun use for them.
The next morning, I set the tree branches on our preschool table with some washable tempera paint and invited the children to help me paint “our trees.”
- We had never painted something like tree branches, and it would turn out that painting tree branches is not at all like painting paper. The three dimensions of the branches were a challenge, trying to paint all sides when we couldn’t always see every side. The other difficulty was that the tree branches wiggled as we painted them, especially the thinner branches. This really made the preschoolers use their fine motor muscles.
- This project took us several days to complete. Unlike other process art we had done in the past, this project wasn’t completed in just one morning. In fact, it took us four mornings to complete! Because we only have preschool twice a week, that means that it took us two weeks to finish.
We began by simply painting the tree branches with washable tempera paint. This did make a big mess, as the paint sometimes dripped from the branches or flecks of paint got splattered in the painting process itself. The children got paint on their clothing, and because of the length of the branches extended the length of the preschool table, they got some paint on the floor.
I didn’t want the preschoolers to feel confined to painting in just one part of the tree, so I removed the chairs and the children had the freedom to walk around the table and paint as they desired. I felt that the ability to move while painting was an important part of the art process.
That night, it rained. And all the rain quickly washed away our beautiful and colorful washable tempera paint! So the next time I had my preschoolers, we repainted the tree branches on the back lawn. This time, we used high gloss acrylic paint that is made for glass. I had a bunch left over from an art project years ago, and this was the perfect way to use it up as it was getting too old to use. The gloss added the most beautiful shine to our trees!
But…high gloss acrylic paint is not as child friendly, so I asked that each parent send their kiddie to school in clothing that could get ruined, because acrylic paint is not very easy to get out of clothing.
The next preschool morning, we decorated our tree branches. I set out chenille pom poms, curcling ribbon, feathers, jingle bells, pipe cleaner stems, ditalini pasta (or pasta beads) and some white school glue. Then, I let the children free with the materials, again removing the chairs so they knew they were welcome to move about as they worked.
As expected, decorating the trees ended up being a great fine motor activity. The children experienced new difficulties as they tried to figure out how to wrap the curled ribbon around the branches, or how to twist the pipe cleaner to make it stay, or how to carefully add the pom poms so they wouldn’t fall off before the glue had a chance to dry.
When our decorations were dry, we took the branches out on the front steps to add some glitter. I then set the branches in a five gallon bucket filled with sand so they would stand on their own, and we added some yarn for a garland.
These tree branches are about the silliest things I’ve ever seen in my life, but I adore them. They are sitting on my front porch and are a colorful and inviting addition to an otherwise gray and drab entryway! On occasion, one of my preschoolers will bring something in to add to our tree. It continues to be a work in progress.