The first child picked up the brush and dunked it in the paint. As the paint dripped off onto her hand she ran the brush back and forth spreading a thick coat all over her hand and arm. She was totally absorbed in the feeling of it on her skin and how it looked as she moved the brush through the paint. When her hand was coated she gave the paper a SPLAT, creating a handprint, before going back to covering her hand with more paint.
The second child looked on warily. “I don’t want to touch the paint like that!” He said in a worried tone. I reassured him that he could paint however he wanted and showed him all of the brushes we had available. He carefully dipped the brush in the paint and worked steadily to cover his whole paper in color.
In the end, both papers were full of swirled color, but the hands of the two children couldn’t have looked more different. It was a perfect snapshot of how individual kids are in their approach to sensory (or “hands on”) experiences and why it is so important to have a variety of ways that they can get involved.
If I had asked the first child to paint just the paper, she might have slapped some color around but probably wouldn’t have been absorbed as she was. If I had told the second child he had to get his hands dirty he probably would have avoided painting at all. Instead, by letting them approach it their own way they both were able to experience the texture of the paint and the way the colors mixed and what happened with different brushstrokes.
As your planning experiences, in the classroom or the museum, look at how you can respect the different needs that kids have for (quite literally) diving in with both hands. It can make quite a difference