Canvas Painting – Babies

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As a class we enjoy engaging with media that leaves a mark. One of the sensory options that we have offered to children is painting.  Through this experience the children have been able to maintain freedom in making their own discoveries and creating new learning opportunities. As teachers, we have strived to provide meaningful opportunities for every participant.

Some children like to have a full-body experience using all of their senses, others take on a slower approach, while some prefer to observe others engaging in the activity. This is why we offer several approaches for children to allow for discovery making and whole body engagement while at the same time responding to the needs of the individual.


This child sits on the canvas looking around at the wet blobs of paint. He puts both hands out in front of himself and gets on all fours. He stands up cautiously and slips on the paint falling onto his bottom. He tries again, this time successfully standing up with a great big smile. He takes a step forward onto the paint and slips, but catches himself. He swivels his body, continuing to be very careful not to fall. Another peer, grinning with a face full of paint, lays on his belly just outside of the canvas. He watches his peer very intently with each step he takes. The child continues to walk back-and-forth on the canvas creating footprints and smear marks.

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Small group activities provide meaningful opportunities for children to communicate with one another leading to the development of diverse communication skills.  Using gestures and sounds to communication with one another. This is a very exciting time to spend with the children as everyone responds differently. Children encourage, observe and learn from one another furthering their artistic development.







Art Kitchen

Like working artists all over the world, these preschoolers make use of a scrap of time in the day to practice their skills.

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Found Objects and Dough

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Students in Burlington Children’s Space’s Young Toddler classroom have been collecting objects while walking through our Old North End neighborhood of Burlington, VT. This social practice of collecting began last year when the students were in the Infant Room, and remains a robust facet of their classroom culture. Unlike their older counterparts, who are collecting mostly plant-based materials from the community, these students are attracted to primarily to rocks and wayward bits of paper, metal, and plastic. Yes, street garbage is the toolkit of their research.

Anything found and kept for their collection becomes a tool for manipulating dough in a subsequent classroom encounter. Each tool makes a different mark depending on its composition; the angle and force with which it is manipulated. Marks made and temporary sculptures pave the road to imaginative play as narrative language skills take root in the classroom.

With collected tools and dough, these toddlers invoked:

  • lollipop
  • nothing sandwich
  • puppy food
  • dog
  • cat
  • bird
  • cookie
  • popcorn
  • frosting
  • “I don’t know.”








Ice Sculptures

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During this February’s integrated arts unit on natural materials, I have had to make many curriculum adjustments due to weather. A blizzard preceded our first planned collecting walk, covering all the winter gardens with snow almost as tall as the children themselves! After my initial disappointment at the complication in my plan, I realized we were surrounded by an endless supply of another natural material: snow! Using the plant life we were able to uncover, we packed containers with plants and snow, brought them back into the classroom and finished preparing them with food coloring and water. Some went into the freezer and others back outside to freeze overnight.
Students were fascinated to see that the colors seeped up into the layer of snow which fell on top of the sculptures.  When we took them out of the containers the following day, they observed that some were frozen on the outside and liquid in the inside, and that most of the color seemed to stay in the liquid centers. Students were delighted to melt and break the sculptures with their fingers, noting that their hands were warmer than the ice and snow. They also observed the differences and details in the the ice, that the plants had remained in place, and that some of the colors had mixed and changed. We packed fresh  snow and plant materials back into some of the sculptures and returned them outdoors for further exploration in the afternoon.
This curriculum was significant to me because it celebrated the impermanence of weather, states of matter, plant biology and certain modes of artwork. Impermanence is simultaneously an abstract concept and completely observable; one of my favorite curriculum threads for early education.
Predictably unpredictable: After last week’s success, I planned ice sculptures for this week too. It’s 45 degrees F today, 60 tomorrow and all the snow is melting in to brown puddles. While waiting for winter to return, we continue to investigate and create art with the plant materials we find on our collecting walks. Meanwhile, the students are thoroughly enjoying the mud puddles.

-Katlyn Bullis, Early Education Teacher: photographs
-Rebecca Mack, Atelierista: words





Tree Cookie Sculptures

We created these sculptures using tree cookies, nails and screws, beads and colored wire. The children were given the opportunity to use real tools during this project. By trusting children to use real hammers, nails, screws and screwdrivers we showed them that we believe they are capable human beings. During the process they learned that they were really capable of handling those challenging and heavy tools. They worked meticulously and carefully while I held the nails and screws steady for them. It was a lesson in trust for me and my fingers only got smushed a couple times! During the process we also learned technical terminology related to the tools we were using. Your kids probably know how to identify a flat head and a Phillips-head screwdriver now! Plus, there was a certain level of hand eye coordination required to hit the head of the nail properly and with enough force to drive it into the hard wood. The children were up for the challenge and mastered the process with ease and enthusiasm. After the nails and screws were securely in place the kids chose from an array of colored wire and beads to decorate their sculptures. This part of the process required fine motor coordination to string the beads on the wire and wrap the wire around the nails. Each child was encouraged to freely express their own creativity for this part of the project. The completed three-dimensional art pieces are here for you to enjoy!
-Natalie Stroud: curriculum, written documentation. Rebecca Mack, photographs.

Morning, in photographs.

Each morning is full of transitions; for teachers, students, and parents. We all contribute our individual strengths and have our individual needs for these transitions. Here’s a peek at one of our morning transitions at Burlington Children’s Space.

This is me.

One goal of a therapeutic preschool is to help children grow emotionally. We provide the opportunity for children to draw self portraits because it can be a therapeutic activity that leads to a more expansive emotional repertoire. Young children often do not have a lot of control over their lives and are expected to fall in line with the choices of the adults around them. But when a child creates a self portrait, they can choose to represent themselves in any number of different ways and the choice is completely up to them. There is a moment right before the child starts drawing when they make the choice about how they would like to present themselves to the outside world. For some children, this comes easily to them but a lot of children have to spend time thinking about what part of themselves is important enough to depict in their artwork. It is empowering for children to be given the opportunity to choose how they present themselves to the world, without any of the adults in their life helping them make the choice. Some children used the mirror to draw themselves as they are seen from the outside. Other children imagined themselves as older or younger versions of themselves. A few children drew themselves in an old and beloved setting or a new and exciting one. One child even insisted on drawing her family in her self portrait. Any of the ways a child chooses to draw their self portrait gives us (the people viewing their art) insight into the way they see themselves and the way they want others to see them. Children also learn more about themselves while drawing a self portrait, which leads them towards even more emotional growth and understanding of themselves. As teachers, we can interpret these insights in an infinite amount of ways. By looking closely at their artwork we can come to understand these human beings even more deeply and help them to learn and grow in a way that fits them individually. Enjoy these beautiful windows into their souls.
-Curriculum and writing by Natalie Stroud, Green Preschool, Burlington Children’s Space