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Whether this title makes you think of Tom Sawyer or Karate Kid, you probably share some old-school notion that encouraging your children to paint something can teach them a lesson. It turns out what was true for Tom and Daniel-san is true for our preschoolers as well. Nearly all preschoolers love to paint, so engaging them is effortless. Give kids natural paints in a variety of colors and be sure to provide both plenty (enough for everyone to paint at once) and scarcity (just one of each color). This killer combination makes for productive practice with sharing. Set up the situation the right way, and there is actually a lot for kids to learn as they brush paint on a stick, a log or even a rock.
We focus on three main goals here, none of which are to, necessarily, create something lovely to look at (sorry, Martha Stewart). First, hippy-dippy as it may sound, we seek to free their minds to paint outdoors as a precursor to thinking “outside the box.” To our children, nature should feel like a limitless canvas that comes with unlimited art supplies (provided we make no harmful impact). Second, holding, dipping and using a paintbrush is a wonderful way to develop the hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills that enable all kinds of important work in and out of school. And last, but certainly not least to this age group, is to build communication skills as they navigate sharing with their peers.
Regardless of whether your child is on a path to be the next Picasso, as they grip, dip and glide a paint brush over various surfaces, they develop fine motor control in their hands. In other words, they build the strength and skill they'll need to perform tasks like using fork and knife, catching and throwing a ball or tasks essential for higher-level learning like hand-writing and typing on a computer. It sounds like basic stuff, but if they enter school without solid fine motor skills, learning can be very frustrating, causing kids to develop lasting negative attitudes towards learning.
As kids share and negotiate the use of limited resources, they develop the higher-level communication and collaboration skills they'll need to navigate life as a learner, friend, family member and teammate in both school and the workplace. It's never too early to start becoming a sweet talker!