Circles and lines on the easel in preschool

These children are given daily opportunity to paint at the easel…

This is a class of two year olds and for the longest time, the twos have been just using their time at the easel to mix the paint colors until all the paintings look like one big brown blob…

It is important to note that freely exploring and mixing paint colors is an important part of introducing the children to the easel. The children need time to explore the painting process and tools before they are ready to begin painting anything beyond the blob…

Because these young children have been exploring the easel most of the school year, we thought we would begin encouraging different kinds of strokes by commenting on what we see them doing as they paint. Today, the teacher focused on saying things like “you are making circles” or “I can see you have made a line.”

As the teacher commented on their paintings, the children naturally wanted to try the strokes again. In the end, most of the painting still ended up large blobs of color but what we noticed is that the children took more time with their paintings and painted more deliberately. Even when they painted with two hands…

Another observation I have made is that the children enjoy painting side-by-side so they can look and talk to each other as they paint…

I was once asked why easel painting should be encouraged. Easel painting is significant in several respects…

  1. The children paint standing up and looking at their canvas at eye level which brings a more real world perspective to their view as they paint.
  2. We tend to look up and out at our world most of the time rather than bending over and looking down like we do when painting on a table.
  3. The canvas itself is large and inviting.
  4. The easel invites children to explore and create without so many rules, limits, and structure that we as adults tend to provide in table painting experiences.
  5. Easel painting lends itself to many learning experiences and can be easily varied to include a variety of paint colors, paper, and tools.

The key to success is time and opportunity. Children first need time to explore the painting process and with each opportunity, they will become more proficient at handling the materials and become more purposeful in their creative expression.

For children who are not able to stand for long periods of time – make a simple tabletop easel for them to use ~ NAEYC Young Children

By |2011-03-06T06:00:26+00:00March 6th, 2011|

About the Author:

Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. has been working and teaching in the field of early childhood education for over 30 years. Deborah currently owns and teaches in her own part-time, private preschool called The Children’s Studio. Deborah’s deep passion for teaching and working with young children is documented and then graciously shared with millions of readers around the world through her blog and other social networking communities. Deborah believes that young children learn best through play and exploration and embraces this belief in all that she does in her own classroom so that she can effectively and passionately share rewarding, real- life, tried-and-true practices with other teachers, parents, and leaders across the field of early childhood education.


  1. BEAUTIFUL! REminds me to get my daughter back at the easel!!

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. March 6, 2011 at 10:45 pm - Reply

      🙂 That’s Terrific!

  2. Andrea March 6, 2011 at 5:14 pm - Reply

    I need to dig ours out, too. Drawing or painting at the easel also encourages correct pencil grasp!

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. March 6, 2011 at 10:44 pm - Reply

      Absolutely – I think switching the kinds of tools used is a terrific way to expand the use of the easel:)

  3. Scott March 7, 2011 at 9:38 am - Reply

    Yay easel painting! We use our easel each week…usually for painting…but we’re exploring other ways to use it, too. Thanks for a great post, Deborah.

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. March 7, 2011 at 11:45 pm - Reply

      Painting is the best!!

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