How to make lions in preschool

Making lions with three year olds can be tricky because they can either become a little too much on the craftsy side and the teacher ends up doing most of the work, or they can end up not looking so much like lions…

I did a little demonstration for the kids on how I might make a lion. I added eyes, a nose, some whiskers, and then used a cotton ball dipped in yellow and orange paint to add the mane…

I don’t always demonstrate the art process but when I know the process may be a little abstract, I take a minute to demonstrate. While demonstrating the process, I might say…

“What is the first thing our lion face will need?”

“Does anyone know what a mane is?”

“Hmmm, I think I will dab my paint to make the lion’s mane but how else could I add the paint?”

Essentially, we have a discussion about the process. I ask questions to promote the discussion and as the children answer my questions, I continue to “think out loud” and make my lion…

Then off the children go to interpret the discussion and the process the way they understood it…

In the end, the children’s lions turned out far more interesting than my boring old lion…

I know that some folks out there may frown on the fact that I sometimes demonstrate the art process but just know that I don’t demonstrate it in such a way that the children feel they must do it “the right way.” I demonstrate the process intentionally using words like “perhaps, maybe, or if I like” so the children can see the process but at the same time hear me processing (out loud) the different choices I might make while painting my lion.  Once the children start on their own lions, they know that there is no right or wrong way to make a lion…

This is what we read with this activity: 

By |2012-01-17T06:00:52+00:00January 17th, 2012|

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. Laura Pawley January 17, 2012 at 12:50 pm - Reply

    I really don’t understand why some people fret about showing kids a technique. I always show mine “how” to do it so they feel confident and prepared…and then they go to the art table and, like you said, “interpret” our discussion/demonstration to their own process! We don’t make lasagna without directions, we don’t knit without learning how to turn a stitch, we don’t cast pottery without a little help. Why all the fuss about demonstrating how they could dip a cotton ball in paint and blob it on to make a mane? It’s showing them a way to do something today, and then they may translate that experience to something tomorrow. It’s helping to expand their repertoire of techniques. (Provided, of course, the teacher sits back and lets them do it!)

  2. Bonnie January 17, 2012 at 7:50 pm - Reply

    I’m an early childhood special education teacher for children, ages 3-5, with special needs. Demonstrating an activity, like this one, is something I make a conscious choice in doing. For many of my students, especially those with autism and receptive language delays, seeing what we will be doing next as a group helps me to grab their attention, prepare them for a transition (to small group time), and to show them what supplies we will be working with. I also demonstrate this activity because I want my students to copy my technique of dipping the cotton ball into the paint and then onto the paper because I wish for them to use this activity to strengthen their fine motor skills. And, demonstrating dipping the cotton ball into paint gives my students a way of using a material (cotton ball) in a new and fun way. Once given the paint and paper, my students have the freedom to create anything they please. With many different cognitive and skill levels in my class, some of my students will make lion faces because they want to do so and some of my students may just paint random dots on paper. I also believe that your “thinking aloud” technique is spot on. For this activity, I will be commenting on the colors the students are using, how the paint is spreading, what shapes are being made, etc. A wonderful activity!

  3. Jill @ a mom with a lesson plan January 19, 2012 at 9:25 am - Reply

    Cute Deb! 😉

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. January 19, 2012 at 10:37 pm - Reply

      Thank you Jill:)

  4. Amy January 31, 2012 at 8:50 pm - Reply

    I am glad to see that you demonstrate things like this. I do as well, I have MANY opportunities for free art in my room, but I like to teach the children other methods for creating–rather than getting 100 paintings of brownish paper 🙂 . I do as you do, demonstrating my thought process. Sometimes I demonstrate with drawing as well, I get a lot of I can’t or I don’t know how, and breaking it down into some basic steps I think is helpful for kids and builds self-confidence!! Looking forward to more ideas!

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. January 31, 2012 at 9:07 pm - Reply

      I agree Amy – sharing the process and then inviting children to explore the process in their own way does build confidence and skills! I like doing both:)

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