Table top easel painting in preschool

Last summer I made a whole set of small table top easels from cardboard and today, we used them for tabletop easel painting…

I also made paint palettes from cut up strips of empty apple cartons. I filled the cups of the ‘disposable’ paint palettes with different colors of paint and gave each child their own paint palette to work with…

As the children painted, they freely mixed the colors in their own paint palette. Although the children really didn’t need water for this, the children asked for a cup of water anyway to rinse off their paint brushes. It somehow made the children feel like they had the complete artist package just by adding the cup of water…

The children asked for more paper and paint as they continued to explore the painting process. I just kept adding paint on top of the old paint and we didn’t worry about whether the colors were getting mixed up a bit on the palettes. Painting is all about mixing colors….

Some of the children held their paint palettes while painting and others kept them on the table to work with. After lots of use, the paint palettes get a little flimsy so the children only used them on the table. I let them figure that out as we went along…

And some of our children enjoyed exploring the difference water made when painting. They discovered the texture and the color was quite different if you added water to the paint or paint brush…

We used terms and sentences like paint canvas, paint palette, thinning the paint, mixing the colors, stroking with the paint brush, and so on….

We also used a variety of different types of paint brushes. There wasn’t much thought that went into which brushes we used, I just handed them out randomly…

In time, our painting space started looking – well – very artistic!

I wish everyone of you could have been there to see this experience because I honestly don’t know how to give it justice. It wasn’t that the children walked away thinking, “I just made a beautiful painting,” although I think they were all quite beautiful, it was that this was a beautiful experience…

My students kept telling one another – “I am making this painting for you!” and “Come and look at what I painted for you!” and “Don’t you love it?”  They all made me smile at their generosity towards each other…

My students have grown as artists throughout this school year and this was an amazing experience of art expression, dramatic play, color mixing, independence, generosity, and creativity. One of my students’ said, “We are like real artists!”  And I must say, they truly were…

This post is linked to Red Ted Art’s Blog: Kids Crafts Linky Party  and to Kreative Resources!

By |2012-02-07T06:00:01+00:00February 7th, 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. Little Wonders' Days February 7, 2012 at 6:42 am - Reply

    I love that they are able to paint together like this! My kids’ classrooms only have/had room for one or two kids to paint at a time. It’s nice that this was a group experience.

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. February 7, 2012 at 7:02 am - Reply

      The group experience really made a difference:)

  2. Jill February 7, 2012 at 8:01 am - Reply

    I LOVE LOVE LOVE this! what an AWESOME idea! i love the little girl holding her paint in one hand and painting with the other…so artist like!!! I have one easel so its a take turn kinda thing but this is such a great idea to make it more of a group project!

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. February 7, 2012 at 8:08 am - Reply

      I have a stand up easel too Jill and although our students love to use it, this was equally inviting to them. I got a kick out of our little one holding her paint palette too, she was totally engrossed in the process!

  3. Lisa Marie Mary February 7, 2012 at 8:26 am - Reply

    I love the way you made each of them an easel – that was a great idea! What a super fun experience. I really, really miss crafting and artwork with munchkins.

  4. Esther February 7, 2012 at 8:55 am - Reply

    That’s a great idea and good way to upcycle the card boards too. I think we may use a giant activity book cover and try to make one.

  5. tricia February 7, 2012 at 12:29 pm - Reply

    This must be one of our daughter’s very favorite activities to do. Good idea to use the cardboard!

  6. Jaimi Erickson February 7, 2012 at 2:38 pm - Reply

    I love the table top easel idea! Great for a classroom of multiple kiddos. My son uses his easel at home all the time, but we use an empty egg carton for his palette. He can then keep the unmixed colors in one row and mix in the empty cups so he can always go back to clean paint. I have even cut out one egg cup so he can get a thumb in there to help hold it. Your students look like they had a great and in-depth art experience. Wonderful ideas!

  7. Cerys @ Rainy Day Mum February 8, 2012 at 4:53 am - Reply

    What a great idea and I can see why they would be real artist 😀 – we don’t tend to have big apple boxes like the states in the UK but I’ve used the inside of cake boxes and muffin tins which are plastic and last 5 to 10 uses with my toddler for painting with.

    Visiting from Red Ted Art

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. February 8, 2012 at 7:30 am - Reply

      Of course, it can be any kind of container for the paint:) Muffin tins are perfect!

  8. Rebecca February 8, 2012 at 5:17 am - Reply

    What a fab idea. Would be great for in the house as well.

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. February 8, 2012 at 7:30 am - Reply

      Definitely good for at home!

  9. maggy,red ted art February 8, 2012 at 8:08 am - Reply

    Oh my how lovely! Wonderful to see how the kids are getting so stuck in! The easels are fabulous. Love all the colours!

    Thank you for sharing on Kids Get Crafty!


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