Painting circles with a compass

I don’t know about you, but I am always looking for a new or unique tool for painting for making the process fun and interesting for children.  These compasses that we used for painting circles really fit the bill…

Compass painting by Teach Preschool

I’ve shared with you how we have been exploring circles and other shapes lately.  Deborah picked up these awesome compasses at the Dollar Tree, obviously intending to use them for making circles. She wanted to borrow the brilliant idea from Housing a Forest of using paintbrushes, instead of a standard pencil that you would normally use in a compass…

Compass painting by Teach Preschool

Finding a paintbrush that fits in the compass was a bit challenging.  Fortunately, we have several different sized paint brushes to choose from, so we picked the best fit.  It was still a little loose, so Mr. Hayden wrapped a rubber band around the paintbrush so it wouldn’t slip…

Compass painting by Teach Preschool

Cups of paint were set out along with the compasses for the children to dip their paintbrushes in.  The children had never seen a compass before, so we had to demonstrate how to use it.  Now that I think about it, I haven’t had much use for a compass since high school math class!  You may remember those old metal compasses with a sharp point.  Well, these were made of plastic, so there was a small blunt point and not a sharp point to worry about.  We placed two pieces of foam board on the table then showed the children how poke one end of the compass into the paper on the foam board  and ten dip the brush into the paint and move the brush around in a circle. And then we set the children loose, armed with their new compass paintbrushes, some paint, and large sheets of white paper…

Compass painting by Teach Preschool

I couldn’t begin to imagine how or if the children would be able to make this work.  Compasses are difficult tools to work with, even for adults.  As with most of our art processes, we focused more on allowing the children to explore this new and unfamiliar tool, rather than on the end product.  But WOW, were we ever surprised by the results…

Compass painting by Teach Preschool

Not all of the children chose to do this particular activity, but all of those who attempted it, gave 100% effort!  We found that our younger students had a harder time keeping their compass centered in the middle of their paper.  Sometimes they accidentally squeezed the compass, which broke their circle.  And some of the children preferred to just swipe their brush back and forth in an arc, rather than making a whole circle.  Nonetheless, it was an interesting process for them to explore…

Compass painting by Teach Preschool

But what was most surprising about this process was the focus and determination that some of our children had to create a true circle…

Compass painting by Teach Preschool

It was quite an accomplishment to create such a large, perfect circle.  But one of our little guys didn’t stop there, he went on to try to paint a circle inside of a circle.  How cool!

Compass painting by Teach Preschool

This was such a great art process and a really unique way to explore circles!  I can’t wait to use the compasses again in a new way!  What are your favorite painting tools?

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By |2014-01-22T07:00:16+00:00January 22nd, 2014|

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. Vicky @ Mess For Less January 22, 2014 at 11:41 am - Reply

    What a great way to explore circles! I was just at the Dollar Tree this week. I will have to look for these the next time I am there.

  2. Stephanie Schuler January 22, 2014 at 12:44 pm - Reply

    Great stuff! Thanks for sharing!

  3. Liliana January 24, 2014 at 9:11 am - Reply

    I do not have pictures, but to add up to your amazing idea of compas painting, tide up a piece string even a ducktape rolled up to a painting brush on one end and a pencil that is not sharpened on to the other end, with the pencil eraser use to hold on to the paper center and go around to draw your circle with the other end. Can be challenging but hey we love challenges to experiment. This idea is good when compas is not available. 🙂

  4. Simona January 24, 2014 at 4:24 pm - Reply

    What a great lesson! I love your way to paint!

  5. […] Compass Painting from Teach Preschool […]

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