Paper towel shape art for preschoolers

I am often asked “How do you teach concepts like shapes, colors, letters and numbers in the classroom without making the process a structured sit and listen lesson?” As you can see from my last post titled Sponge Block Water Play Puzzles, that the opportunity to explore basic concepts can be integrated into everyday playful and creative experiences. In today’s post, I am sharing an opportunity to explore shapes and color through a more artsy experience…

Paper Towel Shape Art by Teach Preschool

For this experience in exploring shapes, I cut up a handful of super absorbent paper towels (Bounty works well) into different basic shapes and set them out with art paper, scissors, glue, colored water, and droppers…

Paper Towel Shape Art by Teach Preschool

The idea was for the children to select the shapes they wanted to use, glue them to their art paper first, and then add color to the shapes. However, the children made other decisions on how they wished to approach this process. This little guy decided to start off cutting the art paper. He took his time cutting out his own shapes before trying the rest of the process…

Paper Towel Shape Art by Teach Preschool

And another little guy decided to make marks on his shapes before adding any color…

Paper Towel Shape Art by Teach Preschool

And most of the children decided it wasn’t all that necessary to glue the paper towel shapes to the art paper so we pretty much skipped that step entirely…

Paper Towel Shape Art by Teach Preschool

Instead, the process involved many more skills than I had planned to focus on. The children focused on cutting, drawing, coloring, and exploring shapes…

Paper Towel Shape Art by Teach Preschool

The children enjoyed adding color to their paper towel shapes and watching the colors absorb and blend together on each paper towel shape…

Paper Towel Shape Art by Teach Preschool

The children also noticed that if they didn’t want the colored water to “run off the shape and down the page” they needed to hold their paper flat when they moved it from the table to the drying rack…

Paper Towel Shape Art by Teach Preschool

As the children explored the process, they often would talk about what they needed or discovered along the way. “Look I have a yellow square now!” or “I need a rectangle please!”. The opportunity to explore shapes through the children’s artwork naturally gave us the opportunity to remember the names of each shape and to say the names of each shape as the children focused on the process…

Paper Towel Shape Art by Teach Preschool

While the paper towel shapes were being tested for how much colored water they could possibly hold, the children were absorbing information about shapes, color, color mixing, water transfer as well as exploring cutting and drawing skills all wrapped up in this one simple artful experience…

Paper Towel Shape Art by Teach Preschool

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By |2014-03-23T15:47:02+00:00March 23rd, 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. Bethan Jones March 23, 2014 at 4:48 pm - Reply

    Love this and we’re doing shapes this wk 🙂

  2. Renee May 6, 2014 at 3:53 pm - Reply

    You have so many great ideas on your website! Thank you so much. I hopei can incorporate some of them in my Pre k art classes here in Morocco.

  3. Sue October 14, 2017 at 4:39 am - Reply

    Deborah, I’m curious as to what you said to your students when introducing this center. Did you give any suggestions or instructions or simply put supplies out and leave the process entirely up to them?

    • Deborah Stewart October 17, 2017 at 5:28 pm - Reply

      We always take a quick tour of our centers and share with the children any need to know information before sending them off on their own to give things a try!

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