“The best way to encourage imaginative painting is to plan painting time immediately following a story, conversation, or lesson.”
Painting In Sunday School
Most published curricula have set projects and craft ideas to do with children in conjunction with the bible story or theme of each lesson. However, have you ever tried some open responses to a story that has been told, allowing the child to create totally on their own? One means to do this is by offering painting opportunities.
Make sure your paints are washable (sometimes putting dishwashing liquid soap into water based tempera helps), you have plenty of newspaper on the tables and smocks for children (old shirts with the sleeves cut off at the elbows worn backwards and even plastic bags with holes cut for their heads work well) on hand.
When we paint it offers a freedom of the creative self – a relief from the confines of always having to be neat, a release from bottled-up emotion, a way to express things that are sometimes beyond words. The best way to encourage imaginative painting is to plan painting time immediately following a story, conversation, or lesson.
If music is played during painting time, children will almost always be influenced by the mood, rhythm or message of the music. Sometimes, but not always, you may want to ask the children to listen and paint the way the music sounds.
Give children an opportunity to “tell the story that goes with the picture.” In this way we can give the child the added opportunity of verbal expression and a way for us to accept and appreciate their work in our response to them. If the child doesn’t want to talk about what they painted, we can still show our appreciation for what they created.
Practical Tips for Painting in the Classroom
1. Limit Colors
Begin with one or two colors offered. Given all three primary colors (yellow, red and blue), small children will blend them all and end up with “mud” (brown).
2. Consider Easels
Sturdy, double easels can be bought through toy or art supply catalogs or suppliers. They can also easily be made with plywood (make sure rough edges are sanded to avoid splinters.)
If possible, use small plastic storage containers with tight-fitting lids, or use cut-down milk cartons.
4. Proper Brushes
Little hands need large brushes, but the handles need not be extra long. Large round brushes or inexpensive house paint trim brushes are suitable. Have a separate brush for each color of paint. After each painting session wash and store brushes with the bristles up.
5. Big Paper!
Use large pieces of white butcher-type paper, newsprint, construction paper, the back side of discarded wallpaper, or the front side of wallpaper that is plan and subtle in color and design.
6. Drying Methods
Thumbtack paintings to a bulletin board, use double-sticky tape to fasten them to a blackboard, or use a wooden clothes rack.
Sharon Ely Pearson is a 30+ year Christian formation veteran, currently serving as an editor and the Christian Formation Specialist for Church Publishing Incorporated. Wife, mother, grandmother, and author, she enjoys connecting people with each other and the resources they need for growing in the knowledge and love of Jesus.