“… we have learnt from him certain fundamental principles of psychology. One is that the child must learn by his own individual activity, being given a mental freedom to take what he needs, and not to be questioned in his choice. Our teaching must only answer the mental needs of the child, never dictate them.”
– Maria Montessori
(Updated 2021: If you’re interested in the books we enjoy using for Art inspiration, check out our Art list in our shop.)
Our children are showing a lot of interest in their art materials right now and this is such a lovely time of year to draw inspiration from nature while pursuing that interest. I thought I would share our current art setup and materials since this is a living, breathing space that changes with time to suit the interests and developmental needs of our preschooler and toddler. Our 3-year-old and 19-month-old mostly participate in associative play right now with some brief periods of cooperative play. This is a nice transition from the parallel play leading up to this stage, for us as parents and homeschoolers, since we are able to observe and enjoy the increased contact and engagement between them. They seem very connected right now, and it really enhances our ability to understand the benefits of the Montessori multi-age classroom and close sibling relationships in a home/school environment. With that in mind, we currently have a space that is organized for two children who tend to work mostly together, with an option to work independently as desired using the work table or easel. We have experimented with having more artwork on display in this area but our son has very comically and consistently let us know that the walls in this area should be without decoration. We usually keep some nature-themed or other open-ended manipulatives on the table and that has been a nice source of inspiration.
Since we are thinking within the boundaries of having enough materials accessible for two children at once, while avoiding the pitfalls of having too many available, we make their materials accessible to them using the Alex drawer unit. This allows them the freedom to buddy up to their materials side-by-side without having to hover over anyone’s shoulder. It also provides an extra work surface, if needed, and the unit is on casters so it can be rolled to wherever our kids want to do their work, whether that be their easel, their table, outside, or tucked in a corner when we want the extra space. This unit is pretty spacious, allowing the contents to mature along with their needs while maintaining that sense of order and beauty consistent with the Montessori prepared environment. I just used some leftover shelf liner to protect the insides of the drawers. A popular option I hear about frequently that is smaller and can cozy up to an easel or sit nestled in an art corner, is the Raskog utility cart, which is also on casters and equally portable.
Here’s a peek at some materials our children are currently working with:
Scissors, hole punch, some washi tape, and a few stickers. The bamboo trays are great because depending on what they’re working on, they can just pull out the tray and it keeps everything organized for them in their work area. Easier clean up too.
Do A Dot markers, watercolor paints, and some stamps that are great for spring-themed work. The markers and stamps promote open-ended play, fine motor skills and are great for use with our language shelf work. The watercolor palette is super pigmented and is composed of high quality paints that last a long time. We weren’t huge fans of some other palettes we had purchased in the past and this was a game changer for us.
3-in-1’s, colored pencils, and assorted size paintbrushes (2 of each size). The 3-in-1’s are long-lasting, highly pigmented crayons, colored pencils, and watercolors, depending on how they’re used. They are unbreakable and work well on our back door glass, allowing our kids to draw what they see and inspiring some great nature-themed art. The colored pencils are the Waldorf set, and the Skin Tones set. They were part of a 3rd birthday gift for our daughter from her Grandma and Grandpa (thank you!) and we really appreciate how thick and durable they are, as well as their bright and attractive colors.
Colored construction paper and plain white paper. Simple, open-ended materials that we get a lot of use from.
A couple coloring books and coloring pages. Our children really enjoy their open-ended art materials, but our daughter does ask for coloring pages on occasion. Children of Other Lands has been a great addition to our cultural work and Guess How I Feel is a very open-ended selection for emotional intelligence and teaching empathy. The spring-themed coloring pages are from online resources.
These are the items our preschooler and toddler show the most interest in and we found to be the most durable for their respective ages. They also support the associative and cooperative play characteristics they are displaying at this time. Our daughter has been pretty diligent about caring for and cleaning up her art materials and our son participates intermittently with modeling. We keep additional materials like chalk, glue, whiteboard markers, travel pads, twine, clay, refills, etc. nearby for when there is an interest or to make accessible with certain works.
We hope this is helpful for those of you who may be thinking about making some changes to suit your children’s changing art interests, or if you’re looking for some art inspiration as we prepare to welcome spring.
Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”