Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Painting to Music for Elementary & Middle School Aged Children

Painting to Music for Elementary & Middle School Aged Children by Cindy Wilkinson

There are some really cool ways of integrating painting with music for children in elementary and middle school. (These activities may also work for pre-school aged children who have had previous experience with painting projects, although you may want to simplify it some.) Since most kids this age have already mastered many of the basics of working with different types of paints, brushes, etc., you can really get down and get creative!! Here are a few of my favorite activities.

Jackson Pollack was an American painter who experiemented with liquid paints and various objects to apply the paint including brushes, sticks, and even basting syringes. His style was called the "drip and splash" technique. Doesn't this description just call out to young children to join in and explore their creativity?

Integrating this approach of painting with music has endless possibilities. Since most schools or average households don't have access to an actual canvas, you can use large sheets of butcher block paper or an old solid colored sheet. Put out some paints (thin tempera is what I use); then some objects such as cups to drip the paint from, brushes, sticks, etc. The fun part starts when you choose what music you will play to get children into the mood for their painting extravaganza. This might be a good time to get out some of your "oldies but goodies" and rock out while the kids are painting! Or you might use this as a time to introduce your painter to opera. Be creative and think of music which may inspire your young artist.

A great variation of this activity is to have the children paint the bottoms of their feet. (Again, I usually use tempera paint.) Then put on some music with a fast beat and let the children dance around on butcher block paper or a sheet. The results are totally awesome! You will have a work of art which you will treasure forever. This also works well as a group activity. Let several children work together on a footprint dance painting, or if you are an especially fearless teacher, your whole class can do it together. Arts education organizations stress the importance of collaboration as a key fundamental of their curriculum. This is a great way to accomplish many goals: experimenting with color, fostering creativity, moving to the beat of the music in a new way, and working together with other budding artists to create a masterpiece.

My final activity is a bit different, but can be very meaningful to the young painter. Put on a recorded song with lyrics which tell a story; folk songs work really well. Some examples would be "Puff the Magic Dragon", "Sweet Betsy from Pike", and "Cockles and Mussels"... There are too many to mention them all, but you get the point; now think of some songs you know or like that would work for this activity. Set up each child with an easel with paper and paints. First, play the song and have the child listen to the story within the song. Then play it again as the child paints and watch as their impression of the song emerges in the painting. Be careful not to coach the child, just let the artist use his imagination and create what is meaningful to him.

Whether you use the activities which I have listed above or you are inspired to create some new activities of your own, painting to music is an experience your child will never forget!

Cindy Wilkinson is a music teacher in the Denver area. She has recorded several children's CDs: Jumpin' Up to the Moon, Jumpin' On Down the Road, and Jumpin' Into Dreamland (soon to be released). In addition to her work in the music field, She has also been a professional nanny for 30 yrs. In 1998, She was honored as the International Nanny Association's Nanny of the Year!
To order her CDs you can go to


~Nana, the eclectic nanny~ said...

i love this idea! I have long played around with doing some music and movement classes with daycare kiddos, its the same stuff i did in a classroom all day long! currently i have been prof nanny for 4 years, and taught babies through pre-k for many more before that. tonite i have a side job sitting for a 4yr and 2yr old, i think we will roll out the craft paper in the back yard, bring the cd player outside and don paint shirts and painted feet for an afternoon of fun. thanks for sharing!


~Nana, the eclectic nanny~ said...

Hi there! just thought i'd update, we did the music and painting activity. I intended to use the roll of butcher paper i thought was still there at the kids' house and i was going to use fast music first and slow next. i did the activity with a 4 yr old and a 2yr old, and my teenage daughter helped. well, needless to say the roll of paper was not there, so after a few attempts and using different mediums, wrapping paper won! and we had so much fun with the fast music that we never put the slow music on until we ate pizza outside, still in paint shirts. all in all it was a blast, and the kids have wonderful memories, as do i! thanks again!

Kids Music said...

What a nice blog you have..thanks for all this information.