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Early childhood education has been my life for over 30 years. I have taught all age groups from infants to 5-year-olds. I was a director for five years in the 1980s, but I returned to the classroom 22 years ago. My passion is watching the ways children explore and discover their world. In the classroom, everything starts with the reciprocal relationships between adults and children and between the children themselves. With that in mind, I plan and set up activities. But that is just the beginning. What actually happens is a flow that includes my efforts to invite, respond and support children's interface with those activities and with others in the room. Oh yeh, and along the way, the children change the activities to suit their own inventiveness and creativity. Now the processes become reciprocal with the children doing the inviting, responding and supporting. Young children are the best learners and teachers. I am truly fortunate to be a part of their journey.

Saturday, April 12, 2014


This past week I have been working on a new presentation on how children explore water using different apparatus and different provisions for the Reggio Inspired Network of Minnesota.  For those of you who attended the presentation today, thank you for all the discussion and input and here is an apparatus that did not make it into the PowerPoint, but I think you will appreciate.   For those of you who follow this blog, this a reworking of a post from nearly three years ago that is a form of water play and color mixing.   

Is Suds Painting a sensory activity?  As you will see, it becomes highly sensory in nature.  Is it an art activity?  It is definitely a color mixing activity, but there is no product.  Even the mixing of colors is momentary.

The set up for Suds Painting is simple.  A plastic gutter splash guard is taped on an incline to a planter tray inside the table.  Children paint both the tray and the splash guard.  If enough suds paint is applied to the splash guard, the sudsy paint begins to flow down the splash guard and colors begin to mingle.

To make suds paint, I use a foaming soap dispenser.  Pamper Chef has one that has the amount of dish soap to water ratio right on the side of the bottle.  The ratio is 1 part dish soap to 7 parts water.  Some hand soaps now come in foaming soap dispensers and I use those, too, using the same approximate ratio.  I put tempera paint on the bottom of a paint cup and then add the sudsy foam.  A long handled brush is used to mix the paint and the suds.

I put caps on the paint cups so it is not a pouring activity.  Each cup has a brush. Besides the tray and splash guard, other objects are provided for the children to paint.  I make sure there are always bowls or plastic margarine tubs so the children have containers for mixing the different colored suds.

It is definitely a color-mixing activity.  My son-in-law is a Peruvian-trained artist. When I told him about the activity, he said it was not a good activity because when you mix all the colors all you get is an ugly brown.  It is true that by the end of class each day, the color is not very appealing. However, the colors the children come up with along the way are amazing.  Take a look.

This last one was the children's lava flow.  Some children know a lot about volcanoes and are spontaneously able to build a narrative that invites others to join.

The color in the bowl below is not so impressive, but look at the child's hand.  

As the activity progresses, I keep adding suds.  You can see that in the picture above.  Often times the children will ask for more suds in their container and then mix in the colors.  The suds pumps have been used a lot so they are hard to work for the children.  As a consequence, I or another adult spend more time at the sensory table than usual.

The children mix and paint with the brushes.

And they mix it with their hands.
I never noticed it before, but this child looks like she is in an mixing trance.

And sometimes a child will use both brushes and hands.

Brush, hands, color and painting all become one for this child.

There is something about the characteristics of suds and paint that invite a kind of sensory bliss. Watch the six-second video below of a child rubbing the paint, the suds and the bristles of the brush around in her hands.  Pay special attention at the end as the child exhales.  Is it bliss?

Bliss or not, at this point the Suds Painting is totally sensory.  The color now is a grayish purple and it is not getting used to paint.  Who needs color when suds dousing is an option?  Does it get any better than this?


  1. HI Tom
    Looking at the photos it reminds me of the 'pour painting' that was all the rave a year ago. But yours is a constant changing piece of art. It's a great sensory art experience.

    1. Hi Maureen, What struck me when looking over the pictures, too, is how ephemeral the art was and how it totally changed into a sensory revelry. I have not done this activity for over three years, but after looking over my photos, I think I have to do it again soon.