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  • Mallory Foster

One Drop of Paint

Finger paint, acrylics, water colors, magic paint that only shows up on certain papers, bath tub paint. Brushes, sponges, marbles in boxes. Construction paper, canvas, cardboard. What will you create with?


Before I became a science teacher I wanted to be a children's book illustrator, then an art therapist, then an art teacher. My husband is a saxophone player in the Army. Art and creativity are a crucial part of the fabric of our family life and my teaching practice. So, figuring out how to paint with a little one was important to me. Crayola products are all nontoxic, so we started with finger paints. Before she started teething, HG would kind of use a brush or markers on paper (with guidance). Teething turned every tool into a chew toy. One snowy morning, a day off from work and grad school classes, HG had a poop-splosion. Despite much wiping, she was definitely going to get a bath very soon - so I embraced the mess. I taped paper inside a shirt box, globbed some finger paint on, and let her have at it with some brushes and string. It was overwhelming. I recalled an acronym that made teaching in a classroom way more sustainable for me, KISS, or Keep It Simple, Silly (or other terms...). I decided to try just one dot of paint. This didn't work well with the finger paints because they kept smearing all over too fast. I got out my acrylics and looked at their warning label thingy - it had the same nontoxic rating as the Crayola products (obviously I also make sure HG doesn't eat (too much) paint, but it's nice to know I'm not poisoning my child...). HG would pick up a tube of paint, I'd say, "Lovely green!" and put a dot on paper, she would stare at it, and then...ATTACK! She'd smear, squish, sit on, etc the paint! The results were actually pretty cool AND she was smiling and giggling :). Since the discovery of the One Drop of Paint method, I have started using this as a parenting/teaching mantra of sorts. When I am having a case of the never-enoughs between work, grad school, making dinner, and more, I remember all it takes is one simple thing to have some meaningful family time or a powerful moment with a student. So...How can you apply one drop of paint?

  • Art time with kiddo: Use acrylic paint (I like Basics because they don't flow too much or smell forever and ever like finger paints) on thick paper or cardboard (the inside of a cereal box is perfect!). Put one dot on the paper and let the smearing begin!



  • Short on time but want to do something crafty? Scribble a thick dot of washable marker on thick paper. Add a drop of water from your finger onto the pigment. Let your child smear! This ends up looking like a water color painting! Little flowers are pretty simple - just smear in different directions to make petals.

  • In the classroom: Extending the concept, consider when you can simplify your lesson plans,

directions, or student tasks. Sometimes when we simplify things we have more time to listen to the learning happening in our rooms and that can yield some pretty powerful learning! Consider giving students ONE equation to balance or math problem to solve, but have the students dig into that problem using a graphic organizer like UPSCheck or Four-Corners-and-a-Diamond.


Keep it Simple, Superfamilies/teachers! One drop of paint at a time :)


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