I had a stroke of genius today. Luckily, Google was there to tell me just how many other parents of toddlers already had the same idea, and wrote about it on their blogs.
With Crafty Cora’s birthday party next week, I’ve been brainstorming activities to entertain her and her wee friends. I’m going with a kind of carnival theme. I figure that way they games don’t have to have too much in common. I’m thinking of making a little passport that parents can put stickers in as their kids finish each “event.” There will be a tricycle course, balloon jump, balance beam, bean bag toss, and other things I haven’t thought of yet. I was considering something where kids shoot squirt guns to knock things down, but I know their aim isn’t that good yet. And then I had the idea!
Cora and I often bring food coloring into the bath tub. We have a set of translucent tupperware that are red, yellow, and blue which we use to play with mixing and changing the colors. Every time we do it I think about all the conversations I have had with students over the years about teaching the elements of art and how I have advocated going beyond such formal art lessons. Somehow, however, this activity never gets old and I know Cora is learning not only about the interactions of color (Albers, 1963), but also about scientific principles like cause and effect. This is playful learning.
Could we put the colored water in squirt guns?
On a quick run to the friendly neighborhood Target, we found some little squirters (on sale for the end of the summer!) and filled them up as soon as we got home. Cora was engaged from the first shot. We hung an old cloth over her easel and set to work. After about half an hour we had completely filled our canvas with a beautiful tie dye. I think I had just about as much fun as she did exploring the different kinds of marks we could make by moving our arms in different ways as we shot or moving our bodies closer or farther from our work. I can’t wait to see how the kids (and adults) at the party explore this process.
Postscript: I would be remise not to report just briefly on what my Google search for “squirt gun painting” revealed. Most posts advised against painting with food coloring because it stains. I think washable tempera is pretty damned hard to remove too. So, pick your poison, I guess.
Some parents, including one very angry Montessori mother, questioned the use of water guns and made me wonder why I didn’t question that more. Of course, her kid was involved in an activity, at school, where kids were shooting at other kids. Little Tykes meets paintball. I can remember the first time I saw Cora playing with “shooters” at her friend Maya’s house. Watching her shoot at me with foam bullets jarred me for a moment, but I think I was more concerned when I first saw her put on a princess dress and talk in a lilting voice about going to a ball.
Finally, I came across a Kickstarter campaign run by NYC-based artist Brian Ermanski, to fund a series of squirt gun paintings. Further Googling revealed Ermanski has earned a reputation as a sort of “bad boy of the art world” and his squirt gun series, of which I can find no documentation online other than this youtube video with just 21 views (3 of which were mine), seems like it was just another art world stunt.