With the help of adults, children can be shown printing activities where they can ‘achieve’ something. They enjoy the doing and can also afford to stand back and consider the result on its merits, without their own skill being found wanting. By producing beautiful colours which blend or contrast well and providing interesting objects with which to make the pattern, the adult can virtually ensure satisfaction. More experienced and capable children will decide on colours for themselves and devise their own printing materials if they have had the early feeling of success and pleasure which is so necessary for continued interest. The following suggestions are again only a short selection from the endless possibilities there are .
Use large blocks of plastic foam sponge cut into basic shapes, or irregular shapes, each placed in its own flat dish or tray of colour. They need to be thick enough to ensure that there will be a dry piece at the top to hold.
Most adults are familiar with potato printing, where the design can be either positive or negative depending on whether it is cut into or out of the cut surface of a medium-sized potato. Other vegetables also give interesting prints if they are cut straight across. Carrots and onions show concentric circles for instance, especially if they are too dried out or stale for stew-pot use. A swede gives a much larger surface to work on than a potato. Since these are hard surfaces they work best if pressed on a layer of paint-soaked sponge or piece of towel to give some control over the amount of paint they pick up.
Cotton reels or pieces of dowelling, or even the odd baby cube-blocks which are the sole remains of a set, can be used as bases on which to stick coiled string, pasta shapes, felt shapes or even pieces of jigsaw puzzle. Depending on how hard each shape is they may or may not need the paint pad suggested for vegetables.
These can be used for very large patterns on long lengths of paper which could either be a combined activity for several children or a single one for a child who enjoys anything big. Old paint rollers are quite good enough since all one has to do is pick pieces out of them or tie string or fasten rubber bands round to give a wide, continuous pattern. String or rubber bands wrapped round cardboard tubes serves the same purpose but these are more difficult to manage, having no handle.
Paper or plastic lace doilies can be placed on paper and paint applied over them, preferably with a soft brush (a shaving brush is excellent), so that when the doily is lifted there is a pattern underneath. One can devise more sophisticated imitations of screen printing, but these crude methods suit young children very well.
Large leaves coated with paint are pressed on to paper to give a print of the leaf. The coarse leaves with heavy veining give the most interesting results. Another way to do this is to lay leaves on the background, spray or spatter paint over everything and then remove the leaves so that their shape is shown in negative form.
Interest in these often starts when children are given a small piece of heavily embossed wallpaper tightly covered in suitably thin paper such as typing paper, newsprint or grease-proof paper. They produce a rubbing by the even application of a wax crayon held side to the paper or, much more efficient, a proper piece of heel-ball or cobbler’s wax bought from an art shop which sells brass-rubbing requisites. Once they have prac-tised on wallpaper and got the hang of it, children will often find for themselves pieces of wood, embossed lino tiles, door mats, gratings, pieces from toys or leaves with which to further and extend this new idea.
As with crayons this can be a much abused activity where children are expected to sit for a long time with a collection of tiny cut-out shapes and a very large sheet of paper. Older children may enjoy sorting through a tray of different shapes and colours which is a good activity from the point of view of classification. They are not usually very pleased with what they achieve however. Younger children are better off with basic geometric shapes in graded sizes and mixed colours or better still strips or small squares of gummed coloured paper they can cut or tear for themselves. The three-year-old will stick perhaps two or three pieces on to his background and has finished. Older children may like to fill their paper but often get bored with this long before they have ‘finished’. A piece of background paper the size of a postcard or even smaller, will often be more satisfactory for all age groups than the much larger pieces erroneously supplied on the grounds that small children always need large-sized paper. A piece of damp sponge on a saucer is a good idea for damping the gum since nobody seems sure whether all the gums used may be safely licked or not. It also solves the problem of those children who lick so hard and so long that all the ‘stick’ has been removed before the coloured scraps are placed in position.