The best protection for both is to provide good suitable equipment and paint pots which are not too full. Children should be trained, rather than nagged, to use an absorbent sponge which is always easily available from a known place in the room and at least any mess should then be within reasonable bounds. If floor covering is necessary the same points apply as those for protecting floors beneath water. It should be waterproof, non-slippery when wet and should not curl up at the edges. Newspaper may well be the most efficient covering. To protect children one needs to look where they get the paint on themselves. It is usually forearms and tummies which come into contact with the painted surface most. Since children often reject or dislike wearing a complete plastic coverall, the best and cheapest overall is one made from an old shirt of a suitable size (those worn by the average seven-year-old boys are about right) with the collar, cuffs and buttons removed, elastic put in at the bottom of the sleeves, a Velcro tab fastening at the neck and the whole lot worn back to front. If they are drip-dry nylon so much the better as they wash and dry quickly and do not need ironing. The very small child who absolutely smothers himself in paint so that it soaks through to his clothing may accept a waterproof overall but he might be more comfortable in special painting clothes which no one needs to bother about.
One of the most common ways of paint being spread about is with paint in their hair from brushing past suspended paintings. Perhaps a store-room which is empty during asession could be used for drying paintings.
This concern for drying off paintings should not be taken to imply that every child should, or wants to, take it home. He should be free to take it or not but if we ask him as soon as he has finished painting which he wants to do – leave it or take it -he could well have changed his mind an hour later. In some groups every child is urged to take his paintings home and it becomes a ritual. So long as it does not lead to pressure on a child there is nothing specifically wrong with taking things home. It is often a welcome link between home and nursery group. If the established habit is so strong that mothers feel their child has not achieved anything without some concrete evidence to be put on the mantelshelf or wall it might be better to stop it for a while. Brush painting is only one of the many ‘creative’ activities we can provide for children. Some children never wish to do this. Some of those who do will equally be interested in other ways of using colour, design, texture, different media and different tools.
Variations in methods of presenting painting add interest and can be combined with other activities to extend a project in the nursery group such as special interest tables, or a week when everything is planned to focus attention on a particular material or concept. Painting on paper cut to shape – circles, triangles, narrow strips, ellipses – can vary what the children are able to do and how they use the brush. Wet paper makes the paint spread, as on blotting paper. A collection of very different brushes -perhaps a soft hair brush, a large household paint brush, a bottle brush, a nail brush or scrubbing brush – lead to very different types of application. Producing six different shades of one colour gives rise to a good deal of conversation. One large sheet of paper on which children can combine their efforts is usually enjoyed, especially if a paint roller is supplied for them to use. None of these should take the place of ‘proper’ painting, although it is usually possible to put out easels for only two children rather than four or six. Nor should such variations happen too often.