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The Eric Carle Museum
of Picture Book Art
  • 125 West Bay Road
  • Amherst, MA 01002


  • Thursday, Friday10 am-3 pm
  • Saturday 10am – 4 pm
  • Sunday 12 pm - 4 pm

Closed Monday,Tuesday, Wednesday

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Making Art Together

Watercolor Poem to Help Early Painters

Whether you're the parent of a budding artist or teach a classroom full of curious mark-makers, watercolor painting is a great medium to introduce to children at a young age. The Studio has a favorite way to teach watercolors to those young visitors using them for the first time or just in need of a refresher. We've used our catchy little poem thousands of times over the years and feel it remains the best teaching tool for those eager young artists still learning how to use paint and a brush. The poem goes, Swish, Swish...Dab, Dab...Wiggle, Wiggle.

Step 1. Swish, Swish your brush in the water.

Step 2. Dab, Dab your brush on the sponge.

Step 3. Wiggle, Wiggle your brush in the paint.

Now your brush is ready to paint on the paper. Remember the poem every time you want to switch to a different color. Colors can be mixed by overlapping them on the paper instead of mixing up the paints on the palette.

For Swish, Swish we use recycled deli containers to hold the water and large student-grade watercolor brushes. For Dab, Dab we cut round pieces of thick kitchen sponges and keep them in single-serving apple sauce cups instead of paper towels. To disinfect the sponges occasionally run them through the top rack of the dishwasher in a mesh zip bag. For Wiggle, Wiggle any student-grade watercolor paper or heavy-weight drawing paper will work. The watercolor paints in the photos are Richeson Color Blocks in Red, Yellow, Blue (or Turquoise) and Black. These hockey puck-sized blocks last forever and don't stain clothing so smocks aren't necessary. Just pre-treat stain with detergent or stain remover before putting in the wash. We use the Economy Deep 6-Well Painting Tray cut it in half to hold the three primary colors. Storing the color blocks in the palettes makes it easy to stack them in the cabinet or on a shelf when not in use. Speaking of watercolors, tomorrow is the last day for Here's Looking at You watercolor portrait project in The Studio. On Wednesday we'll begin the project Punctuation Play where you can work the wiggle of a question mark or the curve of a comma into a unique design, September 14th - October 26th, free with Museum admission. Do you have certain techniques or favorite art materials you use to teach painting to children in your classroom or at home?  



We enjoy exploring materials and ideas in the Art Studio, and we’re excited to share our process with you! Please consider the following factors when adapting these posts for your learning environment: 

We facilitate a variety of programs within the Art Studio for a wide range of age groups. Please carefully consider the age appropriateness of each individual activity in your own learning environment.

Our projects are always done with adult supervision and proper safety precautions. Be sure all of your projects are overseen by adults who likewise follow proper safety precautions. The adults overseeing your project must also be responsible for handling or assisting with any potentially harmful equipment or materials. 

The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art is not responsible for any damages, injuries or liabilities that result from any activities contained within this website, and we expressly disclaim any responsibility or liability therefor. From time to time, we reference materials that we have found to be particularly important in our projects. We do not receive any monetary compensation for recommending materials. 



by Diana MacKenzie

This entry was posted on Monday, September 12th, 2011 at 8:00 am and is filed under By Diana MacKenzie, Every Day Art Program, Toddlers, Painting, Preschool. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.


Saturday, May 5, 2012 - 12:14 pm
I think we used a hefty pair of scissors. I'm not gonna lie, it was tough. I think next time I will flip the tray over onto a self healing mat and use a nice sharp mat knife to score a line then try to snap the plastic on the line. The good thing is, you do it once and then buy refill tempera cakes to put in the reusable trays.
Monday, May 5, 2012 - 6:57 pm
What did you use to cut the Painting Trays in half? I bought some but I am not sure how to cut them.

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