Article Type Making Art Together Making Art Together Categories Drawing Infants and Toddlers Painting

Music, Motion, and Marks: Oil Pastels and Long Paintbrushes

Meghan Burch

On one of our Friday morning sessions of Materials Play this year, we offered a two-phase invitation to create. At our low table, toddlers and preschoolers experimented with chubby oil pastels on large white pieces of paper. When they felt done with the pastels, they brought the paper over to a setup on the floor to play with paint brushes taped to long sticks and black tempera paint while standing.

Oil Pastels and Long Paint Brushes | Making Art With Children | The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art

Years ago we taped large synthetic-bristle watercolor brushes to dowels using painters tape. They were so fun to use we ended up leaving the brushes tapes to the dowels. If you try making these yourselves, using painters tape will allow you to take the brushes off the dowel without sticky residue being left on the brushes.

When the children were ready to bring their paper to the brushing station we helped them tape down two opposite corners of their paper so it wouldn’t shift around while they danced and twirled their brush on the paper. You might be able to see that we taped our dropcloth to the floor, too.

We added a little bit of water to our paint to make it more fluid and nestled the tubs of paint into a tray lined with pebbles for weight.

Weighting the containers made them less likely to tip over when the brushes were enthusiastically dipped in the paint.

 (Photo below courtesy of Kristin Angel)

What you can’t see pictured, and equally as important to the exploration as the materials themselves, was the music we played while our guests created. I can’t remember exactly what we played on this occasion, but it was probably something instrumental, uptempo, and light. We love playing anything by Lullatone during our Friday morning sessions with young children.

Other times we’ve offered a version of this exploration in our programs we’ve explored how different tempos and rythms influence our mark making. I’ve made playlists including pieces by Miles Davis, Mozart,Thelonious Monk, Beethoven, and Vince Guaraldi.

We hope you’ll try exploring music, motion, and marks!


Meghan, smiling and wearing a grey shirt with a blue background.

Meghan Burch

Art Educator from 2003-2016, Meghan has a BFA in Illustration from Massachusetts College of Art and Design. She tries to think with materials and work with her hands every day.