STEAM Series: Applying A

The A in STEAM

The A in STEAM stands for Art. Art in STEAM helps little ones learn and think creatively, encourages children to appreciate the arts in many different forms, helps with self-expression, helps with exploration of emotions, increases cultural awareness, develops fine motor skills, and helps with problem-solving. Art can be encouraged in play and in hands-on, open ways. Art in STEAM mainly focuses on process and freestyle art. However, not all programs can incorporate process art all the time, so there can be moments to create more craft types of art. Art also includes music, dance, and pretend/dramatic play. Art can be incorporated into many other elements of STEAM.

Here are 9 easy Art ideas for your setting:

1. Process Art

Process art should have no specified outcome, no step-by-step directions, and no samples for the children to look at or follow. Work and creating should be based on each child’s choice. If children do not want to participate on any given day, they should not have to. In process art you will have a variety of materials available and the children can create in any way they choose. Children should have the opportunity to complete their work in one day or over the span of several days. Materials to offer include: paper, colored pencils, crayons, markers, finger paints, watercolors, tissue paper, gift wrap, felt, paint brushes, sponges, toothbrushes, kitchen brushes, foil, wax paper, and craft sticks. For older children, you might consider adding other materials, such as buttons, clothespins, and poms. Supervise to make sure children use all of the materials safely. Encourage children to observe their work and the work of their peers.

2. Crafts

Crafts typically have a specific end product, certain or fixed materials are provided, and children are encouraged to follow certain directions or steps. Crafts can sometimes be used as props for play.

3. Combination of Process Art and Crafts

There are probably many opportunities to combine process art and crafts in your setting. This will create more of a freestyle type of art. This is where you will provide certain materials but the children can create in different ways. For example, if you are learning about animals you might provide paper, tissue paper, chain strips, chenille stems, buttons, stickers, glue, tape, markers, and crayons. You will suggest a prompt such as, “I wonder what type of animals we could create with these materials.” You are providing the materials and suggesting what they create, but leaving what type of animal, how, and the ways they create open-ended.

4. Free Painting with Tools

Offer the children unique tools to free paint with. Try offering leaves, feathers taped to craft sticks, plastic sensory balls, kitchen tools (whisks, utensils, unused cleaning brushes, potato masher, etc.), yarn, unused toothbrushes, unused combs, and assorted sponges. Offer paper, cardboard, boxes, pieces of wood, canvas, and textured paper for the children to paint on.

5. Oobleck Color Mixing

Explore color mixing with oobleck. This type of project combines both science and art. Make oobleck by mixing equal parts of cornstarch and water in a large bowl. Pour the mixture onto baking sheets or shallow trays to create a thin layer. Offer the children assorted colors of finger paint and brushes. Let them add paint colors to the oobleck and mix them together. Encourage them to use their hands to explore the oobleck and mix the colors too. What colors do they create? How does the mixture feel?

6. Musical Instruments

Explore a variety of musical instruments with the children. What sounds do they make as they play them? Then, offer a variety of interesting materials such as pots and pans, plastic containers, coffee cans, paper tubes, wooden utensils, metal utensils, plastic utensils, and sticks. Encourage the children to make sounds with the materials. Invite them to compare them to the musical instruments they played. To further the experience, play music. Invite the children to play the instruments or materials to the rhythm and beat of the music.

7. Nature Rubbings

Go on a nature walk and collect interesting objects. Try to find objects that are flat like leaves, flowers, and grass. Go inside and place the objects on the table. Place paper on top. Offer crayons for the children to rub on the paper. What happens? Do the objects appear? For younger toddlers, you might consider taping down the objects and the paper so they don’t move. This will make coloring easier and less frustrating.

8. Texture Collage

Tape a large sheet of contact paper with the sticky side out on a wall. Offer some materials with interesting textures. Options include tissue paper, pieces of felt, paper, gift wrap, small strips of yarn and ribbon, crepe paper, tulle, wax paper, foil, and small pieces of fabric. Invite the children to place the materials on the contact paper to create a collage. This is a great project to do over multiple days or weeks. The children can add to it as they are interested. Children will see change over time. You can encourage children to tear or cut the tissue, different types of paper, and foil into small pieces.

9. Art Museums and Shows

Take the children to a local art museum or art show. Look at the different pieces of art with them. This will help increase cultural awareness and help children appreciate the arts. Talk about the pieces they like and why they like them. If you do not have a local art museum or art show, you might contact a local artist who would be willing to bring in a few pieces for the children to observe.


What is STEAM?

STEAM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Mathematics. Many people think that STEAM can only be used with older, school-aged children. However, toddlers and preschoolers are naturally curious and enjoy exploring, discovering, and solving problems. STEAM can be an easy way to incorporate hands-on play and learning. Follow along to learn more about each component of STEAM and some activities to try with your little learners.

Read about the S in STEAM

Read about the T in STEAM

Read about the E in STEAM

Read about the M in STEAM

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