Thursday, February 18, 2010

Decoupage So Easy, Even a Three-Year-Old Can Do It

Getting into a Montessori classroom is no easy feat. The Montessori classroom is the child's well-ordered, busy workspace, not the parent's, and while parents are free to observe their child's class at any time through a large two-way mirror, they are not welcome inside the classroom without an invitation.

Therefore, when I casually let it drop that I have spent not one, not two, but THREE entire afternoons in the girls' class, all the other Montessori parents look at me with shock and admiration and they say, "How? How did you manage that?"

It's all about the skillz, my friends. In my case, my skillz at gluing stuff to other stuff, as I spent an EXTREMELY busy three afternoons teaching 30 children, ages three to six, the fine art of decoupage.

The result? Awesomeness: In several previous class sessions, the children had the opportunity to do a pattern-making work using the metal insets. They drew on tracing paper with colored pencils, and could decorate their pattern however they liked. Later, one of the teachers cut around each pattern and set them aside for me.

Montessori lessons are basically taught one-on-one or one-on-thirty, so that children tend to either do things as a class, such as Spanish or music or community meetings, or with the sole attention of the teacher or a classmate. We set up my decoupage station as a work that children could choose one time, so that I stayed with the decoupage and when a child wanted to choose that work, she would go put on her smock and get in line. This was a little tiring for me, since I basically repeated the same three actions with 30 children in a row, but I still think it was the best way to give them the optimum process-oriented experience and still come away with a beautiful product to be auctioned off in a school fundraiser later this month.

Here Willow demonstrates the basic preschool decoupage technique:
On a table, I laid out every single decorated pattern that we had to work with. When it was a child's turn, I asked her to choose any pattern that she wanted. When she had one, I then asked her to choose any spot on the entire box to put her pattern, as long as it did not cover up another child's name (more on that later). Overlapping another pattern was fine:
When the child had a spot chosen, I handed her a sponge brush and let her dip it into a dish filled with Mod Podge. Then, I instructed her to paint the spot where she wanted to put her pattern all over with glue. After that, she laid down her pattern and I helped her smooth it out (not making a big deal about creases or bubbles--these are preschoolers here, and it was important to me that the project, while nice, authentically look like it had been created by preschoolers), and then I had her dip her brush back into the Mod Podge and paint over her pattern again. Decoupage is nice because you don't have to be neat or precise with the glue--as long as I kept drips and bubbles at bay, each overlapping layer of Mod Podge served only to strengthen the whole. In between kids during the three days, I painted the entire surface of the box several times with Mod Podge again, for a nice, durable surface.

Although I reserved the top of the box entirely for the decorated patterns, each child had also written her name on tracing paper, and a teacher had cut all of them out, so after each child had decoupaged her chosen pattern, I helped her find her name among all the other names, and then instructed her to find a spot on the sides of the box, not overlapping another child's name, to decoupage her own signature:You can see Sydney's signature just to the right of the big pattern in the middle there below:
And there's Willow's near the top on one side:This turned out to be a really excellent project to do with a large group of small children. Decoupage is simple enough, and forgiving enough, to really be done by a small child without being over-directed by an adult, and yet the result is quite sturdy and really pleasing.

AND it'll get you inside that Montessori Dutch door.


MuncieMa said...

Decoupage is finally back, thanks to you and others who propel.

Please don't become one of those 2-way mirror mothers. I'm begging you.

julie said...

I'm sure you're thinking of refrigerator mothers. The panopticon is totally legitimate these days.