Most children are more in touch with creativity and experimentation than adults. They very confidently combine color, splatter paint, and do it again and again with no teaching whatsoever from we adults!
The main thing we can do for children when introducing marbling is prepare a learning environment in which they can flourish and enjoy, and where we can be comfortable with the mess and thus enjoy. Using The Marbling Supplies Process, I've taught marbling to hundreds of middle school-aged kids in groups of 12, sometimes without an assistant. With kids 5 and under, I insist on close individual adult supervision for each child in the classroom. The results are always the same: 9 out of 10 kids enjoy marbling at any age, and I undoubtedly learn from a session with children. Here are my top tips for working with kids.
Prepare ahead of time. Try to be ready for anything, so you can stay calm and helpful. If you can't be outside, cover ANY surface that you don't want stained. Use a strip of painters tape (blue) to run a giant piece of light-weight plastic drop cloth all the way down one or two walls and across the floor over your workspace. Cover the table with more drop cloth or a disposable plastic table cover. My husband once appeared in my Lake Superior State University classroom wearing a white dress shirt--He remained 8 feet away, but 5-year-old Noah handily nailed the front of his shirt with flying paint!
Insist that the children watch you make a print from start to finish before they begin. It's hard for them to wait to begin, but a demonstration will quickly convey what you expect and helps them succeed. Depending on ages, this may only take two minutes but for eyes that have never seen the process it will help immensely.
After that, help only as needed. Watch for frustration and offer guidance. Many times we adults are to quick to interrupt. Let the children learn.
Children will be confident about choosing color. Give them what they want--bright colors. The Serious Beginner's Marbling Kit includes the 3 primaries and 3 secondaries; the basic can't-lose selection for new marbling artists. They all look good together. If you want a greater selection, consider adding the set Basics II, available at Marbling Supplies on Etsy.
For learning, you can use regular copy paper. It's inexpensive and plentiful. Apply alum as usual. Prints will dry more wrinkled, but kids won't care!
To help flatten prints, stack fully dried papers and leave them under heavy books for a night or two.
Encourage kids to use their papers for making collage art or note cards. A perfect use for imperfect papers is to turn them into book marks. Just cut long strips, avoiding any imperfections. These can be given as gifts to friends and family, and are a welcome surprise inside cards and letters.
So, enjoy! And thank you for taking the time to introduce your children, grandchildren, and students to marbling.
Valerie introduces her grandchildren to marbling with The Serious Beginner's Marbling Kit. Love the joy!
Children make remarkable marbled prints with very little coaxing.
Outside is the best place for marbling! Here is a marbled silk scarf made by this young student with his cousins. The children made it as a surprise for their grandmother, who gave them an afternoon of marbling with me.