Some of my favorite playtime projects are those that seamlessly sneak in a little learning. This one is a classic art lesson that also incorporates the basic math principle of symmetry. I don’t have a fancy name for the method – the smooshed printing technique? – but I remember doing it as a child and being fascinated.
When I introduced the idea to my own kiddos, they were equally compelled. There’s something addictive about creating patterns in this way and my little ones have made a game of finding various objects hidden in their abstract creations.
The only two materials you really need for this project are paper and paint. Finger paints work as well as paint with brushes but you’ll want to go with tempera paints over watercolors.
This is an especially fun project to do on a large scale. My kids’ eyes lit up when I ripped off a piece of butcher paper as tall as they were to get started.
The secret to this technique is to fold the paper in half before letting the kids go at it with the paints. Either instruct them to only paint on one half of the paper or just keep one side folded under the other. You’ll also want to advise the kids that for this art project, the more paint the better.
Tip: For a really interesting effect, glob a lot of paint on or towards the center fold. The result will be something similar to those infamous inkblot tests used in psychology.
Once the painting is done, fold the blank half of your paper on top of the painted half and smooth it down firmly with your hands.
Open up your paper to reveal your children’s work of art. Then repeat, and keep repeating until the kids finally get bored or the paint runs out. If it’s the latter, and you’re looking for more ways to explore symmetry in art, try one of these ideas:
- Take a piece of colored construction paper and fold in half horizontally and then in half vertically. Use scissors to cut various shapes along the folded edges (much like you would when making paper snowflakes). When you unfold the paper you’ll have a symmetrical design. Glue the paper to another piece of construction paper in a different color for a modern art look.
- Start with a blank piece of paper and draw a line down the center. Next draw half of an object up to the line (half a face, half a flower, etc.). Then hand the crayons over to your child and ask them to draw the other half. Older kids may also enjoy doing this with pictures they find in magazines that are cut in half and taped to the paper.
Photo Credit: Stephanie Morgan