Learning & Development: Our bright idea - Silk painting

Staff at Rainbow Nursery, Middlestone Moor, provide continuing opportunities for the children in the Rainbow Room to explore a wide range of creative media, both indoors and outdoors.

'We decided to try silk painting but wanted to avoid the need for excessive adult direction and expensive frames, paints and dyes. Our intention was to enable the children to explore the effects of changing colour, pattern and design using the absorbant qualities of silk, while retaining the child-initiated aspect of learning,' says nursery nurse Hayley Coatsworth.

Planned learning intentions
- To be confident to try new activities
- To manipulate objects with increasing control
- To look closely at similarities, differences, patterns and change
- To explore colour, texture, shape, form and space in two and three


Examples of silk scarves with abstract and defined designs (visit www.scarfworld.com for further examples of colour and design); hessian; cream or white silk; silver and gold permanent markers; silk paint (easily obtainable at art shops, or visit www.craftcellar.co.uk for all silk-painting accessories); fine paint brushes; small pieces of towelling; sticky tape; pegs; washing line.

Step by step

- We began with a small group of older children in the creative area handling silk scarves and pieces of silk, and talking about their texture, colour and appearance. We contrasted plain and dyed fabrics and handled the silk- painting resources together. Staff explained that children could experiment with their own silk painting using the resources provided.

- Together we taped a piece of cream silk securely to a table top and a staff member demonstrated how to draw a simple shape on to the silk with one of the markers (The marker forms a waterproof barrier so that the paint stays inside the shape.)

- She explained that she was going to paint inside the shape and demonstrated how to apply a tiny amount of paint to a paintbrush and dab on the paint. She then showed how the towelling scraps could be used to mop up any running paint on the brush.

- The children were highly motivated to try this method of painting and worked in pairs throughout the session, talking eagerly about their observations. Some wrote their names, others drew pictures and some watched in wonder as their paint slowly crept across the silk.

- Younger children had fun using squeezy bottles and droppers to apply watery coloured paint to silk stretched over an old towel and secured to the table.

- The resulting pieces of fabric were hung out to dry before attaching them to hessian to form attractive displays along the wall. As usual, photographs and captions were added to inform parents of their children's learning with relevance to the EYFS.

- Our silk painting was a great success and we were especially pleased because children of all ages and abilities were able to investigate the effects of applying paint to fabric. Some expressed their individuality by enhancing their fabrics with additional materials such as glitter. Children are already making suggestions of uses for their fabrics, from curtains for home-area windows to pashmenas for dolls. (If fabrics are to be used around the setting, iron them to fix the paint.)

- After an initial demonstration, adult input was minimal so that staff could spend time observing, recording language, and developing play, according to the direction of learning initiated by individual children.

Hayley Coatsworth is a nursery nurse in the Rainbow Room at Rainbow Nursery, Middleston Moor, County Durham. She spoke to Jean Evans.

Nursery World Print & Website

  • Latest print issues
  • Latest online articles
  • Archive of more than 35,000 articles
  • Free monthly activity poster
  • Themed supplements

From £119 per year


Nursery World Digital Membership

  • Latest digital issues
  • Latest online articles
  • Archive of more than 35,000 articles
  • Themed supplements

From £119 per year


© MA Education 2020. Published by MA Education Limited, St Jude's Church, Dulwich Road, Herne Hill, London SE24 0PB, a company registered in England and Wales no. 04002826. MA Education is part of the Mark Allen Group. – All Rights Reserved