Elementary Art

Kindergarten Palettes

When faced with a classroom of 24 Kindergarten students, how does one teach them to use palettes of paint without creating colorful chaos?!

This year I began teaching Kindergarten through 3rd Grade a couple days a week at a local school. I’ve spent most of my time this past month planning lessons. This week I have finally found some time to blog again.

Welcome to the debut post in The Classroom category.

If you are a teacher of wee ones, you may want to bookmark The Classroom page. I’m sure this year will provide tons of blogging material and maybe you can chime in and share what works well for you in the classroom. I love learning from one another along the journey and I believe that even at the Kindergarten level fine art skills can be incorporated with the more typical crafty projects.

Onward to the palette dilemma…

I chose a Styrofoam meat tray and a paper towel. Our local grocery donated a dozen of to my cause. Because I teach from a cart, prepping palettes has to be done on the fly and I only have 10 minutes between classes. I needed something not only simple for the students to use, but also easy for me to set up and clean up.


My Kindergarten rooms have 6 tables, so just before class I prepare 1 palette per table and the students share. There is just enough room on my cart to prep 6-8 palettes. It is also helpful to have a plastic serving tray if you don’t have a nice flat area to work on.

This is what I use for an introduction to palettes:
6 Styrofoam Trays
8 Wet Paper Towels in a Ziploc bag (extras for clean-up)
6 Boston Bottles of Washable Tempera Paint (squeeze bottles)
A Ziploc of triangular make-up sponges – dampened (1 per student)
1 Container of water (for my prep)
1 Flat paintbrush (for my prep)

Storing my towels and sponges in bag keeps them damp until needed. During my transition time between classes I set the trays up with a folded wet paper towel in each. Using my squeeze bottles of paint I put small puddles on the palettes as shown.

student palette

I then use my flat paintbrush and a little water to gently smoosh the puddles into square sections of paint. Since this is an introduction to painting I don’t want the students to be scooping up globs of paint, but rather learning how to use one color at a time and not mix all the colors together.

kindergarten palette

In class I explain to the students that they will be using “special silly paintbrushes” and show them how to hold the make-up sponges by the skinny end of the triangle. I then demonstrate how to pounce the flat part of the sponge onto the palette and then onto paper. For our first project we painted doilies to make crowns. The students loved this project!

painted doilie

One of the main objectives of this introductory lesson is teaching the students how to use their brushes gently. We don’t rinse sponges between colors but since the amount of paint is limited, the palettes stay relatively clean unless the students begin to muddle them on purpose. When they do, I use it as a teaching moment and instruct them not to mix up the colors, reminding them that we need to be considerate of everyone who is sharing them.

At the end of the lesson I have the students drop their sponges back into the Ziploc and I collect the palettes, tossing the paper towels into the trash. A quick wipe of the palettes with one of my remaining damp towels and I can stack them back into the cart or prepare them for another class.

If you have multiple classes back to back then you will need to have prepared damp towels and sponges for each class. When cleaning the sponges you can drop them into a sink of water or fill the Ziploc with water, squeeze, empty and repeat until clean. Always put your sponges out to dry at the end of the day so they won’t get musty. They probably won’t last for more than a few class sessions, but they are economical and a great way to keep the colorful chaos to a minimum. Enjoy!

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