Circle Paintings with Kinders



 How to manage a group of twenty kids in a collaborative art project: circle painting project for kids

Line up twenty containers of colorful paint, add in fat brushes, cover two tables with white craft paper and you have the set-up for a perfect art day. For my last day with my Kinders, free-expression painting was the order of the day. The children filed into class, stood behind a paint color they liked and listened to a very short list of instructions:

  • Make the first mark a circle
  • Ask your neighbor for permission to “build” on their circle
  • Switch colors by asking first
  • Paint whatever kinds of lines & patterns you like
  • Try not to paint over paint more than twice (this leads to very soggy craft paper)

About Circle Paintings

I encourage you to try a one-class circle painting with any grade level. If you have a few extra minutes, I encourage you to introduce the circle concept via video. You can find videos on the Circle Project website.

Things I wouldn’t worry about….

The beauty of this type of project is that it allows children to be fully at ease with their art work. I gave no visuals clues as to what the children might expect although if you watch one of the many Circle Project videos on You Tube, they would have a deeper understanding of the project.

I didn’t ask much of the children except to practice their manners. They certainly obliged and as I sat back and watched the children share paint and move freely around the tables, I was moved by how wonderful this project was for them. Even the few children who find art challenging (for individual reasons), watching them float through their decisions and apply the paint with enthusiasm was really lovely and inspiring to see.

I wouldn’t stress about the children who fixate on one circle. I’m not sure that by doing that, they are any less artistic than the child who moves around freely. I didn’t detect any frustration, so I suspect that the kids were simply absorbed in color mixing.

Don’t worry about the patterns getting painted over, mussed up or worked on with too much verve. In the end, it’s only the experience that matters.

Have you tried a circle project?

Here are a few art teachers that have:

We Heart Art

Art is Basic

 PreK & K Sharing

What do you think?

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  • Leila

    Hello Mrs. Patty Palmer ,

    How are you? your website is very useful for me, I want teaching art to children, , please guide me what should I do for start.

    Thanks alot

  • Sadie

    I did a collaborative circle project with my 4th graders last year. I had mixed results in the 6 classes that I did this with–some really collaborated well and discussed their choices and some couldn’t hold back and “over” painted to the point where the circles became unrecognizable. Overall I really enjoyed the process and would do it again.

    • Patty Palmer

      Over-painting is just one of those things that is hard to control unless you give more specific instructions. My thought is that some kids don’t have an “eye” for what is considered pleasing-to-the-eye in a painting. They may have an idea, but they don’t know how to get there. So they try again and again. I’m not sure if it’s a developmental thing or how they view art.
      I did this project with three Kinder classes and each class had different results. But they all really, really enjoyed the process. One of my best classes for participation for sure.

  • Mrs.C

    I did something similar last year with my seven 3d grades after seeing the lesson that was posted on Art is Basic. It was interesting to see how the students collaborated together! Some of the kids had no problem sharing their creative space, while others felt quite invaded when someone else added to what they had started! most of the students took it seriously and respected the others contributions but there were a few students who did not and were given something else to do when they didn’t stop after being politely asked. All in all it was a great lesson and I will definitely be doing these again this year to help our students creatively chill during our state testing that is coming up soon! 🙂

  • Esther

    I’ve done the circle project last month with 5-6 years-old kids and it was a fantastic lesson, the enjoyed a lot and the result was wonderfull. We worked just with circles, anything else, all the kids painted in a a big mural, they had to fill all the space, is was a great collaborative work. Dont hesitate to do it!! If you want to take a look go to:

  • Faigie

    I’m assuming this can be done on an individual level as well. I’ve seen some early childhood teachers give a circle paper at the easel and I’ve done lots of circle collages, but this is certainly a great way to get kids off of doing the exact “right ” thing.

    • Patty Palmer

      Yes, it can certainly be adapted for individual project but the beauty of this type of art is the collaboration.

  • Marie-Élisabeth Gourdeau

    Just did thid in my kindergarten classroom, they loved it! I wanted them to experience someone else painting on “their stuff” without getting upset, which is difficult this year. It all went smoothly, they really collaborated AND it looks beautiful. Thank you!

    • Patty Palmer

      So glad to hear! My Kinders loved it too. Happy day.

  • Susan Antonelli

    What a fun idea for a collaborative project! Love it!

  • julie

    I’ve done circles with little ones, but never like this where they are switching. Fabulous idea!

  • Kathleen Machado

    can’t wait to try this!!!!

  • Amber

    You are amazing! Really amazing!

  • Hiep Nguyen

    This is Hiep, the founder and director of Circle Painting. I am delighted to see the idea being shared and spread among art educators around the country. I encourage you to share the photos and experiences on our Circle Painting Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/circlepainting.org?fref=ts so all can enjoy.
    I also appreciate your acknowledgement. I hope someday I can join all of you for a larger event the engage the whole school and community. If you are interested in receiving a proper training and techniques, don’t hesitate to contact me at circlepainting@gmail.com.

  • Kate

    Hi Patty,
    How thick is the paper you use? I would like to do this project with 5th graders and I´m still thinking about how to do it. I don´t know yet, if this is going to be a permanent or temporary art piece. I thought maybe I could do it on small canvases or on pieces of wood.
    Again thanks for your generous input ;))

    • Patty Palmer

      I used craft paper…the cheapest stuff at school. Not for long term projects at all. You could use anything though.

  • J. DeBoer

    Your paint is in cups. I use donated baby food jars for easy storage.
    But the caps must not be twisted firmly because they might seal permanently.

  • Kristin Adolf

    You mentioned introducing this lesson with a video from “the Circle Project’s website”. Would you have a link to this? Thanks!

  • Bethany

    We did this wonderful project today with friends (with children ages 2-7). What a fun time was had and what a lovely project. Everyone was pleased! Thank you!

  • Terry Parker

    I love this idea of collaborative painting with children. My question is…Do you think this would be an appropriate lesson for a Formal Evaluation? I feel like there is so much learning going on at so many levels here. Just curious to see what others think.

    • Patty Palmer

      Hi Terry,
      I really can’t say as I have no idea what goes into a formal evaluation. Sorry!

  • April

    What type of paint do you recommend?

  • Gail

    I love this project and do it every year with my Ks. I like the opportunity for them to work on a collaborative project and the finished work adds so much to our classroom. Makes my heart happy when I walk in and see it each morning!

  • Priscilla Hopkins

    What brushes do you use with the little kinders? I know you use Royal Langnickel Big Kids brushes (which I love) with other elementary grades, but do you switch it up with more basic brushes for kindergarten? Thanks!

  • Grail Currey

    I want this for ideas. International Dot Day!

  • Marcia Beckett

    Ah!! Circle paintings! I remembered this from several years back and thought I’d try it again. I’ll be doing this with a group of 5th graders. Hope you’re doing well Patty!

  • deborah gallagher

    Perfect Outline!
    I am considering adapting it to adult summer art camp!

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