Inside the Kinder Classroom: Portraits



If you’ve been following my blog for any reasonable length of time, you know how much I love Kinders. I love their stubby fingers, their adorable faces and I especially love how much they embrace art. They are in fact, perfect little artistic beings. Which is why I get such a kick out of their portraits. No matter how many different ways you teach portrait making to Kinders, there is always a very predictable outcome of results.

Instead of showing you a tutorial, because I have a ton of portrait resources (this page, too), I’m giving you a glimpse into a typical day inside the Kinder classroom.

See how many of these portrait styles you recognize:

The It-Was-Going-So-Well Portrait….

You recognize this portrait: the child is following along, doing the best work he can, finishes up but doesn’t know what to do next. So why not color his lips blue? Inside the Kinder art room: Portraits

The “Little Miss Creative” award goes to….

We all have these little gems in our class. The uber-creative soul who takes notes from those sitting close-by and is determined to make her portrait the most unique. And she did! Inside the Kinder art room: Portraits "Little Miss Creative"

The Twin Portraits

The opposite of Little Miss Creative, these children (mostly girls….actually, ONLY girls) vow to make their portraits exactly the same. Inside the Kinder art room: Identical artists

The Give-Me-More Paint Award goes to….

This is the kid who can’t get enough paint, hates staying within the lines and is the future Jackson Pollock in the group.

Inside the Kinder art room: Paint master!

Color-Me-Crazy Portrait

Here’s the thing I just figured out with these types of kids: they don’t quite understand what you mean when you say “color in the circle”. To them, coloring in the circle (look at the eyes) means going round and round and round the circle.  Love the two-tone hair, too! Inside the Kinder art room: Portraits

The Academic

These kids are the ones who sit, listen and watch. They follow along very well and create this amazing piece that makes you wonder what grade this kid is in. And they are quite intent on making everything factual. They require specific paint cool choices and often ask for detailed instructions on how to draw their hair. Inside the Kinder art room: The Academic

Mr. Expression

These are the portraits that make every teacher happy they chose teaching as a profession. Pure Joy. Period. Inside the Kinder art room: Mr. Expression

And then there are teeth….

I think this is his x-ray version of teeth. Inside the Kinder art room: X-Ray Teeth

The Gift

These are the kids who add very specific details. They are the last ones to finish and they show artistic talent beyond most adults in the school. I mean, look at this piece? She is FIVE! Inside the Kinder art room: The Talented One

The Happy Accident

It’s a bit hard to say if this child intentionally tried to make his artwork look like it could hang in the MOMA or not. These are the happy accidents that seem to bless children at random moments in their art-making. This to me is an incredible piece of art for any age let alone a 5-year old. Inside the Kinder art room: The Happy Accident

And finally, just to let you all know that my students are like everyone else’s, I give you my sweetest one yet:


Inside the Kinder art room: Typical results

Which one do you recognize?

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  • Teach & Shoot

    Yessss! To all of these! I love how no matter how you teach (free exploration or step-by-step instruction), all of the kids create their own style! I love it!

  • Carol Frueh

    Love this post. Love that you embrace the pure “kidness” of the final art. They all just make me smile.

  • Charmaine

    Those are just plain precious! I don’t teach Kindergarten, but I do start with first grade and I have similar results. I’ve just never come up with such a cute commentary to go with the results!

  • Hope knight

    Aw, I recognize all of these! So sweet and innocent and full of effort!

  • Teresa Maguire

    I recognise them all!! Isn’t it amazing how the same lesson can produce such a variety of responses? My favourite last year was the boy who continued painting his yellow background onto his face!! Fortunately paint is forgiving. My other favourite is the wonky eyes – one way up the top and another half way down the face!

  • Kim Floyd

    I love this, thank you for filling my face with smiles today!

  • R5bales

    So today I was doing a painted paper cut with scissors and glue project. I looked down and saw hair on a little boy’s table. I told him scissors were for paper only. Not hair. Pretty soon I see him covering something on his trousers. He just couldn’t help cutting a little chunk out of his trousers. Kinders are quite an advventure.

  • Meri

    These are great!! Thanks for sharing!!!

  • Laura Lea

    You inspire me in so many ways. When I come home from work exhausted because I can’t solve the family problems of the students in my class, I see something like this to add a spark back into day and into my teaching that helps my students more than you’ll ever know!

    • Patty Palmer

      Thank you to you, too! Hearing how my site has given you a spark of inspiration is why I created this blog. It’s what drives me and it’s what makes me happy. Thanks for letting me know. It means a lot!

  • Kathy Barbro

    Love it, I recognize all of them! I would only add one about eyes. I’ve seen beautiful portraits that are just missing the eye pupil color. After pointing that out to the student, they come back with the entire eye filled in, whites and all! Makes you realize you have to be very specific with young ones.

  • Lorie Bowlin Friedmann

    I love these! My classes are also doing self portraits. After this Winter break I decided to have my 1st through 8th graders create self portraits in a triptych of 3 variations: contour drawing, paint and collage. Currently we’ve completed the contour drawing (that I copied twice due to time limits) and most have finished the painting part. They’ve turned out all fantastic!
    After seeing these kinders, I’ll definitely have them do this lesson before the year ends.Thanks

  • Robin (Rossman) Webb

    Oh my goodness! What A great way to start my day. I had to chuckle out loud. I believe I’ve had every one of these students! It is that diversity that makes me enjoy what I do so much. Thank you for sharing all your wonderful ideas!

  • Kelly Johnson

    This made me laugh out loud with pure joy – I LOVE these portraits! Makes me wonder what my kinder would do if given the opportunity to do his portrait! Thanks so much for sharing! 🙂

  • Mindi

    I giggled aloud at this post. So glad to know I’m not the only one with “holes” in their directions–or in the listener’s skills, maybe! 🙂 Thanks for embracing the various artistic-ness of all your children. They must love you for it.

  • Mary

    Thank you so much, Patty! This made me smile, made me laugh at the pure joy in their art, and inspired me! Thank you for trusting your students and their masterpieces with us!

  • Holly

    Lol,lol,lol! My kids & I were reading your comments & just cracking up! I love these & I love the joy & beauty you bring out of your students! I am so inspired I think I I’ll do these with my T-Ks tomorrow!

    • Patty Palmer

      Thanks Holly. Whenever I need a laugh, I come back to this post. Kinders really have the sweetest art.

  • Rebecca

    Thanks for giving each portrait a category and theme! I definitely saw some of my students’ works in those themes! Thank you for making the results fun and yet making the process special at the same time.

  • pjones0426@aol.com

    This is my world! I have taught the AM and PM young 5’s kindergarten (some call it Jr., developmental or transitional half day kindergarten) for the past 6 years. This is almost exactly the composition of my kids art. I used to stress about it – and have them come sit by me so we could “try again” with it still being their work, but asking them questions about which color they should use and pre-empting any of the “craziness” I don’t anymore. Now I just smile and enjoy it! 5 year olds are so amazing! I love my job! (I really hope their parents save their work and put it out at their graduation open houses.)

    Next year, I have only half day young 5’s and will be teaching art (and music) to all 8 sections of kindergarten and 3 sections of first grade! What total fun that will be! 🙂

    • Patty Palmer

      Although I love all my grades, Kinders make me so, so happy. They are absolutely precious and their art? Pure joy!

  • Ashley

    I love this idea! And all the different pictures are so true of any class. Thanks for sharing all of these wonderful ideas. I feel I have opened my art resources!

  • Alexsa Shever

    Oh my goodness! This is the perfect post to read just before my kinders come in! I was hesitant to start a portrait painting with them but after seeing your post- and how precious they are (especially with those titles!)- I am excited to get into our portraits 🙂 Thank you for sharing this!

  • Kate

    I’ve tried these with tempera and the painting went well, but I’m a stickler about students mixing paint in the containers…I felt like I had to constantly rinse out brushes for the kids, especially kinder due to the thickness of the paint. How do you handle rinsing brushes between colors? Do you thin your tempera with water? Maybe you use cakes when I’m using liquid? Some of these portrait backgrounds look like watercolor. Thanks for any help you can provide!

  • shenais

    This made me laugh aloud! I love kid art. I just love it. 🙂 I’m gearing up for a new group of firsties. I can’t wait.

    • Patty

      Seriously…the little ones are just the best! Enjoy!

  • Barb Canterbury

    Thank you so much, Patti! I have 200 kids K-2nd. 2nd grades were amazing. 1st grades were very good. But k was exactly as you decribed it above….which made me laugh out loud and relax about how the k portraits turned out. You and the sparklers motivate and encourage me!!! I am very glad i am part of this group!

    • Patty

      I’m happy you’re a member, too! Kinder portraits are TRULY the best.

  • ginny

    Su trabajo es fabuloso. Voy a tratar de unirme con el precio mensual. En Colombia nuestro trabajo de Maestro no es bien remunerado y se hace difícil pagar la afiliación a ustedes.Yo los sigo desde hace tiempo. Gracias.

  • Janine

    As a retired K-8 art teacher, this made me smile, giggle and almost cry. Thank you for the memories of teaching my sweet and unpredictable Kinders. ☺️

  • Rebekah Oliver

    LOVE IT!! You’ve made my day! Soooo true! Thankyou for Sharing them ALL! How often do we just show the select few- but in reality- well- let’s just say- every child is an artist in their own way!

  • Kim

    Hilarious! Love them all!

  • Laura Robillos

    So fun!

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