The Magic of Dry-Erase

activitiesDo you have some preschool-age children around? If so, do you have some dry-erase markers around? If not, stop reading and go buy a set. Really, go. It’s completely worth your while. They usually come in a set of black-red-blue-green; you can get a bigger color set if you want, though you’ll also be fine with the basic four, or even just black. You don’t need the special erasers. A piece of kleenex or small rag works just fine. It takes about two seconds to show a child, “Hey, look at these special markers! You can draw like this [draw a squiggle], and then you can erase it like this! [erase a bit of it]” No kid worth their salt will need any more instruction than that.

What do you draw on? You can buy small white boards fairly cheap. Those are fine, but kind of boring. Try a mirror! Bathroom mirror, hand mirror, whatever. Or really any glass. Draw on the windows! (Though make sure you erase fully when you’re done—the heat of the sun can make them less erase-y. And in fact, as a disclaimer, try out the erase function of any surface yourself before turning the kids loose—even whiteboards sometimes don’t agree with the wrong brand of marker.) Draw on tiles. Draw on the plastic climbing structure. Pretty much anything smooth and non-pourous works. There are even some kinds of paint, most often used on the walls of college dorms, that work well.

But the real coup de grâce is a plastic sheet protector. You know, those plastic sleeves you can put a sheet of 8½-by-11 into and then put the thing into your 3-ring binder? Get yourself a few of those. Because then you can draw on ANYTHING. Well, anything you can Xerox. It’s a thousand times better than a coloring book, which wants you to do it one way, just once. With dry erase, you can do it over and over, and creativity flourishes.

My favorite ever was with a class of 2’s and 3’s a few years ago, when we were doing an emergent project on faces. I took photos of each child’s face, printed them black and white, and slid them into the sheet protectors. The kids were absolutely entranced, coloring on their own faces (some chose to color their friends’ faces, but most didn’t). Crazy hair! Colored eyes! Moustaches and beards! One child kept drawing “snot” in his nose and then wiping it—with the kleenex! Another child, who was somewhat accident-prone, used the red marker to draw injuries on herself. “I got blood! Get a bandaid! All better! I got blood! Get a bandaid! All better!”

Dry-erase markers cost a little more than regular markers, but I promise you’ll get your money’s worth.

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