DIY Indoor & Outdoor Painting Easel
“Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.” [Albert Einstein]
I have always viewed children as competent capable learners who are contributing citizens making an impact on the world around us. As a kindergarten teacher my goal has always been to co create an environment where children feel heard, represented, and their needs are met. An environment that encourages creativity and divergent critical thinking skills. An environment that sets all children up for success no matter what stage of development they are in. I am constantly curating spaces both indoors and outdoors with activities and resources that are responsive to the children’s interests, abilities, and needs.
What children learn does not follow as an automatic result from what is taught, rather, it is in large part due to the children’s own doing, as a consequence of their activities and our resources.
[Loris Malaguzzi, The Hundred Languages of Children]
With over fifteen years of experience in working with young children and designing responsive environments year after year, I naturally translated what I know for our own boys in our home. The outdoor space has always been as important as our indoor space as it has been intended to be an extension of our learning. Allowing children opportunities to naturally explore open ended materials encourages them to develop their own way of thinking and creating. I understand that it can be difficult for adults to embrace the mess that comes with open ended creative play which is why starting outdoors can ease the transition. And remember, this is about instilling confidence and intrinsic motivation to take risks, try new things, without the worry of perfection or failure.
“Creativity is inventing, experimenting, growing, taking risks, breaking rules, making mistakes, and having fun.” [Mary Lou Cook]
When designing our outdoor learning space, I knew that I wanted a permanent paint station for the boys. I had previously seen framed plexi glass paint stations that were free standing in the ground. However, they are incredibly expensive and mainly used for commercial purposes such as day cares and schools. Our backyard isn’t huge so I figured it would be in our best interest to use the fence space. We had already set up an outdoor chalkboard and loved the idea of our paint station being in the same corner. (We are lucky enough that our neighbour’s tree provides the most perfect shade in this corner).
Step 1: Purchase your preferred size of plexi glass. We picked ours up from Home Depot and used a 6x3. (Ours cost about $160).
Step 2: Purchase a dowel and cut spacers sized 1-2 inches thick (this depends on what size screw you are using). The purpose of the spacers are so that the screw does not stick out on the other side of the fence.
Step 3: Use painters tape to tape off where you will be drilling holes to hang the plexi glass. Make sure you use tape for predrilling the holes. *NOTE* the holes must line up with your fence boards.
Step 4: Predrill the holes where you have marked them off. Place a scrap piece of wood under the plexi glass when predrilling.
Step 5: Ensure that your easel station is level. Use screws to drill the plexi glass and spacers into the fence.
Now, please learn from our mistake as our outdoor easel was our first attempt and we learned along the way. We did not use tape, nor did we predrill the holes and the result was that the plexi glass cracked.
Our indoor easel did not crack as we used tape and predrilled holes.
Because we mounted the indoor easel onto the dry wall in the basement, we did not use spacers. However, we predrilled the holes on the plexi glass as well as the drywall and used anchors to support the weight. Taking proper measurements and being precise is an important step to ensure that all of the predrilled holes line up properly.
I wanted a permanent home for the paint pots and paint brushes. We had these shelves from Ikea from our previous playroom. However, because there is a plug right under the plexi glass, we cut the shelf in half, centered it under the left and right side of the easel and painted the edges with white paint which made them good as new! It is the perfect width to hold the paint pots. (Note: our favourite indoor paint is the Crayola washable paints - just to be safe!).
On either side of the easel I have an art cart purchased from Ikea. This corner of our basement is dedicated to the boys as an Art Studio. All of their creative art materials are accessible to them at all times which promotes independence, creative thinking, and problem solving. I'm still waiting for prints for above each art cart but didn't want you to wait any longer for these DIY art easels. We use both our indoor and outdoor paint stations daily and absolutely love them! Feel free to reach out to me if you have any questions or tag me @be.in.wonder if you try this project out!
Also, full disclosure that I receive a small commission from any purchases made through my Amazon Storefront. I have put many hours into setting it up and truly hope that you find it helpful! None of the links are sponsored. All opinions and product suggestions are 100% authentically mine... just doing and sharing what I love with love.