Playing With Paper

Paper is often overlooked as an art medium in the early years. Paper gets more credit in product-oriented artistic efforts, such as origami, but is given barely a nod in process-oriented art.


Paper, as anyone who has ever painted will tell you, is key to making sure children’s ideas spring to life! Poor paper choices may wind up distracting a child or even stopping their painting efforts should it fall apart, crinkle, or tear in an undesirable way.


The very early years are the time for exploration of materials. Poking, squeezing, tasting, and tackling art materials give infants the experiences they need to later be able to express their ideas.


Packing Paper
I started by offering Moon a single sheet of a very pliable packing paper. This paper was softer than drawing paper (to avoid paper cuts) and thicker than tissue paper, in case she tasted it.


She shook it with two hands and waved it with one. She lay still and quietly underneath it, safely hidden from the world around her.


Tissue Paper
Next up – tissue paper. Moon used this in pretty much the same way until she pulled hard enough to tear it apart. From then on –  rip, rip, rip! Moon occasionally put the tissue paper in her mouth, but it didn’t stay there long enough to fall apart at first. Eventually, as some paper begin to fall apart, I would take that piece away and let her keep playing.




























When she encounters a paper towel, she knows exactly what to do! The paper towel was a little gift from her sister. I wouldn’t offer this one intentionally – it fell apart in her mouth quite quickly.

Okay, so it’s not paper, but it has some similar properties (flat and crinkly), so I think it fits here.  Moon first used cellophane as a painting surface in an art group. Since then, she has played with cellophane in much the same way as paper. The one exception, try as she might, is that she can’t tear the cello.

Greysen (6 months) Playing with Cellophane




Again, not sure this qualifies as paper but the girls use it in the same way. When I was in the classroom, I purchased a roll of Mylar at a repurposing center for educators and parents. It was a shimmery, shiny, loud experience.



Last month, I found some Mylar-like wrapping paper that I gave to Moon. She can’t stop moving this stuff around!

Wax paper

Rather than give her a square of paper, as I have done in the past, I offered Moon a long piece of wax paper. I suspected that with such a large piece, Greysen would also be interested, so I decided to offer them the one piece instead of two. Let the negotiating begin!


The piece was so long that Greysen could easily play with one end while standing and Moon with the other end, without them actually playing together. Before long, however, Moon lay hidden beneath the paper and Greysen could not resist a game of peek-a-boo.


Wax paper is our current favorite. Moon can put in her mouth and it holds up well enough. And, unlike cellophane, it rips like regular paper. Its opaque quality makes it great for filtering out light while Georgie hides below.


I’m on the lookout for other types of paper for Moon and Greysen to explore.  Rice paper, perhaps? I’ll soon be posting some photos of other things we have done with cellophane, so stay tuned if this post was of interest to you.