Sometimes, I think we forget that we don't need to have an elaborate set of tools, or a thousand different options for young children. Sometimes simple is best- like paper, paint, and a paintbrush at the easel.
We still give the children full artistic control. They choose the colors and the tools they will use. I often find it interesting at times though- for many children the choice of paper color or paint color isn't of major importance. They just want to paint- It is that constant reminder of process, process, process that continues to show through. They want to experience the process involved with moving the paint brush up and down- or covering their hands in paint.....
It is interesting to observe the decision making process and the choices the children make. For instance on this occasion the first child to the easel decided to paint with dark blue paint- and all of the following children opted to take his lead - even though they all had the option to use the 10 color of paint we have available to them. I am noticing this a lot with our older toddlers and younger preschoolers. We often end up with the same or similar choices being made by each of the children.
Although this appears to be a very simple activity, the learning outcomes are magnificent! Using a vertical surface, such as an easel is fantastic for developing not only the muscles in your child's hand, but also for the child's posture, neck, and shoulders. Children are much more apt to have to use both hands and have an easier time developing their hand and eye coordination while upright. It is sometimes easier to see as your child is at exactly the right height to do so!
By giving children full artistic control, they are also experimenting with ways to paint, tools to use, colors, perspective..... you name it.....
We have a number of easels in our program, but you don't need an easel. A wall or a fence work just great! Anything you can use to make the activity go up and down! The easel on our fence was made by a piece of treated plywood and connected to our fence by hinges. The easel on our porch and the one pictured here are from IKEA (I am not affiliated with IKEA in any way, although I do spend a lot of $$ there!).