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Thesis (M.A.)—University of Nebraska—Lincoln, 1949. Department of Home Economics.


Copyright 1949, the author. Used by permission.


The main objective of this investigation was to determine whether or not a consistent pattern exists in the colors selected by the pre-school child throughout a series of finger paintings.

While observing each child during finger-painting sessions, the colors used in each painting and the effect obtained by each addition of color were recorded.The completed paintings were evaluated as to the predominant hue; predominant value; hues visible; the final effect obtained—i.e., whether a “single hue” was used, whether the hues were “separate,” or “mingled and mixed.” Any pictorial representation was also noted.

Using the procedure and the methods which had been devised during the preliminary investigation for recording the painting procedure and for making the evaluation of the completed painting, the final investigation was conducted in the fall of 1948.The subjects were twenty children enrolled in the University of Nebraska Child Development Laboratory.The group included ten boys and ten girls, with a mean age at the beginning of the investigation of three years, eight months.

Each subject was observed individually by the investigator during two finger painting sessions, completing two paintings in each session.A complete record of the colors used by each subject was obtained.When the four paintings had been collected from each subject, the final evaluations of the completed paintings were made.

The results obtained from the analysis of data may be summarized as follows:

  1. Little evidence was shown of any consistent preference for a particular hue throughout the series of four finger paintings made by these pre-school children.

  2. Four children showed a preference for a single color while engaged in making one painting. However, they turned to another color, or to all of the colors in subsequent paintings.

  3. A slight preference was shown by the group for black.

  4. The children showed some consistency in the value of the series of paintings. All four paintings by eight children were of the same value, and three paintings by six.

  5. A tendency was shown by the subjects to make dark paintings.

  6. Nearly all of the paint was mingled or mixed on the paper, rather than being kept separate.

  7. Sixty-six of the eighty paintings entirely covered or nearly covered the whole page.

  8. Within this investigation, the patterns of color selections exhibited were not consistent enough to warrant their use for diagnostic purposes. Rather, the children seemed to be experimenting with and enjoying all of the colors.

Advisor:Ruth Staples