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I also have this dilema!! Depending on the project I let them help
others (usually with clay), or they can draw an extra credit project
with choice of markers, colored pencils, or crayons. If we are
painting, then they can do an extra credit painting, they usually love
this one! and I feel that it gives them more of a chance to experience
the medium!!! If it is a child who is always finished early than I also
give them a choice (since they have already finished 3 extra credits!!)
if they want to help me do something; ie. cleaning glue caps, washing
out watercolor trays, taking artwork to classrooms, anything that is
easy that I eventually have to do, even if its cleaning up our scrap
wall! (its a bunch of cubbies with scrap paper sorted by color.) I
eventually am working towards setting up a homemade paper station so
that if a child finishes early they can go over and make paper!! The
always early finishers will then have a NICE book by the end of the
hope this helps!