Painting with a Preschooler

Ruby loves to paint. She loves putting paint to paper. She loves the sound of the PLOP of paint. She loves to make squiggly lines and dots. She loves to paint her hands and make handprints. It is always an enjoyable experience. She produces a lot of paintings each month.

People sometimes think doing projects is too much work to set up for kids when they can have such short attention spans. I like to do some of the leg work ahead of time so that when Ruby is in the mood to paint, set up is all of 3 minutes. I keep the paint filled in little cups which makes setting up for painting time a snap. I mix a little dish soap in with the paint to help make it EXTRA washable. The cups have lids for easy storage. The paint brushes are color coded so it makes it easier for young kids to match them up with the right cup. We also have a few designated “paint shirts” from her dad hanging on command hooks. (my house is FULL of command hooks) Ruby is in charge of getting her paint shirt and putting it away. I slap a tablecloth on the table. We use a vinyl, flannel back tablecloth that just gets tossed in the washing machine.  Once we have a tablecloth and paint shirt we are ready to go. All of the paper for painting is stashed right with the paint. I also have a nice place to hang paintings to dry and remain on display next to the table. Really it is just long pieces of twine held in by tacks but you can pretend it is fancy. All this preparation I do ahead of time makes saying YES to painting really easy, even if she only spends 5 minutes painting, it isn’t a big deal to set up or tear down.

Since we paint often, it is sometimes nice to shake things up a little bit and experiment. Here are a few ideas we have tried out.

Painting with Balls
We often do this activity after receiving a package from Amazon and have an empty box….so we have done this numerous time. HA HA HA! All you need is a cardboard box, paper, paint and a ball you don’t mind getting paint on. I often save little bouncy balls from going to the dentist or birthday parties with this idea in mind. We have used a variety of balls and just rinsed them off immediately after painting. Place a piece of paper in the bottom of your box squirt a little paint. You can do one color or a few. Drop a ball in and start tipping the box from side to side. Different types of balls leave different marks. Try a smooth ball and then try a spiky ball and compare. You can take this activity to the next level by using a small kiddie pool. Place paper in the bottom of the pool and add paint. You can always tape the paper to the bottom if you are worried about it sliding around. We did this as a messy art day project in the summer at the library I worked at and it was always a big hit with the kids and parents too.

painting with balls 2

Watercolor Painting
This is probably the one of the cleanest ways to paint with actual paint. Watercolor “patties” are hard and easy to store when dry. You just activate the watercolor paint with a wet brush. You can use regular paper or splurge on watercolor paper. I tend to cut the watercolor paper into quarters so it lasts longer. We also use our thinner paint brushes with watercolors. The best thing about watercolors is that even if all of the watercolor patties end up looking black from your little one mixing colors or not rinsing their brush off, you just run them under a little water and wipe with a rag or paper towel and VOILA, they are back to looking new.

Painting: The Messy Edition
Painting with your Body
When you have very young children you know that they sometimes turn painting into a whole body experience. Ruby has a buddy who would turn every painting experience into a full body paint-a-thon. Ruby has always been more reserved in this department. She will paint her hand to do handprints but for the most part sticks to using a brush. I decided to encourage a little more sensory play with paint so we have tried painting with our feet several times and it was a huge hit. We have done it two ways. We love to keep a giant roll or paper in the house. We currently have a black roll of paper and a white roll of paper and we have used them for so many different projects. We simply rolled the paper out on the back patio and sprinkled a little paint and began walking. We have also done this activity in a giant box. I had a treadmill delivered and the box lid was perfect and contained the paint mess well. I had an old towel to step on near by as well as a wet towel to wash her feet off. The paint can get a little slippery so we used caution while walking. It was a lot of fun. Ruby loved seeing what colors she could mix together and looking at all of her footprints.

Finger Painting
Finger painting is a wonderful sensory activity. Ruby was not a fan of it the first time we pulled out finger paint and to be honest, she still prefers the brush over painting with her fingers but she enjoys it a bit more now that she is older. I just put out paper and a few colors of paint in a dish or on a paper plate. You can buy “finger paint paper” or finger paint on anything you have handy. We have used scrap paper from the printer, old mail and cardboard boxes.

Painting: The Clean Edition
Paint with Water
The cleanest “painting” experience you can provide is with a paint with water type book. We happen to have the ones by Melissa and Doug. These are awesome to use in the car and on sick days when you are trying to keep your little one in bed or on the couch. You simply fill the brush with water and the pages change colors as you “paint” them with the water. We have a few sets. I keep some in the art supplies that Ruby can access any time and I keep one stashed away in our “sick kit” activities so that when it gets pulled out it is new and exciting.

I put the tools in place for Ruby to do her “work” and boy, is she busy.

There are so many options when it comes to painting with young children. I am sure I could make several more posts full of painting ideas and not even be scratching the surface. I really try to stick with making it fun for Ruby and easy on myself. I also lean heavily towards leaving things like painting open ended. For us right now, it is all about the experience. It is about experiencing color. It is about investigating what happens when you mix yellow and blue. It is about how the paint feels between your toes. It is about how the paint from your hand mixes with the soap bubbles when you wash your hands. It is about testing how long it takes for the paint to dry. There are so many things to learn and explore with paint.

What are you going to paint?

Other Options
Paint Cups with Brushes

Larger Amounts of Tempera Paint

Glitter Paint, because why not?

This content uses referral links.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s