You want to do painting activities with your kids, but the thought of the mess prevents you from grabbing the paints. You would rather do three loads of laundry, clean the whole house or pull all the weeds out of every flower bed you have. Anything but use paints with your kids.
Believe me, I understand. But kids love to paint and it is such a fun learning experience for them. It is also a great way for kids of all ages to hone their fine motor skills.
And here is a little secret….there are tricks to help cut down on the mess! Keep reading to find out what they are along with seven unique painting activities for kids.
“Mom, what makes orange?”
Recently, my preschool son wanted to know which two colors make orange. Instead of just telling him, I rounded up some blue, yellow and red tempera paint for an impromptu lesson in color mixing. I found some white paper and gave a piece to my toddler daughter and my preschool son.
Then I put a drop of red paint, blue paint and yellow paint on the side of each paper. I gave both kids a craft stick to use to mix the paints with since I wasn’t able to locate any paint brushes at the moment.
They used the craft sticks for a little bit until I brought them a few more tools to use. I found some Q-Tips and some plastic forks. They had fun mixing the paints with these tools, but it wasn’t long before they wanted to mix the paint with just their fingers.
No Paint Brushes? No Problem
You can grab paint brushes at your local dollar or hobby store. If you can’t get to the store before painting with your kids or you are looking for other tools for your children to use, try these suggestions:
- Plastic Forks
- Plastic straws
- Popsicle or craft sticks
- Chenille Stems
- Leaves attached to twigs
Worried about the mess? Try these tips
I promised I would share some tips that will help cut down on the mess so painting with your kids is less stressful for you.
- Squirt some hand soap or dish soap into the tempera paint before your kids use it. It will help to remove the paint easier if it gets on something you don’t want it to.
- Have your children hold their hands together with their palms touching if they have paint on their hands after they are finished painting. Have them walk to the sink with their hands in this position so they won’t touch anything with the paint.
- Give your children old adult sized shirts with buttons to wear for a smock so they won’t get paint on their clothes.
- Fold a piece of cardboard accordion style. Set any paint brushes you are not using at the moment in the folded areas of the cardboard so the paint from the brushes won’t get on any surface you don’t want it to.
- Plastic mustard or ketchup containers make good paint dispensers if you need some. Keep the paint fresh by placing an aluminum nail in the top of the container
- Put butcher paper or a cheap plastic tablecloth under the paper your children are painting on, then dispose of it when you are finished. Another option is to use a vinyl tablecloth and wash it off afterwards.
The first four painting activities work with tempera paint. Other paint will work, but tempera is the most child friendly, in my opinion. I recommend the Prang brand of Tempera Paint. You can find them at a craft or hobby store. I bought some at Dollar Tree.
- Tempera Paint
Fold a piece of paper in half. Cut out a shape or design such as a butterfly, flower or egg if desired for each of your children. Then open the paper up and let your children put several drops of paint on one side of their paper. Have your children fold their paper in half and rub all over the paper. Help them open the paper carefully and look at the beautiful design. Did any colors mix to form a new color?
Fly Swatter Painting
- Fly swatter
- Large piece of paper
- Tempera Paint
I recommend doing this activity outside if possible. Wash and sanitize any swatter you have used to get rid of flies before letting your kids use it to paint. Get a large sheet of paper and some paint. Let your children dip the flyswatter in the paint and then swat the paper to make a print. Make sure they don’t swat too hard or paint will splatter farther than you want it to.
- Shallow Box
- Two Marbles or Small Balls
Put a piece of paper in a shallow box. Squirt a few drops of paint on the paper and then give your children two marbles or small balls. Have them tip the box from side to side so the marbles roll around in the paint. What happens to the paint when the marbles swirl in it?
Put objects in paint and then press it onto paper to see the design it makes. The sky’s the limit for what objects you can use. Here are some neat ideas to get you started:
- Bottom of two liter soda bottle
- Cookie Cutters
- Potatoes cut in half
- Apples cut in half
- Wooden Blocks
- Different textures of fabric
What suggestions do you have? Leave them in the comments below.
Food Coloring and Water
You can make your own water colors by mixing water with food coloring. Don’t be shy when putting food coloring into the water. The darker the colors, the better!
- Food Coloring
- Dish Soap (optional)
Add food coloring to a small amount of water in a bowl until it is dark. Using a straw, have your children blow bubbles in the colored water until the bubbles are higher than the bowl.
Place a piece of paper on the bubbles to make a print. Try again with a different color. Want more bubbles? Add a squirt of dish soap.
I only recommend this activity for children who know how to blow through a straw. My preschooler was able to blow through the straw and had great success.
My toddler would suck instead of blow and ended up sipping the liquid. That’s not a huge problem if you only have food coloring mixed with water. It becomes more of an issue if you have added dish soap.
- Food Coloring
- Ice Tray
- Aluminum Foil
- Craft Sticks
- White Paper
Assist your child in mixing food coloring in a small amount of water and pouring it into an ice tray. Then have your child cover it with foil. Then have your child push a craft stick through the foil into each of the ice containers and stick the ice tray in the freezer. Once all the water is frozen, take it out and let your child paint with the ice cubes on a piece of white paper. You will see that as the ice melts, the painting becomes better. This fun activity is great to do inside or outside.
- Food Coloring
Make some liquid watercolors by adding quite a bit of food coloring to a small amount of water so you can make the colors dark. Make several colors.
Have your children put a straw in one of the colors. Then have them put their finger on top of the straw to pick up some liquid and then put it on a piece of paper. Then tell your children to remove their finger to put the liquid on the paper.
Invite them to blow through their straw to make the paint move. Repeat this process with a different color. Have your children observe what happens when they blow on the paint. What happens when they blow harder or softer?
See! That wasn’t so bad!
Congratulations! You did it! You survived painting with your children. Now the next time you have to choose between doing three loads of laundry or painting with your kids, I bet you’ll choose painting.
It really is fun for your kids. Remember to include your children in all aspects of the painting process. Having them help gather supplies, prepare the paints and clean up the mess teaches them responsibility as well as all the steps in the art process. It also saves you time and energy and that is a definite win!