Painting is a favorite activity among kids and can be used in so many different ways for development. Not only is painting fun for kids, there are numerous development and educational benefits. Painting remains one of the most popular forms of messy play as well. But, with my toddler’s short attention span and the need for variety, regular painting with a brush can get old fast. Luckily, one of the best things about painting is how many different ways you can do it. Here are some unique ideas for painting for toddlers and preschoolers you can try at home!
New ways to paint for toddlers and preschoolers
I assumed children’s painting should always use a paintbrush, however using other objects to paint is a great development opportunity for kids. Not to mention, an activity that kids love! Painting without a brush allows children a new way to express creativity and use critical thinking skills. They now see the everyday objects used in an entirely different way. And while all painting helps fine motor skills, switching the object being used, such as a brush, helps add diversity to those motor skills. Using various objects also helps connect cause and effect. Children see that as the object changes, the patterns and textures of paint change.
What you’ll need to paint with a toddler or preschooler
First, choose a space in your home or outside in the yard for the painting. Ideally, the space will have room for your child to comfortably move around without getting paint on anything important. Then, find a painting outfit. We use an old, oversized t-shirt that can get dirty, but there are lots of cute painting smocks out there, like these. Here are the typical supplies we use while painting:
- Plastic table cloth from the dollar store
- Paper, Canvas, or cardboard to paint
- Washable Paint- we like Crayola
- Object you’ll be using as the brush
- Wet wipes or washcloth on hand, just in case
What to use instead of a paint brush
Theoretically, anything can be used as a paint brush, but think of objects that are easy for a child to hold and use, can create new patterns and textures with paint, and are relatively easy to clean up (or just throw away after). Here are some objects to use instead of brushes that you most likely have around your house:
1. Toy Cars
Try out different toys with wheels-cars, trucks, motorcycles. Even better if you can find varying sizes of wheels with different patterns, so your child can try them all. The tracks made in the paint will help the child see the physical differences. Using vehicles can also help with vocabulary. Talk about different vehicle names and purposes, and try using words like ‘road’, ‘tracks’, ‘drive’, ‘fast’, ‘slow’, or ‘wheels’. Challenge your child to make different kinds of lines or patterns with the cars such as straight lines vs squiggly lines.
2. Bubble Wrap
While bubble wrap is fun in and of itself, this is an exciting painting utensil for kids. This is a great tool to highlight shapes as the bubble wrap will make clear circles with the paint. Bubble wrap will especially highlight the difference in textures, both how it feels in your hand and how the paint looks on the paper. Even better if a few bubbles pop while painting!
3. Kitchen Utensils
Kitchen utensils are a wonderful way to use varying tools at the same time. Choose utensils that create different shapes and lines with the paint. Some favorites amongst little kids are whisks, forks, potato mashers, and spaghetti spoons. This is a good opportunity to practice cooking and kitchen vocabulary such as ‘mix’, ‘stir’, ‘cook’ and ‘spoon’ to name a few. Each utensil creates a unique way to paint, creating different shapes, textures, and patterns. You can also find utensils in different sizes for even more variety. The various utensils will also help with fine motor skills. The dollar store is a great place to find extra utensils just for painting!
Vegetables are not just for eating anymore. For painting any vegetables with texture or shape would work well like the top of broccoli. Or use cut potatoes to make circles (or cut them into new shapes!). Think of parts of vegetables that you would normally throw away like the leafy end of celery stalks, the tops of bell peppers, or the stalk of broccoli. Just remember, younger kids may need reminders not to eat the food or put the paint in their mouth. Painting with toddlers and preschoolers does come with a learning curve, but they’ll get the hang of it!
5. Hands and Feet
No extra utensils needed! Using hands and feet for painting is a favorite for young kids. Painting with hands is a great sensory activity as the children feel the paint and the paper themselves. And while hands are commonly used, most people may not have considered painting with feet. Using feet is a whole new tactile experience, and one that’s probably best done outside! You can also provide a container of soapy water for cleaning the hands and feet after painting- a whole new activity for messy play!
End Result of Painting for Toddlers and Preschoolers
The sky’s the limit when it comes to different painting utensils you can come up with. Kids may even come up with new ones on their own, and, in that case, you can just follow their lead. Encourage them to try new things and think outside of the box by asking questions and keeping a conversation going during the activities. And remember, painting for toddlers and preschoolers is not about making a masterpiece, it’s about enjoying the experience. Let us know your child’s favorite object to use for painting!