Painting is a fantastic activity for children of all ages. Having the kids make an image out of nothing but an assortment of beautiful colors and their imagination is an invaluable experience. Plus, it helps focus all of their wild energy!
As parents, we want to encourage our children to hone their creative skills, but we need to help guide the activity around their age group, attention span, and abilities. If the activity is too boring or too complicated, children can become disinterested or discouraged.
In this list, we’ll cover some of the best and easiest painting ideas to get your kids excited about painting and get those creative juices flowing:
Mess-Free Painting (2 to 6 Years)
One of the easiest ways to let your child paint to their heart's content only requires three materials: a piece of paper, acrylic paint, and a large zip-up bag. Place the piece of paper and a couple of squeezes of different colors of acrylic paint inside the bag, and close it up. Put the bag on a hard surface for your kid, and that's it!
By keeping everything inside of a sealed zip-up bag, your child can push the paint around on the piece of paper without being able to make a mess. This way, there is no clean-up and no hassle. Your child gets to make a masterpiece without having to take a bath, and your table can rest easy knowing it is squeaky clean for dinner.
Edible Finger Painting (3 to 10 Years)
This idea is perfect for younger children who cannot keep their hands out of their mouths. While most children's paints are non-toxic, it is still not ideal to have them eating them every chance they get. It’s not their fault, really; babies (and even older preschoolers) explore the world with their mouths. It’s so common it has a name: oral sensory input.
If this sounds all too familiar to you, buy a large tub of vanilla yogurt and a variety of food coloring. Separate the vanilla yogurt into several small containers and dye them using the food coloring.
Ta-da! You now have customized painting colors and a delicious snack for your little one. This can be used on paper, plates, or other edible treats like cookies, toast, or pancakes.
Bath Time Painting and Puffy Painting (2 to 6 Years)
This painting idea can be used in two very different situations using the exact same materials: shaving cream, food coloring, and a muffin tin to hold the paint. Spray the shaving cream into the muffin tin, and create whatever colors you or your child would like.
We know what you’re thinking: does food coloring stain a bathtub? Luckily, the answer is no!
This shaving cream paint is the perfect paint to use if your child needs an exciting activity for bath time. With the bathtub or shower walls as their canvas, your child will have ample space to create whatever they desire. The best part? This paint is incredibly easy to clean up. Just a quick rinse and you have a blank canvas ready for tomorrow's bath.
Outside of the bath, shaving cream paint also makes a fun puffy paint for your child to use. The paint works well on paper, and when it dries, it creates a new, exciting texture for growing hands to investigate. Children love to explore textures, as seen in playsets and mud puddles everywhere.
Painting With String (7 to 10 Years)
Painting with string or yarn is one of the newer viral fads making rounds on the internet, and there is a good reason for it. While this painting idea is more suitable for older kids simply to prevent a huge mess, painting with string is simple enough for younger kids to give it a go as well.
The idea for painting with string is simple: dip one or more strings into your desired paint, place them down on a canvas in whatever shape or design you want, and pull the strings down to one focal point. The end result will be a unique fan or leaf-like design in a beautiful blend of colors.
Sidewalk Painting (5 to Early Teens)
You can make sidewalk paint using a very short list of materials: water, corn starch, sidewalk chalk (mashed up), and a muffin tin to hold the paint. This recipe is one part water, one part cornstarch, and ¼ part sidewalk chalk. The water mixes with the chalk to create the liquid paint, while the cornstarch acts as a thickening agent.
The result creates vibrant colors that are perfect for the outdoors and remarkably easy to wash away. Because it is still just chalk, the solution is water-soluble and will rinse off of the driveway or sidewalk with the quick use of a hose.
Kids might appreciate thicker and tougher brushes as the canvas for this activity tends to be very rough on smaller brushes or little fingers. This activity, and painting overall, is a wonderful way to work on fine motor skills for young children and artistic expression and emotion regulation in older kids.
Sponge Painting (4 to 7 Years)
Another straightforward technique that’s well-suited for all ages is sponge painting. Using liquid paint and sponges of different shapes, your child has the freedom to create whatever they want.
With the sponges, they can create their own Monet masterpiece by gently dabbing the sponges or flicking smaller ones to whip up an homage to Jackson Pollock. This is a fantastic opportunity to introduce school-aged artists to the original masters.
For younger children, sponges shaped like letters or 2D shapes can help introduce elementary concepts and encourage their creativity to flourish.
Window Marker Painting (7 to Early Teens)
Looking for a unique new canvas? This idea is a breeze to clean and gives the kids a chance to spread their creative wings:
Window markers are a temporary paint that can be used on any glass surface, most notably on vehicles and house windows. They come in tons of vibrant colors and are safe for kids of all ages.
Symmetrical Painting (2 to 4 Years)
A simple and more traditional artistic idea is to explore symmetry. Having your kids paint on one half of a piece of paper and then folding the other half on top, you can show them that symmetry can make a whole new art piece.
In this activity, have your children create their own shapes and patterns to explore what they would look like mirrored either vertically, horizontally, or diagonally. The sponges from the previous idea would be perfect for helping the kids make recognizable shapes to make them symmetrical.
Cookie Decorating (4 to Teens)
While this idea may not be legitimate painting, decorating cookies with different color icing is a fun and delicious way to bond with your kids (and have a snack too).
The simplest way to do this activity is to buy a pack of sugar cookies and canned icing and have fun. If you are feeling more adventurous, bake your own cookies. To add to the possibilities, you can go crazy with different piping bags and tips to help your kids' designs come to life.
When all the cookies have been decorated and set, your family can dig into the delicious dessert and bond over your hard work!
Bubble Painting (5 to 8 Years)
Painting with bubbles is one of the more unconventional ideas on this list. At Blue Squirrel, we are partial to how the unconventional inspires the best of adventures.
Painting with bubbles requires a few materials: bubble soap and wand, food coloring, and paper. Start by separating the bubble soap into several smaller containers (or muffin tins) and dye into each tin. Letting your little one pick the colors is a great way to give them agency too.
Then, use the wand to blow bubbles onto the paper and watch them pop! The bubbles will leave behind colorful circles in delightful sizes and patterns; no two canvases will look alike.
Splatter Painting (4 to 9 Years)
While this is the messiest idea on this list, splatter painting is an exciting way to create abstract art. This is best done outside with washable paint so you can have fun without worrying about needing to helicopter. Not only is the mess outside and away from white rugs, but it’s a wonderful excuse to enjoy some quality outdoor time.
Splatter painting is chaotic, but that is arguably the reason why this idea is so much fun. The children will have less control over where the paint lands, but it ensures that every canvas will look unique.
You can even look into working with set color schemes so that your kids can experiment with how different colors mix and create new ones. An added benefit is that you can create a color scheme that matches your interior home design. Of course, these pieces will be treasured mementos to keep as your kiddo grows up. But more importantly, kids of all ages feel a sense of pride and value when their art hangs in a place of honor.
Children and Art
Painting is such a fun way to let your children explore their creativity and discover what they are capable of. There are limitless combinations of canvases and paints and even less conventional artistic tools, such as shaving cream and string.
Even the outdoors has limitless inspiration for symmetrical painting and reusable canvases, including the sidewalk and windows.
Go out and paint with your kids; discover and explore the world creatively through the ideas on this list. Most importantly, have fun!