Paint in a New Way

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This project is the exact opposite of those times you give your children a direction for painting. Set out all your painting supplies (including some that might not be obvious painting supplies!) and let your children lead the way.

Our paints included dot paints, watercolors, fingerpaints, and regular tempera paint.  Our supplies included paintbrushes, craft sticks, sponges, pom poms, a rolling pin… and fingers of course! I simply set all of this out, along with lots of thick white paper.

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Veronika was first most interested in the fingerpaint, wanting to use her fingers.

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But then she loved moving the rolling pin through the blobs of paint.

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The resulting artwork on this sheet was so beautiful and shimmery!

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Next she loved using the sponges (I had both shape sponges and makeup sponges), which she pressed and swirled through the paint in such lovely ways.

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Soon she was dotting all over this masterpiece with dot markers!

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Finally, she moved onto the watercolors. It quickly became clear, though, that the water was more of a hit than the hues!

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Meanwhile, this hodgepodge of painting supplies even enticed big brother Travis over. Although he normally likes to color in coloring books these days, he decided watercolor might be fun, especially if tied into favorite TV show characters.

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What interesting shapes or creations will your children paint when you set them loose? Please share in the comments!

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Slide Painting Activity

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Summer weather has us moving our painting to outdoor canvases, and today we found a way that was completely novel and new! To start, I lined our toddler slide with a large sheet of craft paper, securing with masking tape. It was also helpful to place an empty trash bag flat at the bottom of the slide, since this would protect the grass underneath from paint.

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I then poured washable paint into plastic cups, thinning each with a little water.

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Veronika’s task was to climb the rungs of the slide, and pour each cup of paint down. The colors instantly mix and run together in neat ways.

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And then your child can help with the process along with a paintbrush.

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The surface of the slide made such a neat impromptu “easel”!

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When your child is done, simply gather up that messy paper, stuff it in the trash bag that’s already on hand, and clean-up is done!

Sensory Paint, Inside and Outside

Lately, Veronika has loved sensory play where we begin with a material contained in some way (a bottle, a zip-top plastic bag) but then take it out of the container for something much messier! To wit, today we started with paint in the bag and then moved it out.

For the inside version, I squirted a generous amount of hair gel into sandwich-sized zip-top plastic bags, then added bright neon colors of tempera paint to each. Bright food coloring gel would work, too. I deliberately chose colors that felt just right for a hot sunny day: think neon oranges, pinks, and yellows. Press out most of the air, then seal the bags. You can add a little duct tape at the top if you’re worried about curious fingers opening the bag.

Veronika briefly squished the vibrant colors all around, and liked tossing them to the floor with a splat.

They were also fun to stomp on with bare toes! But, as I anticipated, they didn’t hold her interest long.

Neither did a second sensory bag for writing practice. For this one, I used a gallon-sized zip-top bag and only a thin layer of paint so that the squiggles and shapes she made would show up clearly.

I showed her a few letters like V for Veronika, and we even could make hand prints. Still, she lost interest after a few swirly lines.

It was time for something decidedly messier. Lay down a piece of cardboard to protect your patio or lawn, and place sheets of white paper on top.

We made blobs of paint on the paper and then covered each with a cotton pad. (Note: You could also apply the paint directly to the cotton pad, and then set down on the paper). Now whack with a wooden spoon!

Similar to fly swatter painting, whacking the paper is sure to be irresistible for kids. The clear winner once more? The outside messy way!

Block Printing

Veronika has been uncharacteristically hesitant to get her hands messy lately, so today I made chunky stamps she could paint with instead, no risk of painted fingers!

To start, I used hot glue to attach a strip of textured ribbon onto old wooden blocks. Any raised ribbon or rickrack would work well for this particular purpose.

I then poured a little paint into a shallow plate, and set it out with the “stamps” and thick paper.

Veronika loved the colors, and experimented with dipping the blocks in the paint and pressing down.

Our blocks tended to make muddled prints at first, but as the paint thinned out, the texture of the ribbon would become ever more apparent.

This led to such a nice variety of shapes and prints for her to explore on her paper!

I think the results would have been even better with rickrack. If you make your blocks with rickrack, we’d love to hear how it goes in the comments!

Eraser Stamped Sheep

We recently re-read a favorite picture book, The Dot, by Peter H. Reynolds, which had us thinking about other ways to make art from just dots. This sweet craft is easy enough for toddlers to follow along, and felt just right for springtime and baby lamb season!

To start, I set out a plate of white paint, along with a few sheets of construction paper and pencils. I handed Veronika one of the pencils and showed her how to dip just the eraser end in the paint, then dot on the paper.

White dots!

Veronika had fun simply experimenting at first, but then I showed her that if she clustered a few of those white dots together, it began to look like a woolly sheep. She loved seeing the little animals take form.

Of course she couldn’t control her dots exactly, which I wouldn’t have expected from a two year old. Anywhere that gaps needed filling, I added a few extra dots to make the sheep. That meant sometimes we had big mommy sheep, and sometimes baby lambs.

Once the glue dries, just add an eye and four legs for each sheep with black marker.

We loved the ways these looked once we cut them out in individual circles, resulting in a whole little flock.

Rainbow Sensory Bags

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Mixing paint is such a great way to teach kids about the difference between primary and secondary colors (namely, that you achieve one of the latter by mixing two of the former), and I’m always looking for ways to make the lesson hands on. These hair gel bags make it easy to mix the colors together in a fun and squishy way!

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To start, squirt a little clear hair gel into each of three sandwich-sized zip-top bags. Add the primary colors on either side of the gel, so you have one bag that contains red + yellow, a second that contains yellow+ blue, and a third that contains blue + red.

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Seal tightly and add a strip of duct tape at the top of each for security. Now invite your toddler to squish and mush!

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Veronika was particularly pleased when the red and blue combined to make her favorite color (purple).

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We simply made this about the squishy sensory play today, but see my previous post on primary color storytime for reading suggestions that can go along with it.

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If you have enough paint, you might consider making one bag that contains just red paint + hair gel, one with yellow paint + hair gel, and one with blue paint + hair gel, in which case you’ll wind up with the full rainbow lineup at the end.

Cookie Plate for Santa

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Leaving out treats for Santa is one of Christmas Eve’s biggest highlights in our house, that thrill of the idea that he’ll really come in and take a nibble! This year we decided to make a special plate that can be just for Santa, this year and years to come.

Any plain white plate will work for this project; I purchased one cheaply at the store, but you can use an old white plate if you have one on hand. I set it down in front of Veronika, along with red, yellow, and green acrylic paints.

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My original intention was to trace a star-shaped cookie cutter at the top and paint it yellow, then to have Veronika fill in around it. But she quickly had other plans!

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She painted the star red before I had even finished tracing! Then the various colors of paint were all smeared together and making a glorious mess. But I loved that the plate was authentically her own creation for Santa Claus.

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After it dried, I added in a message around the rim, writing ‘To Santa’ and ‘Christmas 2020’ in red and green sharpies.

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If your kids want to have a laugh during the creation of the plate, watch a read-aloud of Father Christmas Needs a Wee. Because Santa will be drinking lots of (almond!) milk alongside all those cookies!

No Mess Paper Plate Snowflakes

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Last week, Veronika painted snowflakes with q-tips, a great toddler method with very little mess. Today’s version meant even easier clean-up, since all the paint was inside a zip-top plastic bag!

To start, I cut out snowflakes from paper plates. I folded each plate in half, then in half again, and snipped out triangles, ovals, and heart shapes. Open back up to reveal the “snowflake” to your child.

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In retrospect, I would have scalloped the edges, too, for a prettier result. Veronika sure thought this was neat, though, and loved sitting beside me with her own pair of safety scissors!

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Place each plate in a large zip-top bag and add a little bit of silver and blue paint. You can also add a little glitter to each bag, but since we happened to have glitter paint, everything went in all at once! I sealed the bags and showed Veronika how to mush the paint around with her hands until the plate was painted.

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She was so surprised when she first reached down and realized she could touch the paint but not get messy. And then she just really enjoyed it! I helped a little to spread the paint to the edges of the plates.

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It took a little trial and error to figure out the right amount of paint to use. Too much and the plate was so saturated that it ripped upon removal from the bag. Too little and you won’t be able to spread the paint far enough. So my recommendation is to start with less than you think you need and work your way up.

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Next time, I would use a little white paint, too, since the blue dominated over the silver. Still, they turned out pretty!

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Let the plates dry completely, then hang the snowflakes around the house for a winter snowstorm.

Feather Printing

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Not to be confused with feather painting, the idea with this craft wasn’t to paint with a feather but to make images of feathers on paper. The resulting craft makes a great piece of Thanksgiving artwork!

I cut small sponges into shapes roughly resembling feathers (although I confess some looked more like leaves). Our sponges had handles, which makes it easy for Veronika to grasp them, but regular kitchen sponges would work, too.

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Next I set out plates of paint in harvest colors, and showed Veronika how to dip in the paint and then press onto paper.

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She loved the little images that appeared. She was so proud when she could make the sponge as flat as possible for a clear print.

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As a variation, we then painted directly on a few craft feathers.

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These made fun prints when pressed down onto the paper, too!

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“Look what I made!” she proudly said when we were done, and narrated back all the paint colors.

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I love seeing her take pride in her artwork.

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Balloon Art

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We’ve painted with a balloon before, but today Veronika had a chance to paint on a balloon. She absolutely adored this simple art project.

I covered the floor with scrap paper to catch any mess and then set out uninflated balloons and little cups of paint. Veronika always asks for yellow, and this time wanted to add dark blue and light blue!

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She immediately started painting the paper, but I showed her how to paint on one of the balloons instead. She loved it! She narrated all her color choices to me as she worked. “A little pink. Now let’s add a little blue…” It was like watching a miniature Bob Ross.

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At first we only worked on light-colored balloons (whites and yellows) but she spotted a black one in our pack and wanted to paint on that. The color contrast looked quite neat!

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When she seemed close to tiring of the craft, I inflated one of the balloons. (Note: Be careful that there is no wet paint at the rim before you blow it up). I wanted to show her how the smears of paint would now spread and thin out.

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For the best contrast, make a few of the uninflated balloons with only small dots which will become more like blotches once inflated.

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I thought she might want to switch to using the balloon like a paintbrush once it was blown up, but now she wanted to paint on this big bubbly canvas.

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The colors started mixing now that she’d dipped her brush in all the cups several times, and she took such delight in it. “I have yellow. I have blue… I have green!” An early lesson on color mixing!

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Again, she narrated her painting to me and kept it up for quite some time.

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If your child wants to play with the balloons, set them aside on paper plates to dry completely first, and then it’s time for a round of painty balloon tennis!