Painting for kids: Ideas for 8 different painting activities for young children

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Painting for kids  has been a very strong part of or the nursery, preschool and kindergarten classrooms. Most classrooms have an easel for painting.  That’s a good thing. As long as children are painting it is allowing them to be creative, use their fine motor skills and be involved with sensory experiences.

What I am going to give you here are some small ideas on how to get kids started painting and then to take them to the next level. I am not an artist and don’t claim to teach kids “How to Paint” as in drawing lessons. My point is to give painting ideas for kids that teach them some basic skills and frees them up to become creative.

I mean by the way, painting for boys as much as it is for girls. I don’t know why it seems that girls like painting more than boys.

Girls can definitely can sit longer making rainbows and hearts but, the activities and directions I am going to give you are just as appropriate for boys as they are for girls.

#1: My personal favorite method of painting for kids

I personally  think that this is one of the the best method for kids painting. It is more accessible to people who don’t own an easel and it can be done anywhere.

  1. You only need a table or floor not an easel to do this
  2. You begin with 3 primary colors plus white (when they get proficient at this you add black as well)
  3. The kids get small tops of baby food jars with paint in them(or other small thing that holds very small amounts of paint), a cup with water, a brush, sponge to dry brush, piece of paper, piece of aluminum foil and paper to paint on
  4. Kids use the aluminum foil to mix colors when they need another color
  5. It’s a great direction following activity as they must wash their brush before putting it into another color

(Update: You can use empty egg cartons instead of baby food jar covers and you get to throw them out at the end of the activity. I also have some more detailed directions for this method at my kindergarten art lesson post)

After they have spent time getting used to this method of painting then you may want to make a color wheel with them which is a great kids art lesson that they don’t even realize is a lesson.

#2: Making a color wheel

Take an empty piece of tag board and make 6 circles on it evenly space apart.Start by putting the 3 primary colors in 3 circles by skipping over circles. The red below looks pink because I was using magenta. It had been suggested in the book Children and Painting by Cathy Weissman Topal   (A very good book on painting for children but geared more for elementary school age children). after you have put in the 3 primary colors have the children mix each of the two together and then put what they got in between the two colors that made that color.

You can now have this color wheel handy and ready to do painting activities with the kids using the color wheel as a reference.

#3:Experimenting with the different colors

Tell the children to choose only one color and white and to see how many shades of that color they could make. For this particular activity you want to prepare the  circles on the papers beforehand. They will then get to see how many different hues a color can make. You don’t have to use circles, but you can divide up a page and do it in stripes as well.

painting with kidspainting for kids

When the children have started using black then you can have them use different colors that has some black in it as well.

#4-The next thing I would do is to give the children lots of abstract painting ideas to get them used to the idea that painting is not just painting representational pictures and when it comes to girls of course, that there is life beyond hearts and rainbows.

Abstract painting ideas:

  • Have them draw various shapes. Shapes can be outlines or blobs, which means they are solid color. Children should be shown the different ways of making shapes. An outlined edges around a shape and a blob is a filled in shape. Have them create various shapes in both forms. Either as a separate activity or one after the other. for example I would say ” Make 3 shapes on your paper, 2 need to be blobs and one needs to be an outline, then fill in the whole paper with a different color”.
  • Or: How many shapes can you fill up one page with. Or make shapes all around the edges of the papers borders. You can use your own creativity to come up with many shape activities they can do.
  • Have them make a grid on their paper and then fill up each box with different shapes and hues. No box can touch another box that has the same color.
  • Have them draw or paint with black paint all around the paper like a scribble. Then let them paint in using as many different hues as they can create.

The children may get very fascinated with the shapes, colors and hues and will not feel frustrated if they are unable to make a person the way they would like to. If you bring in pictures of paintings by modern art painter they will also see that some of their work looks quite similar to the ones hanging in the museum of modern art.

#5– The next series you can do are stripe paintings where they are given a variety of instructions that involve making stripes. Have them make stripe painting using thick lines and only diagonal. then have them make a stripe painting using thick and thin lines going in two different directions but staying away from the diagnol.

stripe paintingspainting with kidskids paintings

To make it more interesting you can give them different shape papers to continue doing stripe paintings .

triangle paintingcircle paintingshapes paintings

If you decide to do these smaller stripe paintings on different size and shape papers, after they are done you can use them to have the children collage them onto a large paper.

 #6Making the color  brown

This is an interesting activity that will expand the children’s color horizons. Have the children try to make as many shades of brown as they can without giving it to them from a bottle

mixing brown from a color wheel

It’s a real eye opener to children to see how they themselves can make a color without getting it from a bottle. They will now know how to make brown when they need it for their pictures.

#7-Moving past abstract art with mirror painting

Once you have spent enough time doing abstract activities you can do mirror painting which is half abstract.For this activity you have the child fold the paper in half and explain that they will be copying the image they create against the fold exactly the same wa;y but as if they would be looking into a mirror.

mirror paintingmirror paintingmirror paintingmirror painting

This activity is not for very little children as they probably won’t be able to copy the exact match of the other side of the picture.

#8-Children that are ready to do representational paintings

If the children are more advanced and want to make mostly representation pictures but, they seem stuck and don’t know how to proceed then you can start them off by giving them some suggestions.

  • Paint an activity of something you really like to do after school
  • Paint a rainy day
  • Paint a street as if you were looking down from an airplane

In order to get them to paint what they think they can’t have them describe for you what they want to paint. I once had a child who wanted to paint a giraffe but he said he didn’t know how. So I said to him “What does a giraffe have? and he said A long neck, so I said so paint that…and what else etc. I led him through the steps and he was able to paint his giraffe to his satisfaction.

Art and painting for kids is a truly enjoyable activity for children. I hope you can take any number of ideas in this post and use them with your students and children.

And if you like these activities feel free to pin and share them.

8 cool painting activites

Leave a Comment:

Glenda says February 22, 2012

This is an awesome article! My daughter loves to paint and it will be great to give her some new activities and teach her some technique at the same time. I pinned it on Pinterest so I have the link for later! Thanks!

gary says February 22, 2012

cool. Thanks Glenda. I actually saw some really great items on pinterest on art for kids

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