Dec 29, 2009

Painting with Small Children: Some Practical Tips

*We cover our table in newspapers and use plastic containers for our water, the lids for our paint. 

It's nice to see pretty pictures of crafty and artistic ventures, but being a mother of three small children, the practical side of me always asks "How did you do that?"
So, I thought I would provide you with some practical advice about something basic like painting with children. This advice comes from personal experience, and I hope it will motivate you, or point you in the right direction if you have never ventured to paint with your little guys and gals.

1. Choose a surface for your work. I cover the table we always use for all of our projects in newspaper. It might work better for you to use a vinyl tablecloth. At any rate, you definitely want to cover it with something because messy (but FUN) spills are inevitable.
2. Dress the children in old clothing (I found that smocks and aprons don't work for us). They will paint themselves--and somehow, even if you use a smock, that paint ends up on clothing. Designate some "Art  Clothing" to use for these kinds of projects.
3. HAVE fun. It's easy to worry about the headache of  a clean-up when a large part of our job as parents is to actually CLEAN-up. But seriously, you have to let it go if you want to have any fun. Creating anything involves a bit of a mess--so just let go, let it happen then deal with it afterwards.
4. I like to set out paints in small containers for my children and I use old "tupperware" type containers for their water to clean brushes and dilute paint. I use the lids for the paint.
5. Use brushes with plastic handles. Inevitably someone will try and put a brush in their mouth and I have seen wooden brushes peel and chip. Use plastic handled brushes for kids.
6. Obviously, choose age appropriate non-toxic paint.
7. Don't stress about the type of paper you use. My children have painted on everything from copy paper to watercolor paper to newspaper.
8. Don't try to over-organize and over-control things. Paint colors will get mixed, water will become muddy, spills will happen. Set things out in a way that makes sense, then sit back and direct (I like to say "gently hover") but don't try to micromanage or the whole project will become an ordeal.
9. Use the painting session to teach your children about colors, what happens when you mix them, how water cleans the brush, etc. Use any accident that happens as an opportunity to learn something new.
10. Realize it might not be your child's thing to enjoy painting, and that's A-okay. All children are different, and the same child sitting in front of you that dislikes painting might be a  Nobel Prize winner one day, or the best friend a person could ever have, or just someone who grows up to love their own children.

Now go and have fun.
p.s. In these pictures, we are working on some more New Years fun! Stay tuned!
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1 comment:

Corrie Howe said...

When my kids were younger, I had a Little Tykes painting easel, basement, a roll of butcher paper, large t-shirts and water colors. Everyone was happy.