Play Ideas

30+ Easy Ways to Paint with Kids

November 10, 2022
Preschool kids play with building bricks in while sitting on floor in daycare

Are you looking for fun, simple, and inexpensive ways to paint with your child? You’re in the right place. Here you will find over 30 easy ways to paint with kids!

For kids, painting is all about the process. This means children are focussed on the act of painting (the brush strokes, the mixing of colours, and the way the paint feels in their fingers) and not on the final product. Children learn best when they are free to explore and fully immerse themselves into the materials in front of them.

On this page, you can find ways to paint with…

Painting with Nature

Painting with Nature’s Loose Parts

Three photos of children painting with objects found in nature: rocks, leaves, pine cones.

Nature is filled with lots loose parts that are great for painting. Try painting stones, pinecones, sticks and leaves or using them as the paintbrush. Your child can explore the textures and prints made from these loose parts!

Painting Snow

Preschool aged children use a squirt bottle with water and food colouring to draw in the snow.

Use spray bottles, condiment bottles, or water bottles (with a squirt lid) filled with water and food colour to paint in the snow. Create shapes, lines, scribbles and images while watching the snow melt away under the water.

Tree Easel

Three photos of children painting on paper that is wrapped around a tree.

Place some paper on a tree to use as an easel. Does the texture of the tree come through on the paper?

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Painting with Household Materials

Painting with Tin Foil

Two photos of children using their hands to paint on tin foil.

Tin foil is an interesting surface to paint on as it has a different texture, appearance, and sound than paper. Since paint doesn’t stick very well to tin foil it becomes slippery and easy to move and spread in different ways.

Bubble Painting

Two photos of a preschool aged child making bubbles using a straw and a bowl filled with soapy water and paint.

Bubbles are always a good idea! Mix tempera paint, water, and dish soap and use straws or bubble wands to blow the bubbles. Try blowing the bubbles onto paper to see how the bubbles colour the page or let the bubbles overflow from bowl right onto the paper.

Painting with Plastic Wrap

Child paints on clear plastic wrap.

Wrap plastic wrap around the legs of a small table or chair for your child to paint. Since the plastic wrap is clear, it provides a new experience and perspective than other surfaces.

Salad Spinner Painting

Four photos showing the steps to painting with a salad spinner. Child cuts paper into a circle the same size as the salad spinner, then add paint to the paper while inside the spinner, then spins to create different patterns with paint.

Grab a salad spinner, cut a piece of paper to fit inside, add a few globs of paint to the paper, and spin! Try adding new colours and spinning it at different speeds to see how the colours and patterns change.

Painting with Straws

Two photos of a toddler and mother using straws to move paint around paper.

Add large drops of paint to a piece of paper (or another surface, like tin foil or a tray) and blow through the straws onto the paint. Watch as the paint moves around the page and the colours mix together.

Paint in a Bag

Baby uses hands to move paint inside a clear resealable bag.

Using a clear and sealable bag, enclose a sheet of paper and some drops of paint for your child to explore. They can move and mix the paint with their fingers without ever touching the paint! Tape the edges or tape the bags to a tray/table for extra security.

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Painting with Ice

Ice Cube Canvas

Child uses a paint brush to paint on a block of ice.

Fill a container with water and allow it to freeze completely. Take the ice out to use as your canvas!

Toy Rescue

A block of ice with toys, buttons and pom poms frozen inside. Salt, vinegar and a paint brush used to paint and melt the ice around the objects.

Just like Ice Cube Canvas (above) start by freezing a container of water, but this time, add some toys and objects. When frozen, use paintbrushes to “paint” the ice with table salt or vinegar. The salt and vinegar will slowly melt the ice and rescue the toys frozen inside!

Ice Cube Paint

Water and food colouring frozen into ice cubes with a popsicle stick handles. As the ice melts, it paints the paper.

Instead of your ice being the canvas, make it your paint brush! Fill an ice cube tray with water and food colouring (optional), add popsicle sticks to create a “handle” (optional – your child can use their hands too!) and freeze. Using your ice, paint on paper and paper towels. Your child may enjoy watching the colours move across the page, feeling the cold ice on their fingers or seeing the ice slowly melt onto the paper.

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Painting with Toys

Painting with Cars

Child moves small toy truck through red and yellow paint.

Discover all the fun tracks and prints you can make with cars, exploring size and texture with different types of wheels.

Paint Smash

Toy hammers are used to smash paper cups and paint for this easy way to paint with kids.

All you need are paper cups, paint, and a place to make a mess for this paint smash! Practice hand-eye coordination by aiming for the cup to smash. Use toy hammers, large blocks, or your hands to smash the cups and paint.

Fly swatter is used to smash pink, purple and blue paint on to a pink piece of paper.

A fly swatter is also a great tool to smash the paint.

Paint Stomp

Toy animals are used to paint or paint on for this easy paint idea.

Toy animals are also great for painting. Not only is it fun to paint the animals, but it’s fun to explore the different foot prints (or even nose prints!) they make.

Painting with Lego

Child uses large plastic block to paint.

Blocks are simple painting tools that create different shapes and patterns! Your child can explore using a variety of blocks of different sizes and textures (such as: flat edge blocks or Lego).

Marble Painting

This painting activity has a piece of paper inside a cardboard box, marbles and paint. Paint is spread over the paper as the marbles roll around.

Add some dabs of paint to the box along with a few marbles. Your child can tilt the box in different directions to move the marbles through the paint. 

Giant Marble Painting

A large ball rolls around paint inside a box as an easy way to paint with kids.

Create a larger version of marble painting using golf balls or plastic balls and a bigger box. Your child will exercise their large muscle skills as they move the box around!

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Painting with Water

Spray Bottle Painting

Child uses a spray bottle with water to scribble on the grass and pavement.

Strengthen small muscle skills by using a spray bottle. Your child can spray water onto walls, the sidewalk, grass, flowers, trees or themselves. Watch the different ways the water lands on these surfaces and how the splashes, lines and shapes appear!

Paper Towel Art

Water with food colouring and a paint brush used to paint on paper and paper towels.

Try painting with water (food colouring optional) using a paintbrush and paper/paper towel.

Ripped paper towel with water and food colouring stick to a window.

You can even rip up the wet paper towel and stick it to a window to create a collage!

Pipettes and Turkey Basters

Children use pipettes to add food colouring to paper towels and cotton balls.

Paint with pipettes or a turkey baster using water mixed with food colouring. Paint onto paper towel, coffee filters or cotton balls to watch the water absorb and the colours mix together.

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Painting with Recycled Materials

Painting Cardboard Boxes

Child paints a cardboard box with a paint brush and blue paint.

Using 3D materials, like cardboard boxes, helps your child to develop spatial awareness. Children learn to maneuver around the objects and to move the boxes into positions that are best for creating. They can watch as the paint drips down the side of the box making different marks and patterns than you’d see painting on paper.

Painting Bubble Wrap

Two photos using bubble wrap to paint. One child uses a brush to paint on the bubble wrap, one child stomps on the bubble wrap to paint the paper underneath.

Bubble wrap provides an interesting texture which adds another sensory element to your child’s art. Children might like painting the bubble wrap, using it as a stamp, or popping the bubbles with their hands and feet.

Painting with Ramps

Pieces of cardboard make ramps inside a cardboard box. A ball rolls through the paint on the ramps.

Build ramps out of cardboard and roll cars, balls, and marbles down them to spread paint across the surface. Explore which objects go fast and which go slow. Experiment with different objects to see the many ways they move and paint!

Handmade Easel

A piece of cardboard is folded in half and taped to a tray to mimick an easel. Paint brushes and cotton swabs are used to paint a paper taped to the cardboard.

Cardboard also makes a great easel for painting. Tape a piece of cardboard (bent in half) to a table, tray, or the floor. Attach a piece of paper to the easel and paint!

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Painting with Your Hands and Feet

Finger Painting

A child puts both hands into bowls of paint.

Finger painting allows children to create while exploring through their sense of touch. Sensory play, (like finger painting) helps build connections in a child’s brain that develop memory, language, problem solving skills and more!

Painting with Feet

Toddlers use their feet to paint the paper on the floor.

Why stick to finger painting when you can paint with your toes too? Much like finger painting, painting with feet allows children to explore the paint through their sense of touch, while getting extra messy!

Paint with Play Dough

Photo 1: child uses paint brush to paint the play dough blue. Photo 2: child squishes play dough and paint together with their hands.

Try painting play dough so children can experiment, create, and immerse themselves in the mess as they squish the play dough and paint with their hands.

Messy play can be overwhelming – especially at home. If you’d like to try messy play, try minimizing the mess by starting with a small amount of paint and adding more as you go.

For our favourite play dough recipe, check out The Imagination Tree’s Best Ever No-Cook Play Dough.

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Painting with Shaving Cream

Window Art

Paint your windows with shaving cream! Paint on the shaving cream with your hands or brushes, and make scribbles, figures, and images by “drawing” into the shaving cream.

Paint and Build

Children use a paint brush and shaving cream to paint blocks and stick them together to build a structure.

Foam blocks, Styrofoam, packing peanuts, or a cut-up pool noodle are all great materials to paint and build. Use shaving cream to paint the blocks and stick them together to build different structures.

“Puffy Paint”

Child uses a popsicle stick to spread Puffy Paint.

“Puffy Paint” is equal parts shaving cream and white glue mixed with some food colouring and it dries puffy! Shaving cream is easier to clean than paint, so this is one great way to introduce mess into your play.

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