Art activities for preschoolers are as important to your child’s development as reading, writing and other physical development skills. We’ve pulled together 19 art activities for 3, 4 and 5 year olds using paint. These paint activities are perfect for toddlers, and most can easily be extended for older kids too.
We love using paint at the Kiwi Families HQ. I think some parents are a little worried about how messy it can be, and how long it takes to set up and pack away. And these are valid concerns. But the benefits to your child’s development far outweigh a few painty fingerprints on the table.
There seems to be a bit of a trend now where parents are leaving things like paint activities up to the daycare, or early childhood learning centres to manage. This could be a real mistake for 2 reasons.
Firstly, the younger you start children with paint, the better. As early as 1 year old, and even younger is fine. PennState University says most early educators place value on painting with very young children. They list benefits such as learning to express emotion, using their senses and learning to perceive the world around them.
Secondly, the process of painting is as important as the actual activity itself. Through active conversations with your child (eg ‘I really like these brushstrokes here, can you tell me more about them?’), you can gain deeper insights into your child’s thinking. There’s real connection to be made through painting together. Michigan State University even puts art in the wellbeing category:
free expression is also good for overall health and well-being. Giving your child a creative outlet can help relieve stress and work through things happening in their lives. By encouraging artistic expression, you can help facilitate learning.
The best thing about using paint though, is that the options and outputs are endless. Forget about the classic easel and water colour paint setup you see at playcentres. This is all about letting your child explore whole environments with interesting objects, and really growing their curiosity and creative thinking skills.
There are real benefits to creative play. Your child will develop skills they’ll take into adult life. And these are skills that are highly sought after in today’s modern workplaces.
19 art activities for 3, 4 and 5 year olds using paint
1. Let your children experiment with a range of different brushes or tools. You can try different painting tools, including sponge brushes, fan brushes, rollers and scrapers, or let them explore household objects, like feathers, toothpicks or cotton buds.
2. Make your own shape stamps. All you need is some foam, a glue gun and some blocks of wood. Older kids will love helping you make the stamps. Once they’re made, just paint some paint onto the foam with brushes, and your child will create some amazing stamp pictures.
3. Make ‘snail prints‘ using a Pringles or tennis ball tin, or a baby formula can. All you need is the tin and lid, a few marbles, paint and paper. This great art activity is fun and noisy and makes really cool prints.
4. Fabric painting is a great activity for young children. Fabric paint is cheap and easy to use. You don’t need to rush out and buy something special to decorate. Just have a look through your closet, linen cupboard or garage, and see what you can find to upcycle.
5. Make ‘string prints‘. This is one of the simplest painting activities for kids you can do. All you need is string, paper, paint and a saucer. It’s a lot of fun and your child can create some really awesome designs.
6. Painted mason jars, or preserving jars, are such a cool craft right now. They can be used for heaps of different ideas. But one really quirky idea for painted storage jars is to use them for sorting and storing kids’ stationery and craft supplies.
7. This one is a little messy, you’ll definitely want some plastic sheeting down, or set it up outside on a fine day. Bubble printing art makes some really unique prints. You can frame the most interesting parts, or even cut them in strips, cover with clear plastic film, and turn them into bookmarks.
8. Shaving foam art is a little like bubble printing, but even messier! Your kids will love getting their hands covered in foam, and exploring the paint swirls. But the really cool thing is this activity makes really awesome artworks too.
9. Not quite sure about the messiness of shaving foam art? Have you tried the squishy shaving foam in a bag idea? Using a zip lock bag, shaving foam, and a little paint, you can create an awesome tactile art project, without the mess!
10. This is an oldie but a goodie. Make blotter bugs using just a folded piece of paper and a splodge of paint. This is a great painting activity for preschoolers, as you can teach children about mixing different colours.
11. Try painting a fabulous flag. This is a great art activity for boys, they’ll love hanging their flag on their door, or creating a pirate ship out in the garden!
12. Make a stained glass window effect using paint, PVA glue and dishwashing liquid. You can paint this mixture straight onto windows, or tape off clear film to the glass, and have them paint that.
13. This is a great kid’s painting idea that will have your kids coming back for more! Children just love this pour and press paint activity. It’s fairly easy to set up, and the final paintings are real works of art, with heaps of texture and movement.
14. If you can source dry powder paint, this is a really messy, but amazing activity. All you need to do is wet the paper and let your child explore by flicking the powdered paint onto the paper. It creates amazing, Monet-esque paintings!
15. Try mixing together the dry powder paint with wallpaper paste. Let your child explore making patterns through the paint, then give them a range of materials to stick on and make a collage.
16. You’ll love this paint art project for kids, as it’s suitable for all ages. It’s so cool to see how excited kids are to make their own banners. Every banner is unique, and they make a great wall hanging for any child’s room.
17. Painting salt dough ornaments is a fantastic rainy day activity. They’re traditionally used as Christmas tree ornaments, but could easily be turned into Teacher’s, or Mother’s Day gifts. Just use a quirky, or more meaningful cookie cutter.
18. This is a cool activity for warm summer days, and a real hit with toddlers. Give your child a tin can filled with water and a paintbrush, and let them ‘paint’ the fence. The water darkens the timber and looks like real paint going on. They’ll love watching it slowly dry, and painting it all over again!
19. Water paint and glitter art is another great painting effect. All you need is paint, paper, water and salt to make the background effect. Once you have the background you can embellish with glitter and paper cutouts to turn this into a stunning collage.
So, there you have it, 19 art activities for 3, 4 and 5 year olds using paint. Of course there’s 100s more ideas online. A great resource for getting your imagination running is Pinterest, just search for ‘children’s paint activities’. I highly recommend doing this over a cup of tea, as you’ll easily write off a half hour of web surfing 🙂
Beyond this though, it really is just up to your own imagination and creativity. Use the ideas on this page to get you started, and together with your child, just play and see what you come up with.
If you’re at all worried about your toddler using paint, try out this edible paint recipe. By the age of 3 your toddler should be able to follow instructions for painting. But, some kids just love to eat things. It’s really good for things like finger painting, making hand or foot prints, or even whole body art!
You might also want to check out more great activities for preschoolers here.