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 of creative play far outweigh a few painty fingerprints on the table.

  • First, 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.
  • Second, 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. 

Giving your child an outlet for creativity can help relieve stress and work through things happening in their lives. By encouraging artistic expression, you can help facilitate learning.

19 art activities for 3, 4 and 5 year olds using paint

1. Experiment with Different Brushes and Tools

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
stamp shapes 1

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. Snail Prints with a Tin

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 Fun

Fabric painting is a great activity for young children. 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. Simple String Prints

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

painted jars storage

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. Bubble Printing Art

Bubble Printing Painting

Bubble printing art is a bit messy, so you’ll definitely want to put down some plastic sheeting or set it up outside on a nice day.

First, gather your materials. You’ll need some washable paints, a few shallow trays or bowls, some dishwashing liquid, straws, and sheets of paper. Start by pouring a bit of paint into each tray. Add a squirt of dishwashing liquid to each one, then top it off with a small amount of water. Mix it all together until it’s nice and bubbly.

Now comes the fun part! Give each child a straw and show them how to blow gently into the paint mixture to create lots of bubbles. Make sure they know to blow out, not suck in – we don’t want anyone tasting the paint mixture! Once the tray is full of bubbles, take a sheet of paper and gently lay it on top of the bubbles. Lift it off carefully to reveal a beautiful, bubbly print on the paper.

Repeat this process with different colours and watch how the prints turn out. Each one will be unique and full of vibrant patterns. You can frame the most interesting parts, or even cut them into strips, cover with clear plastic film, and turn them into bookmarks.

It’s a fantastic way to explore textures and patterns, and the kids absolutely love it. Just be prepared for some bubbly excitement and a bit of clean-up afterwards. Enjoy!

8. Messy Shaving Cream Art

Start by squirting a generous amount of shaving foam into the trays. Spread it out so it covers the bottom nicely. Then, add a few drops of different coloured washable paints on top of the shaving foam. You can use as many colours as you like – the more, the merrier!

Now for the fun part! Give your kids sticks or old toothbrushes and let them swirl the paint around in the shaving foam. They can create all sorts of marbled patterns and colour combinations. The key here is to let them have fun and experiment with the swirls.

Once they’re happy with their designs, take a piece of paper and gently press it onto the surface of the shaving foam and paint mixture. Press down lightly to make sure the paper picks up all those beautiful swirls. Then, lift the paper off carefully and lay it flat on a clean surface.

Here’s where the magic happens. Use a straight edge, like a ruler or a piece of cardboard, to scrape off the excess shaving foam from the paper. As you do this, the marbled paint design will be revealed. The kids will be amazed at how their swirly creations turn into stunning pieces of art.

Let the paper dry completely before displaying or framing the artwork. It’s a fantastic sensory activity that lets the kids get hands-on with the materials, and the results are always unique and beautiful. Just have some wet wipes or a bucket of soapy water handy for quick clean-ups, and you’re all set! Enjoy the creative mess!

9. Sponge Painting

For this one, you’ll need sponges cut into different shapes, washable paints, and paper. Dip the sponges into paint and press them onto the paper to create fun shapes and textures. The children can experiment with layering colours and shapes to make interesting patterns, and they always seem to enjoy the tactile aspect of this one.

10. Blotter Bugs

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. Flag Painting

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. Stained Glass Window Effect

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. Pour & Press Paint Activity


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. Dry Powder Paint Fun

Dry powder painting 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. Food Coloring Fun

You’ll need food colouring, water, brushes, and paper. Mix a few drops of food colouring with water to create vibrant, liquid paints. Let the children use these to paint on paper, experimenting with different colour combinations and effects. It’s a simple yet delightful way for them to play with colours.

16. Banner Making

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

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. Water Painting on a Fence

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. Watercolours and Glitter Art

Watercolors 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

Bonus Easy Art Activities for Toddlers

Canvas Creations

For this activity, you’ll need small canvases, non-toxic acrylic paints, and paintbrushes. Let your little ones create their own masterpieces on small canvases. Encourage them to paint anything they like, whether it’s animals, shapes, or just abstract designs. It’s lovely to display their finished artwork at home or in the classroom.

Puffy Paint Projects

For this, you’ll need puffy paint (mix equal parts of white glue and shaving cream, then add food colouring), squeeze bottles, and paper. Fill the squeeze bottles with puffy paint and let the children create 3D artwork on paper. The puffy paint dries with a raised texture, adding a fun tactile element to their paintings, which they absolutely adore.

Nature Painting

You’ll need leaves, flowers, sticks, washable paints, and paper. Collect leaves, flowers, and sticks from outside. Dip them in paint and press them onto paper to create natural prints. This activity connects the children with nature and introduces them to different textures and shapes. It’s always a hit and so lovely to see them explore the natural world.

Bubble Wrap Printing

You’ll need bubble wrap, washable paints, and paper. Paint one side of the bubble wrap and press it onto paper to create a unique, textured print. The children can experiment with different colours and overlapping prints. It’s always such a fun and engaging activity.

Sticker Resist Art

For this activity, you’ll need stickers, watercolours, and paper. Place stickers on paper and paint over them with watercolours. Once the paint is dry, remove the stickers to reveal white shapes and patterns. The children can explore the concept of negative space and create interesting designs. It’s such a clever way to get them thinking creatively.

Before you go…

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.


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This information was compiled by the Kiwi Families team.

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