A Guide to Painting with Children

No, we didn’t use them as the paint brushes….although it might look that way. Yesterday, Lisa and I planned for Boo and Elle to do a tribute to our veterans and then we just let them create until their sweet hearts were content.

painting with children via lilblueboo.com
painting with children via lilblueboo.com
painting with children via lilblueboo.com
painting with children via lilblueboo.com
I love letting Boo and her friends create with very few boundaries. I learned this from my parents. My mother was never concerned about us making a mess….it was always fixable. My dad would take us to get our portraits taken as kids and give us ice cream to eat for the shot….letting it melt down onto our clothes and smear onto our face and hands. It made for some great photos!

Tip #1: Control the environment without them knowing it is controlled.
Cover more area than you could possibly need. I invest in thick, sturdy canvas drop cloths from the hardware store that can be used over and over again. I lay them out under, behind, and around the painting area. Sometimes we paint in the garage, sometimes the house, sometimes outside…..and there is never any fear of paint getting where it isn’t supposed to.

painting with children via lilblueboo.com
Tip #2: Start with an extra large blank slate.
Canvases are expensive! But I always like to use extra large one because it doesn’t confine the kids into an 8.5″ x 11″ workspace. Their creativity runs wild on a such a large area. This canvas we used was 7 feet by 5 feet…..our friend who is an interior designer gave it to us from a house redesign. I painted over it with white gesso and it was good as new.

Search your thrift stores for large old paintings to paint over!

painting with children via lilblueboo.com
Tip #3: Use washable paint for the little ones.….and a TON of it.
It’s cheap, non toxic and you’ll be able to wash it off of their hair, hands, and your floor easier. It won’t be an archival painting that will last for generations….but you can reuse the canvas until they get old enough to use non-washable paint!

painting with children via lilblueboo.com
Tip #4: Dilute your paint with water and put large amounts into plastic buckets.
I never skimp on paint. When a bucket is filled with large amounts of soupy paint it’s easier to paint in large sweeping strokes across a canvas. I can’t stand seeing a child frustrated with trying to fill in a block of color with a tiny amount of paint. Why should they waste precious time running back to the paint bucket every 2 seconds?

painting with children via lilblueboo.com

Tip #5: Use extra large and extra long paint brushes.
You can buy these in packs of three at most craft stores. Buy enough so there are a few brushes per paint color so the paint doesn’t get mixed together. Large paint brushes allow them to make large strokes of color and long paint brushes will let them paint up high and down low easily. (It also keeps them at a little bit of a distance so paint won’t drop in their hair and face).

painting with children via lilblueboo.com
Tip #6: Let them wear clothes that can be covered in paint.
Better yet…..let them wear all white. Who wants to worry about getting paint on their clothes? I’ve never seen an artist or a house painter wear their nice clothes when creating.

painting with children via lilblueboo.com

Tip #7: Don’t nag.
Let them have fun. Play some music. Let them know they aren’t going to get in trouble for covering themselves in paint. Coach them to try different painting techniques. Make sure to have the camera and video camera ready!

painting with children via lilblueboo.com
Tip #8: Give them a motivating speech before you start.
I like to start out really serious and outline my “rules” for them:
Be careful not to get any paint in your eyes.
2. Remember, you are a great artist…..Rembrandt, Picasso, Matisse, Frida…..you are just as talented as all of the “greats” combined.
3. Get as much paint on yourself as possible.

4. Get as much paint on the canvas as possible.
5. Try to use as many colors as possible.
6. Please don’t leave me extra paint that I have to put away.
7. Try not to get a ton of paint on Mommy. Please :)

painting with children via lilblueboo.com
I love little hand prints on my clothes :)

painting with children via lilblueboo.com

For more tips on painting with children go here.


  1. RusticOkie says

    Beautiful and inspiring. I love when kids can be given free reign to create like that. Once the weather warms up this spring I am going to take this idea and run with it. Thanks for another great idea.

  2. kirsty says

    Thanks for the post. I must admit when it comes to painting and messy crafts, I'm a bit of a helicopter mum. I guess part of having kids is finding the courage to let up and get messy sometimes like that. I'm sure my daughter will appreciate you posting this!

    BTW, I would love to see an update of Boo's canvas she has been painting if there is one :)

  3. mamalostintheburbs says

    Wonderful!!! I'm doing a princess & knight paint party for my 4 year olds bday in December. I never thought to water down the paint, great tip! This makes me even more excited than I already was!

  4. Nicole says

    You have mentioned your Mom's lack of restriction in a previous post and I adopted that attitude in my own craft room. Not only do my daughters have a lot more fun now, but they stay in there hours longer, which lets me tackle some of my own projects. You have given me a lot of inspiration-thank you so much for your blog!

  5. Rachel@oneprettything.com says

    Such great tips and the most fun photos ever! Thanks so much for this, I'll be linking.

  6. bellasymphony says

    I love this idea! I am always concerned about the paint being tracked everywhere, especially with my one year old. I am convicted to let go and let them enjoy the wonders of being kids and not think about being tidy and clean :)

    Thank you so much for such and awesome post!

  7. says

    Love these pictures. The colors are great and your kids are seriously cute! Just discovered your blog via the Snap! Creativity site. Thinking of going to the event,

  8. Peggy says

    I loved seeing this because it brought back memories of my two boys and my friend’s two boys doing the exact same thing when they were probably the same ages. They had so much fun and got more paint on themselves than they did on the canvas. We were inspired by an article in Sunset magazine.