Painting with Children – "Finer" Art

It’s obvious that Boo loves to paint….it’s one of the first things she’ll ask to do each morning. What’s different about the paintings below from the painting in my last post about painting is the TYPE of paint. In the large painting last week we used washable paint…’s is easy to clean up but the color isn’t as vibrant and the paint is easily washed off of the canvas. I’ll often let her use acrylic craft paints to make large paintings that we will hang up in the house because the paint is more permanent…..we jokingly call this her “fine art” painting. I’ve got a few tips to help your child paint something you could hang on your living room wall!

When the weather isn’t nice enough to paint outside, I’ll lay all my drop cloths down in our foyer because it is such an open area. I lay the canvas flat so she can sit on the floor and draw on it with her water crayons or splatter and dribble large amounts of paint around:

If I give her a LARGE amount of paint like this gallon of gesso….I’ll give her one large paint brush. She can dribble, drop, splatter just like Jackson Pollock:

The key is to keep the painting an interesting activity. When she starts to get a little bored, I’ll remove the canvas from the floor and set it upright. I’ll use boxes or a postal crate to set her paint on so she doesn’t step in it when she’s deep in thought:

I rotate the canvas often… she sees her painting differently. It’s amazing how turning a painting 90 degrees will allow her to see a big blank space she never noticed before…..or couldn’t reach. This is how I paint too…..when I get bored I just turn the painting upside down!

I think most of the enjoyment of the painting for her is mixing and dripping large amount of paint…..I guess it could be comparable to making mudpies. I’ll admit, this is why I love painting so much….I love the mixing and the spreading and the pushing of pigment around the surface to see what happens.

One of the most frequent questions I get is: how do you keep her from mixing the colors together and getting that muddy brown result? Simple, I give her a huge selection of paints to choose from, but from only one color palette at a time. I love the 99 cent craft paints because they come in so many colors….and I’ll give her one bin at a time:

She’ll mix and mix and mix…..but she’s usually mixing pink with purple, or red with pink….so she doesn’t cross the color wheel.

Once some of the paint has dried I’ll give her another bin to play with. The result is that the canvas is covered with layers and layers of rich colors!

She had fun today practicing her letters……she’s still writing many of them backwards but hey, it makes for interesting art, right?

This masterpiece will be going in Mr. Lil Blue Boo’s new office soon! He can tell clients it was painted by a very “established” local artist :)


  1. Tamara says

    I love it! Maybe I'll grow some mom bravery and let my daughter do this. I think she'd be in heaven! Do I recall you buying an old ugly paining/canvas and letting her paint that? Or is this a new canvas? It looks HUGE! (Which of course equals way more fun.)

  2. Deb says

    Looks like she had a fun time and got to be creative as well…I use to let my children, now 20 and 17, paint in their highchairs with Elmers glue with food coloring in it! They loved it and it gave me time to do my crafts while they were occupied. My son is going to art school next year so I guess it helped!

  3. kirsty says

    Thanks for the update on Boo's canvas! It's looking great, and thanks for the tip on keeping the 'muddy brown' away. All our paintings here end up being a sheet of brown paper.

  4. WallFry says

    What a great creative outlet. I have only just found your blog and love the idea of letting her paint like that. I am going to have to try it with my boys, but not sure I am game for the mess yet…

  5. nacherluver says

    I just love watching her paint through pictures. So free to express. So vivid in color. Great tips on helping kiddos paint. Thanks for sharing.

  6. Tracey @ My House of Giggles says

    THis is just so amazing!! She is talented!!! :) :) My little Toby did a similar painting for me, but on a much smaller scale… I'm inspired to have him do a huge one! Thanks for the tips on giving them colours that mix well. I can't wait to see his face when I let him go at it on a big huge canvas :)

  7. jayayceeblog says

    I love the intense look on her face and her painting stance with her arm behind her back. Cuteness personified! And her original paintings are wonderful. She must feel so special that you display them prominently!!!

  8. razberriesandraizins says

    We just started our paintings this week. They are for my husband for Christmas. Thanks for all the amazing inspiration you give us!!!

  9. RedTedArt says

    Wow! What an awesome and inspiring post! Hopefully I will achieve something similar with my two little ones!


  10. Kristin @ Intrepid Murmurings says

    Oh man, just stumbled upon your blog via this post and I LOVE THIS! This is how I paint too (well used to, haven't lately!) and would love to do it with my girls. Thanks for he idea of keeping to the same color palette — I have had good success with this too, though I don't have all the colors you do. I haven't been brave enough to use non-washable temperas with my girls but I think I will have to give it a try now! Gorgeous photos and a beautiful painting!

  11. Shannon says

    i LOVE this! what a special mama you are. there is nothing more wonderful than nourishing our little one's imaginations from the very beginning. my 3 year old paints a lot and we are always creating something. it is my greatest joy. so happy to have discovered your blog.

  12. Kory says

    Think I just found the PERFECT way to involve our two year old in decorating the new baby's room! She loves to paint and with nice weather coming this will be a perfect project! Thanks a million for the tips!

  13. Shona says

    Love, love, love this. Just found this website and love that too. I am so doing the lazy susan spin art. That’s non-negotiable.

    The way I get a large canvas, without the icky big price is to use painters tarps. They come in huge sizes and are naturally designed to hold a lot of paint. I make a quick wood frame and staple gun the tarp to the frame. Yes, the tarps are a “burlapy” color, so I just paint a white basecoat first and let it dry. The tarp may stretch a tad from basecoat, so I’ll tighten it just a smidge after drying – no big whoop. Then it’s ready for it’s masterpiece. All for under ten bucks. Good Stuff.