Authentic Art Materials for Toddlers Part 3: Paint

Posted In: Arts & Crafts

Authentic Art Materials for Toddlers Part 3: Paint

Kate from An Everyday Story is here to share the next post in her series about introducing authentic art materials to toddlers. Today she is exploring paint…

Time to get arty with your toddler again. So far we have played around with clay and charcoal, today I thought we might get our hands messy with paint.

Paint can be a wonderfully sensory experience; the color, the texture, the sensation of running it through your fingers, over your hands and up to your elbows. So often though, I see paint offered to children in plastic lidded pots and always the same four colors; red, blue, green and yellow which inevitably blend together to give that murky greeny-brown. Yuck.

But what if we chose just two colors. Two colors that complimented each other. Two colors that when mixed together, transform into other pleasing shades and colors. And what then if we offered white? A true exploration of color.

Aunthentic Art Materials for Toddlers Part 3: Paint

So let’s paint. Or should I say, let’s explore colors. Let’s create colors.

Setting up your creative space:

When you are setting up your creative space try to create as big a space as you can. I often cover our entire table in a sheet of butcherโ€™s paper. My daughter likes to move around when she paints. While she often paints in complete silence, she rarely sits still in a chair. A large sheet of paper allows her to explore without me redirecting her back to her seat.

Sometimes we forgo the paper completely and she paints directly onto the table or onto a large laminated sheet of plastic. She mixes paints, spoons out blobs, creates lines with her fingers and erases them again with her palm.

A child-sized table (like an old coffee table) allows your little one to really interact with the paint. They can lean over onto the table, move around the table, use large sweeping movements with their arms across the table; really have freedom of movement of their whole body.

Authentic Art Materials for Toddlers Part 3: Paint 4

When offering paint you might like to consider:

  • choosing two colors. Two colors which compliment each other
  • think beyond the primary colors of blue, red and yellow
  • think about colors found naturally in nature; bright oranges, subtle tones of green, light blue
  • include white. White paint creates different hues. Your little one can run their fingers and palms of their hands through the paint and as they do the colors will create new colors; pleasing colors
  • choose containers which allow your child to see the colors: clear containers or old glass jars draw attention to the paint

If your toddler is anything like my daughter, they will dive straight into the paint. But if your toddler is a little more apprehensive, like a little friend of ours, there are a few things you could do to encourage them to explore:

  • Start by adding a little paint to the paper and just dotting their fingertips across the paper
  • With a spoon, scoop a little paint onto their fingers for them to dab onto the paper
  • Using just one finger at a time, spread the paint across the paper
  • Using the second color, mix the colors together
  • Watch the colors change
  • Show them how to make lines in the paint with their fingers

And since this kind of painting, this exploration of color, gets all kinds of deliciously messy, think about the clean up. Find a place where you are completely comfortable with your toddler exploring paint in whichever way they enjoy, freely, openly, without interruption or redirection. Paint outside, paint in old clothes, have a bucket of water and old towels nearby and ready for washing. Have it all ready to go before you invite your toddler over.

Enjoy and happy painting.

Next month will be the last in our Authentic Art Materials for Toddlers series. I’ll see you all then.



Kate Gribble lives with her husband and two little ones, Jack and Sarah, in Canberra, Australia. She is a former high school teacher but now spends her days happily homeschooling. Kate likes to dabble in a bit of photography, is a hopeless but aspiring kitchen gardener, and loves a bit of crafty goodness. You can find more inspiration over at her blog, An Everyday Story.



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  1. I can’t thank you enough! After my dentist friend warned me today about the lasting effect of my sons pacifier on his teeth I decided its time to get rid of it for good. Long story short, he skipped his nap time… But all he needed where two colors+white paint and a big paper to get through the afternoon without any meltdowns. I don’t even want to think about it what would have happend if I didn’t read your post this morning! ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. Thanks Kate, what kind of paint do you use? I worry about the toxicity of paint when it’s getting all over little bodies skin (my son is 17 months) In the past I have made paint but the textures and colors aren’t as good.

  3. Another lovely post Kate with so so many wonderful tips and ideas as to why we should ALL be painting! In reply to Sarah’s comment above i use a cornflour base paint which is easy to make at home and no toxicity involved!Those messy pics of paint fun are just glorious!!

  4. Thank you so much, Kate, for your beautiful encouragements to let our wee ones have quality art experiences!

  5. You know, I really find it hard to let loose with the paint. I can handle a bit of mess but it’s the cleaning up that I despise. I give Cammy the opportunity sometimes, but not enough.

    But, these photos are so inviting.

    Thanks for your tips on setting up.

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