Give a toddler a paintbrush, and she’ll ask for more paint. Give her more paint, and she’ll probably make a mess. And with that mess comes all kinds of playful learning!
Toddlers don’t need much more invitation to create than an empty piece of paper and a cup of paint. Smooshy blob paintings is a great project that combines sensory play, fine motor skills, math, and color theory in a quick, accessible art-making experience. But all your toddler will care about is the chance to play with paint!
For the set-up, all you need is thick drawing or construction paper, tempera paint in squeeze bottles and something to protect your work area. Before your child begins, create a fold down the center of the paper—any direction will do!
With the paper open flat on your work area, encourage your child to squeeze paint onto the paper. If this is your child’s first time painting with a squeeze bottle, she will probably be content simply to experiment with squeezing and moving the bottle around the paper. This is great fine motor practice and helps strengthen the pincer grip! Once that experience has lost its appeal, challenge your child to make different types of lines—straight, zigzag, squiggly—or different types of shapes. However you go about getting paint on the paper, the key is to leave some white space.
Now fold the paper again and show your child how to rub her hand across the surface, smooshing and squishing the paint around. She will be able to feel the paint move, but not see exactly what is happening. Paint will probably squish out the sides, which just adds to the fun.
Open the paper up again and see what your smooshing has created—a colorful, symmetrical abstract painting! As you talk about the painting with your child, point out areas where colors have mixed together to create new colors for a quick color theory lesson. To talk about symmetry, point to a feature on one side of the paper and ask your child if she can find a match on the other side of the paper.
Try it again with your paper folded in the opposite direction. Now that your child has an idea of what will happen, predict together what you’ll see when you open the paper up again.
If your child’s masterpiece has a good amount of paint on the surface, you can extend the experience by dabbling in a little printmaking as well. Place another piece of paper directly on top of the painting and press gently to make a second print. Peel the two pieces of paper apart and see what happens. More painting magic!
Whether you are 2 or 20 (or 20 plus a few years!), this simple project is sure to bring oohs and ahs every time.