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Painting with Toddlers

Home-educating with younger siblings around can be complicated! It can be tricky keeping little ones occupied while teaching siblings, or explaining to toddlers why they need to leave their siblings alone. Painting with toddlers is a good tool to occupy (and teach) little hands and minds and keep toddlers (relatively) quiet so older siblings can concentrate.

Painting with toddlers can be fun – it can also seem like more effort than it’s worth if it takes longer to set up and clean up than the activity will keep them entertained.

Gradually ease into the mess!

  • Finger painting inside plastic bags is a fantastic sensory experience for toddlers. Squirt some (washable, always washable!) paint into a ziplock bag, seal the edges with sellotape and then sellotape the bag to the highchair tray.
  • Offer tiny amounts of paint! To toddler hands with toddler-sized brushes, a pea-sized amount is a pretty big blob. Add a little and offer more.
  • Start with one colour at a time: red today, green tomorrow. This allows the toddler to focus on the pattern the paint makes, not the mixing of the colours (plus blue, green or yellow looks better on the fridge than murky grey or smudgy brown).
  • A choice of tools to paint with puts the toddler in charge of the activity. Different-sized paintbrushes, cotton buds, glue spreaders; stamps made from foam, wood, fruit, vegetables… Encourage them to use their fingers and the tools to practise different motor skills in the same activity.

Watercolour painting is the easiest painting activity to clean up from but for little hands, watercolouring is a three-step process – dip brush in water, apply correct amount of pressure to the paint block to transfer paint to the brush, and finally put the paint on the paper. Watercolour painting can be frustrating for toddlers.

To make it easier, instead of having them dip the brush in a water pot, pour a little water onto the paints themselves, slightly overflowing the water into the gaps between the paints. The paint is now wet and instantly usable.

Alternatively, instead of offering a water pot and a paintbrush, refillable water paintbrushes (those used for magic painting books) are even easier but do require constant refilling.

(An old, extra large t-shirt works perfectly as a toddler apron; easy to put on, hard for them to take off & quick to dry. Keeping a damp hand towel nearby to wash fingers and faces helps too.)

Entertaining younger siblings can be tricky if you’re home-educating with a toddler in the house. Activities that confine the toddler to the highchair are perfect for allowing you to be in two places at once – supervising the toddler and teaching an older sibling’s class.