Kids (and Toddlers) Making Art | DIY

I do not like crafting with my kids.  There, I said it.  I feel it so much I could probably have used stronger words.  I like the idea of it but when it comes down to physically getting down and dirty, nope.  But, I love my kids.  Love, love, love them with that I-will-die-for-you kind of love but crafting with them?  It a mess waiting to happen and one that I'd rather skip out on by just finding other ways of having fun.

The unfortunate part about that is that my kids love painting.  LOVE it.  I don't know if that love will transfer over to painting walls and furniture because you know one day they will get roped into that, but for now, give each of them paint, a brush, and paper and they will sit and paint allll day long.  But, like a lot of kids, they make a MESS.  Even with me right there (breathing into a paper bag...kidding...maybe) they still manage to make a mess.  You moms know.  You see me.  And I see you.  A lot of times I feel like the paint is fun to create pictures with for awhile but if they keep going, it becomes this thing where they keep piling paint on paint on paint just to see what happens and that's where things go awry.  It's like playing with mud.  They're cute at first making these pretty little mud pies and cookies and 20 minutes later, they're an entirely new, unrecognizable species.  That's painting with kids.

But, BUT, I pulled the paints out with a plan a couple of weeks ago and, not only wasn't there a huge mess to clean up at the end, but we actually came out the other end with two pictures that were worthy of a hammer and nail.



(The twins were at school when I did this so it was just a project for the 6 and 3 year old.  Had I had four kids at one time doing this, I'm not sure it would have gone quite as smoothly.  Maybe.  Maybe not.  Probably won't ever try that because I'm not that much of a glutton.)

P.S.  I didn't plan on this being something you could do while being couped and socially distanced for (possibly) weeks on end but it totally is so I'll chalk one up on the coincidence chart.

Along with a few deep breaths and an it'll-be-fine attitude you'll need:
canvas* - we used 11 x 20 but any size will work
paint* - I pulled out some leftover latex because I was feeling extra brave (and cheap)
paint brushes*, plastic forks*, toothpicks*, or anything else that can push paint around
cup of water
paper towels
table cloth* (we use an outdoor table cloth like the one linked) or plastic to protect the work surface
old t-shirts for the kids to wear to protect their clothes

Rather than going out and buying two new canvases, I grabbed one that my kids had painted on a few years ago and grabbed another used one for a buck at a local thrift store.

Sebastian helped me slather white paint onto both of them to cover up what was there and get us some "new", white, blank slates.  I'll admit, I felt a smidge bad painting over the floral canvas we bought at the thrift store.  Someone obviously spent a good amount of time painting that beautiful flower and I destroyed all of that.  If you read my blog, I'm so sorry!...obviously not sorry enough... ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

After that white paint had dried, we were ready for our painting sesh and if you've got your canvases ready, so are you.  Let's get to it.  First, set up the kids work surface and them.  Cover it ALL up.  This is where that plastic table cloth and old tees come in handy.  Then, grab the rest of the supplies.  

For the six and up crowd:

At six years old, Sebastian is more capable of painting inside lines and creating something that actually looks like something.  So, for him, I grabbed a pencil and lightly sketched out whatever he wanted to paint.  Currently, he's really loving monster trucks so a monster truck it was.  I am no Michelangelo (far, far, far from) so I mean this when I say it - you don't have to draw anything perfectly!  You can kind of see my truck drawing and how elementary it was.  Draw the best you can and let the kid imagine the rest.  ;)

I gave him a paint brush, some paint, and a paper towel and cup of water to rinse his brush when he wanted to switch colors.  I made sure he knew he needed to clean his brush well between colors so we didn't end up with a mess on the canvas.  He came up with the road at the bottom on his own and got carried away painting that red and gray blob on the side.  He wasn't sure what it was and was just painting to paint so I gave him the idea of dragging a toothpick through it to make a brick wall.  I also helped him along by giving him ideas with the clouds and the details on the truck.  I thought his painting turned out really cute!  Don't be afraid to guide them!  It's good to teach them at this age how to paint properly.

For the two and up crowd:

Two and three-year olds don't understand the concept of separating paint colors to get art.  If you hand them paint and a brush, you'll end up with a big brown piece of art.  Four and five-year olds might but I'd still say they need some major guidance from 'rents to help them make some hangable art.  So, what I did with Gianna was plop a little bit of paint in a few places on her canvas and let her push the paint around however she wanted.  First, we started with the teal and she smashed it around with her plastic fork.  The fork is fun because it gives more texture and pattern than a paint brush.

After the teal, I washed off her fork and did the same thing with a few more colors.

At the end, I gave her a toothpick because I had run out of color options and her canvas was quickly filling up.  It took longer for her to push paint around with the toothpick because it's so small so it drug out her painting session, which was great.  She felt like she painted so much.

Easy peasy and mess-free.  Hug your little Picasso(s) and give yourself a pat on the back.  That wasn't so bad, was it?  Me to myself after painting with the tots that day.  ;)  You can totally do this...and so can they.

At my request, because they're both incredible artists, the twins' Godmothers both painted canvases for them when they were wee babes.  They are each hanging by the girls beds and now, to balance everything out, the younger two now have painted canvases next to their beds.  

Since they all share a room, having their own special art in their "space" is a great way to make their spaces feel like their own.  We are working on getting some more stuff up on their walls too and then I'll have to show you what their whole room is looking like these days.  It's a very happy place.  :)

I hope you're doing fantastic despite this historical time we're living through!  I never thought I'd say this, but I'm so very thankful for the digital age and social media right now.  If we can't be out and about socializing with each other, it's good we can find places on the internet to at least get a little bit of interaction and inspiration.  

+           +           +

*These links are affiliate links which means that, if you click over and/or make a purchase through the link, we may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.  All of these links will lead you to things we actually paid for or that are similar to the item we paid for in case ours is thrifted/sold out/secondhand.  This extra money helps us with the costs of running the blog.  Thank you for your support and for fueling our love to share all things DIY!


  1. Cute! For painting with kids, these are a game changer for me:

    We did pumpkin painting with 10 kids at my 1 year old's birthday party (outside) without a mess!

    1. Those look so cool! We will have to try them! Thanks for the rec Anneka!