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Category: Character
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Category: Leisure

Teach Your Child How to Paint

Very young children may draw what they know, but it is said that they paint what they feel. Rob Barnes

Teaching your child to paint can be fun for both of you. With a few cheap and simple materials, your child can begin to express themselves in living color!

Painting can be a very effective means of representing ideas and feelings held deep inside. It is important to keep instruction and direction to a minimum for this reason. Every child will have his or her very own style, which should be honored and encouraged.

Whether producing refrigerator art or a masterpiece worth framing, your child will enjoy experimenting with various techniques and mediums. By supplying a variety of application tools and making different kinds of paint available, you will be opening up a whole new world of possibilities for your youngster!

Children usually paint with tempera paint, which is readily available and inexpensive, or with watercolors. Finger paint is also fun and can produce some awesome effects.

Have a supply of brushes of varying widths. Cotton swabs, toothbrushes, feathers, sponges, and even cut fruits or vegetables can also be used to apply paint. Let your imagination go!

What you paint on is called the “support”. Regular watercolor paper is fine, but expensive. Card stock, printer paper, paper plates and even fabric are suitable supports for tempera and watercolor paint. Special finger painting paper can be purchased in sheets or rolls and work best for that purpose.

You will also need wide bottomed jars for water, newspaper to protect the surface you’re using to paint on, a smock or old tee shirt, and an area to let finished work dry. You’re ready to paint.


Very young children, as young as one, can begin to paint. Seat your child in their high chair and tape a sheet of water color or finger paint paper to the tray. If finger painting, demonstrate by applying some color to the sheet. Your baby will get the idea very quickly.

Place a sponge or short, wide brush in their dominant hand. One color is enough to start. Some developmental experts recommend use of primary colors and black only at this age. Your baby will be delighted at the marks they produce and look forward to the next painting session.

Preschoolers will be able to change colors and attempt to paint recognizable images. Have the supplies ready ahead of time. Sit down together in a place away from your painting area and go over a few ground rules: paint on the paper only, no paint in the mouth (even if non-toxic), rinse brush when changing colors.

Sitting next to your toddler and painting at the same time will provide a model for them. They will likely paint faster than you, so be prepared to change papers for them. Set finished work to dry and clean up together.

Helpful hints at this age:

  • Your child will have their own style and may prefer certain colors.
  • Limit remarks about paintings to non-critical phrases such as “Wow, this is fun!” Or “Look what you did!”
  • Watercolor sets with larger color wells are best at this age.
  • Wide brushes are best until about age 2 or 3.
  • You can make an easel from a card board box. Set it at an angle and tape painting paper to box.
  • Children of 4 or 5 can produce some amazing paintings! Let them use more than one medium- such as marker or pencil and paint.
  • Post your child’s works of art. Press their favorites when dry with heavy books and frame. They make great gifts!
  • Painting is messy, so patience and planning ahead for mishaps is important.

Main points to address:

  • Even very young child can paint.
  • Paint alongside your child.
  • Protect clothes and the area you’re using.
  • Keep reaction to paintings neutral and enthusiastic.

Grades K-3rd

Your young school age child will have greater control over their brush or other applicator. This is a great time to experiment with different brush strokes. They will also begin to add greater detail and to use color in ways that express feelings and concepts.

Continue to give your child artistic freedom by providing a variety of materials to choose from. Fun objects to paint with are pine cones, cut potatoes, purchased stampers, rags rolled or crumpled, twigs, and tooth brushes.

Supports can be anything with a paintable surface: stones, shells, wooden blocks or plaques, insides of cereal boxes, even glass. Children this age love writing their own stories and illustrating them with their artwork.

You may want to check the Internet for ideas. Painting projects can produce items that are useful for decoration and for gift-giving. The web can also be a source of inspiration as your child checks out what other painters have done on one of the many virtual galleries.

You may also want to consider posting some of your child’s favorite pieces on one of the excellent sites that feature children’s art. They will be very excited to see their own art on the Web.

Remain relatively neutral when responding to your child’s work. You may want to say, “I like your use of color in that piece” or “Notice how your sky is meeting the horizon.” Be careful not to influence their developing style with excessive praise or suggestions.

Remember that painting is supposed to be fun as well as a source of personal expression. Your child is a work in progress, and their art will reflect that!

Main points to address:

  • Make a variety of supports, paints and applicators available.
  • The Internet is a source of ideas and inspiration.
  • Post your child’s favorite pieces on a site that features “kid art”.
  • Be careful not to influence your child’s developing style.

Grades 4-6th

If your child has a real love and talent for painting, you will probably know it by their quiet absorption while working. On the other hand, if they haven’t had much experience with painting up to now, you may want to reintroduce it now.

The older child will have a bigger mental and emotional bank to choose from. Their art may reflect their daily experience, or it may speak to a cause or passion they entertain. Whatever their subject is, you can be sure it comes from the heart!

It is worth investing in some sturdier and more conventional supports at this age. Heavy, medium quality watercolor paper will allow your child to experiment with different techniques and produce a different effect. Prepared canvas boards are available, and although they are quite pricey, if your child really loves painting, it will be worth the cost.

Along the same line, he or she may be ready to try acrylic or oil paint. This is a whole different pursuit in terms of materials, cost and effect and will require some special instruction. If you know how to use acrylics or oils, you will know when and if they are ready and will be able to instruct them. If not, then finding a class or short course in the community will help your child start off right.

Older school age children are ready to appreciate the art of others. This is a great time to visit an art museum or check out some art history books from the library. The web is also a great place to learn about the various genres of art.

Your child may want to use their skill to create beautiful greeting cards or gifts. Although they may be gravitating toward a specific medium and style, they may also enjoy painting on a wooden jewelry box, plastic or glass Christmas ornaments, or a wooden birdhouse.

Kids this age can accept some constructive criticism, but wait to be asked! The important thing is that they are using their imagination and blossoming skill to express their innermost thoughts and feelings.

Main points to address:

  • It’s time to invest in sturdier and more conventional supports.
  • Acrylics or oils can be introduced, but require instruction in use.
  • Go to art museums and shows and check out the library and Web to broaden your child’s knowledge and appreciation of art.
  • Consider fun painting projects such as greeting cards, holiday decorations and gifts items.

Resources that can help you in your venture include:

Posted in Leisure.

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