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16 Benefits of Painting for Children + 15 Easy Painting Ideas

There are so many incredible benefits of painting for children which makes this art form so much more than just a fun activity for kids.

Children strengthen many foundational skills while taking part in this enjoyable activity as painting has many social, emotional, physical and intellectual benefits. 

What are the Benefits of Painting for Toddlers and Preschoolers?

The importance of drawing and painting in child development should not be overlooked. So, what skills does painting develop in toddlers and preschoolers? 

Some of the advantages gained when young children experiment with paints are probably obvious, such as practising control of their hands and expressing their creativity. 

Many of the developmental benefits of art may be a bit more hidden, however. Let’s explore how painting helps a child’s development and why it is an important skill.

1. Fine Motor Control 

The act of painting and manipulating a paint brush as well as various other tools helps children develop fine motor skills by exercising and strengthening the hand muscles, fingers and wrists.

This is necessary for learning to hold pencils and pens when they write at school, turning the pages of books as they read, and more. 

2. Gross Motor Control

Gross motor skills involve the larger muscles of the body, which are also called into action while children paint. 

Some types of painting, such as those using a wide surface area to be painted (a wall, the paving, a large sheet of paper) and large painting tools are good exercises for the large muscles.

Introduce a variety of brush sizes to build both fine and gross motor control.

3. Eye-Hand Coordination 

Eye-hand coordination involves using information taken in through the eyes to guide both fine and gross motor activities. 

Learning to control paintbrushes and other painting tools is a great way to gain hand-eye coordination, with a focus not on the tool or where it should land on the painting surface, but on the space in between.

4. Visual Perception

Visual perception is when the brain makes sense of what a person’s eyes are seeing. 

Painting may be used in several ways to support kids’ visual perceptual development, for example: 

  • Copying a picture that is set right next to them into their own painting
  • Completing partly-painted pictures
  • Finger painting shapes or other images
  • Painting within an outlined boundary on paper surfaces

5. Spatial Attention

Also sometimes referred to as visual-spatial attention or visuospatial attention, this is the ability to visualize shapes in the mind’s eye. 

These skills are important for future work in maths, technology, science, engineering, and visual arts. 

This skill is practised before beginning a painting, when young artists typically imagine the plan in their mind, and even when turning the picture this way and that.

6. Creativity

Young kids are willing to take a chance on their creative activities and tend not to worry about the end result. A blank piece of paper and some materials are usually all the inspiration they need for creative expression.

If you can avoid giving children directions or models to follow, painting offers a great platform for creative development, without being concerned about what other people think of their masterpieces. 

Young boy painting

7. Healthy Expression of Emotions

Children often do not have the words for what is in their minds and hearts. 

Painting offers them a way to express emotions through the use of colours, lines, shapes, and textures, even the act of making a mess. 

Painting is also quite a calming activity for anxious, frustrated, or worried children.

8. Art Appreciation

Engaging in creative pursuits from an early age can teach children to appreciate visual art and notice it in their environment.

Learning about and observing the works of famous artists can encourage children to play around with trying that same style in their own artwork. They may experiment with their use of colour a little more or discover new combinations of colour, for example.

Kids also learn to appreciate the art of their peers and are guided by adults in giving positive feedback to each other.

9. Planning Skills

A painting activity gives children the opportunity to plan which paints and tools to use in their projects. 

As they get started, they also plan what they wish to represent, where various shapes should be placed in their pictures, and which colours to use. 

On paper scraps, kids can draw samples of their plans and even try out colour combinations.

10. Pre-Writing Skills

These are the basic skills that are necessary for learning to write. 

Manipulating the tools used in painting, in addition to working with lines and shapes, are important pre-writing abilities incorporated into art and painting.

11. Sensory Development

Painting is a wonderful, messy sensory experience. It gives children the opportunity to use most of their senses while working with various textures and colours. 

They explore their world through the various tools and materials used in art.

12. Attention Span

Kids learn to take it slowly with their art projects in order to get the results they want. 

For children who are easily distracted, having them paint often can help lengthen their concentration span over time, which is an essential skill for academic success.

13. Social Skills

Group art activities are usually a great way for children to develop their communication skills as they are often brought together for an extended period of time. Kids love chatting away as they get involved in their creations, and they often comment on each others’ pieces or ask questions.

Painting can also be a way to practice prosocial skills by sharing paint, taking turns with brushes, complimenting others, cooperating if they are working on the same project together, etc.

14. Language Development

Painting can also give kids a platform for developing verbal skills by expressing themselves while talking about their works.

Parents and teachers can also use the activity as a way to introduce new vocabulary or ask open-ended questions about kids’ paintings, encouraging them to put their thoughts into words.

15. Cognitive Skills

Like any other form of play, painting can also provide opportunities for mental development, such as practising decision-making skills and developing problem-solving abilities in a fun way.

16. Sense of Accomplishment

A child who has created something unique will surely feel a great sense of accomplishment, which contributes to their sense of self and can build their confidence in their own abilities.

These are just a few of the painting benefits for toddlers and preschoolers.

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15 Painting Ideas for Kids

The best way to let children fully experience painting is to offer washable, non-toxic paint, various tools and surfaces. 

Don’t just stick to paper and a standard brush. Experiment to see what works best for you and your kids. 

Simple painting activities for your child - pinnable image.

1. Finger Painting

Store-bought finger paints are available, and you can also make your own. 

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Special paper for finger painting is also sold in stores, but any type of paper that is non-absorbent or glossy on at least one side should work. 

Have low cups ready for the individual colours and large brushes or plastic spoons for transferring the paints to hands or papers.

Young girl finger painting on paper

2. Brush Painting

Various types of paints may be used with brushes of all different sizes. These include acrylic, finger paint, tempera and watercolours. 

Different types of surfaces can also be offered, such as paper, poster board, cardboard and fabric. 

3. Stamp Painting

Acrylic or tempera paints are good choices for stamp painting

Buy wooden stamps with various images, letters and numbers to dip into paint and stamp onto absorbent paper. 

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You can make your own easy stamps by cutting vegetables and fruits, such as potatoes, apples, mushrooms and oranges, into halves. They can be dipped and stamped for kids to observe the beauty and symmetry of nature.

4. Sponge Painting

Set up some washable poster paint and sponges in various shapes. They can be store-bought or you can use whatever sponges you have at home. 

For easier handling and less mess, use a clothespin attached to the sponge as a “handle”. 

Paint on individual sheets of paper or on a large table surface covered with a roll of tabletop paper.

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5. Spray Painting

Outdoors, give kids spray bottles filled with mixtures of water with food colouring or washable paints. 

They can spray large surfaces of paper from rolls, cardboard boxes and fabrics.

6. Water Colours

Use watercolour sets that range in offerings from a few primary colours to a wider assortment of tones. 

On absorbent paper, let children experiment with mixing colours. Have low cups of water available for rinsing brushes in between colours. 

Child dipping paintbrush in paint pot.

7. Roller Painting

For roller painting you will need these materials:

  • Large papers
  • Paint rollers or diy rollers
  • Tempera or gouache/poster paints
  • Low, disposable aluminium pans for the paints.

8. Splatter Painting

For this fun painting, use thin paints, such as liquid watercolours or watered-down tempera and acrylics. 

An outdoor setting is best, and laying out large sheets of cardboard under the paper sheets is helpful. 

Standing, children can hold a disposable paint cup in one hand and a large paintbrush in the other, flinging or splattering the paint onto the paper.

9. Mud Painting

Gather mud from outdoors or make your own with sand and water. If desired, add food colours in separate disposable cups. 

Children can paint on paper indoors with fingers or large paintbrushes; outdoors, they can paint on sidewalks, rocks or stones.

For some water art with less mess, try these painting with water ideas.

10. Feather Painting

Using slightly thinned tempera, squeeze paints onto paper with droppers and then use feathers to move the paint around.

Feathers may also be used for printing – paint the feather with a brush and then stamp it onto the paper.

11. Bubble Painting

Mix several tablespoons of washable tempera or acrylic paint and a few tablespoons of bubble solution or dish soap in a cup for each colour. 

Outdoors (or on a large indoor table), dip a straw or bubble wand in the paint and then blow the bubbles, so they land on the paper.

12. Leaf Printing

Take kids on a walk outside to gather various types of fresh or fallen leaves outdoors.

Paint one entire side of a leaf with a brush then press it down on the paper to make pretty leaf prints. Try a variety of leaves in different shapes and sizes.

You could even make your own wrapping paper with these leaf prints.

Painting with leaves

13. Toothbrush Painting

Dipped into tempera paints, toothbrushes make great paintbrushes for interesting designs on various paper surfaces. 

Use a different toothbrush for each colour so that cleaning in between is not necessary.

14. String Painting

To make a string painting you will need:

  • Cotton string or yarn
  • Thinned tempera/poster/acrylic paint
  • Paper
  • Low aluminium pans for paints

There are various ways to do string painting. Kids can dip the entire length of the string into the paint, and then lower it onto paper to form an interesting pattern. 

Another option is to make a fold in the paper and lower the string near the fold. Then, close the paper and pull the string back and forth while holding the surface lightly with the other hand.

15. Marble Painting

Find a cardboard box with sides high enough so the marbles cannot “hop out” during the design process. Using a paint-like tempera, drop the marbles into individual paint cups, pick them up with a plastic spoon, and then drop them into the box. 

Get your child to tilt the box from side to side, causing the marble to roll around on the paper and form various patterns. Try these other fun painting with balls ideas too.

I hope you’ll enjoy trying some of these fun painting activities with your toddlers and preschoolers. 

Look around the house or classroom. Your eyes may land on another type of interesting tool that could be used with paints and papers for creative and colourful fun!

Are you a preschool teacher or working in Early Childhood Education? Would you like to receive regular emails with useful tips and play-based activity ideas to try with your children? Sign up for the newsletter!

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parkash kaur

Monday 4th of July 2022

this tutorial was very helpful and interesting it gave me lots of different ideas and now i have more knowledge and understanding about how we can use painting in different ways . this will definitely help me in my coursework .

Tanja Mcilroy

Tuesday 5th of July 2022

I'm glad to hear it!

Jena Gutz

Wednesday 13th of October 2021

I totally with this!

My 5 yrs old kid is currently enrolled in the Online Acrylic Painting of an international school in the Philippines (www.georgia.edu.ph) and I saw that my child is really enjoying and have improvements with her skills. Painting is really helped a lot in my daughter's development. Hope you can share more article like this. More power to your blog!

Tanja Mcilroy

Wednesday 13th of October 2021

That's wonderful for her! Thank you, jena.

Grandma Thorley

Saturday 2nd of January 2021

Thank you! Grandaughter coming for sleepover tomorrow. You’ve prompted us to have paints and materials at the ready. Hoping this becomes a regular activity now that Grandad’s convinced.

Tanja Mcilroy

Sunday 3rd of January 2021

Grandaughter and grandad will both love it!!

Aine

Saturday 2nd of January 2021

all sounds great. cant wait to try

Tanja Mcilroy

Sunday 3rd of January 2021

Enjoy it!

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