Painting with your child has so many rewards...

Learning Tip

By Maggie V

For all the mums and dads out there, don’t be put off by the mess of craft at home.  Art and craft for your toddlers to pre-school age children and beyond doesn’t have to be messy. Or avoided.  As a parent and a former primary and secondary school art teacher, my students had to learn to keep their mess to a minimum and to clean up after themselves, and this can be applied in the home.  Keep it simple, enjoy the process and see how valuable the experience can be.  

Give this one a try:

Painting a Canvas. A collaborative activity with your child/ren.

What you will Need:

A stretched Canvas of any size

Available at specialist art stores such as Zart Art, Box Hill but also widely available at your local $2 shops.

Acrylic Paint

Use water based for easy washability. You only need Primary Colours, Black & White if you want also.  Blue, Red, Yellow.  Its easier to learn and retain information when it’s utilised in context, for this reason I only ever use the primary colours for kids to learn, what I call their ‘colour sums’, how to mix colours to make secondary and tertiary colours, tones and hues.

[Blue + Red = Purple]               [Blue + Yellow = Green]                   [Red + Yellow = Orange]

If you practice this enough, because its contextual practice, it will become organic practice.

You can then introduce Black and White to make lighter and darker shades of the colours you created in your ‘colour sums’.

A Palette for the paint

These can be paper plates that can be disposed of at the end of your activity, or recycled Let’s look after our World.

Paint brushes - 3 paint brushes is enough.

This promotes and encourages sharing and responsibility for cleaning a brush to use another colour.  

Water pot

To clean brushes.


An old short sleeve t-shirt is fine.  I find smocks with sleeves are more likely to make mess, as they often get dragged through the paint and that’s when it starts to travel, when the kids start to move.  They might end up with paint on their little arms, but have a face washer at the ready to wipe them clean.

Old towel/tea-towel/sheet

I like to use an old sheet.  They are big enough to cover my dining room table, (which is where my son and I paint).  One for the floor is also good to protect carpet.

You’re all set.  

Paint anything you like, but encourage your child/ren to think what they would like to paint by prompting a couple of ideas, such as their favourite animal, or a pet, a colour, or you could paint a family portrait together?

This activity doesn’t need to take all morning or afternoon either, give yourselves an hour, but you may find it will only take half! Include children in the set-up process and the clean-up process, as this also encourages responsibility and independence.

What you will find at the end of the hour of painting together is that you’ve taught your child their ‘colour sums’, encouraged sharing, responsibility and independence, strengthened their confidence, developed trust in the process and discovered what their favourite colour is.  Not to mention having a beautiful painting to hang on your wall that you can both be proud of and can share with family and friends who come to visit.  

The artwork you make always has more depth and meaning than appears on the surface, because of the lessons you’ve learned together, by being engaged in the process.

Happy painting! X