Painting with a Toddler: Benefits and the Materials You Need

3:54 PM Mayen Acebron 0 Comments






"It is important that we do not provide adult-made models,  coloring books or sheets or prepared "color-in" papers.  Never show a child how to draw and paint something- like a flower or a house;  the child will often simply repeat and repeat what you have shown. The best we can do for our children is prepare a beautiful environment, provide the best materials and get out of their way." - Susan Stephenson from the book The Joyful child. 

One of Jarvis' favorite activity nowadays, aside from jumping and dancing, is painting.  I've purchased a painting trial set for him but we did not use it right away because I am not ready to face the mess and he's still mouthing things at that time. Although, I tried to introduced it to him in the bathroom using a red paint.  We used the tiles as his canvas.  He did the stabbing motion of the brush, as a result, the red paint splattered all over the bathroom. 

So I decided maybe he isn't ready to paint on paper yet.   However,  recently,  I started introducing him to colors (red,  blue and yellow).  I also put up a work table where he can practice scribbling using crayons so I figured maybe it's time to re-introduce him to painting, only this time we are doing it outside the bathroom.  I want to expose him to colors some more. 

I thought it's going to be really messy that first time, that's why we started painting near our water source.  But after a couple of sessions, I realized that the paints we are using are very easy to clean.  Thus, I prepared a space in our home for his art related work. 

We are using tempera paints by the way. This type of paint is easy to clean and non-toxic too.  I use a wet cloth to clean up our mess.  It also helps that we are painting in a space in our house where it is actually okay to make a mess.  

There are several reasons I introduced painting to my son despite his age. He is 21 months now.  Actually,  some babies start earlier with edible paint (yogurt and food coloring) or paint in a ziplock bag if you don't want the mess. I wish we started on that though. You can always look up Pinterest for inspiration. 

Here are some of the reasons painting is a good activity for my/your toddler. 

 To introduce the child to the process of painting as early as possible. In the Montessori environment, the process of work is more important than the result. The effort the child put into a particular work is valued more than the end result. 

I broke the process down into seven steps. These are the steps that work for us. It might be different in every household or child.  

1. Make him wear an apron. As of now, we are using a jersey type of clothing as his apron because it's easy to clean.  I am still searching for a nice and affordable art apron for him. He doesn't like wearing bibs so I am not sure how he will respond to wearing an apron.  I hope he likes it. 

2. Prepare the paper.

3. Choose paint colors

4. Pour chosen paint on the palette

5. Paint 

6. Hang painting to dry

7. Clean up after.

 To promote concentration. Maria Montessori said,  “The first essential for the child's development is concentration. The child who concentrates is immensely happy.” We didn't start Montessori at home from birth and I feel like  I did a lot of things to sabotage my son's ability to concentrate. To rectify that, I am giving him a lot of opportunities to enhance his concentration by allowing him to do activities that I know he enjoys and for now one of them is painting.

✯ Painting is a great sensory play. So many parents tend to neglect the importance of sensorial activities for babies.  Did you know that there are children who go to an Occupational therapist because of Sensory Processing Disorders?

I have a friend who grew up with so many restrictions as a child that her senses did not develop as expected.  Now that she's an adult, she said that it takes a while for her to feel certain things. For example, when she accidentally holds a hot pot,  she didn't feel the burn right away thus she burnt quite worse than a person with developed senses.  I didn't know that can happen to a person until she told me about it and it blew my mind! Now I am more inspired to let Jarvis explore and use his senses whenever possible.

✯ Painting for a toddler is also a good additional fine motor work. It's a great way to exercise those fine muscles that can be beneficial for writing,  scissors work, and other practical life activities later on. 

My son is a mover, thus he's into honing his gross motor skills all the time!  It's very rare that he'll sit down and do fine motor work.  Therefore,  it's great that there's an activity that he enjoys which will help him improve his fine motor skills. 

 Painting is a great activity to explore with colors. Use them,  name them, mix them etc.  I bought other paint colors after a few painting sessions with my son. 

 Language opportunities. We are naming the colors and the materials during the process.  He can now recognize and say colors yellow and blue.  

 Honing the child's creativity. Although this may come in much later part of his painting experience.  For now, I love to see him enjoy doing it.  He even invented a dance step and chant whenever he paints.  You can watch that here. Combining fine and gross motor work is super okay with me! 😉


Now if you are sold on painting with a toddler you might want to know what are the things you need.  Here they are.


✯ Paints. You can use edible paint if your baby still on the mouthing stage. If your baby is no longer mouthing things, you can try the ones that we use,  tempera paint. Like I said, it is non-toxic and easy to clean. The online shop where I buy our supplies also offers finger paints. I know some parents who prefer finger paints as introductory paint for their babies. 

✯ Brush or sponges.  If you want to go to the traditional painting experience like we do, the trial set that I bought already have brushes and sponges. We use the brushes more often.

✯ Paper.  We are currently using watercolor paper but if you are going to do painting on a daily basis I think you can get away with the regular bond paper.  We will do that once we run out of watercolor paper. I also want to use Carolina and tape it on the wall to encourage painting in an upright position which is better for his posture .

Space where your toddler can paint.  It can be anywhere in the house that you think is easy to clean afterward.  Remember, your toddler is still learning the discipline of painting, it can get really messy. Like paint on your face, clothes or your furniture kind of messy. 

Table or Easle or a wall where you can put the paper for painting.

Apron. Or just use old clothes that you don't mind getting stained. I notice that the tempera paint may stain on certain clothing materials. 

Rug /washcloth for cleaning up after.  Use the opportunity to model how to clean up after painting.  Although,  it can be hard in some situations.  Like in our case, my toddler is always ready to move on and explore other areas of the house once he's done with painting. He rarely sees me clean up. Ah, #momlife.

✯ Paint Palette / No Spill Paint CupsFind out what will work best for you and your toddler.  In our case,  paint palette works best because sometimes he tries to drink the paint from the cups.  

Finally, just a few reminders to moms who want to do painting session with their toddler to just be prepared and stock up on a lot of patience.  It may be different for everyone.  Your child may work flawlessly the first time or create such a mess. Paints may end up everywhere.  If that happens, smile and gently show the child how to use it properly.  Allow the child to enjoy the experience and discoveries.

Thanks for being here!


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