Outdoor painting is one of the best ways to paint, and this paint the cars activity takes it up a notch. Grab washable paint and some washable cars, and you’ve got one of the best kids activities around.
The obsession with painting toys is real.
And why shouldn’t it be?
Painting toys is an awesome “make it to nap time activity” and an even better “how are we going to get from naps to dinner?” activity. For this round of “let’s paint a random object other than plain white paper,” we decided to paint the cars.
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The hard sell on Paint the Cars
Some activities (let’s be frank) are just better activities than others.
Painting cars is one of those better activities. It’s unexpected, it’s special, it gives kids ownership and a chance to show their creativity but without the (often) daunting possibilities of a blank sheet of paper.
When kids are painting cars (or any toy for that matter), they’re envisioning it how they wish it could be – and that’s not something they can necessarily get perfectly right on white paper with a pencil.
But here, here they can show you a pink race car with blue polka dots just like their imagination wanted.
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Will this make kids paint all their toys?
Let’s get something out of the way ASAP: Your kids are not going to take this as an invitation to now paint everything or every toy in the house.
There’s two reasons why:
Reason 1: Kids are amazing with understanding context and understanding that rules vary. They know they can scoop and dump water in the bathtub, but that doesn’t mean they’re splashing water at the dinner table. They get the difference.
It’s the same with painting toys – they understand that this is a fun activity when it’s an activity…it’s not an everyday kind of thing.
Reason 2: It heads kids off at the pass.
My kids have never drawn on walls or marked up toys (shocker). I believe that has a lot to do with activities like this. I was able to have upfront conversations with them about where paint goes and where it doesn’t go, and I didn’t have to wait for them to color on my walls to have that conversation.
RELATED: Looking for more outdoor activities? Check out my massive collection of them!
The supply list
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- Washable paint (this stuff works the best)
- Paint brushes
- Storage container or similar space to keep the mess contained
- Paper (optional but helps with the mess)
- Smaller container of soap and water
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A tip for set-up and clean-up
I decided to give Future Susie (that’s me!) a little help and lined my storage container with paper. I never usually do this – or anything even close to it – but the winds of future clean up hit me and this felt like a great choice.
Spoiler: It was. This made clean up so fast and easy. Past Susie was such a sweetheart for doing that.
On the paper, I squirted out our paints, then carefully lined up a bunch of cars in the center of the tub.
Selecting the right cars to pain
I picked metal or plastic cars for this activity – anything that I knew could be painted and washed clean later.
No fabric or wood cars for this activity. No matter how washable the paint… it’s not coming off those materials…
Adding a car wash bonus activity
Instead of this only being a painting activity, I went for a two-for-one deal: I also made a washing station too.
I set a bin of water with tear free soap and scrubby brushes next to the painting project. When my kids were done, they cleaned off the cars.
It was a double win for me: a little longer for the activity AND the kids handles a sizable amount of the cleanup.
Remember when I said this activity was just better than others? Case and point.
How many cars did my kids paint?
I’m not totally sure but about twice as many as in this picture. My kids (3 and 5) just kept heading back inside looking for more and more cars to paint.
This was like the never ending activity and I love that. The kids loved the activity and were able to keep it going for themselves.
That’s what good activities can do: inspire kids to keep playing.
We love painting toys around here – it has yet to get old! So happy we finally got to paint the cars to see if that was any fun. Good news: it totally was.
Frequently Asked Question
Nope! To get it out of clothing, rinse stain with warm water and scrub with hand soap. Add more hand soap and wait 30 minutes. Scrub and rinse. This should get most of the paint out before you wash per usual.
Absolutely not. Your child’s admission to Harvard is not dependent on their having done a paint the cars activities in childhood.
Depends on the child and their interest in cars and painting. Instead of deciding based on age, look at the stage your child is at: do they like playing with cars or decorating things? Do they know how to hold a paint brush? Can they use a paint brush? Are they safe with paint?
Susie Allison, M. Ed
Susie Allison is the creator of Busy Toddler and has more than 2 million followers on Instagram. A former teacher and early childhood education advocate, Susie’s parenting book “Busy Toddler’s Guide to Actual Parenting” is available on Amazon.
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