Tips for painting with toddlers without going crazy.
Painting with toddlers can feel a little bit like herding cats. Paint covered cats. Paint covered toddler cats who somehow know exactly where white furniture is. Right? And how do they just “know”?
But it doesn’t have to be that bad or that stressful. I promise. It’s all about setting yourself up for a massive win and eliminating as many toddler variables as possible. It’s totally doable. And I’ve got some must-have tips to help.
I have six great tips for stress free toddler painting. Some of my tips I learned from years of teaching grade school and some from trial and error with my first born toddler guinea pig.
It’s all about finding your rhythm with art (and messes). Here’s what works for me.
My 6 best tricks for painting with toddlers
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- Paint in the nude. Always, forever, never in outfits. No one needs paint on their clothes no matter how washable that paint is. Plus, little bodies wipe off a lot easier than shirts.
- Invest in an over sized roll of butcher paper or kraft paper. The bigger, the better.
Toddlers need a lot of space to work with. I usually try to roll out my paper just a tad wider than my toddler’s “wing span”. This gives them all the room they need to move and gives you piece of mind as they paint. [activity featured: Cookie Cutter Paint]
- Tape is your best friend. Repeat after me. Tape is your best friend. You want that painting surface to be as secure as possible. Painter’s tape, masking tape, scotch tape. We own it all.
- Just for fun: have your toddler vary the position they’re in when they paint.
Tape the canvas to a window. Tape it to the wall. It takes a whole different set of muscles to hold your arm up and out to paint so make sure your toddler isn’t always painting at the table. Your OT friends will thank you.
- Store paint in resealable containers so you don’t have to squirt it out on plates.
I store mine in baby food jars. This makes life so much easier and is a little trick I picked up from teaching. When my toddler asks to paint, I just grab the jars and paper and we are ready to go in seconds. Plus, when he’s done painting 15 seconds later, I haven’t wasted a bunch of paint. Just put the lid back on and back to storage it goes.
And my biggest tip of all: Have an exit strategy.
Be your own flight attendant. When the ship starts to sink, how are you getting out quickly?
For me, I always have a wet wash cloth next to us for immediate “in case of emergency”, but my main exit strategy is typically to paint near a water source, like the kitchen sink or an outside hose.
The second my toddler is done, I give him a quick wet cloth wipe off, then scoop him up and set him in the sink or bath tub – wherever I can put him and still see/supervise him.
I usually add a Popsicle to buy his cooperation, and I can get any size mess cleaned up before that Popsicle runs out. It’s a magical system and it hasn’t failed us yet. Knock.On.Wood.
Don’t be scared of toddler painting (or messy activities). They are worth the mess for the happy giggles. But controlling the mess and seeing the disasters before they happen makes for happy giggles from Mom too.