Painting with your toddler and curious about where to start?
You’ve come to the right place! This what painting with toddlers can look like.
I’ve been there.
I know that painting is an integral part of self-expression and color exploration, yet questions such as the following stump the process.
What kind of toddler art supplies do I use?
Is there a special paintbrush?
How do I keep the mess contained?
The good news about painting with toddlers!
Over the last four years, my kids have painted plenty. No table has been harmed, and in fact, the painting has calmed the chaos. GASP! I know!
Inside I will show you how to paint with your two-year-old, involving minimal prep, along with the best toddler art supplies.
Let’s set the painting with the toddler stage by adding some calming music (cue Amos Lee or David Gray) and get started today!
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What’s involved when painting with a toddler?
To begin with, I like to keep the painting super simple.
It may seem tempting to add objects to paint, yet I encourage you to allow your toddler first to explore color mixing and without distraction.
Here, we used our favorite under the bed storage bin. Since the paints are washable, I rinsed off my toddler’s artwork to clean up.
If your toddler creates a masterpiece that you don’t dare want to wash away, gently press a piece of large white paper onto the paint and create a print you can keep.
RELATED: 40+ activities for one-year-olds is a great place to head next!
1. Supply your toddler with colors that mix well.
Remember, a two-year-old does not need ALL the paints to explore. Here, I gave my two-year-old more color than what was required.
You can also try supplying your two-year-old:
One main color and white
One main color and black
Colors that complement one another and mix well
I particularly enjoy reusing egg cartons for paint containers. I tear off the tops of each cardboard section and pour the paint right in.
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If you are not comfortable reusing egg cartons, these spill-proof paint cups work well.
2. Create your buffer zone.
I like to lay down a variety of buffers to create the “okay to spill zone.”
Do I tell my kids there is an “Okay to Spill Zone?”
Their job is to keep the paint, brushes, and water in the painting area.
What I am doing is thinking ahead as my toddler gets ready to paint.
I know that if I tell my two-year-old to keep the paint in one location, it will naturally trickle into the buffer zone. It happens. But it is also essential to set limits you can wiggle with to set yourself up for success.
If I tell my children, they have some extra room to explore, and paint will be everywhere. – These are the tricky mom moves that keep me sane. Allow you and your children some flexibility. And most importantly, know your audience. Set yourself up for success.
The trick is to know your audience.
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Keep in mind that toddlers are practicing holding their hands steady.
The trick is to keep the space clean and to invite your toddler to paint.
Smooth out any wrinkles on your sheets and try and keep colors neutral.
You want to invite your toddlers and preschoolers to a clean, welcoming space that doesn’t distract them from the main sensory play setup. Too many distractions will lead to disarray in play.
Just like our list of favorite toys for toddlers, I am keeping the play open-ended and timeless.
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What can you use as your painting with toddlers buffer zone?
old yoga mat
old indoor cycling mat (shown here)
plastic table cloth
outside – grass
old bed sheet
paper shopping bags cut open taped down flat on a tabletop
Keep in mind that you can begin on the floor or find a vertical space to encourage creativity and increase arm strength. Below is a vertical painting space with an indoor cycling mat used as the “buffer zone.”
3. Set Limits with painting with toddlers; Sit tight
Unfortunately, we cannot set the painting station up, then walk away from our toddler.
I have never met a two-year-old that also doesn’t like to go rogue with some paint in hand.
Here’s the thing:
It is usual for your two-year-old to WANT to throw or maybe even run away with art supplies. GASP! I know this doesn’t sound very pleasant! I get it.
Toddlers are curious little people that are learning life through their senses. That is a brilliant thing!
Our role here is to help them understand the guidelines of when and where to go awol.
I find this book a fantastic resource for children of all ages.
4. Guiding your toddler when painting:
It is just as important to remind your toddlers that they need to keep the paintbrush down low.
Here’s how this may look for ANY age at the introduction with art supplies::
In your first couple setups, you are sitting WITH your child.
Your child is sitting on the opposite side of you so you can face one another.
Encourage your child as they begin to engage with prepositional phrases. “Look at you! You just painted ON the paper! Remarkable self-control!”
Encourage your toddler when they begin to get up. You can do this with phrases such as, “Do you want to get up? Okay, let’s put the paintbrush back INTO the large bin before we move.” Then continue to model how to use a paintbrush.
If your child listens, remember to congratulate them on their excellent job, again using prepositions. “You did it! That’s right! You put the paintbrush INSIDE the painting bin or ON the paper. Smart move!”
If your child continues to walk around with the paintbrush, take the bin away. Remind them. “Mom asked you to keep the paint inside the bin or on the paper. If we get up with the paintbrush, it gets put away.”
Above all, remember your child is still learning. This was a lot like when we trained our toddler for a sensory bin.
Continue to remind your toddler to keep the paint INSIDE the bin or ON the paper. Continue to sit together as you model and reinforce for the first tries with painting.
Pretty soon, your children will be ready to paint with less supervision. It will help refocus their energy into something more productive. Here, my boys are painting a box found in the garage.
5. Washable paint and water save the day.
If there is one thing I have learned, if you catch wet paint quickly, it typically washes right off.
The paint we use:
6. How about the other toddler painting supplies?
Chubby brushes work great for chubby hands.
Here, I like that these brushes have two different sizes to explore. The flat brush works great for long strokes, and the round brush for mixing.
Toddler paintbrushes are something that you can buy in bulk on time, then use over the next couple of years. If you have a surplus of brushes that you know you may never use, attach a few on your next birthday gift!
My two-year-old works well with these paint brushes shown below.
RELATED: Want more activities for two-year-olds? You will love this roundup of ideas for toddlers.
Next up, your two-year-old will need a painting smock!
Although the one we have is no longer available (a Home Goods found four years ago), this painting smock has excellent reviews with Amazon images. See more by clicking on the icon.
Now you are ready to paint with your toddler.
Lay down your buffer zone.
Play some calming music. We like David Gray and Amos Lee on Pandora.
Place the storage bin in the buffer zone.
Add paint colors that work well together into your egg carton or spill-proof paint cups.
Place a few paintbrushes in the storage bin. One brush is excellent — no more than three. Too many supplies become a distraction.
Invite your toddler to paint.
Sit close and enjoy watching your two-year-old explore colors.
Use some reinforcement to build momentum and an understanding of expectations.
Okay! We mastered painting the storage bin!
Want to continue painting with toddlers?
I have an entire list of our favorite art supplies HERE.
You can also try to paint skeleton bones!
Let’s put the right art supplies in your toddler’s hands to begin painting!