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A guide to painting with toddlers: 6 Steps to a stress free experience!

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Painting with little ones – here’s my top tips. When Miss 3 was much younger, we used to do huge, messy art projects where she’d often end up with her entire body covered in paint. Whilst I still absolutely love for my children to have those sensory experiences, moving to a rented apartment has really changed my perspective on mess and how to manage it.

If you are in a similar situation to me or don’t want to make a gigantic mess for other reasons, check out our top tips for managing painting sessions with your children.

1. Manage your expectations

First off, how old is your child? The younger the child, the more likely it is that they will make a mess. When Miss Z was under 12 months, we would do yogurt painting in the highchair or paint squish bags that were taped to the floor or table. As she got older and explored non-toxic paints (18 months +) we took our painting sessions outside on the grass. Now that she is 3, she will quietly sit at the table and carefully paint pictures but I personally believe she had to go through the messy, sensory stage first.

2. Preparation

From experience, spontaneous paint sessions where materials are taken out on a whim never end well. Get out all the materials in advance, including baby wipes / damp cloths and an apron so that clothes don’t get dirty. Think carefully about which paints are needed and what items will be used as paintbrushes. Once the painting session begins, you need to supervise carefully!

3. Choose a dedicated space for painting

We use our IKEA Flisat table for painting. It’s situated in a small nook in the kitchen so that any spills can be cleaned up quickly. I also place a messy mat on the table (you can also do this underneath too) so that floors and furniture don’t get ruined.

If you don’t have such a space in the kitchen, you may want to consider using the bathroom or utility room instead. Basically anywhere with close access to a sink is an excellent option!

4. Keep paint options to a minimum

If you don’t want to end up with a murky canvas, limit the paints available. For example, Miss Z wanted to paint the ocean recently so we discussed the colour first and decided upon pink, blue and purple. Allowing your child choice over which colours is important and it’s all about framing the question correctly. For example, which three colours could we use to paint the ocean?

Using a paint palette means that the amount of paint used is limited to a small section. Children will tend to use up all the paint that’s left available to them so if you leave a huge tub of paint out, they will find a way to use it all.

5. Choose paints carefully

Painting with little ones means, as a rule, we’ve always used non-toxic acrylics paints. The colour ends up beautiful and vibrant however it is impossible to get out of clothing. If you are precious about your children’s clothing or don’t want to potentially spend time scrubbing paint from floors, then opt for a washable paint. I’ve heard good things about Crayola washable paint, although I haven’t actually used it myself!

6. Teach responsibility

Perhaps the most important point of all is to teach your children how to use paints responsibly AND help with the clean-up process. Miss 3 has been exploring with ‘proper’ paints since she was 18 months old and has always helped clean up afterwards. Yes, it takes longer but its a valuable lesson for little ones. One of our other painting projects – for slightly older ones – is here.

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Sian Thomas

Sian Thomas

Sian is a trained teacher mama to three awesome children and wife to Greg. As a family of expats, they travel the world every couple of years for new adventures. Right now, they live in Vienna, Austria.

One thing Sian is super passionate about? Helping mums worldwide navigate the early years of parenthood.

You can join her on her brand new venture, This Playful Home, by visiting www.thisplayfulhome.com or clicking the email sign up button below!

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