“Get ‘em started early”, that’s what I always say. I don’t actually say that, but in this instance I think it’s absolutely true. If you’re not already painting with your youngster, then let me please convince you how fun and easy it can be.
I am relatively new to parenting, and painting for that matter. I am a first time parent to a now two year old and although I’ve owned a painting studio for seven years, I am not a formally trained painter and owe all my painting knowledge to the Cork & Chroma staff. I’ve come to find out, painting with your kid(s) is not about creating fine art in anyway, and with just a few basics in your tool kit, you can foster a meaningful and enjoyable experience for everyone.
Painting is fun! That’s a good enough reason for me, but you know what? It is also a top notch way to pass time. And of course there are so many benefits of exposing your child to painting early, like motor skills practise, self expression and visual problem solving.
So why, when I work in a painting studio, wasn’t I painting more with my little one? It’s because I thought that painting with a toddler would be a hassle because I had to set up all the paints and then clean up afterward, not to mention the underlying fear of my little one flinging paint everywhere. And of course, once you get it set up, there’s no guarantee they’ll even want to paint!
But after committing myself to bring painting into our weekly repertoire of activities, I am happy to report this was indeed all in my head. Let me share with you a couple tricks for making cleaning a breeze as well as some inspiration to help you paint with your kid once they’ve moved on from abstract brushstrokes.
1. Choose a good location
Thinking ahead to which location you’ll be painting at is important. If you’ve got the space and can set aside a ‘studio’ area that is relatively free of important things then consider doing that. We’re looking for an area where paint can fling a bit here or there and nobody really cares. An old surface that can be splattered upon or a surface with a good polish or water impermeable layer works well. Most children’s paints are water soluble and can come off with enough water and quick wiping.
If you’re like me and like to switch up the area, then just add a drop cloth to your kit and find an open space. I keep my kit next to our laundry sink for quick cleaning. It doesn’t have a fancy box or anything special, just loose equipment: table top easel, paintbrushes, palette, paint towel, water jar and paints.
2. Wear old clothes or let them go nude
If you’re thinking ahead and observing tip #1 so much of your clean up job is already handled. Most if not all kids paints are water based and should come out with a thorough flushing and immediate wiping. The one exception is cloth or canvas type material (shocker)! Wear old clothes or let them go mostly or all nude, then scrub up or make sure all the paint is dry before you turn them loose afterward.
3. Use the internet
Nothing is like exploring on your own and letting yourself find the medium of painting. But sometimes it’s also quite helpful to give your kids tools or show them some things, so don’t be afraid to teach them a few small tricks of the trade, even if they’re the only ones you know.
There is so much material out there to help you make it fun for your kids. At the early stage I recommend printing off a stencil or outline and letting your kids paint-in like they would a colouring sheet. You can tape the paper onto a large piece of cardboard and put that on an easel.
My little one is a fan of everyone’s favourite pig, Peppa, and there are a great bunch of resources on her official webpage. This particular afternoon we did several different characters.
4. Start in the background, work your way forward
My last tip is more relevant for the post toddlers but it is effective in all painting so I’ll share it still. Painting is largely about layering and the most basic way to build a painting is to start in the background and work your way forward. This may seem like a basic trick, but it’s super effective. Whether you’re teaching your three year old to let the first coat dry before they add the second (to avoid everything going brown) or whether you’re showing your five year old that if you paint the sky then the grass, let it dry and then paint in the mountains and trees over top, you’ll have a much more developed piece.
Well that’s that. I hope you’ll pick it up. Painting with your kids is so enjoyable and with a little effort you can create a meaningful and fun new practise at home.