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Things Your Toddler Can Use to Paint

Updated on June 8, 2013
Picture taken by Anne Frey
Picture taken by Anne Frey | Source

Spontaneity Within Structure

Children are natural at being creative in everything they do. As an art therapist and mother, I am a strong advocate for providing children with art materials and a space to be creative.

When toddlers create they need structure. This provides them creative freedom within the boundaries you provide or in other words, spontaneity within the structure. Mother's feel more at ease when they know their toddler does not have free reign to color on the walls of the house. Therefore, the first step in providing toddlers with materials to paint, is to make a space for them.

Here are some ideas where toddlers can paint:

  • Take it outside- Paint on the lawn, sidewalk, sandbox or driveway.
  • Put a tarp down- Tarps are inexpensive at any hardware store, put a tarp down in the area you designate as the painting zone.
  • In the bathtub- Bathtubs are a great space to get messy, because the child, walls and bathtub floor can all be washed down.
  • In the highchair- Highchairs are designed to get messy. The highchair keeps your toddler secured as well as give them a table top to work on.
  • In the garage- A corner of the garage can be designated to art making as long as adult supervision is in the garage with the toddler.
  • In the basement- Basements are often a great place to be messy and creative at the same time.
  • A park bench- If you truly do not want any messes in or around your home, pack a painting kit to a bench park.
  • Kitchen Table- The kitchen is a great hub for family gathering. This can include creativity during the day.


Painting Ideas For Toddlers

Once you have a space prepared it is time to give your toddler art tools. Remember, a toddler's attention span is short. You would want to do multiple short art sessions instead of trying to have the toddler do an art piece for a long duration of time.

There are many creative ways to integrate painting into your toddler's play. Here are a few suggestions that use common household items. Paint does not need to be fine art.

Picture Taken By: Anne Frey
Picture Taken By: Anne Frey | Source
Picture Taken By: Anne Frey
Picture Taken By: Anne Frey | Source
Picture Taken By: Anne Frey
Picture Taken By: Anne Frey | Source
Picture Taken By: Anne Frey
Picture Taken By: Anne Frey | Source

Karo Syrup Art For Toddlers

Materials Needed:

  • Light Karo Syrup
  • Food Coloring
  • Jumbo marshmallows
  • Paper Plates


  1. Pour a large drop of Karo Syrup in the middle of a paper plate. Add 1 or 2 drops of food coloring. (Add only one or two colors at a time. Adding more colors will risk the colors blending together and making a yucky brown. Less colors keep it vibrant.)
  2. Give the toddler a marshmallow. Show the toddler how to smear the Karo syrup around on the plate with the marshmallow.
  3. Set the plate aside. It will take 24 hours for the Karo syrup to fully dry. When it dries it will be shinny.
  4. Allow the child to create on one plate and then remove the plate and offer another plate to make additional creations. This is better than overworking one plate.

Remember everything is ediable. If the toddler puts something in their mouth they will not get sick on art materials. Though, they will get a sugar high.

Picture Taken By: Anne Frey
Picture Taken By: Anne Frey | Source
Pictue Taken By: Anne Frey
Pictue Taken By: Anne Frey | Source
Picuture Taken By: Anne Frey
Picuture Taken By: Anne Frey | Source

Shaving Cream Art

Materials Needed:

  • White shaving cream
  • Food coloring
  • Muffin tin
  • Brush


  1. Fill each muffin tin with shaving cream
  2. Add a few drops of food coloring into each section
  3. Let the toddler stir the food coloring with the shaving cream with a brush
  4. Let the toddler play with the colors, making different shapes and forms
  5. Toddler can paint on the bathtub walls or himself
  6. All rinses away

Ideas For Toddlers Art

Items Toddlers Can Use to Paint With
Items Toddlers Can Use As Paint
Items Toddlers Can Use to Paint On
Paper Plates
Finger Paint
Brown Paper Bags
Shaving Cream
Matchbox cars
Bathtub Wall
Cut vegetables in half and use them as stamps
Washable Paint
Poster board
Bingo Markers
Paper roll
Old Toothbrush
Medicine Dropper
Parchment Paper
Fly Swatter
Food Colored Water
Box Lid

© Copyright Carly Sullens 2013. All Rights Reserved.


Submit a Comment
  • CarlySullens profile imageAUTHOR

    Carly Sullens 

    5 years ago from St. Louis, Missouri

    Lisa, I love the idea of using whipped cream. I hope your granddaughter enjoys the activities.

  • lisasuniquevoice profile image

    Lisa Brown 

    5 years ago from Michigan


    I remember using sidewalk chalk with my son when he was very young. I am going to try the shaving cream idea with my granddaughter. She's only two though, so I think I substitute whipped cream for the shaving cream. Otherwise she might eat it. She still at that stage. I also want to try the pudding, and the veggies as stamps. It all sounds like fun! :)


  • HeatherH104 profile image


    5 years ago from USA

    I love that idea and will give it a try. Thanks! :)

  • CarlySullens profile imageAUTHOR

    Carly Sullens 

    5 years ago from St. Louis, Missouri

    Ahhh, your little boy has his own creative agenda. Well, since he likes letters and numbers; what if he colors a picture only using repeated numbers and letters. Say like the picture he has to color is a house. For the door, instead of using brown and coloring it in, tell him he can fill the door with the number "5." Over and over again, leaving secret numbers and letters.

    It is kind of like pointillism only he is not using dots, he is using repetitive numbers or letters.

  • HeatherH104 profile image


    5 years ago from USA

    This is great!

    My boys (3 and 5) do not like to color or paint and I've tried very hard! We use bathtub paint and crayons and they love to draw numbers and letters but don't like to draw/paint pictures or abstract images. They want nothing to do with coloring books or crayons. It's kind of a problem for my 5 year old at school, it's torture for him and his teachers when there is a coloring assignment. Any suggestions?

  • CarlySullens profile imageAUTHOR

    Carly Sullens 

    5 years ago from St. Louis, Missouri

    Oh good, I hope you have lots of fun!

  • ExpectGreatThings profile image


    5 years ago from Illinois

    Pinned. These look like fun! I like the idea of cutting vegetables and letting the kids paint with them; we might have to try that one tomorrow. My kids will love your ideas. Now that the snow is gone they aren't able to take spray bottles with food-colored water in them and make designs anymore.

  • justateacher profile image

    LaDena Campbell 

    6 years ago from Somewhere Over The Rainbow - Near Oz...

    My grandson who just turned three wants to be an artist like his uncle...these are some great ideas for him!

  • CarlySullens profile imageAUTHOR

    Carly Sullens 

    6 years ago from St. Louis, Missouri

    Thank you teaches. I too used to allow my kids to paint on any surface and use all kinds of materials.

  • teaches12345 profile image

    Dianna Mendez 

    6 years ago

    I remember the days when I would allow my kids to paint on almost any surface with the most interesting items. Great post and filled with so much creativity. Hope parents take note of this and use it to stimulate their kid's imagination. Voted up++

  • Glimmer Twin Fan profile image

    Claudia Mitchell 

    6 years ago

    My daughter loves to paint and really loved painting in the tub. I wish I had known about shaving cream. She's 10 and would probably still get a kick out of it. Great hub.

  • donnah75 profile image

    Donna Hilbrandt 

    6 years ago from Upstate New York

    I love the shaving cream idea. Fluffy paint! You can't go wrong. Getting messy with paint is not something that goes away. I work with teenagers, and when we have set build days for drama productions, someone always leaves covered in paint. Fun!

  • Genna East profile image

    Genna East 

    6 years ago from Massachusetts, USA

    What a fun hub, and so full of helpful info. As a brand new grandmother, I am interested in learning new things about the creative process through the arts for toddlers and children. I am hugely disappointed to observe that a number of our public schools have done away with the arts, interrelated humanities and performance testing as “frills” or unnecessary. I love your photos too! Voted up and more. :-)

  • Ericdierker profile image

    Eric Dierker 

    6 years ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

    Great Hub, my three year old is my favorite toy,,, I think I am his also.

    Hoorah for painting!


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