Thursday, May 29, 2014

Tips for Painting with a Toddler

I have a three year old. He's all boy; he loves anything that has wheels or involves a ball. I care for neither category, but of course I play along to see the joy in his eyes. We spend most of our time doing what he wants to do, but every once in a while I get to see my suggestion succeed! I like it when we paint together. {I'm sure you're surprised.}

It's just like you'd imagine: we set up our canvases side by side and let our creativity flow.

Um, yeah. In a way. Except he's usually the only one painting while I'm running interference making sure to wipe the paint that dripped on the floor, and filling orders for more colors. Care to learn from my experience?

My tips for painting with a toddler

Get naked. Not you (necessarily)! Them. It's an extra step to spare us all from mommy snapping out of fear that the $4 Old Navy shirt she's gotten so smitten by may get ruined.

Ditch the fingerpaint. Well, okay, keep it for sensory fun. But when it comes to painting for the sake of creating, give 'em a fighting chance. I don't give little one the top of the line, but I see it as playing fair to give him $1 acrylic paints or a squirt from a golden Basics tube. And it pays off. I often find that we're both happy to walk away with something hang-worthy.

But go cheap on the brushes. I don't like to wash brushes, so I buy the more disposable kind. As I mentioned in another post, my son likes to push his paint rather than drag it, so foam brushes are the thing!

The bigger the better. Why worry so much about them painting beyond the boundaries of the paper when we can just make the paper bigger and trim later if needed? Also, it suits these little hands. They might be little, but they often use their whole bodies to paint. They also really appreciate "tackling" another end of the paper that needs their specialized attention. Bonus: big paintings make a big impression on both the little artists and the viewers.

Turn it around. I do it when I paint, so I help little one do it too: turn the piece around for a different perspective and to keep them from getting messier when they lean over the piece. Turning the paper or canvas around gives us fresh eyes. You'll either see what area could use a little attention or you might find that it looks better upside down!

Work in several sessions. Layers add interest. Do a little bit, let it dry, and come back to it days or weeks later. (This keeps painting on the cheap, too!)

Finishing touches go a long way. For instance, I paint the edge of his paintings for him. I either extend the color he was using to wrap around the edge or I go for the no-frame-needed look and it helps the piece look cohesive. Add glitter, photos, glazes or a readymade frame to make the piece look uppity! 

All in all, I keep my focus on three things: 

Main focus #1: color. I don't expect him to draw a horse or to even color one in. I want him to see how colors react to each other or simply just enjoy them! Think of what's age appropriate. Perhaps your child is learning shapes, so ask them to do some circles or "how about some lines?" (Learning shapes and recreating them are different levels.) How about patterns? Line, circle, line, circle, etc.

Main focus #2: composition--how things are laid out in a piece to be more visually stimulating--along with the first focal point of color are what viewers react to most when it comes to beauty. So I coach, "ooh, I think this spot could use some color," or "what about this blank space?" He's usually so focused on his little corner that he loses the big picture; it's a common pitfall for all of us and that's when Coach steps in. 

Main focus #3: fun. I wouldn't be a good mommy blogger if I didn't include this one, right? The truth is that we ALL want to have fun. I don't want to drag my son through painting class with mommy... I've got a long list of activities to drag him to every day. No thank you, we'll go back to cars. BUT before we do, let's make sure that they're not just bored with the one approach they're taking. 
I count it my job to keep it light and fun with my attitude while keeping up the spice with my ideas. 
He got bored with painting in the middle of doing the grandparents' gifts. We didn't have many days until Christmas left. So I told him to put his brush down. We were going to POUR the paint on now. His eyes grew large and I had my little creative boy back. 

Keep it interesting because art and is a game of discovery. No doubt you'll discover some new tricks, too.

Oh, and one more thing... 

... don't forget to style it! The final brushstroke doesn't mark the end of adding value to a piece.

Keep painting, 

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