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child reaching for a painted memory game created with cardboard and paintchild reaching for a painted memory game created with cardboard and paint

Arts & Crafts

Looking for easy painting ideas for kids to fill the witching hour before dinner or a rainy indoor weekend? These are the activities currently inspiring our mini Murakamis–and covering our refrigerators.

Written By
Katie Covington

Is it messy to break out the paint? Absolutely. But open-ended painting projects give kids the opportunity to express themselves, make decisions, learn about cause and effect, and hone fine motor skills. Younger kids explore shape, size, and color, while school-aged kids practice storytelling as they tell you all about their work. So let their imaginations run wild, knowing they're learning through play. Jumpstart your painting with arts and crafts kits from our favorite brands. 

Painted Memory Game

Why we like it:
This easy painting idea from @Abelsplaythings craft turns into a game preschoolers can play afterward. Keep the memory game pieces in a bag for road trips for waiting rooms.

You’ll need:
Paper circles glued to cardboard (have an adult help with this)

Brainstorm things to match together.
Ask your little to paint 2 of each thing: sun, moon, apples, dogs, whatever they’re into at the moment.
Use them to play memory together.
child reaching for a painted memory game created with cardboard and paintchild reaching for a painted memory game created with cardboard and paint

Nature Paint Brushes

Why we like it:
These clothespin paintbrushes are a simple painting activity perfect for toddlers and preschoolers. Exploring your backyard or neighborhood for interesting natural textures is all part of the experience.

You’ll need:
Grass, leaves, or flowers
Clothespins (or a popsicle stick)
Tempera paint

Gather natural materials with interesting textures with your child.
Pinch them into clothespins – or tape them to a popsicle stick or small branch.
Let kids explore these textured brushes as they dip them it into paint.
paint brushes made leaves and grass is an easy painting idea

Race Car Painting

Why we like it:
Gearheads will be into this easy action painting activity from @funfamacademy that uses toys in a new way. Set up outside or out down newspaper underneath for this one.

You’ll need:
Butcher paper
Play cars

Place small blobs of paint on the paper along with a few small race cars.
Let your child drive the car through the paint and around the paper, creating a trail of each color.
Wash the cars afterward.
child using toy cars to paint with as a simple pint craft child using toy cars to paint with as a simple pint craft

Dinosaur Cardboard-asaurus

Why we like it:
These painted dinosaurs that Erin Jang and her boys created are figurines kids can use for imaginative play long afterward.

You’ll need:
X-Acto knife or scissors

Have your kid draw a dinosaur head and body. Then have them sketch U-shaped arms and legs.
Cut out the shapes using an X-Acto knife or sharp scissors - an adult should do this part.
Cut two slits on the dinosaur where the arms and legs should be.
Have your child paint both sides of the dinosaur along with the arms and legs.
Slide the arms and legs into the slits.
3D dinosaurs made from cardboard and painted by kids - and easy painting idea for kids 3D dinosaurs made from cardboard and painted by kids - and easy painting idea for kids

Happy Trees Paintings

We like it:
Artist Beci Orphan started the genius @easy_iso_craftt to share straightforward instructions for making cool things with cardboard, including these happy graphic trees from recycled cardboard rolls.

You’ll need:
Toilet or paper towel roll
Construction paper (or thin cardboard)
Markets, paint, pastels, stickers, or any other materials to decorate with

Cut the cardboard roll into three pieces.
Cut two small vertical slits on either side of each piece - right across from each other!
Cut tree tops shapes out off the paper.
Decorate the treetops and add them to the slits, so they stand up.
painted tree craft for kids

Potato Printing

Why we like it:
Kids hone their prediction and logic skills (the building blocks of coding) to create patterns with stamps. Or use potato printing to personalize a card or t-shirt with this how-to from Jodi Levine’s Supermakeit.

You’ll need:
Small potatoes
Acrylic paint or fabric paint
Paper plate
Cookie cutter (optional)

Use the knife to help your child cut the potato to create a dot shape.
If you’re using a cookie cutter - slice the potato to create a flat side, then press the edge almost all of the way into the potato. Use the knife (make sure an adult does this part) to cut all around the cookie cutter and let that part fall off. Remove to reveal the raised cutter shape.
Lightly press the potato into the paint and press it onto the paper.
Make patterns with the shape or add flourishes with a paintbrush.
potato print painting activity materials set up with pink paint and a potato cut with a cookie cutterpotato print painting activity materials set up with pink paint and a potato cut with a cookie cutter

Rock Painting Stacks

We like it:
RainerShine is a kid’s subscription kit with materials for two projects inspired by artists and designers like Claus Oldenburg, Sheila Hicks, or the artist who inspired this easy painting idea, Ugo Rondinone. Find more inspiring ideas on their archive page of past projects with beautiful hand-drawn how-to illustrations.

You’ll need:
White paint
Colorful paint - neon if you have it

Paint each rock white first and let them dry.
Paint each rock a solid color. Once the rocks have dried, stack them as you like. How high can you go?
neon rocks painted and stacked in small stacks on a tableneon rocks painted and stacked in small stacks on a table

Leaf Paintings

Why we like it:
Gathering leaves on a fall day is half the fun of this painting activity from Hello Lunch Lady. Try to guess what type of leaves they are while you’re out collecting.

You’ll need:
Freshly picked leaves
Paint - washable acrylic

Lay the leaves on a flat surface. You may want to work on a newspaper.
Paint the leaves in any way you like–graphic patterns, mini faces, or try stripes and spots. Let the leaves dry.
If you’d like, you can create a bunting by threading the leaves on a piece of string, but we love them on their own!
painted leaves craft idea for kids painted leaves craft idea for kids

Alphabet Painting

Why we like it:
Tracing letters and numbers in this easy painting activity from @tinyn3rds is a fun way to learn letters. Encourage minis to say the letter while they trace it.

You’ll need:
Foam alphabet puzzle

Tape the foam puzzle background to a piece of paper to keep it place.
Show your little how to hold the paintbrush to trace the shape of each letter with paint. Can they say the name of each letter?
colorful alphabet painting in process colorful alphabet painting in process

Painting on Cookies

Why we like it:
Try this painting craft for kids at your next birthday party for an activity that doubles as a sweet treat to take home. While you can make cookies and icing, search online for kits that come ready to paint to skip those steps.

You’ll need:
Sugar cookies iced with royal icing
Food coloring, preferably gel
Vanilla extract
Small prep bowls
Paintbrushes (new or used just for food)
Paper towels

Make or buy cookies iced with royal icing and let the icing dry completely.
Add a drop of food coloring and extract to each bowl.
Paint each cookie! Try stripes or splatters.
using food coloring to paint on iced cookies in bunny and carrot shapesusing food coloring to paint on iced cookies in bunny and carrot shapes

Finger Paint Snakes

Why we like it:
What could be easier than finger painting? These colorful snake paintings from Handmade Charlotte use fingerprints to create fun patterns and explore color combinations.

You’ll need:

Paint the background using a solid color.
Then paint a squiggle line for the snake’s body.
Once this is dry, add patterns like dots, diamonds, or stripes to the snake.
Dip fingers in paint and add fingerprint polka dots over the patterns.
painted snakes with finger printed dotspainted snakes with finger printed dots

Salt Painting

Why we like it:
Using materials you probably already have, this simple painting technique from the Artful Parent is also a bit of a science experiment as kids watch the watercolor spread along the salt crystals as they paint.

You’ll need:
  • A thick surface to paint on like cardstock, poster board, or a paper plate
  • Watercolor paints or watered-down food coloring
  • Paintbrush
  • Salt

Use a squeeze bottle of glue to draw a design onto your surface.
While the glue is still wet, sprinkle salt to cover the glue. Tap to remove excess salt.
Using brushes, gently paint over the glued design with your watercolors.
Let it dry.
painting idea for kids using salt and glue painting idea for kids using salt and glue

Rainbow Collage

Why we like it:
Each color of the rainbow can hold different shades, texture, and tones that makes each one unique. Our Pride crafts for kids are all easy rainbow-themed crafts.

You’ll need:

Paper in various colors
Pom Poms and other bits and bobs

Paint a rainbow of colors.
Cut or tear paper into strips and arrange them by color into an arc like a rainbow.
Add any beads, pom poms, sequins, or other bits by color and glue them down if you'd like.
rainbow collage kids craft projectrainbow collage kids craft project

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