1. Go Big. Get a giant piece of paper or canvas to work with. Little kids don’t have the best fine motor skills yet so working large makes it more fun and less difficult for them. They can use bigger paint brushes and broader strokes.
2. Go abstract. Don’t worry about trying to make it look like something recognizable. That’s a lot of pressure to put on you and your child. This is about making memories and creating something together. It’s not about expecting your child to be a painting prodigy. Staying open-minded and going with the flow reduces tension and usually results in better outcomes.
3. Focus on process and not the end result. Don’t have a plan in mind. Don’t worry if the colors match your couch or if the shapes reflect your decor. Just get started. Let the child lead. I guarantee you’ll be surprised by what they decide to do. The end result will be so much better if you let go of trying to control things and everyone will have a much better time. Enjoy brush strokes and color.
4. Approach it like an experiment. Try using things to create texture. Paint with a sponge. Spray the paint with water. Use household objects as stamps and stencils. Do things “just to see what happens” and encourage your child to try something new too. Declare that you are artists and scientists. Kids love that. My daughter tells people, “Me and mom work at home. We are scientists and artists.” She’s proud of those titles and they give her confidence when it comes to problem solving or trying new things.
5. Use a color wheel. This is a good lesson about colors for your child. Which colors mix well and which colors don’t? Which colors make other colors seem brighter or dull? Decide ahead of time to limit your color choices so you don’t end up mixing them all together and making mud. Red and blue make purple. Blue and Yellow make green. You can easily add in black and white with red and blue and end up with a very attractive abstract painting when you are done. You don’t need to use every color and deciding that ahead of time and with your child will help you end up with a painting that is much more pleasing to the eye…unless of course you want to explore the many shades of brown and gray! Just decide ahead of time so everyone is on the same page.
6. Use the best quality art supplies you can afford or use safely. Some of the paints marketed to kids are really frustrating. Watercolors without enough pigment, brushes that don’t hold the paint, washable paint that is too transparent and doesn’t mix well can all be aggravating to use for both children and adults. Find a good paint that is both safe and easy to use so you can concentrate on having fun instead of grumbling about how things aren’t working well.
7. Model safety. Read the instructions and warnings to your child. Make sure you are following the rules. Are you using age appropriate supplies? Are the windows open? Are you covering surfaces that you don’t want paint on? Most art stores have information on which products might be toxic if ingested or if they get on the skin. Certain paint colors have toxic minerals in them and should be avoided. It’s important to know what you are working with and to take precautions, or not use certain things at all, depending on the age and maturity level of your child.
8. Establish rules and habits for cleaning up. Are the paintbrushes clean? When you invest in good tools and supplies you need to take care of them. This is a good lesson for children to learn as early as possible. Have aprons to protect clothing and hats to protect hair. Kids will accidentally scratch their heads while holding a paintbrush. A painters hat and smock will reduce clean up time by quite a bit.
9. While you are painting ask your child things like, “What is the story behind this painting?” Does it tell a story? Is it about something? Does it remind them of anything? Does it describe an experience they had? How do the colors make them feel? This is an important part of visual creativity and it’s also a lot of fun. Your child will surprise you again with their vivid imaginations.
10. Hang your finished fine art painting in your home where people can see it. Your child will enjoy talking about it to your friends and family. Your friends and family will enjoy hearing about it too. Plus, hanging a painting you created together as a family sends a message to your child that creativity, team work, and shared experiences are values your family finds important.