In our house, we love art. All mediums. Whether it’s colouring, painting with acrylics or watercolours, making fun crafts or just letting loose with our art materials, we love to create masterpieces. K especially loves to paint and its the one thing that actually gets him sitting down for longer than 2 minutes. He will paint for a straight hour, focused on his work. I think this is in part because creativity comes naturally to children and part because we have always encouraged freedom of art expression. When it comes to young children, especially toddlers, I feel that art is much more about the process than the end result. And when kids are first experimenting with art, this point is crucial. Which is why I love free painting.
Free Painting with Toddlers – the Benefits of Painting, for Kids
What is free painting?
It’s giving kids free reign to do and create whatever they want with the given art materials. What we first started doing when K was just little was setting out art materials in a safe space, ideally outdoors if you can. If not, then inside on a big area of newspaper or craft paper works well. We set up a little canvas (paper works fine too) as well as edible paints, brushes and items from nature, and let K go wild. He had so much fun with this. He used the brushes for a bit, on the canvas as well as himself. He also incorporated natural items like leaves. This kept him occupied for a good hour and he was so absorbed in the activity. It’s also a wonderful sensory activity for little ones, feeling the sensation and texture of the paints on their little hands and feet. I know K was enthralled the first time he painted and he continues to love to explore different realms with paint. Free painting can be done at any age but it’s a great starting point for toddlers especially.
- Paint – preferably something edible like this great one from Hands on as we Grow, or a natural, non-toxic finger paint like this one from Tinkerlab
- Paper or canvas
- Variety of tools – brushes, natural items like leaves or rocks, or even natural paint brushes like these beautiful ones from Messy Little Monster
- Mat or newspaper – depending on if you are inside or outside
Why is free painting so beneficial?
There are so many benefits to art and painting in general, but when it comes to toddlers and beginning artists, having the freedom to decide on their own techniques and create whatever they want has some great benefits.
- It’s a great messy, sensory activity with the paint and textures
- It involves all of the senses: seeing, touching, smelling, hearing, and even tasting if you use edible paint
- Children learn about colours and mixing colours
- It helps with the development of hand-eye coordination
- Finger painting in particular helps strengthen the finger and hand muscles
- Allowing them to use their fingers or other body parts is great for those who don’t yet have the ability to use a brush
- The focus of the art is on the process as opposed to the end piece
- It allows children to develop self-expression and self-creativity
- It can be therapeutic, allowing expression without using words
- It works wonders for the imagination and creativity
- Children can learn about colour, patterns and designs
- There is no right or wrong. Kids will create art that they love without any strict rules or guidelines. This allows them to explore different techniques without any worry of failure or particular end product in mind.
- Painting will also help kids gain confidence by allowing them freedom to create art with no guidelines.
- It’s FUN!