How to Paint with your Two-Year-Old; Toddler Art Supplies you Need
Inside: How to paint with your two-year-old and the best toddler art supplies to get started.
You want to paint with your two-year-old, and curious how to start.
You’ve come to the right place!
I’ve been there.
I know that painting is an important part of self expression and color exploration, yet questions such as the following stump the process.
What kind of toddler art supplies do I use?
Is there a special paintbrush?
How do I keep the mess contained?
Over the last four years, we have painted plenty. No table has been harmed, and in fact, the painting has actually calmed the chaos. GASP! I know!
Inside I will show you how to paint with your two-year-old involving minimal prep, along with the best toddler art supplies.
RELATED: Organized art supplies? Yes, please! Check out our art cart!
What’s involved when painting with a two-year-old?
To begin, I like to keep the painting super simple.
It may seem tempting to add in objects to paint, yet I encourage you to allow your toddler to first explore color mixing and without distraction.
Here, we used our favorite under the bed storage bin. Since the paints are washable, I simply rinsed off his artwork when he was finished.
If your toddler creates a masterpiece that you don’t dare want to wash away, gently press a piece of large white paper onto the paint and create a print you can keep.
RELATED: 40+ activities for one-year-olds is a great place to head next!
1. Supply colors that mix well.
Remember, a two-year-old does not need ALL the paints to explore. Here, I gave my two-year-old more paint than he needed.
You can also try supplying your two-year-old:
one main color and white
one main color and black
colors that complement one another and mix well
I particularly enjoy reusing egg cartons for paint containers.I tear off the tops of each cardboard section and pour the paint right in.
If you are not comfortable reusing egg cartons, these spill-proof paint cups work well.
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2. Create your buffer zone.
I like to lay down a variety of buffers to create the, “okay to spill zone”.
Do I tell my kids there is an “Okay to Spill Zone?”
Their job is to keep the paint, brushes and water in the painting area.
What I am doing, is thinking ahead.
I know that if I tell my two-year-old to keep the paint in one location, it will naturally trickle onto the buffer zone. It happens. But it is also important to set limits you can wiggle with to set your patience up for success.
If I tell my children they have some extra room to explore, paint will be everywhere. - These are the tricky mom moves that keep me sane. Allow you and your children some flexibility. And most importantly, know your audience. Set yourself up for success.
Basically, the trick is to know your audience.
Keep in mind, little arms are practicing to hold their hand steady.
The trick is to keep the space clean and inviting.
Smooth out any wrinkles on your sheets and try and keep colors neutral.
You want to invite your toddlers and preschoolers to a clean, inviting space that doesn’t distract them from the main sensory play setup. Too many distractions will lead to disarray in play.
What can you use as your painting buffer zone?
old yoga mat
old indoor cycling mat (shown here)
plastic table cloth
outside - grass
old bed sheet
paper shopping bags cut open taped down flat on a tabletop
Keep in mind that you can begin on the floor, or find a vertical space to encourage creativity and increase arm strength. Below shows a vertical painting space with a shower curtain used as the “buffer zone”.
3. Set Limits; Sit Tight
Unfortunately, we cannot set the painting station up, then walk away.
I have never met a two-year-old that also doesn’t like to go rouge with some paint in hand.
Here’s the thing:
It is normal for your two-year-old to WANT throw or maybe even run away with art supplies. GASP! I know this sounds horrific! I get it.
Toddlers are curious little people that are learning life through their senses. That is a brilliant thing!
Our role here is to help them understand the guidelines of when and where to go awol.
I find this book as an amazing resource for children of all ages.
4. Guiding your two-year-old when painting:
It is just as important to remind your toddlers that they need to keep the paintbrush down low.
Here’s how this may look for ANY age at the introduction with art supplies::
Your first couple setups you are sitting WITH your child.
Your child is sitting on the opposite side of you so you can face one another.
Encourage your child as they begin to engage with prepositional phrases. “Look at you! You just painted ON the paper! Excellent self control!”
Encourage your child when they begin to get up. You can do this with phrases such as, “Do you want to get up? Okay, let’s put the paintbrush back INTO the large bin before we move.” Then continue to model where the paintbrush needs to be placed.
If your child listens, remember to congratulate them on their good job, again using prepositions. “You did it! That’s right! You put the paintbrush INSIDE the painting bin, or ON the paper. Smart move!”
If your child continues to walk around with the paintbrush, simply take the bin away. Remind them. “Mom asked you to keep the paint inside the bin, or on the paper. If we get up with the paintbrush, it gets put away.”
Above all, remember your child is still learning.
If your two-year-old is asking to paint again, simply remind them to keep the paint INSIDE the bin or ON the paper. Continue to sit together as you model and reinforce for the first tries with painting
Pretty soon, your children will be ready to paint with less supervision. It will help refocus their energy into something more productive. Here, my older boys are painting a box found in the garage.
5. Washable paint and water saves the day.
If there is one thing I have learned, it’s that if you catch wet paint quickly, it typically washes right off.
Paint we use:
Looking for something eco-friendly? You may also want to try:
6. How about the other painting supplies?
Chubby brushes work great for chubby hands.
Here, I like that these brushes have two different sizes to explore. The flat brush works great for long strokes, and the round brush for mixing.
Toddler paint brushes are something that you can buy in bulk on time, then use over the next couple of years. If you have a surplus of brushes that you know you may never use, attach a few on your next birthday gift!
My two-year-old works well with these paint brushes shown below.
Next up, your two-year-old will need a painting smock!
Although the one we have is no longer available (a Home Goods find four years ago), this painting smock has great reviews with images on Amazon. See more by clicking on the image.
Now you are ready to paint with your toddler.
Lay down your buffer zone.
Place the storage bin on the buffer zone.
Add paint colors that work well together into your egg carton or spill proof paint cups.
Place a few paintbrushes in the storage bin. One brush is great. No more than three. Too many supplies become a distraction.
Invite your two-year-old to come paint.
Sit close and enjoy watching your two-year-old explore colors.
Use some reinforcement to build momentum and an understanding of expectations.
Okay! We mastered painting the storage bin!
I have an entire lost of our favorite art supplies HERE.
For even more art inspiration, I am often inspired by Lizzie on The Workspace for Children.