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Art is such a fun way for everyone to explore with color and emotion. For little ones, there are no rules. Give them the supplies and let them interpret the fun however they want! Art activities for preschoolers should be exciting and engaging, but with minimal clean up.
Am I right, parents?
Unfortunately, at this age, it’s all about the mess. My mom used to say, “If you didn’t make a mess, you didn’t have any fun.” So, you may spend a couple of years learning to embrace the mess, but believe me, you’ll have fun doing it.
When your toddler turns into a preschooler, and as they age through those oh-so-quick preschool years (my heart breaks just thinking about it), their fine motor skills improve and they have a lot more focus, ability, and understanding.
I am telling you that your heart will burst as you see how they interpret the world on paper. You might have a square head and stick legs, but your preschooler can now draw the two of you playing together. Isn’t that the sweetest?
So, let’s harness those abilities and find some super cute art activities for preschoolers that will foster your child’s new found love of creating so that you can have fun together.
1. Mix up cosmic suncatchers
This project uses materials you probably already have, and after you’re done, you can reuse them again and again. And believe me, you will reuse them again and again, because your kids will love it.
- White glue (lots and lots of it)
- Food coloring
- Lids (think flexible lids like yogurt, sour cream, cottage cheese, butter, etc.)
Flip the lid upside down on the table and pour a generous amount of glue in it. Swish it around gently until it covers the surface. Then squeeze a few drops of food coloring into the glue, give your kid a toothpick and let them swirl to their heart’s content.
They can watch how the colors change over time, but it’s also a great project for kids with short attention spans, because you don’t have to swirl it a lot to make cool designs.
Once the glue dries, peel it off of the lid and hang it in the window to catch the sunlight. As the glue continues to harden over time, the final project will change even more!
It’s a fun experiment in how one piece of art can take on new meaning as things change. Plus, with how fast and easy it is, it’s a great project to keep your preschooler entertained if you have a new baby.
2. Paint with ice cubes
This activity is best reserved for a hot day so you can take the mess outside. Freeze paint in ice cube trays. You can choose the colors, but for preschoolers, simple primary colors are all you need.
Once they’re frozen, pop them out of the tray and take them outside in the sun. The kids can paint as they melt and watch the colors run together. They’ll learn how mixing two colors makes new colors, and it’s a great sensory activity, too.
It’s also a chance to learn about water in different forms and teach them how it changes based on temperature.
3. Dip craft sticks
This project is an exercise in patience, but it’s so much fun and yields surprising results. All you need is a few popsicle sticks, jars, water, and liquid watercolors. You can substitute the liquid watercolors for food coloring if you have that lying around.
Mix two tablespoons of each watercolor into a jar. Small glass mason jars work the best. Then add the same amount of water to each. Use less water for the yellow because it gets diluted more quickly.
If you’re using food coloring instead, add a few generous squeezes to the water. The colors won’t be as vibrant as the liquid watercolors, but it will work just the same.
Drop a few popsicle sticks in your jar of choice and leave them for a few hours. Watch as the popsicle sticks absorb the water and the color crawls upward.
Flip your sticks around, blot the wet end, and then drop the dry end in a different color. Mix it up and choose a variety of combinations to get different results.
After a few more hours, you’ll notice a third color has magically appeared. As adults, we know it’s not magic, but it’s a fantastic color lesson.
If you wanted to turn it into a science lesson for your older kids, you can use the idea of capillary action to demonstrate how plants pull water from the ground to absorb nutrients.
4. Make your own masterpiece
It’s fun to watch how kids interpret famous pieces of art. Print out Starry Night, Water Lilies, the Mona Lisa, or your favorite piece of art and have them draw their own version.
Watch how they study it. Their final project will show you what kinds of things they notice. It’s impressive to see what details they pick out over others.
5. Paint a rainbow tree
This is one of my favorite keepsakes of all time. The base of the project is organic in nature and comes from your own property, which I love. Plus, your kids can customize it however they want, making it a fun family activity that you can keep to decorate your garden or your home for a long time.
Nature crafts are low cost, which makes them even more fun for me as a parent. You can do this one over and over again, too, with a different result every time.
The next time you find a fallen tree limb in your yard, grab it and save it for this project. Fill a bucket with sand and pack it down tightly, or add water so it will harden as it dries. Push the limb as far down into the sand as you can and make sure it’s sturdy.
Break out the acrylic paint and the aprons! Acrylic paint stains clothes, but if you plan to keep this art project outside, acrylic paint is weatherproof and will not wash away. You can also use watercolors if you plan to keep it indoors.
Arm your child or children with paint brushes and let them paint the tree all sorts of different colors. Acrylic paint is very vibrant, so the end result will likely be colorful and fun. It’s a great way to decorate your home or garden and remember your kids. It also makes a great grandparent gift!
6. Make sensory art
You can add all kinds of textures to your art to make it a fun sensory project. Just be warned – this makes it more messy. I’m talking sand, dirt, glitter, finger paints, and glue.
You can give your kid free reign over the messy parts or you can try to control the experiment, but either way, you’re probably fighting a losing battle.
Watch as they smear and sprinkle. Cover them with old oversized t-shirts to keep them clean or send them outside for this one so clean up is easier.
You can literally take this idea in any direction you want. You can even allow them to explore the great outdoors in search of items to add to their art project, like leaves, nuts, or blades of grass. It makes them feel like they’re bringing it to life.
7. Give them Permission to paint the floor
Let me preface this by saying that watercolors are washable. If you have a tile floor, you can let your kids paint it, and it will mop up. It’s really that easy.
Section off a group of tiles so they know where their boundaries are. You can avoid paint on walls and other surfaces this way. They can make a giant mural or make each tile a different design.
It ends up looking like a really cool Spanish tile or Bohemian mosaic floor. You can also do this outside on a concrete surface, because the rain will wash it away later.
8. Decorate everyday items
Preschoolers are just starting to draw discernable shapes, and it’s adorable to look at how they interpret the world.
Cut pieces of butcher paper to fit everyday household items like tissue boxes, storage containers, and more. Lay them out flat on the table and let your child draw on them. Then you can wrap your child’s art around something you look at and use every single day.
For older preschoolers, you can tell them what you’re going to do with it when they’re done, and they may even decide to create themed art. Sick people with boogers on the tissue box, a chef’s hat on the utensil holder in the kitchen, etc.
9. Eat mosaics
This project is a great snack time activity. Remember Fruit Roll Ups and Fruit by the Foot? Well, they make fantastic mosaics and sun catchers. Rip them, cut them, and stick them on wax paper.
This project engages nearly all of the senses with sight, smell, touch, and taste. You could even include sound if you want to count the crinkling of paper.
Cut pieces of wax paper for each child. Then, depending on the age of your child, you may want to cut out pieces of your snack in advance, or let them rip it or cut it up themselves.
Because the snack is sticky, it will adhere just long enough to the wax paper so that you can hold it up to the light, take pictures, and enjoy a proud moment before you gobble it up.
10. Tie dye literally anything
T-shirts. Pillow cases. Towels. Socks. You name it. You can tie dye it. And it’s so much fun. Grab yourself some old clothes you don’t mind getting dirty first. You’ll need the dye colors you want, the item you want to dye, a squirt bottle, and some plastic gloves.
Make sure you get fabric tie dye colors. Watercolors, food coloring, and other paints not meant for tie dying won’t work.
Plastic gloves can be tricky with little fingers, but plastic sandwich bags work just fine, too. They don’t need too much dexterity for this project.
Depending on how developed your preschoolers fine motor skills are, you may have to split the duties. Your child can twist while you add rubber bands. If you don’t think your child could do either, you can do it and then hand over the reigns with it comes time to squirt the heck out of it.
Totally rad, dude!
11. Melt crayons
You’ve seen the project where you tape a bunch of crayons at the top of the poster board and then you melt them and they create a runny rainbow of color, right? You can do that, and I’m sure your preschooler will love it.
Or you can do this and not waste an entire box of crayons in 5 minutes.
Peel the paper off of some crayons, and help your preschooler make crayon shavings. Use a crayon sharpener to get as many shavings as you want out of each color.
You can dump the shavings out into piles as you make them, or leave them in the reservoir and mix a few together.
Then arrange your shavings on a piece of paper however you want. You can sprinkle them or draw designs in them with your fingers.
When you’re ready, place a piece of wax paper over your shavings and melt the shavings with an iron. Press the iron directly onto the top of the wax paper and then lift up. Don’t slide it around. This could smear your shavings.
12. Paint with straws
Kids go crazy over this one. Fill small cups with liquid watercolors or food coloring and water. Teach them to dip a straw in while covering the other end so you only pick up a drop or two of water.
Let the water fall onto the paper, and then use the straw to blow the paint around. Everyone will make their own designs and learn quickly that controlling the paint with air is a lot harder than controlling it with a brush!
13. Make pull string art
All you need is paper, string (yarn works best), and paint. Fold your paper in half and make a crease, then open it back up. Dip your yarn in the paint. You may choose to use your fingers to smooth out globs, or not!
Place your string on one side of the paper in any design you want, making sure to leave one end of the string hanging off. Fold the piece of paper at the crease, press down on it, and pull the string out.
Every piece of yarn will make a different design, and the effects are really cool. You can even let it dry and then finish it off with crayons, markers, or anything else you want to complete the picture.
14. Create art with homemade stamps
You can make homemade stamps out of nearly anything. The bottom of soda cans make really great circles. Cookie cutters are another tool that give you great variety. Look around your kitchen for other items that you can reuse for stamping.
Dip these items in paint and let your child stamp away! It doesn’t have to mean anything. This one truly is just for fun.
15. Sponge paint
Sponges are easy to cut into any shape you want and absorb paint really well. But even if you don’t want to mess with cutting them, you can use kitchen sponges to paint just about anything.
There are several different methods you can use. You can cut them up, dip them in the paint, and then dap or smear them onto the paper.
Or, what we like to do, is paint the bottom of the sponge directly, then turn it over and smear it on the page. Twist it, turn it, or smack it. It’s fun to watch your child’s eyes light up as the colors blend and make pieces of art they didn’t expect.
Your preschooler is going through a phase where everything seems new and exciting. They’re going to make messes as they explore the world, and when it comes to art, the messier the better.
Embrace these projects and have fun. You’ll probably be able to keep some of their creations for years to come!