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5 Lessons Toddlers and Preschoolers Learn by Painting

Toddlers and preschoolers learn so much by painting! Discover 5 important lessons toddlers and preschoolers learn by painting that make this messy activity worth the effort.

toddler learning - painting for the first time

5 Lessons Toddlers and Preschoolers Learn by Painting

This week, 20-month-old Anna painted for the first time. We used Crayola paints, which wash out of everything for a low-stress experience. My other kids all started to paint at younger ages, but this past year has been very busy with getting our house ready to sell, selling the house, packing, driving across the country, unpacking (on my own with four kids, since Mike was still in Massachusetts), getting settled, and shuttling kids to different schools. There are many wonderful things that kids can learn by painting, so I am glad that I was finally able to introduce Anna to this delightful art medium! I even got it on video, which starts off shaky until I got smart and pulled out my tripod:

Lessons Learned by Painting

Lesson 1: Self Expression

Painting is a wonderful way for kids to explore self-expression, but they learn other lessons as well! During this session, Anna and Lily explored color, texture, storytelling, and probably even composition, on some level!

Painting allows preschoolers to explore color texture and self expression

Lesson 2: Color Theory

Four-year-old Lily has done a lot of painting, but this was the first time she really got into color mixing. I really enjoyed seeing her excitement over creating new colors by mixing paint! She especially enjoyed mixing white with colors. Lily liked the muted colors, and it also made for a gentler result when she mixed other colors in.

painting develops fine motor skills and promote attention to detail

Lesson 3: Painting Technique

I adored watching the careful attention Anna paid to her painting. The final work looked like your typical toddler muddy brown painting, but she worked on it very carefully! She made a beautiful red and orange painting later in the week, when I restricted her palette to those two colors. Perfecting painting techniques is a great way for kids to develop fine motor skills.

preschool learning about colors through painting

Lesson 5: Quiet Play Development

Painting is also a great activity to use for bonding with your child. I was doing dinner prep while they painted for this post, but I enjoy sitting and painting alongside them as well – good for me since painting isn’t something I do much, and a wonderfully relaxing activity for everyone! Setting up an afternoon of painting can feel like a lot of work, but it is worth it!

Do you paint with your kids? What benefits do you see?

MaryAnne lives in Silicon Valley with her Stanford professor husband Mike and their four children. She writes about parenting through education, creativity, and play. Mama Smiles - Joyful Parenting is a space to share crafts, hands on learning activities, and family outings that enrich lives and bring families together.

15 thoughts on “5 Lessons Toddlers and Preschoolers Learn by Painting”

  1. Elisa | blissfulE

    Beautiful! Such a calm and contented activity. Your photos are gorgeous.
    Paint pallets with an area for brush rinsing in the middle is such a great idea!

  2. Love the pics! I think painting is essential for every child, at every age. My toddler is always in a calmer state of mind after a messy painting session!

  3. Such a wonderful topic. I think painting helps with dexterity and fine motor skills, as well as things like perseverance when they get frustrated. Of course they are learning color theory as well as how fifferent brushes and papers yield different results. So many benefits. Thanks for the post!

  4. I love this post so much! It sums up my thoughts too :) I was writing a post on our painting activities as well :)
    Aarya most times will only use blue… and other times we will have a brown mess… because he mixes up everything!
    He just loves to mixes diluted watercolors, his favorite activity!

  5. I do occasionally paint with my kids. It is a lot of fun. I love the photo where Anna is bent over and concentrating. So cute!

  6. I love the intensity of Anna’s expression – what great photos and video!! Can you tell me what kind of paints you are using and how you set them up? It looks like they are getting a lot of milage out of just a little bit of paint? Am I right? Our problem is keeping enough paint on hand – we go through a lot in one painting session.

    1. We use the Crayola washable paints – they are more expensive than most, but I think they are worth it! Then I let them pick out a few colors (2-3 when they are small, then more as they get older), either on a plate or (when we are being fancy) a palette.

  7. loved watching that! Lily’s one-eared man cracked me up! so creative! and I could seriously watch Anna and her concentrating little face all the day long….

  8. jeannine: waddleeahchaa

    Cute pictures! We always called that “muddy” water “swamp” water. When the water turns the color of swamp water you know they are having fun painting!

    Painting and free exploration art are a regular part of our days.

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