When you think of art with children, you probably think about a “craft”. With crafting, there are specific instructions, materials, and a desired outcome. There is a certain age range for a project and there is a beginning, middle and an end.

When I think about art for children, I think about the process. I think about materials that offer a range of experiences, and how children in different stages in their development will interact with the materials.

On most afternoons in our home, I set out a snack and a simple invitation to create. When the children arrive after school (often with friends in tow), I like to create an atmosphere where they can relax and unwind from a long day. Even if it is only for a few moments before we all rush off to the next thing, I want them to feel a moment of calm and connection . This simple activity takes only moments to set up, but provides hours of creating for a large age range of children. It is not messy and can be “grazed” on, as the children see fit. There are no directions. The children interact with the materials and create in any way they want.


First roll out your butcher paper and cover the table. Tape it down for stability. Next, Find a large tray or book and trace rectangles onto the paper. Why? Sometimes a defined space is more welcoming for children to dive into than a large blank slate. It also just makes for a unique, open ended canvas for creating. Set out your paints and oil pastels and a jar of water and brushes. Keep a towel handy for any spills. Prime your paints by pouring water directly onto the tempra cakes. Allow your child to experiment with the materials. You do not need to give instructions or micro manage the work they are creating. In fact, claim a rectangle for yourself and get lost in the oil pastel. They are so satisfying to rub across the paper. Let your child discover the paint-resist on their own. You do not need to rush in and show them. They joy is in the discovery!


  • Teach your child to swish their brush five times around the paint cake in order to get a rich and vibrant swash of paint.

  • Prime your paints by pouring water directly onto the cake prior to use

  • Put on some chill background music to set the mood. We love John Mayer, Amos Lee, Elizabeth Mitchell, Jack Johnson, and Ray LaMontagne.

  • Let your child work at his own pace. He might work for a few moments and wander away, then return again in a little while.

  • Use materials you already own. You can adapt this activity multiple ways to fit your needs. This does not need to be complicated to be engaging.

I hope you found this post helpful.  If you want to hear more from me, please be sure to subscribe to my blog and join the conversation over on Instagram.