Faith CoLab: Tapestry of Faith: Spirituality and the Arts in Children's Programming: A Resource for Religious Educators


Painting can be a deep process and that bring up a child's inner life, encouraging engagement with the materials and stimulating the imagination. It is essential to emphasize how they feel as they paint rather than the product of what they paint.

Painting is obviously messier than drawing, but it is precisely this smooth movement of the paint across the paper which encourages free expression. The process lends itself to a meditative response. Don't be afraid of messes, but remember to prepare by covering surfaces (perhaps including the floor) and to leave time for kids to clean up. Have help available that day if you think you may need extra hands. Cover all surfaces with newspaper or a plastic tablecloths and have children wear old shirts or smocks to protect their clothing.

Limit colors at first to the primary colors (red, blue, yellow) to encourage mixing and experimentation. Decide whether you want a large-movement process for kinesthetic learners or a small-movement process to emphasize eye-hand coordination. As always, keep it simple for the youngest ages.

Examples of some simple painting activities

Large movements

  • painting on large paper with hands, not brushes
  • painting with large brushes on paper attached to wall
  • dancing across paper with paint on feet
  • watercolor painting to music on large paper with large brushes

Small movements

  • drawing in pudding on cookie sheets with fingers or chop sticks (especially good for younger children as they do not have to be reminded not to put fingers in their mouths)
  • Finger painting on cookie trays, finger painting on paper
  • Using small brushes or cotton swabs with watercolors
  • Using eye droppers full of ink and dropping on paper made wet with a sponge
  • Using straws to blow ink around on wet paper to make a design
  • Folding paper in half; adding inks to one inside of the paper, then pushing the halves together to get ink on the other side to create a design.