Paint is fun. Mixing is fun. Brushes are fun. Stampers are fun.
They're also cheap. Say, what?! Yes, stamping paint is cheap. There isn't any need for fancy wood and rubber blocks that cost a ton and require special ink pads as they don't work in poster paint. You can use anything. Cookie cutters, combs, rubbery animal feet, those spongey bath letters someone gave you when your kid was born because every infant needs to see the alphabet right away, shoes, hands, even vegetables. If you get into body part stamping, keep a close eye on things, be prepared to get painted yourself, and have the bath tub on standby. Life can become hilarious and messy rather quickly.
Potatoes are accessible and inexpensive in most parts of the world, and they make great stampers. Parents, be reassured. You really don't have to be good at food sculpture to do this. See how expert I am at cutting shapes into potatoes? I'm a genius, I know. So you can probably pull off a few stampers yourself.
Tips for painting with preschoolers:
- Oversize cheap t-shirts make brilliant coverall aprons.
- Keep those outgrown plastic kiddo dishes, even ones that have lost their lids or matching set pieces. They are excellent for art projects.
- Don't be afraid of mixing. Or mess. Or unused paint. It's all good. Mess is how they learn.
- The younger the child, the bigger the piece of paper. This tip comes from my mum, and it's so true!
- The younger the child, the fewer the tools. What seems simple to you is a lot of new for them. Allow time for full exploration. They'll let you know when they are ready to get more complicated.
- Start youngest children with one color. Move up to two colors in time. Mixing will be inevitable, so they'll already have a 3rd color just from those two.
- Thick paint is easier to clean up and less frustrating for young children. Thick poster paint is often cheap. Save the water colors and fancy pencils for older kids.
- Don't worry about how to hold tools. They're still exploring how their hands work, as well as how to create their own art.
- Tape a large piece of paper to the shower wall. Or don't. Give naked toddlers bath paint or non-staining poster paint and let them have at it. This makes the easiest clean-up ever.
- Paint outdoors. One of my 4 year old son's very favorite paintings was done on a wooden board last summer. He decided to dip the outdoor broom into the swirled paint, and brushed it over the board. He created straight, thin streaks of muddy rainbow color, of which he is infinitely proud.
- Get involved yourself. Don't take over and do for them, but do get your hands involved and casually create alongside them. They will see what you do, copy, imitate, reject, ask, and even want to contribute their own print to your painting. Let them sometimes. Set boundaries other times. It's very important for kids to see that everyone works differently, and that's okay.
- Save every painting. At least, save it until they themselves tell you not to. You won't be able to recognise accurately every creation your child likes and is proud to have made, but you will honor them and assure them of your pride and love when you keep their work. They won't want to keep everything forever. Just keep it long enough for them to let go when they're truly ready.