Prep: 5-10 Minutes / Activity Time: 5-10 Minutes

This activity will encourage your toddler to use the muscles in his hand, wrist and arm to create unique designs on a large canvas. By allowing little ones to explore materials in new and interesting ways, you can provide the fine motor control practice needed to strengthen the muscles that will one day be used for writing and illustrating stories!

  • large “canvas” (e.g., old white sheet, unfolded paper grocery bag, large paper)
  • non-toxic washable paint or water
  • plastic disposable plates or Styrofoam trays
  • wide paintbrush (1/2“ or 1” paintbrush from your garage or home improvement store)
  • 2-3 unique alternatives to traditional paintbrushes (dish scrubber, feather duster, sponge with a handle, small hand-held broom, etc.)

Step 1: Spread out a large canvas. (To contain the mess, you may want to paint outdoors in the grass or “paint” with water.)

Step 2: Put some non-toxic washable paint or water into one of the trays.

Step 3: Offer your toddler a choice of a wide paintbrush or one of the unique “painting tools.”

Step 4: Demonstrate how to dip the selected tool into the paint tray. Make some marks on the page and then invite your toddler to try!

Step 5: Talk about the shapes, designs, marks and colors you see as he creates. You might say, “Look what happens when you pat the sponge on the paper. You made that beautiful green blotch appear! Let’s see what else you can do!”

Step 6: Encourage him to explore other brushes and tools. You might offer another paint color as well.

Step 7: Allow your toddler the freedom to explore and create in the way he chooses.