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Painting at home, with children.

Painting with children at home is going to look very different to the Playcentre, kindy or school experience.

But I think it's such an important activity that we need to talk about HOW to do it.

The picture above is how my daughter painted with her youngest brother one day when she was minding him for me. She squirted acrylic paint directly onto his paper, and he mixed the colours and moved it around as he wanted it.

When my oldest was young he wasn't too keen on painting, his little brother however was the sensory-seeking “paint all over myself” type of child. So painting was an outside activity. The hardest thing about it was the cleanup afterwards. My mum taught me to have a bucket of soapy water and towel ready at the painting sight for clean-up. This extended the painting activity for my sensory boy - and the bubbles in the bucket became painty and the water went everywhere!

I would have to judge how long to leave painty, bubbly boy happily playing, and take him away to clean him up before disaster struck, or he got over-tired/bored with that activity! So then I'd shower him and quickly clean up and put away the paints before he got into them again, or before he created havoc inside the house while I was outside. Then of course, the bath needed de-painting.

All these years later I have more children and little less tolerance for mess on that scale, so I've settled on three forms of painting that my children enjoy:

1. Watercolour pans and one brush per painter. A large non-spill pot of water per painter ensures the brushes are kept clean.

2. Watercolour pans that have been removed from their housing, and soaked overnight in little glass jars of hot water. The paint dissolves in the water, and gives a great easy-to-use watercolour effect. Shake each jar before use. We ATTEMPT to get Mr 4 to clean the brush when he changes colour. At the moment, he's happy just using a few colours.

3. Squirting acrylic paint into egg containers. Then we either use one brush per colour, or if the painters are responsible, they clean the brush between colours.

I always like to give the painters a few different sizes of brushes to use, and good quality wet-strength cartridge paper.

But I really wanted to know how other home educating mums tackled the often over-whelming activity of “Painting at home, with children”!

My heartfelt thanks to these real-life, experienced and enthusiastic mums who took the time to share their hints, tips, opinions and warnings (some of the side-conversations were so hilarious that I included them here!).

From the voices of wisdom:

“Acrylic, one jar of water each, wash between colours (as they will mix the paints on the paper anyway), pour a bit of paint out. Save newspapers to put down on the table or floor. Have a bucket or bowl for prewashing hands (saves paint all over the sink). We've also always had a plate ready for mixing colours too. Have lots of different materials for painting handy too.... sponges, feathers, marbles.... “

"I have to be honest and say we do a combo. Usually dependent on my mood! But I think it is great for my kids to experience all these methods and they enjoy doing it all."

"In general for mine, who've all loved painting, acrylics in pots with lids, with a brush in each (actually I still do this now with 11,10,and almost 5yrs old), several brushes in each if more than one child. Watercolour, the dried round ones (don't know what they're called). I've always liked paper attached to an easel at standing height for mine. Or a big plastic tablecloth on the ground works well too (I use these for playdough, clay, anything that might get messy!). Paint quality, I've always bought kindy/school quality paints for mine, I find the cheaper ones a bit disappointing, especially watercolours. I also have some plastic artist pallets for mixing, or if they've wanted to use fingers, sponges, etc to paint with.

I'll just add, I've never had just one child at a time painting, so that coloured my choices. Some things are done solely for the purpose of harmony in the house!"

"When mine were little we stuck with 1 colour and 1 brush and a BIG piece of paper. if we added multiple colours at once, the paint got all mixed up and the kids were upset their painting was all brown. We got them used to painting with 1 colour and then added different colours as they got older and more proficient. Oh and we always used water based paints - and I love the tempura/disc paints as there is minimal wastage."

"I have young kids, 2 and 4. We do acrylic but I'm thinking of giving them my water colour pans when i upgrade. I give a range of different tools for them to use, I don't put them in the paint they do. And water to wash tools if they want." "I put down a messy mat or newspaper or just do it outside."

"We use paint pallets with the colours on with space in between to mix. If I'm not going to be really on board with painting that day they have access to water colours (some are more satisfying than others) as these are the less messy option of unsupervised. But acrylic paint in bottles if it's an actual painting session. I kept these locked away with little ones in the house ;) I supply water to wash brushes, but supply several brushes, sponges and whatever the child fancies. Pottles haven't worked for us as the colours just become brown. Now they are older they have access to watercolour pencils as well as reeves acrylic tubes whenever it takes their fancy.... which is often. :) We used a mixture of easel and table top, but I have found that my children spent more time at table top art whilst the easel was a quick grab the brush and do some strokes from the pottles.... may be a personality thing."

"I have a VERY messy painter of the more is more school of thought (5yo). I use tempera discs and buy in bulk otherwise she'd use all the paint in one session no matter how much she had and I'd go bankrupt. Other than that I'm hands off although I do insist that she keep paint off the carpet and walls and curtains. She has never painted in her life without painting herself too. Not one single time. Squashing this urge would surely stop her painting altogether and as it's one of her great passions that would be such a shame. She likes to custom mix her colours sometimes and keep them clean but mostly it's a glorious mess. She's not painting for me though she's painting for herself as a process not for a product. As she becomes more interested in producing a specific result I will probably buy more expensive paints with clear limits on their use ie not using 4 whole bottles as body paint like she would do at Playcentre. I generally think creativity should be allowed to be as free and unregulated as I can tolerate though. Sometimes I make the cornflour hot water fingerpaint and let them go nuts in the bath and chuck in some rags and buckets of water so they can clean up after to indulge that messy paint urge."

"lol... Curious George inspired hand prints all around my house and kitchen. Glad it was wipeable."

"We owned our own house then went into a rental property with brand new carpet and walls. There was a very painful and sudden change in rules around painting!"

"My daughter was known at Playcentre as the child who always ate the paint! She would always come home covered in paint and invariably her number 2s would be a similar colour to the paint on offer then next day!"

"My son was an eater...sand, glitter, paint...you can imagine the other end result."

"Oh yeah - sand filled nappies was a memory!"

"My son painted himself purple once. Head to toe, hair included. He was very proud of himself."

"And I remember warning new Playcentre parents that their child's nappy could be interesting the next day. Our best one was bright blue (paint or playdough, can't remember which one he ate lol)"

"We did SPACE and they offered the babies trays of paint. My daughter was 9mo and sat in the tray and painted her arms and legs and stomach transfixed by the transformation as if she was wearing a beautiful gown. She still does this 5 years later with paint, mud, wet sand etc. There's no fighting it when your child has strong schemas/urges. I'd be driven mad if I tried!"

"In the Waldorf Kindergarten they tell a story about a gnome washing his feet. The gnome is the paintbrush and he washes his feet (the brush) between colours. I love the wet on wet method as it is a beautiful process. We often paint outside on wood using acrylic, making signs etc."

"I obviously don't have the type of children that are even capable of the Pinterest ready kids paint ideas but I highly doubt their are many that are at all. Escaping from the narrow school definition of what makes an artist is one of my biggest reasons for homeschooling. The 25 identically coloured and papered cats on the wall at the parents info night I went to gave me the heebies!"

"We paint outside (weather permitting!) which helps with the messiness and is less stressful (particularly in a rental!)."

"When my kids were under 6 we usually used liquid tempera paints (bought from the Play Centre shop in 500mL bottles). Reasonably good quality and price. We usually had 3 – 4 colours at each painting session, in pots with lids. I'd put a generous dollop in each pot and refill as needed. Separate brushes for each colour. I did teach them about cleaning the brushes before changing colours though. Sometimes we'd use a pallet so they could practice mixing colours." "Occasionally we'd use watercolours (they usually preferred tempera though). We still have the Reeves watercolours I bought several years ago." "We'd paint at the kitchen table with lots of newspaper."

"I would go to a $2 shop type place and buy the biggest/cheapest liquid paint they have. Under 6 use huge amounts of paints and thet are aren't painting master peices, they are learning to control the brush, mix colours