I’ve always been someone that likes to try new art projects. Simple or elaborate, I really don’t care, it’s usually the process alone that makes me get all the happy feels. I’ve taken pottery classes and made wonky mugs, I’ve taken online painting workshops to learn to paint flowers, and I’ve spent hours watching macrame youtube tutorials to create things from rope and found driftwood to hang on my walls. There are a dozen other weird things I could list, but there’s no need to go on, I’m sure you’ve already concluded that I’m some version of weird.
But while I love doing all of these things, I’m anxious for the day my kids will join me in these artistic endeavors. Trying and failing and creating something we call art….in my mind, it will be a magical day.
However, my kids are young, nearly 2 and 4, and I learned early on that these things can’t be rushed or forced, doing so will only make everyone cry, myself included. What I have discovered in the last year of doing projects with my kids is that watercolor painting has been a magical medium for us to explore. I’ll be the first person to admit that I’m far from being any kind of expert on the medium of watercoloring, but I have learned a few things that make doing this project with kids much more enjoyable.
WHY I LOVE IT
After trying the endless projects that look easy and clean on pinterest with acrylic and tempura paints, I decided they were all one big fat lie. With watercolors, even if there is a mess, it is, in fact, really easy to clean up. I don’t have to stress if they paint on themselves or the table. It’s also inexpensive and versatile, so my kids can do a lot of experimenting without a lot of cost. And lastly, I LOVE that all of the colors are in one tray that doesn’t require me squirting out a bunch of colors from a bunch of bottles. In short, watercolors are awesomely easy.
Watercolor paints! You can find basic paint trays like you probably used in your childhood at most stores. I use this awesome set for my kids and a better quality paint set (like this one) for myself…and honestly, that’s just because sometimes I like to pretend I’m fancy.
Paper. Sometimes we go for the easy computer paper we have laying around, but sometimes if I know we are going to do something special with our art, I make sure we use a heavier paper. I go for this mixed media paper or these amazing mixed media note cards (like we used in this particular project) which are awesome because after you are finished being artsy you can mail them to all of your favorite people! Win!
HOW WE DO IT
I use butter dishes for water. That probably seems weird and random, but my kids NEVER spill them because of their design. I also have separate paint trays for each kid because sharing is sweet but is not always my reality. Sometimes I sacrifice life lessons to make my life a little easier.
I lay out objects for us to paint. I noticed my almost 4-year-old was getting bored really quickly when I got the paints out, so one day I tried having him paint something (I think an apple) and he focused so much longer! We go on a lot of walks, so we sometimes bring in items from nature to try painting. We will use household items or even pictures from books. On this particular day we used leaves, flowers, pomegranates, and a big blue gourd we got at the grocery store. A random collection of fall finds. We talk about the colors, the shapes, and sizes while we work.
I paint along! As much as I’d love some time to catch up on the 85-million chores I have waiting for me, painting with my kids makes the whole project better. I enjoy it and they learn from watching me. I’m not good at it, but like I mentioned earlier, that’s not necessarily the point. My oldest really enjoys watching me and talking about what I’m doing then trying it with his own work. And, I figure those lessons are worth more than a clean kitchen anyway…at least that’s what I tell myself!
We do something with the art. Okay, full disclosure, I don’t always do something with the art…the little one gets a little out of control and goes through a lot of paper sometimes. Regardless, I try really hard to have them pick their favorites for us to hang up on the fridge, the art line (a string with binder clips in our playroom) or these really amazing interchangeable art frames (which I’m also giving as Christmas gifts because I love them so much!) The front of the frame is on a hinge making it super easy to switch out. If we paint cards, I put them in a special box so we can grab them next time we want to send a grandparent or friend a note.
Okay, that’s it! I promise, paint + kids doesn’t have to be scary…it can actually be a lot of fun for everyone and not as messy as you think. Most importantly, enjoy this time. Most of us aren’t artists, so do it for the process and memories, not for the idea of creating a gallery-worthy product.
Happy painting and please share your photos of using watercolors with your kids!