Back to blog listing

Next article

Tips for supporting child-led art activities

True creative art with young children celebrates the process; not the product. As a childcare provider, you need to be able to verbalise why creative art and other kinds of messy play are important.

Read more on child-led play in Ben Tawill’s blog on junk-modelling and in Lisa Murphy’s article for the Spring 2016 issue of Childcare Professional.

In this blog, Lisa Murphy, creator of child-led play website Ooey Gooey gives her top tips for creating process orientated art activities.

Develop a creation station

Provide a place where the kids can engage in what I call “free flow art”. Have available (at all times) glue, scissors, markers, crayons, recycled paper, making tape, hole punchers, etc.

Allow the easel to be available all day, every day

Bring the easel outside, put it in the garage, on the driveway, out on the playground, on the grass, have one inside too.

Have huge sheets of paper and a few cups of paint. Have a drying rack close by and resist the urge to write the child’s name, date, age and medium all over the paper.

  • Remember, an easel can also mean paper taped to a wall.
  • The red paint doesn’t need to be in the red cup with the red cap and the red brush!
  • In addition to the creation station mentioned in Tip #1, have additional art going on 
  • Plan to do plunger prints, marble painting or crayon melting that day too.

Children must be wearing play clothes! Clothes will get painty, messy, sticky and dirty. This is OK! You don’t have to encourage children to paint their belly buttons, but when children do this (and they will), a child is better off with a caring, loving, supportive person who facilitates the experience than with someone whose first response is “Stop that!”

A few of our favourite art projects and unique things to paint with:


  1. Art Spinners (record players, or salad spinners)
  2. Bath puffs
  3. Bubble wrap prints
  4. Bubbles (coloured) printing
  5. Car tracks (paint with toy cars on long sheets of paper)
  6. Cars with markers taped to their rear
  7. Chalk on dark construction paper
  8. Coloured glue designs
  9. Combs
  10. Condiment creativity (paint with red, white and yellow paint that has been put in mustard, mayo and ketchup bottles)
  11. Cotton ball painting
  12. Crayon melting on a warming tray or griddle. Use foil or wax paper.
  13. Fingerpainting
  14. Fish prints (pain on a real fish, then make a print)
  15. Paint with rollers
  16. Flour, salt and water (mix equal parts of these ingredients, put in a squirt bottle, let the kids squeeze it out to decorate sturdy paper or paper plates)
  17. Fly swatters
  18. Glitter and glue designs
  19. Golf ball painting (like marble painting, just bigger balls!)
  20. Hat/helmet painting
  21. Kitchen brushes (they all make different prints and designs)
  22. Lie down on your back and paint with your feet on paper taped to the wall
  23. Lego prints
  24. Lipstick kisses (kiss the paper after putting on some lipstick)
  25. Magnetic marble painting
  26. Marble painting
  27. Massage tools
  28. Monoprints (finger paint directly on the table. Make a print with a paper)
  29. Newspaper brushes (make a brush out of newspaper!)
  30. Nose painting (put some paint on your nose and then use your nose like a brush!)
  31. Nylon splatters
  32. Pendulum painting
  33. Plunger prints
  34. Cotton bud painting
  35. Roller brushes
  36. Rubber band brushes
  37. Shaving cream colour transfer
  38. Shoe painting
  39. Sponges
  40. Squeegie prints
  41. Squirt bottles with liquid water colour paint
  42. Straw blowing designs (with liquid water colour and tempera paint too. Try both!)
  43. Tile print blocks (print making)
  44. Tooth brushes
  45. Under the table colouring (tape paper to the under-side of the table. The children will lie down on the floor, on their backs, and reach up to colour, mark or paint!)

Bonus ideas

Join in this fantastic forum discussion all about investigation opportunities of ice treasure blocks here and other creative ideas here.  

About the author

Lisa Murphy is an early childhood specialist, author and founder of Ooey Gooey, Inc. is dedicated to the creation of child-centred, hands-on, play-based environments for young children. For some fun activity ideas, visit

With special thanks to Amanda Calloway and Marian Blevin for providing photos of their child-led play.

Louise Foyster
this list is great and gives lots of ideas, but I just need to question one thing... fish prints... paint on a real fish and then make a print? what?!
28/07/2018 17:06:59

 Security code