Creating a masterpiece together is a great way to bond.

Painting Activities for Three Year Olds

by Julie Vickers

Your 3-year-old is probably already a dab hand with a wet paintbrush and a blank canvas, while your fridge door showcases each new masterpiece he creates. Free-play painting activities let your child explore the sensory process of painting, while structured painting activities provide a sense of achievement from creating a particular finished product. If you link structured painting activities to a theme, such as the changing seasons, you can help develop your child's knowledge of the world around him, too.

Falling Leaf Prints

Fall is the ideal time for your little budding artist to explore the colors red, orange, yellow and brown. Put on your walking shoes and go kick up leaves in the park or woods. On the way home, let your child collect a variety of different-shaped leaves. Place a large bath sponge onto a saucer -- and have her use a paintbrush to spread some brown tempera paint on the sponge. She can also spread other Fall-inspired colors, such as golden yellow or burnt orange, onto separate sponges. Have her press the veined underside of a leaf onto the sponge and then press the leaf onto a large sheet of white construction paper.

Snowflake Patterns

To a typical 3-year-old, there are few things more magical than snowflakes falling from the sky. Channel your child's sense of awe and wonder with some snowflake printing activities. Place a salad plate on white paper and have your child trace around it with a pencil. Help your child cut out the circle using safety scissors. Fold the circle into quarters and help your little one snip into the folds and along the bottom, cutting away lots of different size triangles of paper – going in all directions. Open the paper snowflake and have your child tape it onto a sheet of dark blue construction paper. Ask him to sponge or lightly dab silver or white tempera paint onto the cutouts of the taped-down snowflake shape. Let the paint dry -- and then remove the paper to reveal your painted snowflake!

Prints That Flutter By

Butterfly prints are a perennial favorite with preschoolers as they are fun to do and the results look stunning. They also introduce the concept of mirroring and symmetry. Fold a large piece of construction paper in half. Draw one half of a butterfly shape around the fold line and help your child cut it out to reveal the fully extended butterfly wings. Let your child dab tempera paint in bright colors onto the wings of half the butterfly shape. He can print the pattern onto the other half by folding along the existing fold line and pressing down lightly.

Sunny Hand Prints

Ask your child to paint a paper plate with bright yellow tempera paint -- and let it dry. This is going to be your sun. Next, have your child trace his hand onto orange and white pieces of construction paper. You'll need about 12 to 15 handprints – and you’ll need to cut them out. You might want to cut them out yourself, since cutting around the fingers can be tricky for little ones. Once the handprints are all cut out, have your little guy flip over the yellow paper plate and paste the handprints to the edges to form rays of the sun. Flip the plate over and have your child paint a smiley face on the sun. Hang his masterpiece on the wall for summer sunshine -- whatever the weather.

About the Author

Mother of three and graduate of the London Metropolitan University, Julie Vickers is an early years teacher and writer who also loves to craft and create! She writes on topics such as education, health and parenting for websites such as School Explained and has contributed learning sessions on child development and behavior for the Education Information and Learning Services website.

Photo Credits

  • Jupiterimages/ Images