Young children love painting. I have yet to meet a child who doesn't. It's a great way for them to explore their creativity, but most importantly, a fabulous way for them to have fun.
Unlike many other kids' activities, however, it's not just a matter of getting out a toy, playing and packing it away. Painting with kids does require a little planning if you want it to be mess and hassle free.
Cover the floor to protect if from spills. I find a large PVC tablecloth is perfect. In the absence of a tablecloth, I have used 3 or 4 layers of old sheeting, which is thick enough to absorb paint. As I rarely use water when painting with young kids, the floor covering doesn't have to be waterproof.
Use kid height tables and chairs that wipe clean easily. I don't bother to cover the tables. They're super cheap tables from IKEA; two pushed together with little wooden chairs.
Have a different container for each colour of paint, of course using non toxic children's paint. I find that giving each child their own set of containers cuts down on the.... He put his brush with red paint in the yellow pot and now I can't use it... type of complaints. They are also given their own set of painting equipment, in this case different brushes and a roller.
Decide whether you want to give the kids a little structure or whether you'll give them total freedom. Ha, ha... the teacher in me always starts out with a little structure. In this case, the brief was to create wrapping paper.
I cut a length of paper from a roll bought at IKEA and let the kids decide whether they'd work on half each or work together. They decided on a house theme for the first one and a joint effort.
Leave plenty of room between the painting area and any furniture, to allow the kids room to move around without putting fingerprints where you don't want them. My one rule is that the kids have to stay on the mat (PVC tablecloth) and there is to be no paint outside this area.
As long as the paint stays inside the defined painting area, I don't consider it to be a mess.
Cover clothes with art shirts or smocks. They don't have to be anything fancy. These ones are made with the Marilyn's Slim Fit Peasant Dress, a free pattern. As the name implies, it's a slim fit, so you may need to go up a size. Or you could get fancy and make an Oliver + S art smock. Whatever you use, make sure it has elastic in the sleeves.
Have a spot for everything - paint bottles, containers, painting equipment. Everything needs to be close at hand.
Allow the kids to be creative and to change direction if they want. They're learning and having fun. Who cares if they don't stick to the activity you started.
Make the painting sessions short and sweet. Accidents and doing the wrong thing are more likely to happen if the kids have lost interest in what they are doing.
Kids love hand painting and at some point in each painting session, they always end up painting their hands and making hand prints. It's usually after they've had enough of whatever activity they've set out to do.
I don't stop them. The paint I use is non toxic, meant for children and it washes off. However, I usually bring the painting to a finish not too long after.
With paint covered hands, I escort the little one to the bathroom to clean up. The eldest I can trust not to touch anything and she cleans herself up. It's always a good idea to check their feet for paint before they leave the painting area.
Once the kids are cleaned up, the rule changes and the kids are not allowed inside the painting area, allowing me to gather up everything and clean up.
Ha, ha.. here's two out of three sheets of our wrapping paper. It's nothing brilliant, but the kids are proud of it. I did this for Christmas last year and they just beamed as they saw presents under the tree wrapped in their paper. I should have taken photos. They really did look cool wrapped up with big bows around them.
Do you paint with your kids at home, or would you prefer to leave it for pre-school, kindergarten or school? I totally get it if you prefer to leave it for the teachers, but with planning, supervision and one or two rules, it is a fun experience for children.