Kids are natural artists and love to paint, but when they are young, they must rely on parents or caregivers to support their love of creativity. And art is not a luxury. Creative activities at home or in classes are some of the most important building blocks of child development.
So making that extra effort to provide supplies that enhance the experience—rather than detract from it—is more valuable than you might guess. Not only does it support the child’s ease in exploration, but the activity will also be more manageable for the parent! Here are some tips to help your young O’Keeffe or da Vinci have the best experience.
Choosing Paint Brushes
Kids love to paint, but the cheap scrawny brushes in a typical blister pack stifle creativity because they don’t hold much paint. In addition, the bristles are floppy and hard to control, and the handles are usually too long. Not much fun! Dollar store cosmetic brushes are a much better choice: handles are short and the bristles are thick. If you are lucky. you might score a package with 3 or 4 useful brushes in it.
In the photo, you’ll see a few examples of paint brushes I recommend.
1: “Disposable” flat blusher brushes (used for cosmetic demos) are especially good for toddlers because they are short and easy to manipulate for tiny fingers. In spite of their designation, these can be cleaned and reused many times.
2 & 3: These eyeshadow brushes from a dollar store set have full bristles and short handles and are great for painting pictures and smaller wood or papier mâché items requiring some detail.
4 & 5: These flat makeup brushes with a rounded contour have thicker bristles and are great for covering larger areas in paintings and for painting larger papier mâché or wooden items. These brushes were $1 each, but one of these is better than a dozen scrawny brushes.
6: This short but scrawny brush is not recommended for painting, although it can be useful for gluing detailed items such as sequins.
7: This larger blusher brush is too fluffy and unwieldy for painting, but can be useful for brushing away dust or glitter.
What Kind of Paint
Washable tempera paint is a great choice. It’s thicker and richer than watercolor. For minimal mess and maximum satisfaction, provide only two primary colors at a time. Primary colors are red, yellow, and blue. Magenta works best as a primary red for mixing, and cyan is the best primary blue. Any yellow is good. If you only buy three colors, these are the ones to get, and the magenta and cyan will make a beautiful violet, unlike the disappointing brownish color that results from a standard red and blue.
Here are a few easy mixing suggestions:
Magenta + Yellow = Orange
Magenta + Cyan blue = violet
Cyan blue + Yellow = green
Avoid offering blue + orange, yellow + violet, or red + green, unless you specifically want to create brown.
When changing colors, teach kids to wipe excess paint off the brush with a paper towel before swishing it in the container of water, and the water will stay cleaner, longer.
Proper Paper for Painting
A heavier paper is best for paint projects. Look for a pack of the thicker white construction paper, which works well, as does white or ivory scrapbooking card stock—often on sale for $1.50 - $2 per pack of 25 or more sheets. A large sheet of white poster board (about 50 cents at dollar stores) can be cut down to smaller sizes.
Meryl Ann Butler is an award-winning artist who owns Ocean View Arts, 209 W. Ocean View Ave. in Norfolk, where she teaches art to adults and kids in classes and private sessions. Ocean View Arts’ 2nd annual Open House Exhibition will be held Sept. 8 & 9, from 1-5 p.m. More details at www.OceanViewArts.com.