Painting primer

Rev up your kids' art smarts this holiday season with a rainbow of creative painting projects

Create a space fit for your little artiste

Paint smock Try an old button-up shirt with pockets for pencils
Art station Cover a kid-sized table with newspapers and place it on top of an old shower curtain
Art supply storage Use fruit baskets or egg cartons to hold supplies. Cut the lid off an egg carton and poke a hole in each cardboard “bump.” Store brushes and scissors handle-side down in each bump.

Supervise tots closely, especially if yours tend to taste their paints!

Get the goods

• non-toxic liquid tempera paint in red, blue and yellow
• inexpensive paintbrushes (assorted sizes), Popsicle sticks
• squeeze bottle white craft glue (non-toxic)
• containers to store paint and to be palettes (tinfoil pie plates, empty baby food jars, yogurt containers)
• plenty of paper (newsprint, coloured construction paper, sketch and watercolour pads)
• kitchen sponges and coloured plastic pot scourers

Twinkle paints (ages 2+)

Add 2 parts sugar or salt to 1 part paint and stir well; the mixture will be very thick. Paint it on any kind of white paper. Let dry a few hours, and admire the sparkles and bumpy texture.

Flour power (ages 3+)

Little ones can’t resist thick, goopy paint.

1. To make paste: Place 1 cup (250 mL) all-purpose flour in a medium saucepan. Gradually stir in 3 cups (750 mL) cold water with a whisk. Don’t worry if it looks a bit lumpy. Cook on medium heat, whisking constantly, until the mixture boils (about 3 minutes). Turn the heat down to low. Stir constantly until it has thickened (about 3 more minutes); it should look like whipped potatoes. Cover and let cool for at least 1 hour. Stir, then spoon a few tablespoons of paste into small containers; add 1 tbsp (15 mL) tempera paint to each. For more intense colours, add more paint.

2. With a big brush, completely cover a piece of white paper with 1 or more paint colours. While paint is still wet, run a plastic fork, old toothbrush, comb, piece of crumpled paper or a cotton swab through it — fingers are lots of fun too, but a little messy! Kids can go for modern designs or even practise writing their names in the paste. Allow a few hours to dry.

Spongeworthy scenes

It’s time for sponges to escape the kitchen and enter the art world. Try these ideas:

Ladyfinger brushes (ages 3+) For an easy paintbrush alternative, cut a sponge into thin rectangle “fingers.” Clip the end of each rectangle to a clothespin. Using the clothespin as a handle, dip the sponge in paint (rinse it with soapy water after each painting session). To make an assortment of brushes, cut the sponges into a variety of shapes and sizes.

Prints charming (ages 5+) With large, sharp scissors (a job for adults or older kids), cut a sponge into a simple shape such as a circle, fish or star; cookie cutters make great templates. Pour a thin layer of paint into a tinfoil pie plate and have kids dip in a sponge shape and press it onto any kind of paper. Vary the effect by pressing with the sponge over and over before dipping it back in the paint. Younger kids can do this one too — they tend to smear paint rather than making a clear print, but they still have a blast!

Just glue it (ages 5+)

Inspired by Jackson Pollock’s energetic abstracts? Check out the sophis-ticated works of art your school-aged child can produce with a little glue and a lot of imagination.

1. Squeeze non-toxic white glue from a plastic bottle in designs or squiggles onto white paper. If the bottle is too tough for little ones to squeeze, pour glue into a container and drizzle it on with a Popsicle stick.

2. Resist the urge to squish or play with the wet glue and allow it to dry for at least 3 hours.

3. Make colour washes by mixing equal parts tempera paint and water.

4. Paint different colour washes over the entire page. Since the glue squiggles resist the paint, they’ll look translucent and lace-like. 5. To make the glue designs stand out even more, trace over them with a cotton swab.

Everything but the kitchen sink (all ages)

Rumble through your junk drawer for old kitchen gadgets, or stock up on cheap dollar-store gear such as a potato masher, plastic scouring pads and wooden spoons. Pour tempera paint into a pie plate, dip the gadget into the paint and press firmly on white or construction paper. Experiment with feathers, Lego pieces, old toothbrushes and cookie cutters. Or use up exhausted veggies from your crisper (carrots, apples and onions are ideal); cut them in half and make prints with them too. For a special dinner, cover your table with a paper tablecloth decorated with kitchen-gadget prints.

Clothes encounters (ages 7+)

Cover a piece of cardboard in tinfoil and insert it into a T-shirt or hat (whatever you’re using). Pour a thin layer of liquid fabric paint into a pie plate. Dip sponge shapes into the paint and onto the clothing in any design. For funky carnation designs, use a plastic scouring pad instead of a sponge. Allow to dry according to package directions. Add stems and leaves to the flower prints with fabric paint markers, or just doodle on more designs and slogans. Follow package directions for setting the fabric (usually wash and iron before wearing).

In the cards (all ages)

Do your paint project on quality watercolour paper and fold in half for spectacular greeting cards. If you like, glue a piece of coloured construction paper inside. Then get writing.

Elegant envelopes (ages 10+)

Open a business-size or greeting card envelope and unglue the flaps gently with your fingers. (Don’t worry if the flaps tear a bit.) Place the open envelope on top of a large piece of painted artwork. With a pencil, trace around the outline of the envelope. Cut along the pencil outlines so your painting is in the shape of the opened envelope. Place this on top of the opened envelope. Then, fold the paper to match the folds of your template. When your folds are completed, glue all of the seams shut (but leave the top flap open). For real pizzazz, combine with matching painted note cards.

Everything in its place(mat) (all ages)

For fans of kitchen kitsch, make funky placemats by gluing a painting to cardboard and covering it with clear plastic shelf paper. Make several sets to match your mood.

Notez bien pads (all ages)

Cut paintings into small rectangles and punch 2 holes at the top of the pages. Attach the papers by tying them up with wool or a pretty ribbon tied through the holes. Decorate the top page of your notepad with markers and stickers. Add titles such as “Remember this” or “Get groceries!”