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Art Activities for Kids: Watercolor Painting

I'm an artist and I want to encourage my daughter to embrace and enjoy art no matter her professional aspirations. She's still quite young at 4 years old, so art time has to be super fun, quick, cleanable (yet messy), and to entice her, it needs to relate to something I'm working on - using mommy's paint brushes or markers.

This week, we're working on watercolors. I have practically no experience with watercolor painting. In college, my classes focused on gouache and acrylic, and a bit of oil, but never traditional watercolor. After a quick web search, I found a tutorial on basic techniques and got a set of cheap paints to start with.

12-tube Fine Touch watercolor paint set for $7.99 at Hobby Lobby
I had a pad of Strathmore student quality water color paper I've used for other projects, so I pulled off a couple pieces and put them each on a sheet of large fingerpaint paper. Fingerpaint paper is great for using as palette paper to mix colors and protects the table from any bleed through or small spills.

Strathmore watercolor paper pad for $5.99 at Hobby Lobby
Penny usually paints rainbows or trains from memory, so I encouraged her to try drawing from real life. She referenced a flower basket she made at camp for inspiration and selected colors that came close to the colors in her still life model. She didn't need to mix too much, but she was able to easily make a lovely pink for the flowers.

Mixing paint colors on fingerpaint paper
While I worked on a painting of flowers, she began by outlining the basket, filling it in with impressionist style flowers and added the handle last. I reminded her once to use more water since she's used to craft paints she doesn't water down, but for the most part, she worked independently.

Penny's watercolor painting of a homemade flower basket
Her final piece is really cute and definitely captures the spirit of her craft project. What was great was this was a nice 30 minute indoor activity for a hot afternoon and we have plenty of supplies left for future projects. Using dollar store brushes, this activity costs just $1 each time you sit down to paint, using the materials I used. There are cheaper materials (generic kids watercolors and inexpensive stationary paper), but using a slight step up like the entry-level student watercolor paints and papers lets your child feel like they're doing something that mommy would do. Kind of cool!

Mommy's watercolor painting of a flower

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