Painting with unusual materials


Have you painted with your kid lately? Maybe he or she doesn’t enjoy painting with a brush (or even with fingers), but there are lots of other ways to apply strokes to paper! You don’t even have to use paint.

My 14 month-old made this awesome painting while eating blueberries! I just put some cardstock on his high chair tray while he was eating, and the juice of the berries combined with his little fingers made this beautiful painting. It reminds me of ink on parchment.

Edible “paint” is a great item for really small kids because then you don’t have to stress out about whether or not they get it into their mouths (in fact, it might just be better that way!). You can even combine craft time with snack time! Painting yogurt on grapes is a fun snack, for example.

Paint Alternatives:

I’m sure you can come up with a lot more good ideas for paint alternatives.


Instead of brushes, try other kinds of applicators. My 2 year old son rolled cotton balls in some paint and made this pretty painting. The width of the cotton balls made it possible to get a lot more color on the paper much quicker than a paint brush, which seemed to keep my son interested. Try to vary the tactile experience from using a brush. For example, get away from something that is attached to the end of a stick like a paint brush! Try something that you pinch with your fingers.

Paintbrush alternatives:

  • Cotton balls
  • Toothbrush
  • Sponge (kitchen, cosmetic, etc.)
  • Tissue
  • Flowers or leaves
  • Veggies (try lettuce, broccoli, or even carrots)
  • Popsicle sticks

This painting was made with popcorn kernels. It reminds me of a Pollock!

Barrel Painting


This painting was made with a potato.

We also tried this fun activity found on A Bit of This and A Bit of That: Barrel Painting. You take a cylinder of some sort (oatmeal container, as in the instructions, or we used a big plastic ice cream bucket), add paper, paint, and some sort of tumbling material. We tried cotton balls, goldfish crackers, unpopped popcorn kernels, and a potato (all separately, of course). Each item made a different type of pattern on the paper. My son enjoyed adding the tumbling material and the paint to the cylinder.


This painting was made with goldfish crackers.

This is a fun activity for kids who are more interested in moving around than in sitting still and painting. You can shake, dance, and jiggle the barrel, or make it into a game. My son and I tossed it, rolled it, and kicked it to each other. He couldn’t get enough of it, and I lost interest in the activity before he did!

This painting was made with cotton balls.

This painting was made with cotton balls.