A great deal of the art children create is ephemeral, and I think this is a really good thing. They should be creating in quantities that make it impossible to store and keep everything they make.

For young kids, a lot of art should be about process rather than product. Getting messy. Learning about the physical qualities and capabilities of their media, as well as their own bodies, as they interact to produce new things.


That said, I think it’s also important to show our kids that we value their work. Why would they take the trouble and care to make something beautiful if they know it’s only going to be thrown away?

With that in mind, I thought it would be a positive experience for Arty to do some painting on canvass.

It’s a sturdier, more long-lasting material than paper. It’s made to be hung on the wall. When we paint on canvass, we’re deliberately creating an artwork for display.


I wanted to keep this activity simple and engaging, and provide opportunities for us to talk about colour and shape as we played.


Shape canvasses


What you’ll need:

  • One canvass (ours was a 12 inch square, but you could of course use any size you like)
  • Clear contact
  • A small plate to use as a template (ours was about 7.5 inches in diameter)
  • a pair of sharp scissors
  • A sharpie or other marker
  • Non-toxic acrylic paint in two primary colours


What to do:

  1. On the back of your clear contact, use your marker to carefully trace around your plate.trace a template
  2. Cut the shape out.
  3. Peel the backing paper off the contact, and stick it to the canvass. I aligned ours quite carefully so it would be central, but there’s absolutely no reason you’d have to do that. Stick it wherever you think it looks good.
  4. Get your child to squeeze two nice globs of paint (one in each of your primary colours) onto the contact.glob
  5. Ask them to swirl the paint around so it coverts the whole canvass. We made a game of finding all the bits of white and hiding them under the paint. If you can, get them to work outwards from the middle – this will prevent the paint from bleeding under the contact too much.
  6. Once you’re satisfied with your paint job, lift a little corner of the contact up for your child, and then get them to pull it away, revealing the circle of negative space underneath.peel
  7. Allow to dry, and then display with pride!artwork


If you want to do a triptych, and cover the rest of the primary and secondary colour combinations, a green square, and a purple triangle would make a great set!




When we were finished painting our canvass, we noticed that the paper we’d put down to catch our dripping paint had some great colours on it.

I got the paint bottles out (not the acrylics we used for the canvass, just some cheaper poster paints), and squeezed some directly onto the paper. We spent some very happy time swirling it around on the paper, watching how the colours blended into each other, and discussing the different colours they made.



squishing blended colours


In the end we made both kinds of kid-art: the hang-on-the-wall kind, and the scrunch-up-when-you’ve-finished-with-it kind.

We loved both of them.