How it Plays
Set up an art space. Find a place where you feel comfortable letting your child freely explore potentially messy materials. For painting, it's good to have a sink close by. Your child can paint at an easel or on a flat surface like a kitchen table or worktable. Or simply spread out some newspaper on the floor.
Make tools accessible. Put crayons, markers, and other materials for drawing within your child's reach. You might consider keeping tools in open baskets and storing these on a low shelf.
Create appropriate expectations. Remind your child that crayons and markers are for drawing on paper, not for eating or drawing on walls.
Start slowly. When putting out paints, pour out just a bit into each paint cup. You might want to introduce one color at a time if this is your child's first experience with painting; too many choices can be overwhelming. Hot tip: Add a squirt of liquid soap to each cup; it makes getting paint out of clothing easier later.
Stick around. Show your child that you're interested in what she's doing. Your presence will inspire and motivate her. But also make clear that it's her project, not yours. Reassure your child that she should paint or draw for her own enjoyment and not to please you.
Critique thoughtfully. Invite your child to reflect on her work. Try saying, "Would you like to tell me about your painting?" rather than "What is it?" which can often lead nowhere. Respond to her artwork with positive and specific comments about the techniques she used or the way she handled the materials. Say, "I see you made a curvy red line" instead of the more general "I love it!" Comments on particulars teach your child to be aware of the details in her work.
Create some art history. Date your child's drawing or painting so that there will be a record of her work over time. She'll appreciate it years from now.
What You'll Need
What You'll Need for Painting
Learning and Growing
Children's understanding of drawing and painting develops over time and in predictable stages through lots of experimentation with art materials. The process starts with spontaneous scribbles and continues with more controlled scribbling, leading to an ability to create representational art. While experimenting with paintbrushes, crayons, and pencils, children also learn how to coordinate the fine muscles in their fingers and hands.