Category Archives: Art Ideas for Little Ones

Islands and Hurricaines

At our messy play session in DCA on Friday we were exploring Alberta Whittle’s exhibition with the parents and little ones. We made stormy seas for some sensory play and then created some buildings and trees from recycled materials to create our own Island. Here it is after the hurricaine (otherwise known as the babies!) had hit. You can find instructions on how to make these carton houses here


Rainy Paintings

At our messy session in DCA today we were thinking about Alberta Whittle’s exhibition and were inspired by all the waves and weather to make some rainy paintings.

All the little ones got creative with blue paint, water squirters and cotton wool.

If you’d like to try it at home you need:

Blue paint – non toxic, water based

Thick absorbant paper

Plastic sheet or table cloth

Masking tape

Cotton wool

Set up by sticking some plastic sheet to the wall or door so that it is half up the wall and half on the floor. This will catch any drips and stop it making too much mess. Then stick your paper onto the plastic so your wee one can reach it easily. If you don’t have plastic it would also work to try this stuck to the side of a bath tub or shower so all the paint dripped in. And then you’d be in the right place to get clean afterwards too!

Help your wee one put some blobs of blue paint onto the paper. Near the top is good to give lots of space for drips but it doesn’t really matter. You can use a few shades of blue if you’re feeling fancy. Then the fun bit….Let wee ones lose with a water squirter, something like a plant mister or old spray from cosmetics works really well. They spray onto the paint and it will start to run down the page making great raindrops. They can keep adding paint and squirting till they’re happy and add cotton wool on top of the thicker paint at the top to make clouds.

This is definitely ‘process art’ so let them experiment and see what happens. When they want to try something new you could add a little blob of paint into the squirter and shake it up and see if that gives a different effect.

It’s a good idea to leave the paintings tapes up vertically to dry so the drips stay extra drippy.

A juice carton village

At our last DCA messy session we were creating mini towns. Just adding a coat of white paint can turn leftover juice cartons into a great canvas for little ones to express themselves and create interesting houses and villages. And they even already have a little roof and a chimney! You could use gouache or a primer but you don’t need anything fancy, we just used left over house paint and it worked a treat. You can do this the day before and have them dried and ready for a fun art session.



The surface will take child safe paints easily or you could have a go with pens. Next time I think we might need to try sticking on some collage. Have a big person cut out a little door and your all done and ready to set up your town, add in figures and have a play.

Here is one of our wee ones’ amazing village creation.


Bubble wrap printing

We have been printing with bubble wrap at a few of our sessions at the DCA these last few weeks so we thought we’d post some instructions. This is a really easy and fun art activity that any age will manage with a little help.

You need:

Bubble wrap

Non-toxic paints

Absorbent paper

Brushes, sponges or rollers

Start by sticking the bubble wrap to the table, to the floor or to a high chair tray with tape. This will stop it sliding about as little ones paint it. Then you can help them to drip on the paint and spread it about. Brushes are fine but it’s easier with sponges or rollers, or even just hands.





Once it’s all covered, place a sheet of paper on top and help little ones to rub all over the back of it and peel off.






We thought it looked a bit like dinosaur scales and so I cut out some very basic dinosaur shapes to press the pattern on to.


This would work with pretty much anything you can think of and cut out though. At DCA we were printing onto big cardboard spheres to make hanging decorations inspired by David Austen’s Underworld exhibition.






Shaving foam marbling

Last week we were marbling with shaving foam at the Dundee International Women’s Centre so we thought we’d post some instructions so you can try it at home. This one is very easy and lots of fun – and surprisingly easy to clean up as the foam just washes away. There are lots of steps where little ones can help depending on how old they are. If they are too little to be allowed to squirt the foam then they can still help drip the paint and definitely help to stir it about and rub over the paper. It’s a nice surprise at the end when the final marbling is revealed and this is a nice thing to share together.

You need:

a baking tray

an old plastic credit card/store card

shaving foam (not gel)

water based paints

Thick, absorbent paper (thin paper will rip when you scrape off the foam)

chop stick


First squeeze the shaving foam into a shallow tray like a baking tray or the lid of a biscuit tin. Then use the credit card to spread it out nice and smooth (big people probably need to do that bit)

Now help them to drip some water based paint all over the top of the foam. You can also do this using food colouring but it’s quite stainy so I prefer to stick to washable paint. That way little ones can do it too.


Then the best bit. Give little ones a chop stick or old pencil and let them swirl around in the paint until it makes a nice pattern but before the colours all blend together (don’t do too much or it all goes a bit brown!). They can experiment with the effects of making circles or going up and down in lines.


Now press a sheet of paper on top of the foam and they can help you rub all over the top to make sure it absorbs. Then peel back to reveal…..

…a foamy mess!!! But don’t worry. Scrape off the foam using the credit card and underneath will be a beautiful swirling marble pattern – just like you’d find in the front on a fancy old book. You can let this dry and then use it to cut up and make cards, cover jotters, line drawers etc etc. Or just stick it on the wall and marvel at how cool it is! And the left over foam needn’t go to waste. Slap it all back into the tray, spread it out and start again. You can get at least 3 or 4 prints from each lot of foam before it gets too murky.

This activity is nice because it combines some sensory play using the foam with some creative play with the paint. It’s also nice that it needs some help from a big person so there are lots of opportunities for turn taking and working together. If you have left over foam you can also do as my little one does and turn your trucks into snow ploughs!



Creative, messy session at DCA

We ran our first session of creative and messy play for parents and preschoolers at the DCA this week. We are looking to see if there is an interest in these kinds of sessions for parents and toddlers so we will be doing monthly sessions and see what the feedback is. We would love these to be something that was always available. All our little ones at this weeks sessions were amazingly creative (and their grown ups very good about how messy we got them!).
 This week we responded to a beautiful painting of colourful circles in David Austen’s Underworld exhibition. We made paintings by printing circle shapes using lots of different objects pinched from the kitchen or the recycling – tubes, bowls, corks etc.
  Some little ones also experimented with their own ides for how to make marks using cars and tigers!

We then tried making bubble paintings by blowing into cups and bowls of painty, bubbly water and printing it onto paper and by blowing coloured bubbles to try and catch and pop on paper.
We will post the recipe for bubble paintings in our next post so you can try it at home.

Salt Dough Clay

We were playing with salt dough clay today with the lovely mums and babies at the Dundee International Women’s Centre. Here is the recipe if you’d like to try making your own at home. Try letting the little ones join in with the measuring and mixing.

  • 1 cup of plain flour

  • mixed with 1/2 cup of salt

  • then 1/2 cup of warm water added gradually.

Mix then kneed to get a nice smooth consistency. Super simple!  If I’m not using it right away I rub some oil on the outside to keep it nice and smooth and wrap it up with cling film. You can also double up the recipe if you need more (or x10 if you are doing a whole group like me!)

The dough will be nice for making models, doing handprints or cutting out with biscuit cutters or play dough tools. Once you have your shapes pop them on a baking tray in a warm oven (about 80c) to dry out for several hours, depending on how thick they are, until cooked through (check the back isn’t still squishy). You can then paint them and decorate as you chose. If you want to keep them nice you can also varnish them once the paint is dry.

This is a nice activity as it gives a different texture for children to feel as a change from all the paint. If you kneed it for a while in your hands first it will feel nice and warm and smooth so most little ones like it. There is the fun of mixing it as well as the fun making and you can do some nice handprints to keep before letting them go free on the rest of the dough. Although this is made from food stuff obviously don’t let them eat it as it is so salty.

We are going to paint ours at our next session. We also made some lovely hand and footprints, which make a great keepsake.

Big box painting creations

If, like us, you seem to collect lots of cardboard boxes, don’t just recycle them, use them for some painting first. The bigger the better so get ordering washing machines! We went with a train as we have a Thomas fan but you could easily turn them into a castle, or a car, or a submarine or a space ship………..Creations that little ones can play with by going in and out are the most fun. Make spaces to sit in or maybe some doors to open. That will give the opportunity for loads of fun interactive play.

Little ones will probably need quite a lot of help with the building part so it’s a nice chance to get stuck in there. Make sure you follow their lead though and encourage them to show you how they want it to look. It is lovely for them to see something from their imagination become reality.

Once it’s time for the painting part you can let them go crazy. Use water based and washable paint that is baby safe in case they have a lick and make sure you put lots of plastic or newspaper all over the floor cos this one gets really messy. Maybe some children who feel a bit nervous starting with a big white page will feel more confident to get creative when it’s already just rubbish. And children who don’t think they like to draw or paint might like this idea as it includes the element of construction.