- Cover the floor. We use an old plastic thing that was supposed to catch spills under a high chair, and we have a couple old vinyl tablecloths, too. An old shower curtain would work, too, as would actual painting tarps, if you have some in the basement.
- Cover the kid. At preschool they use old adult t-shirts, tied in the back at the hem into a big knot to make it slightly less voluminous on the kids. At home we usually use just an apron and rolled-up sleeves, but this morning we hit paydirt: DO THE PAINTING BEFORE YOU TAKE THE KID OUT OF PAJAMAS. Think about it - they're easily washed, and if the paint doesn't come out, pajamas don't have much resale or hand-me-down value, anyway. Plus, they're usually fairly close-fitting, so you don't have to worry so much about sleeves or hems dragging through the paint.
- Control the paint supply. Don't just hand the kid a bottle of paint, pour a little into a tray or bowl or paper plate and let them use that up before you give them more. Flat containers are easier to mix colors in, anyway, and let the kid use brushes or stamps or fingers or whatever applicator they want.
- Come up with a plan for what to do with the wet artwork BEFORE the kid starts producing it. If your toddler is like mine, they'll churn out a new page every five minutes (or less), and the flat surfaces fill up pretty fast. I've been using painter's tape to attach the art to the walls long enough to dry. It's cheap, and it doesn't mess up the walls when you peel it off.
- Have cleaning supplies on hand - nearby doesn't count. The paper towels don't help if they're 10 feet away and the kid has just sprayed your feet with blue paint. Have at least one wet wipe or paper towel with you at the easel, so you can grab it and wipe up messes immediately before they become either huge or permanent.
- Be prepared for the fact that it will probably take longer to get everything set up than it will for your little Picasso to tire of painting. Sometimes you can get a little more time out of the activity if you give them a new technique - make prints on other paper by pressing it onto wet art, or use stamps or a different kind of brush, or draw something for the kid to try to color in. But they'll probably still have a pretty short attention span. That's okay ... just remember to pack everything up in one location so it's easier to set up next time the kid wants to paint.
Friday, March 14, 2008
Some of these are really obvious, but since somebody may have missed them, here's a bunch of suggestions on making your life easier when painting with a toddler: