Drippy Gravity Painting

drippy gravity painting

Many of you have commented that attention spans at your art tables run short. Shorter than short. Maybe almost nonexistent. And I want to support you in two ways: one is to say that this is so normal for toddlers and preschoolers to give an art project their 4-minute all, and two is that I must be deceiving you into thinking that my daughter’s interest is sustained over many moons. Not always the case. Rarely the case. Maybe never the case.

But I keep on at it. Pulling rabbits out of my hat. Introducing the same materials over and over again to build familiarity. Introducing new materials to keep the interest high. It’s a fine, fast-moving dance between me, her, and the projects — definitely more whirling dervish than Nutcracker Suite.

Case in point: this afternoon, between 3:30 and 4:30, we ripped through three completely different painting projects. Three! I set it all up during nap time, and we tore through it all in less than an hour. Drip painting: 10 minutes. Tin Foil Painting: 15 minutes.  Marbleized Paper Painting: 15 minutes. Throw in another 20 for clean-up and you’ve got an hour. What a mess!

I’ll leave you with Painting Project #1 today…the rest will follow.

Drip Painting

drippy gravity painting

I added extra water to my Salt and Flour Paint recipe, seen in those squeeze bottles, to make the paint nice and pourable. I thought N would enjoy squeezing paint on the cardboard — it’s a nice strong substrate –but didn’t anticipate just how runny the paint would be. What a fun surprise!  When N saw the pools of paint, she asked for pasta to stick in the puddles, and then added marker embellishments along the right side.

drippy gravity painting

Once she figured out that gravity was at play, she moved the board back and forth then side to side. It’s all about the process, isn’t it. And it’s moments like this that I think I hit URL-gold with the name TinkerLab — toddler and preschool art is so much about tinkering, experimenting, playing, and surprises. We’ll be doing this again, for sure!


  1. Oh but I have to admit that’s one of the things that’s so great about toddlers. Mine asked to paint at 2 yesterday afternoon, and we have to leave by 2:50 to pick her brothers up from school. So my first thought was, “No, we don’t have time.” But then I realized, yes, we do, and I can make coffee first too. She made two paintings, and I had time to clean up and drink that coffee besides!

    • I hadn’t thought about it that way before! What a great perspective.

  2. thanks for this post. I had recently been discouraged from art with my son (2 1/2) because of the feeling that he wasn’t really enjoying or getting much out of it since his attention span lasted about 5 minutes.
    One Question:

    When you are completing so many art projects in a week, do you keep them all? or toss when your child is finished? I feel guilty at trashing my son’s latest project, but also live in a very small house where hoarding is not an option.

    • Thanks for the question. We also live in a tiny house, and as much as I like to hoard, it’s not an option for me either. I have a big drawer in the kitchen that I stash completely projects in, and then when I have some time (and a little more clarity on which pieces are real keepers), I’ll choose a few highlights for permanent storage in a Rubbermaid big storage bin that I keep in the garage. So far, the bin is only about 1/3 full. As my daughter gets older, I imagine that I’ll involve her in the selection process — what a good lesson in editing and making choices!

      • A tip I gleaned from a magazine was to photograph — with a digital camera — each of your child’s pieces of artwork, and save ONLY the masterpieces that you want to display. Load other favorites into a digital picture frame for a rotating gallery of artwork. For everything else, compile a photo book (via Snapfish, Shutterfly, etc) for each school year’s collection of art. I know I’d love to have a library of photo books of my childhood art! Of course, if you have a stash of art, go through it with your child to choose the favorite pieces first.

        • Oh, I love these ideas! Thank you so much for sharing. You have my mind swimming with holiday gifts for the grandparents! I’m off to search for a digital picture frame. Is there one you’d recommend?

          • I don’t have one yet — it’s on my Christmas list 🙂 At the moment, I simply have an album in iPhoto labeled “artwork”.

        • Part of our Christmas gift to the grandmothers are two varieties of blank cards. The first has a photo on the front that my older son took (with a credit, of course) and the second has a photo of one of my other son’s drawings, also with a credit. How much fun to send out a card with your grandson’s artwork? I asked my kids if this was okay first, though. Even though I’m not sending out originals, it seems only right to make sure they’re okay with their artwork being used in that way.

  3. Another good way to extend an art project is to turn it to a math project-if I take one drawing away and mail it to grandma, how many drawings do you have left? Or a science project. If we dry one painting in the shade and one in the sun, which painting will dry faster? A sewing project. If we punch holes along the sides of our drawing we can sew them together to make a book……..Sometimes i can keep one project going for a good hour or more. But my daughter is four so that makes a BIG difference.

    • this is why i’m so glad i’m blogging about all of this — so many good ideas and i’m learning more and more as i go. great suggestions for moving art into other disciplines. and you’re right — age does make a difference, and it’s fun to look back and see just how far we’ve come already!

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  5. I make all my note cards, thank you cards etc out of children’s art work. Cut into pieces and guled onto a card. I used to give sets of these to grandparents as holiday gifts. Now my kids are big, but I run an art camp and I “upcycle” camper art work into the many thank you cards I need to send.

  6. […] You could also use eye droppers with plain water color or food coloring. View the paint drip down Drippy Gravity Painting | TinkerLab the paper as though it is a waterfall! Explain this is gravity at work. Rolling Down a Ramp Make […]

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