funnel painting

This was inspired by an idea we found in Mary Ann Kohl’s Preschool Art. I know I’ve said this many times before, but Mary Ann’s books are brimming with creative and engaging projects, and each of mine are dog-eared in a million places. We used materials that we already had around the house — low threshold projects are my cup of tea! — and the set-up is really easy. The other thing I loved about this activity is the SCALE of it — I knew my child would be captivated by swinging a paint-filled funnel across a huge sheet of paper! Now that we’ve done this, the only drawback I could see was doing this indoors, as my daughter wanted to swing paint in every possible direction, turning me into a mini-general who curbed her enthusiasm more than I like to.

funnel painting

To make this happen, we used:

  • A curtain rod
  • String
  • Funnel
  • Large sheets of paper
  • Paint
  • Tape
  • Chairs to suspend the swinging funnel

My daughter helped me tape a big sheet of paper to the floor. We noticed that it wasn’t long enough, so we added some more. I could tell that the paint would come pouring out of the funnel, so I taped off the bottom of it to make the hole a bit smaller. I wrapped some string around the funnel, and taped it in place. Then I looped the string over the pole.

Ready, set…

funnel painting


funnel painting

After a few easy-breezy swings, N wanted to give the poor little funnel some heavy-duty pushes, which would have been fine if we were outdoors. After mopping up the fourth or fifth puddle of paint off my floors, we called it quits, but we’ll definitely be taking this activity outside in the near future. I can also envision sand in the funnel over a sandbox, or rice over a (really big!) sensory table.

funnel painting

Do you have any other ideas for funnel swings?


  1. I can see water on a hot day… or colored water… or water splashing over some chalk drawings… (clearly, I want to get outside soon!!)

    • Haha. Warm weather is on it’s way (although not soon enough, I know). These are great idea, Amy. Thanks.

    • Haha! And I like to do the messy stuff when my husband is around so he can help me clean it all up!

  2. We did some similar pendulum painting after seeing inspiration from Teacher Tom- We tried lots of different versions:




    I’m thinking that a winter snow version would be a lot of fun too… I’ll have to add it to my list of things to consider when the children have finished exploring their catapult outdoor painting experiences!

    • Hi Amy! I’m so glad you chimed in and shared these links. Sidewalk paint outside is a brilliant idea. Then we won’t need paper, and the kids can go bonkers with the swinging (which is really the whole point, right?). This would be such a fun activity for the neighborhood kids. I’ll also be trying out the sand idea. A winter version could be really cool — I can totally imagine some kind of colorful flour-starch poured all over the snow.

  3. I love seeing this in real life and close up! AHHHHHH it’s so much fun!! Next time, double your paper width, or put a tarp under the single paper so your floor is completely covered. Just a suggestion. Or go outdoors, for sure. If you make the strings longer, you get fuller swinging motion and much more excitement! I’m so happy a friend told me to come and check your blog, because this just made my day.

    BLOG: http://maryannfkohl.typepad.com/blog

    • Hi MaryAnn! Great suggestions. I consider myself a fairly bright person, but for whatever reason it didn’t occur to me to cover the floor, etc. But like any good experiment, the process of doing can lead to further iterations! Next time we’ll take it outside, for sure! Thank you again for the continued inspiration through your books.

    • Hi Maureen, The styrofoam cup is such a simple solution, and really accessible to most people. I also had trouble figuring out the consistency of the paint. It would have probably been more rewarding if ours was a little more watery, but after the paint mishaps, I thought I’d save that thought for another day! Thanks for sharing the link 🙂

  4. Hey Rachelle,
    This definitely is a very exciting art activity for kids. For that matter, even I don’t mind doing for my own mental rejuvenation .. 😉

    While looking at the pictures, I was visualizing how it would be to set up the funnel in a way that it moves in circles to create circular patterns on the sheet of paper? May be I could try setting it up that way to see what happens… ? Will let you know….


    • Hello friend! Yes! Circular patterns would totally work with this activity. The funnel/cup would just hold to the rod at one point, rather than two (or so I would imagine). Do let me know.

    • Yes, more fun for grown-ups!! It’s always better when kids see their grown-up partners engaged in creative activities too.

  5. Awesome!!! Incredible!!! I can’t wait to check out Mary ann’s book… It sounds perfect for us!

    • Thanks for the comment! I just popped over to your website, and it’s beautiful and your photos are amazing.

  6. Rachelle,
    A wonderful activity, very adventuresome on your part! (Ha)
    Your daughter looks so fascinated, and engaged. This is something I would really like to try.

    I have a request. I have now been invited to Pinterest, and accepted, etc. But being not very internet saavy, I can’t quite figure out how to set up my board, and how to organize or save ideas.

    Would you be able to help me?

    • Yes, of course! I’ll send you an email shortly.

  7. Nice post and very creative way on how to play with the kids…aside from showing them art, it’s also enjoyable to do this funnel painting!

    Thanks for sharing! Cheers! – Alex

    • Thanks for the nice comment, Alex!

  8. We tried some pendulum painting out in the carport using an empty water bottle. I’d cut the bottom off then punched a nail hole through the lid before hanging it up. We were originally going to use sand but it came out too slowly on a large swing to be effective so we tried water instead. Kids loved it. Would love to try it with some runny paint over big bits of card but might wait for summer for that one 🙂

    • AMAZING!!! The result is so dramatic on this scale, and the water really gets the point across without the extra mess. I can see why your kids loved this. I’m so glad you attached a photo because the word “carport” conjured up a far different, much smaller image in my mind. PLEASE keep us posted if you try this with paint — it would be great to see how they turn out.

    • I love the water idea! I’m sure we will check this out when spring finally decides to show up around here! (We don’t have an indoor carport!)

  9. …VERY cool!! You may also like to try using a metal veggie or soup can by punching various (random size and area) holes in the bottom with a sharp tool..(of course mom or teacher does this alone beforehand!)-try various sizes if you like!) Then attach in the same manner…Rolls of paper work well for the consistency of a long mural…You can go back in with ohter media like cray-pas or watercolrs after the paint dries or you can leave your “Jackson Pollack” inspired creation as it is…!! I´m an artist, mom, teacher (LOVE reggio emilia!!!) and have done this and many other projects…! 🙂 Thanks for sharing…Nice blog!!!

  10. When we did it we cut the bottom off a squeezy paint bottle, and poked three holes around the outside for hanging. Last time we used a lashed tripod for pendulum painting, next time I think we’ll use a tree!

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