painting on wood panelThere’s something about how the layers of paint sit on top of the wood that I find so appealing.

I had to pick up two wood panels for a baby shower gift and my three year old asked if she could paint on some too. She chose three small panels, one as a housewarming gift for her uncle and the other two for herself.

She also asked if she could have some new acrylic paint, and of course the only color she wanted was a shocking bright green. But I’m here to foster her creative intelligence and bit my tongue in favor of enthusiasm for her independent ideas.

painting on wood panel

When we got home, I taped the panel’s edges off with blue painters tape. In my own painting process I begin by drawing, and then layer the paint on top of that. In a similar fashion, her initial marks were made with grease pencils, followed by shocking green paint.

This was all set up on top of a large piece of paper to keep our table cleanish.

Oh, and the pink shirt is a smock — in case acrylic paints are new to you, they will NOT wash out of clothes! But don’t let this deter you — acrylics are worth it! They have a totally different look and feel from school-grade paints like tempera, which would be too flaky and isn’t as archival for a project like this.

painting on wood panelWhen the first painting was done, she moved on to the next two. We used a variety of brushes and she had a great time sorting through the bazillion colors of acrylic paint that I’ve collected over the years.

painting on wood panel

By the time she reached the third painting, I noticed that her confidence with the materials had risen, she made complex comments about her aesthetic choices, and her ability to control the paint and execute her ideas as she imagined was further developed.

painting on wood panel

painting on wood panel

The next day: Peeling off the blue tape — so fun!

painting on wood panelThis became a mixed media piece with the addition of glitter, which you can kind of see up there. It was added while the paint was still wet, and sticks quite nicely to the paint. One of my favorite things about acrylic paint is how fast it dries! It almost has the look of oil paint, but the results are immediate.


  • Wood panel
  • Acrylic paint
  • Synthetic fiber brushes (for acrylic paint)
  • Water container for washing brushes
  • Grease pencils
  • Blue painters tape
Note: Acrylic paint should be used in a well-ventilated area. Follow all instructions found on the back of your paint container/s for proper use.
If you haven’t already seen this mesmerizing video of child artist, Aelita Andre, I thought this might be a good time to share it. This gives me studio envy and has my mind racing with thoughts about how deliberate and thoughtful Aelita is, and how we can adopt some of her studio habits in our own art making practice. The more exposure children have to media and materials (in whatever discipline), the closer they come to mastering the nuances of the materials and reaching the level of expert in their work.

I’d love to hear what you think.

This post is shared with It’s Playtime.


  1. I’ve watched half of the video (will watch the rest later,) and here’s what I’m thinking/feeling: every child should have access to this kind of artistic freedom. The unlimited use of resources. The physical space in which to create uninhibitedly. The lack of concern for messing up one’s clothes. The encouragement to develop one’s own style. I could go on.

    This reminds me greatly of Bev Bos. Have you ever heard of her? If not, you should look her up. You would love her.

    In watching this video I have to admit that I feel a little guilty for not having a physical space like this for my kids. It’s a stupid emotion because I can’t help it. I’m a single mom in a rented two bedroom apartment, and there’s nothing I can do about it. But I’m trying my best to think of a way to replicate this without ruining a space that doesn’t belong to me.

    • Hi Jaimie! It’s a long video and I think you get the gist of it from just a few minutes. I have heard of Bev Bos and sadly missed the opportunity to hear her talk earlier this year. I’ll have to look into her work with more depth.

      We also rent a small space and the video prompted me to consider how I could tap into this experience given our resources. Tarps and drop cloths definitely come to mind! Outdoor art making in good weather. Carport or driveway painting. I’d love to hear what you come up with.

      By the way, I love your blog and I’m a fan of Simple Kids.

  2. I think the best thing about this is the freedom of expression this child is being given. What a wonderful gift for her own creative development. As for her being a child prodigy and her paintings being worth that amount of money? Well that is up to the buyer I guess. I honestly believe many children would produce similarly wonderful work given the space to do it in.

    • Catherine, I totally agree with you. As I watched it I thought that my children could be that little girl given the space, resources, and time to commit to it. With artist parents, it’s no wonder Aelita is who she is.

      • regarding the video, i also have total studio envy (while my type-a side simultaneously wants to clean that place up and give her a bath!) but i am really wishing i had a space where we could make a totally beautiful artful mess! (and id’ want a potter’s wheel and kiln in there, too. you know, while i’m dreaming.) the video is so well edited and the music heightens its magic, for sure. and gosh, how much freedom and fun and PAINT this little girl has! it’s just awesome! i just wonder about these child prodigies and the parent involvement, and how healthy it is for the children to have the media attention, etc… have you seen the movie “my kid could paint that”? i haven’t but here’s the trailer: http://youtu.be/j46V9wclBaw

    • OMG, La-La, you are so kind. I’m all in favor of letting kids find their path. It builds their confidence and it’s more fun that way!

  3. This is beautiful. We have wood panels and acrylic paint too. Can’t wait to try. Thank for the inspiration!

  4. Rachelle – where do you buy the wood panels? I think even I could do this with my kids!! I really love the globs of paint and colors – it’s happy!

  5. Is it just me? I don’t get it. I mean, I get it – the studio is amazing, Aelita has amazing artistic freedom and obviously a lot of creativity. But a prodigy? Really? If she was five and making amazing Van Gogh-like paintings, then I could understand the use of the word. But while her paintings are often very interesting, I think that’s more a given of the medium. The splatters, the pooling of one color into another – those are things that I think many people find visually pleasurable. Eh.

    I do however, love your project of the day and will have to procure some wooden panels and some acrylics.

  6. How timely! This week in our Parent Obs preschool, the kids were given Elmer’s glue and smallish pieces of wood with which to make sculptures. In an effort to keep them from begging for another episode of Curious George, I suggested they repeat the project yesterday afternoon with scraps of wood from daddy’s huge bin and more glue. They went all-out. Fortunately, the most recent woodworking project produced perfectly sized pieces for them. This morning, they painted. While I offered acrylics, they chose washable tempera/poster paints. Today after school, they both declared that they were NOT done, and added more glue, more wood, and more paint. I don’t know where we will put these sculptures, but I absolutely loved the process. 🙂

  7. What a great idea and opportunity to experiment with a new material! Your daughters paintings are fabulous!

  8. What a true gift for every child, Rachelle! Thank you for sharing this. I would love to develop a clip using this and I am sure my kids will just looooooooove the experience! Love your blog!

  9. I adore these wood panels. They would make great Christmas gifts, and this is just the type of abstract work that Little M loves to do.

    As far as the studio, I might just need a shed for Little M. I can’t imagine what she could come up with if there wasn’t fear that paint would get on something.

  10. I’m deeply impressed by Aelita’s freedom with all that stuff! It’s incredible and so desirable for every kid! As other comments said before, my brain is running fast… I must find a way my kids have something like that. Maybe only an occasional space…

    And… your wood panels will be a chance this weekend with my little ones, particularly, if rain comes here!

  11. Love all of the paintings done by N! All of our children could be an Aelita Andre if we wanted them to be her? With artist parents this girl definitely has the edge. Maybe that is why a Lot of famous artists have artists for parents or Art Teachers.
    All I can say is Alexandra Nechita:http://alexandranechita.com/
    Marla Olmstead after watching the video: http://www.marlaolmstead.com/mainwork.html

    Beautiful paintings and art work by these young artists, but all given opportunities and the right background to become artists.

    Thank you for sharing Rachelle!

  12. How inspiring. I need to get an old sheet out and find something for my daughter to paint on. I am so nervous about non-wash-able paints but I need to just chill and see what comes of it. My 2 cents is that Aelita is talented. That medium is easy to get creative with but I guarantee if I tried the same thing with the same medium I would not get the same brilliant results. She’s gifted.

  13. This is the way it should be .. no one telling her she’s doing it wrong. She’s just exploring in a way that is a natural human instinct I think. I love the joy she has and the results are stunning but DANG she’s using up a lot of paint!

  14. To add from above….If you have parents that believe in you to be an artist it is so much more powerful than just solely a belief in yourself (it leads to a belief in yourself). All these young artists (Aelita, Marla, Alexandra) have parents and adults believing in them and therefore they will become great because of that! I had parents that believed in me, but I can only imagine if they gave me the environment Aelita has been given!

  15. I love the thoughtful way this child paints. I don’t know about her talents, but I do have to say that her parents are blessing her with a lot of patience, freedom and space to explore. Aelita may never paint as a career as an adult but will cherish the memories she has of childhood.

    That being said, I do wish I had their art supply budget. I would freak if my kids poured a whole container of paint!

  16. I am all for letting children explore – i would love to have the freedom to let them have that level of freedom, but let’s face it, we are limited in our resources, and i can’t believe the amount of paint she went thru -it’s rather astounding!! That stuff isn’t cheap – in fact, it’s very pricy. To allow someone that level of freedom – beautiful. but to say prodigy? not so sure – i see loving encouragement, and skilled guidance there – it’s not all throwing things around only – i am happy for her, to have this in her life – it’ll be interesting to see how she grows, and what she tries next.

  17. So special…… life’s too short to worry about how much paint we use! 
    As a children’s art teacher, retired Playschool Teacher, Director and Atelerista I offer the thought that we only have a small window when we can have experiences that are so refreshing to ALL our hearts.
    Lighten up, express yourself and feel the weight come off….come on, grab some paint…….you KNOW you want to!!  

  18. Hello, rachelle! Thank you so much for sharing this beautiful idea! I’d love to try myself!

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