This is such a fun project for toddlers, preschoolers, and school-age kids. The results are always a mystery, the supplies are simple, and it teaches children basic principles of symmetry.
When my 1 year old naps, my three and a half year old non-napper and I like to pull out some of our favorite messy materials that don’t normally surface when baby hot-hands is awake.
The other day my older daughter wanted to paint, and we ended up making symmetrical butterfly paintings.
We like to call these butterfly prints, which may have some bearing on why my daughter made at least thirty of them! And I should say that I was recently asked to lead an activity at her preschool, and THIS is the project that N wants me to bring in. Not that I’m trying to sell anything, but how’s that for an endorsement?
Supplies for Symmetrical Painting
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Washable Tempera Paint. We like Crayola washable paint and Colorations washable tempera paint
Cardstock Paper. This paper from Neenah is a good deal, and the quality is great.
**See our video below for a brush-free technique
The set-up was really simple. I squeezed four colors of tempera paint on a plate (I always try to limit the palette — fewer choices enable children to focus more on the process and feel less overwhelmed by materials), she picked her four favorite paint brushes (these happen to be from our watercolor sets), and I gave her a stack of white copy paper (the thin stuff). She had an extra sheet of paper to rest the dirty brushes on — her idea!
I suggested, in the most open-ended way possible, that she could paint on one half of the paper or the entire paper — it was up to her — before folding the paper in half. She had her own ideas, as kids often do, and once she made the first print she turned into a printmaking powerhouse. Crank. Crank. Crank.
The fun reveal!
Ta-dah! So cute, she actually said, “WOW,” after the first print opened. Not so much the following prints, but it was clear that she loved the process.
See this project in action:
*We did this again when my older daughter was six! It’s a winner for all ages. This time around we squeezed the paint directly out of the paint tubes.
The experiments included lines, dots, overlapping colors, and even a couple diagonally-folded papers.
Do you remember making these when you were a kid? I loved these, and it’s evident that it’s a timeless wonder. If you have or work with older children, this activity is an excellent way to introduce symmetry. For a few more related ideas, Frugal Family Fun Blog has this idea for teaching symmetry with butterflies (I always enjoy how happy Valerie’s kids are in her photos), and Mom to 2 Posh Lil Divas shares two more ways to teach symmetry with butterfies + a handful of book suggestions.
More Art Projects for Toddlers
For more toddler art projects, you may enjoy the easy-to-set-up activities that use mainly everyday materials in 12 Simple Art Projects for Toddlers.