Toddler Watercolor Painting, Keeping it Neat

I’m not afraid of messes, but I’m also not looking for them. Are you with me? So when my almost 2-year old said that she wanted to paint, I was ready with my spill-management toolbox: an ice cube tray and a wooden serving tray.

In case you’re wondering how the wooden tray is paint-free (I’d wonder about that), it’s seen better days and was just treated to a new paint job with a few quick strokes of acrylic paint.

clean painting toddlers preschoolers

After I squeezed a few tablespoons of Colorations Liquid Watercolor Paint (one of my favorite supplies, affiliate) into the ice cube tray, I invited R to pick a brush (she likes the fat ones), and painting was underway in less than five minutes.

Sometimes I’ll add a bowl of water for rinsing brushes between colors, and a dry rag for absorbing excess water, but this was a simple, no frills kind of project.

clean and tidy painting with toddlers and preschoolers

Clean-up was a snap. The brush and ice cube tray got a quick rinse in the sink — watercolors clean up super fast. And the tray was stored away. I also like to keep a pack of baby wipes and a damp rag near the art table for hands and spills. This happened to be a neat, mess-free day. Maybe we had some good karma coming our way?

Do you have any tricks for neat and tidy painting?


More Art Projects for Toddlers

12 Simple Art Projects for Toddlers | TinkerLab.com
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.

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  1. We LOVE getting messy and besides the obvious tips like painting outside and on mats, etc, we always save painting and other good messy stuff for the end of the day. Lets just say my kids love decorating their bodies. Bath is a great follow up activity and gives me a few minutes to quickly pick up! 😉 ~ Marnie

    • Oh, Marnie, that’s such a good idea! I always look forward to painting at the beginning of the day since that’s when I have the most energy. I’m sure that would be different if I had body painters!

  2. I use the caps and let her choose 2 or 3 at a time on days I’m not feeling “messy”

  3. Love the idea of using the ice cube trays! Also, thanks for the tip about the watercolor paints. I’ve been intrigued by watercolor lately, but wasn’t sure what I should get. Excited to try it!

  4. My SIL baby-sat a very messy toddler for a year in her very neat home. She came up with some ideas to keep things neat while still being creative. One great idea was to wet the water color paints (like the crayola tray kind) with an old spray bottle instead of using a cup of water and dipping brushes. A little spritz of water wets the paint just enough without making a mess.

    I like your liquid water colors! I will have to look into those.

  5. Somehow I spent years and years worth of painting finding paint in secret splatter locations all over my couch. I am an avide couch painter…. when kids entered the picture I made it a point to stop this habit since they cannot be trusted. Thank you for the ice tray Idea that is a fantastic way to keep my fancy Davinci watercolors from being wasted and smeared all over the tray. My tip is silly but I swear it works, I lay an old plastic shower curtain either on the floor for laying on the floor painting or I put it under the table to avoid drips because even in a tray I find splashes all over. The curtain makes for an easy clean up by spraying it with the hose and my daughter gets very excited about the colors on it she things its special. Thanks again for sharing!

  6. We simply use the lids from the paint and a Bristol board to paint on. The former means the bulk of the paint goes unmixed; the latter means a greater surface area is covered up so there is less to wipe up afterward and there aren’t a bunch of half done pictures. We use the same one several times over!
    My blog has several ideas like this 🙂

    • Thanks for sharing your helpful tips, Alana.

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