Painting Activities for Three Year Olds


Not only is painting an enjoyable activity for three-year-old children, it also offers children of this age several benefits. The activity can help to build the small muscles of the hands, can serve as a platform for teaching color recognition and other basic skills and promotes creative exploration. Whether you're a parent or a teacher, there are several painting activities to consider engaging children of this age group in.

Finger Painting

  • Finger painting provides a tactile painting experience for three-year-olds. To engage children in finger painting, lay a piece of blank paper on a flat surface, place a few drops of finger paint in the center of the paper and instruct them to move their hands and fingers through the paint to spread it around the paper. Alternatively, you could fill bowls with different colors of finger paint and allow them to scoop out a small amount of the different colors of paint and spread it around their paper. Encourage children to create pictures, draw shapes and write numbers and letters. Children are not only able to express their creativity through finger painting, but when writing letters, numbers and shapes, they are able to actually feel how the symbols are formed, which helps them retain this important information.


  • Have three-year-olds create prints with paint. Place a small amount of paint on a paper plate and provide children with different items to press into the paint and print onto a piece of paper, cut up pieces of food, blocks, stamps and toys, for example. This painting activity is not only entertaining, but also provides children with an opportunity for scientific discovery, as they are able to explore and see the images that appear when imprinting an item.

Press Painting

  • No two pieces of artwork are alike when using this approach to painting. Provide children with bowls filled with paint and pieces of paper. Instruct them to use a paintbrush to spread paint on one side of the sheet of paper. After placing the paint on the paper, fold it in half and open it up and ask children to observe the images that appear on the paper. Different shapes will appear and when different colors of paint are used on the paper, children can observe how when colors are combined, they can create a new color.

Blow Painting

  • Place a drop of tempera paint on a piece of plain paper and provide children with straws. Instruct children to point one end of the straw above the paint and to blow through it; the air moving through the straw will spread the paint out over the paper, creating interesting designs. Use a few different colors of paint to create colorful paintings. Though children aren't using their hands in this activity, using a straw and the air as a paintbrush allows them to have a different experience with painting, an ideal way to promote creative exploration.

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