10 Top art tips for parents

As much as I love art I understand that the thought of kids being let loose with paint, glue and glitter can fill some parents with fear! Over the years of running art workshops and parties I’ve learnt some top art tips for parents. These will help to calm your fears and encourage you to allow your kids to create at home.

10 top art tips for parents:

1. Create outside

If the weather is good, create outside. Kids love it and you can be as messy as you like! You might be inspired by nature, or decide to do some big art! I buy long paper rolls, so that when we have an opportunity to create on a larger scale we can.

Just put a table mat or old sheet out on the grass, roll out a long sheet of paper and tape, or weigh your paper down at each end with some stones. Then work together on a large piece of art.

If you have a slide you could tape the paper to the slide, dip objects in paint and roll them down the paper to see what patterns they make, or which ones win a race!

If the weather isn’t so great…

2. Create in the bath!

If the thought of letting your kids use paint terrifies you, let them create in the bath….without water in it! Then they’re already in the right place when it’s time to get them washed!

3. Use a wipe clean table cloth

You don’t have to use a table cloth, but it will help to calm your nerves when your kids are creating on your beautiful dining table!

4. Use trays

If you watch any of my kids demonstration videos you will see that I nearly always use trays for activities. It helps to contain the mess. It also gives children a clear area of where the creating should take place.

5. Have some ‘art clothes’ or an apron

The kids (and you) can just wear old t-shirts or you can buy some aprons. Either way it will stop the art activity from ending in tears when your child has just wiped their hands on their clothes.

6. Preparation is key

If you prepare something beforehand it will save you a lot of stress at the time. It’s when I go off in search of the scissors, glue stick, some coloured paper etc. that I hear a shriek from my eldest as my youngest has just tipped out the entire contents of a paint pot onto her paper. Make sure everything is set out first. Your kids will be excited by the materials and the invitation to create. You can sit and watch whilst drinking a hot cup of tea/coffee!

You don’t have to prepare anything complicated. Simple is often better. I love process art, where the focus is on the experience rather than the final outcome. One of the great things about process art is that it requires far less effort from you. You don’t need to spend hours pre-cutting templates etc.

Collages are a great activity, as you can put out some paper and glue plus whatever bits and bobs you have to hand e.g. bottle tops/fabric/paper scraps, pom poms, googly eyes, wool etc. Here are some process art ideas you can try at home.

You could combine the art activity with a walk. Hunt for leaves, pinecones, feather, branches etc, then just set them out with some paint, paper and glue. Your children may decide to paint the natural objects, print with them, stick them to the paper or onto each other.

7. Let the kids create whatever they want to

This links to the point above about process art. If you have a pre-conceived idea of what the children should be creating it will add to your stress levels and to the stress levels of the child. Children learn by discovering, exploring and creating. Just let them create in the way that they want to, it will encourage their imagination and limit their frustration about ‘not getting it right.’ I’m a big believer in their not being a ‘wrong’ or ‘right’ way to create.

It makes me so sad when I hear a child say “I can’t do it”, or “I don’t know how to draw.” It can be difficult to step back and let children create what they want to. You may end up with a final outcome that you don’t think is worthy of putting on the fridge, but it is their creation. By allowing them to create in the way they want to they will gain confidence and although you may not realise it they will be learning a lot too.

“When children explore art ideas, they are testing possibilities and working through challenges, much like a scientist who experiments and finds solutions. Art allows children to make their own assessments, while also teaching them that a problem may have more than one answer. Instead of following specific rules or directions, the child’s brain becomes engaged in the discovery of “how” and “why.”

MaryAnn Kohl

8. Limit the amount of paint/glue available

There is something very pleasing about squeezing paint or glue out of a bottle. So pleasing that kids sometimes carry on squeezing! Whilst it’s a great exercise in motor skills, it can be expensive and messy! If you pour some paint into a small dish/paper cup or onto a plate you can re-fill it as and when you’re ready. If you’re happy for them to squeeze away though, go for it! Or decant some paint into a smaller refillable bottle.

You could help to satisfy their squeezing fascination with some bottles added to water play, or as part of a bicarbonate of soda and vinegar experiment!

9. Have a washing up bowl available

It is often the journey from the activity to the sink that can cause the most damage to the house! Eliminate this problem by putting a washing up bowl and towel near the activity.

10. Use what you have

Don’t be deterred from being creative because you don’t think you have the right materials. You can create with almost anything. We often use boxes which things have been delivered in, as a canvas to create on. There’s something beautiful about drawing or painting on an old newspaper.

Junk modelling is a fantastic way to encourage creativity and you can introduce some learning about recycling too! If you’re not convinced you can read more about the benefits of junk modelling!

You can make a lot of art and sensory materials at home e.g. paint, playdough, slime. Here’s a great round-up of homemade art materials recipes from ‘The Artful Parent’


I hope you like these art tips for parents and enjoy creating! If you’d like a craft box packed full of art ideas which encourage creativity have a look at Squidgydoodle craft boxes. They include everything you need for 4 art and sensory activities. The box can be personally addressed to the child and they’re letterbox friendly so you don’t even need to be in!

Do you have any top art tips to share? Let me know in the comments below.


  • Jayne @ Sticky Mud and Belly Laughs Posted February 10, 2018 11:06 am

    Fab tips! We love crafts in our house! We also have bath crayons, so they can make as much mess as they wish and I just simply wipe it away afterwards. It’s good to let kids be creative 🙂

    Thanks so much for sharing with #MMBC. Hope to see you Monday! x

    • Debbie Denyer Posted February 10, 2018 11:42 am

      Hi Jayne, Bath crayons sound like a great idea! We’ve not tried them.

  • Jessica – A Modern Mom’s Life Posted February 20, 2018 2:04 am

    This is a great post! I used to be very nervous when my kids wanted to paint. Now I roll out the big sheet of paper on top of something else (old sheet, newsprint, etc) and give them water and their little “hard paint” palettes and away they go. A few extra paper towels around in case anything gets spilled and the girls have a grand time. I also love the idea of process art – especially paired with a nature walk. Might put that on our spring to-do list!

    • Debbie Denyer Posted February 21, 2018 5:20 pm

      Hi Jessica, Big paper rolls are great aren’t they? There’s something very inviting about having a big white space to fill! I hope you have fun on your nature walk.

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