Balloon and cotton bud prints

Painting is a frequently asked for activity in my house, but can turn into a 5 minute activity with a 20 minute clean up: the favourite part for my boys is squeezing paint out of the bottles and mixing it together; after that they can lose interest pretty quickly.

Recently we tried making prints with balloons and cotton buds.

The first thing they both instinctively did was try to paint on the balloon by dipping the cotton bud into the paint. I showed them that they could also dip the balloon straight in and splodge it onto paper. Zeph’s splodges quickly turned into one big swirled splodge and then he tried making patterns on the painty plate using his cotton buds. Elly made some splodge and then tried to pop his balloon. Meanwhile I made some pretty patterns.

I want to do something SUPER messy…

Like painting!

I had a good mama moment last week, where instead of leaving Zeph to play while I tidied the kitchen, I asked him what he would like to do while I was busy. I mean, he would have played happily enough – his ability and desire to play independently has come on in leaps and bounds since he turned four in January – but still, I felt like it was just the sort of thing one ought to do from time to time when one is doing this mum business well.

First I asked if he’d like the play dough out while I washed up after lunch… but I got that response ^^.

Super messy painting it is. Did he want to paint in the kitchen at the table where I was, or did he want to go by himself to paint in the conservatory? Outside by himself.

So we got out the paints and papers (actually opened up cereal boxes that I’d been saving for him to paint on) and off he went. After a while he called to me: Mum, come and see what I’ve done for you!

And, after finishing the dish I was on and drying my hands, off I went to see (like a good mama again). He’d painted me a cake, with candles, and cherries, and some juice. He called me back three or four times, showing me the pictures he was painting for me. Sharing all the thought and love that had gone into each one. Thoughts and love I might have so easily missed if I had prioritised finishing in the kitchen over going to see what he wanted to show me. And afterwards I went to sit with him, watching, without taking my phone or any other distractions.

Because the quiet moments together are precious.


Marble painting

A classic minimal-mess painting activity! We used marbles (!) a click-seal food storage box, yogurt pots for coating our marbles in paint and spoons for scooping them into the box.

I’ve tried this a few times before with Zeph but until now he hasn’t been super interested. This time round he got a lot of joy from shaking the box around, and Elly couldn’t wait to take a turn either – probably because big brother was having so much fun.

Here’s how we did it:

1 – Squeeze paint into the yogurt pots – for Elly, this is the best part, sometimes the only part, of any painting activity. It used to be the same for Zeph, but at 4, he has started to enjoy the actual painting bit too. Even when the painting is not on himself.

2 – Drop marbles into the paint.

3 – Put a sheet of paper in the bottom of your box.


4 – Use a spoon to cover the marble in paint and scoop it into your box.


6 – Open up to see what you made.

Here are our first two, done one after another using the same marbles and without adding any extra paint. Lots of red – Zeph’s favourite colour! I love using art like this to cut out shapes and stick on homemade cards or use as gift labels.

This is my favourite one – Elly shook the box mostly on it’s side which meant the paint stayed more towards the bottom of the paper.


For this one we tried mixing pom poms with the marbles… Zeph insisted we still use at least some marbles, so the effect isn’t all that different the way it came out in the end.

20180208_1947551550704925.jpgAnd finally, Zeph tried shaking the marbles in an empty box before taking them out and then putting the paper in on top of the paint. I guess he got this idea because we’ve done printing style paining things before. He actually got into the box and stepped all over the paper to get the paint onto it.

I should add a caution though… despite its potential to be a minimal-mess activity, if your kids are anything like mine, it will probably end up messy anyway.