You’re Too Young to Paint!

“Ohhh no! Come with me, you’re too young to paint! ” A toddler who has been dabbling his fingers in paint is whisked up and away by a parent and plopped down beside some cars.

Parents, grandparents and caregivers routinely move small children away from paint in this drop-in program. Whether it is paint on the table with brushes, paint on the floor or paint at the easel, all are out of bounds for some toddlers. The facilitator of this program would love to have toddlers paint, and has never imposed restrictions about an  appropriate age to paint. In fact there are photos around the room of children, small and big, with paint on their hands, faces and arms. Mess is acceptable here, there is a sink nearby, smocks are available. So why does there seem to be a ‘rule’ about the ‘right ‘ age to paint?

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 Do we think a toddler is going to go wild? Throw paint at the ceiling? Toss a brush at a bystander? Pour it on someone’s head?

 Do we think that because a toddler isn’t making marks on paper that are representational they are

therefore unable to use paint ‘properly’?

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Does making marks with hands or fingers, or pushing the brush around in circles not count as painting?

What role do clothes play? Has keeping clothing clean become a value of childhood?

 Do we think toddlers are not capable of experimenting with texture, colour, brush, paper?

 Do we think toddlers are too young to make their own choices about what materials they would like to explore?

Are toddlers simply not trustworthy?

 Is there too much unpredictability giving paint to a toddler? Does it mean we will lose control?

 When is the right age to paint? Would we ever tell someone they were too old to paint?

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 What are we afraid of?

About Kim

Kim is an admitted ECE geek. She and Danielle have bonded over their shared geekdom and have come to terms with it. She is a pedagogical facilitator working with educators in a number of early learning settings supporting and extending new thinking and practice. She loves reading, writing, talking and sharing ideas about the potentials of teaching and learning with ece's and young children. ECE geeks unite!

5 thoughts on “You’re Too Young to Paint!

  1. I’ve let my baby (now 10 months) play with paint, though it was harder than I thought it would be. He puts everything in his mouth, so I had to trust that the paint was non toxic (turns out a small amount was enough for him and he didn’t taste any more). I also don’t use paper because he eats it. Instead I gave him a white plastic tray with paint on it and he had a great time smearing it around everywhere! In the end I used some paper to make a print so I had something to keep from the experience 🙂

    He’s starting to move away from eating everything, so we’ll keep playing with lots of different art activities and experiences

  2. When I was a one year old teacher, I painted with my class several times a week. Some days we used stickers, crayons, markers, playdoh, corn starch and water- so each day we did something art or sensory many times it did end up being paint! As a parent, I started painting with my daughter regularly when she was 9 or 10 months old. I painted her feet when she was 2 weeks old and expected her to kick a piece of cardboard and make a painting that way, but she became upset and didn’t kick her feet.

  3. These are great stories! I hope you share these with other parents and caregivers. When my son was about 10 months old we went to a birthday party where the walls and floor of the kitchen had been covered in white paper and the kids could have at it with paint. My son spent more time there than all the 1 and 2 year olds at the party, just sitting in the middle of the white paper room exploring what paint could do. We have fantastic photos of the event…..he’s 26 now and still creative!

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