A common comment I hear from my readers is, "How do I get my 2 year old to enjoy painting?" Or, "My 2 year old doesn't like to get his hands in the paint." I thought I'd share a few tips that have helped our 2's feel comfortable with paint.
For the first half of the year we remove the chairs from the table. This way they feel comfortable walking right up to the table and exploring what we have at the paint table. We don't require smocks (unless we are doing a special project that might stain clothing). When we can, we always choose washable paint and squirt some detergent into it, so that it washes out easier. We let parents know all this, so they can keep it in mind when choosing clothing for their children to wear to preschool.
We do a lot of group painting projects. We cover the table with paper and provide the materials. It is very common for the 2's to do some painting, wash hands and play elsewhere, then return. Sometimes this happens many times. We choose open-ended projects that allow the 2's to explore using different tools and textures.
Some of the 2's don't like to get paint on their hands, especially at first. I've done some projects (such as this project using plastic wrap) where the 2's can get used to paint without actually touching it. Usually by the end of the year, all of the 2's feel pretty comfortable handling paint.
It's important to provide other sensory activities as well. Play dough, for example, gives them the experience of squishing something between their fingers. The sensory table is another area that allows the hands and fingers to adjust to different feelings. This helps gain their confidence in handling the sensation of paint on their skin.
Some 2's feel the need to wash as soon as a tiny bit of paint touches their skin. For these children, I place a damp paper towel near them so they can easily wipe the paint away.
We never force a child to do a painting project. We encourage and try to vary our activities, inviting them to come and see what we are doing. Keep it fun. Keep it relaxed.