Painting for toddlers: Spring Green

Mar 6, 2016

Buds are appearing on the trees and the days are getting lighter. Spring is coming, so this week we discovered green by mixing blue and yellow. It was such a lovely moment for the little one and perhaps the first time I saw him take huge pride in a piece of his own artwork. Read on for how we explore colors by painting with the seasons.


When we paint I usually limit the colors to one or two. The kids are still in the early stages of exploring paint and color, and this way they don’t get overwhelmed by different choices. They get a feel for the properties of the color they are using.

I try to time our colors with the season. Over the winter months we have mostly painted in blue or white. The kids have explored blue watercolor painting, blue wet-on-wet, and splashed white paint like snow across colored paper and natural objects like stones and sticks.

Painting with blue

Painting with blue

Here in Germany New Year is celebrated with huge, widespread fireworks, so right after that we took a short break from blue and painted with red and yellow, making orange.

fireworks painting

New Year fireworks painting with red and orange

This time I taped paper to the children’s table and gave them blue and yellow to paint with and mix freely. The three-year-old straight away started talking about what was happening as the green emerged. Painting didn’t hold his attention very long because he wanted to get back to his rescue team pretend play; making green is old news to him apparently! But the two-year-old was entranced and loaded more and more paint onto the page. Once all the paint was green he thoroughly coated his hands and got to work smearing and splatting.

I talked with him about the colors and what he was doing, how the colors mixed, where the paint was thick, where the paper was still white, how wet the paint was and so on. We also talked about what his picture might show. I asked if it showed fields, or perhaps a forest at sunrise. He said it was a forest. I have read that we shouldn’t try to tell our toddlers what their pictures might show, since they are too young to make deliberate representations. However, gently and responsively talking about the ideas and emotions an image inspires feels natural to me and appropriate even from the start. Our art is about the process, and we talk alongside his exploration. He loved his beautiful painting!

He very proudly showed his work to his dad that evening, and told him in his own way about how he made green and got paint on his hands. We reinforced the experience by reading Little Blue and Little Yellow. Like Lionni’s book, this art activity is very simple, but the wonder of creating a beautiful color is very satisfying.


For lots more ideas about approaching art with toddlers, and building language learning into your art play, there’s a big section on this  out my book: Word Boosting: A practical guide to encouraging your toddler’s language skills, with 365+ easy playtime activities.


This post is shared at Montessori Monday and Hip Homeschool Hop.

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