Preschooler doing a craft behind title: Quick Craft Inspiration


Have you ever found yourself struggling for inspiration when it comes to planning preschool crafts? Do you need art that corresponds with your current theme?

Fear not. This article includes five basic preschool art ideas that can be adapted to any theme.

Better yet, they don’t require all sorts of expensive supplies. A pair of scissors, paper, paint, and white glue will get you through most of them.


1. Free Paint With an Object

Choose a size and colour of paper, which colour of paint, and what to paint with. The children paint freely on the paper. These crafts are simple to prep, though they can be messy to clean up.



I typically choose only 1-3 colours of paint. Choosing colours that don’t result in brown when mixed can keep the finished products looking bright and cheery even with free painting.


Example of Adapting for Theme:

For under the sea, I cut the paper into a fish shape. I then let the children paint on it using yarn. 

For forest animals, I cut the paper into the shape of a fox and give them orange paint.

Additional Resources: Beyond the Paintbrush


2. Put the Pieces Together


Pre-cut the pieces of a craft and let the child glue them together.

Expect a lot of prep with these crafts. Older children can cut out simple pieces for themselves (with supervision), but younger children will need you to prep all the pieces for them. The benefit of all that prep work is that the craft will turn out looking (mostly) like the example.

For those of you concerned that this type of craft is product oriented rather than process oriented art, consider it as a chance for your children to practice their puzzle making skills. They are learning: same/different, following instructions, sequencing, names of colours and shapes, and more. These are all valuable skills for a preschooler. Don’t be surprised to see a gleam of pride in their eye when they hold up their completed craft. At the same time, give them freedom within the craft to position their pieces as they wish.



Pinterest is full of examples of these sorts of crafts.

Rather than using glue sticks, pour white glue onto a flat dish and give your children popsicle sticks to dip in the glue and apply it.


Example of Adapting for Theme:

For forest animals, I cut out the parts of an owl, then let the children glue the pieces together. In the example shown, I also encouraged the children to paint the body of the owl.

For transportation, consider pre-cutting the parts of a car and then letting your children glue them together. You’ll need the car body, the wheels, and the windows.


3. Glue Cut Outs to a Paper

This is one of my favourite types of crafts when teaching 2 year olds. I give them a popsicle stick, a small dish of white glue, a piece of paper, and small cutouts to glue onto that paper. Some of them cover the page with glue but only put one cutout on, while others cover the entire page with cutouts.



Try adding a drop of food colouring to the glue. This makes it feel like paint and show up when dried on that picture with hardly any cutouts.


Examples of adapting for theme:

For the story of Joseph’s coat of many colours, I give the children coloured pieces of paper to rip and glue onto the pre-cut shape of the coat.

For zoo animals, I give them a giraffe colouring sheet and a piece of brown paper. I encourage them to rip the brown paper into small pieces. Once done, I provide glue with orange food colouring to stick the pieces on the giraffe.


4. Cut Around It

This is a fantastic way to add scissor practice into your craft time. I choose a colouring sheet or draw a shape on a paper and have the children cut it out. After they’ve finished cutting it, give them something to decorate it with.



Start with one simple large shape to cut. As your children improve their scissor skills, you can give them harder shapes to cut. 

When having children cut out a colouring sheet, I find it helpful to draw a thick line an inch wider than the picture on the colouring page. This way the children have a clear line to follow and are less likely to clip off some of the picture.


Example of Adapting for Theme:

When doing outer space, I draw a circle on a piece of coloured paper and have the children cut it out. I then let them decorate it with watercolour paints or crayons (depending on the children’s ability level and the number of adults available to supervise.)

Another time, for zoo animals, I took a crocodile colouring sheet and drew a line around it. I had the children cut along that line and then gave them green paint.


5. Stencils

Stencils can be a lot of fun. I grab a piece of cardboard, sketch a shape on it, then cut it out. Sometimes I use the cut out shape, but other times I use what remains of the cardboard as a stencil. I place the stencil over a piece of paper and let the children paint whatever they can see of the paper. I pull the stencil off and – ta da – you have a picture.



If you want the stencil to last several classes, use a more durable material such as fun foam. 

I find using sponges and a small amount of paint works best with stencils.

Using a couple of small pieces of tape can help keep the stencil and paper in place.

Not good at drawing? No problem, find a colouring sheet to trace in order to get the outline for your stencil.

Especially if you’re using cardboard for your stencils, I recommend cutting a couple of extra stencils for just in case.


Example of Adapting for Theme:

For Valentines Day, I cut out heart shaped stencils which we could use to paint cards for the children’s families.

When teaching about winter animals, I cut out a polar bear. We could use the outer part of the stencil over black paper and the children could paint with white.


I hope this list gives you the inspiration you need as you plan your upcoming preschool art times.

Do you have other ideas to add to the list? Put your favourites in the comments below to help us all out.

Why I Give Preschoolers Stickers for Craft Time - post by S. J. Little

Why do I sometimes give preschoolers stickers for craft time? Am I being lazy? No. When used intentionally, stickers provide multiple benefits for preschoolers.

Benefits of giving preschoolers stickers

  1. Before they can effectively hold a pencil, a child needs to strengthen their fine motor muscles and hand-eye coordination.
    • Simply put, fine motor muscles are the small muscles in the hands. These muscles are used to do fine detail tasks such as holding a pencil, picking up a spoon, and putting beads on a string, among countless other tasks. When a child strengthens these muscles in their pre-writing years, they have an advantage when it comes time to learn to write. Peeling stickers and putting them on paper, exercises those fine motor muscles.
    • Hand-eye coordination is another super valuable skill for preschoolers to develop. In basic terms, it is getting one’s hand to go where one wants it to go. Activities such as feeding oneself with a spoon, writing letters, and giving high fives require good hand-eye coordination. Coordinating hands to peel the stickers and then placing the stickers where they want on the paper, are great ways to practice using hand-eye coordination.
  2. In our fast-paced world, teaching a child toStrips of stickers ready to be used by preschoolers. sit down and focus on one task for a length of time can be challenging. Stickers, I have found, can bring surprising results in this regard. Some children, though not all, are willing to sit down and work hard on peeling those stickers for longer than they would typically sit. Please don’t get me wrong with this one. Yes, we want children to be up and moving, engaged in active play, but it is also important for them to be developing their attention span. Having a longer attention span can enable them to get deeper into play rather than bouncing from one toy to the next.
  3. Most children enjoy stickers. As a teacher, I have a few children who do not enjoy craft time. Stickers might grab the interest of a child who typically dislikes crafts and help them begin to realize that sitting down to do crafts can be fun.

Tips for a smoother sticker time

  1. Cut the sheet of stickers into strips
    • Rather than handing a full sheet of stickers to a child, cut the sheet into strips. For really small stickers I find 6 or 7 stickers per strip is a good number as the paper is then big enough for the child to hold. For bigger stickers, I often cut them into groups of two or three. Giving the child only one of these strips of stickers at a time helps keep them focused and motivated as it isn’t an overwhelming number of stickers and there are fewer stickers to choose from at a time.
  2. Remove sticker blank areasPeeling back part of sticker sheet to make stickers easier for children to use.
    • I recently discovered that removing the blank areas around the actual stickers makes it far easier for little hands to peel the stickers. (See picture.)
  3. Teach children to bend the paper
    • Some children need me to teach them how to get the stickers. I show them that bending the paper causes the sticker to lift up for easy removal. (See picture.)Teach preschoolers to bend the sheet of paper to remove the sticker.
  4. Avoid “thin papery” stickers
    • Beware of thin papery stickers as they may rip easily when being peeled from the paper, making the activity difficult and discouraging for children.
  5. Mess-free craft
    • This is an excellent craft for picture day. When all my children are dressed in their finest outfits, and feeling fidgety due to the special day, stickers are my go-to. They won’t stain fancy clothes and the children are excited to use them.

What are your tips for giving preschoolers stickers for craft time? Do you see other benefits of using them?

Looking for more engaging craft ideas for your preschooler? Check out Beyond the Paint Brush

Girl holding paintbrush


13 Simple and Inexpensive Ways to Engage Children with Paint and Paper

Perhaps you have some washable paint laying around, but want to change things up. There are many fun alternatives to paintbrushes. Several of them have valuable developmental bonuses for your child beyond merely strengthening creativity.


Basic tools to use instead of paintbrushes:

  1. Fingers    (All ages)Finger Painting - S. J. Little

    • Messy and delightful for most children, simply allowing your child the freedom to finger paint is an excellent sensory experience.
    • Some children dislike the sensation of paint on their fingers. If that is your child, try modelling by doing some finger painting of your own. Reassure them that you’ll help them wash their hands after. If they still resist, don’t push them. Rather, work your way toward it by giving them tools such as sponges where their fingers will likely get a little paint on them, but not as much as with finger painting.
  2. Sponges    (All ages)

    • A straightforward painting experience. Gives the child an opportunity to experiment with gentle and firm pressure.
    • Take an unused sponge and cut it into easy to hold sizes. Rectangles, roughly 8cm tall and 4cm by 4cm on the ends, work well for small hands. Alternatively, if you want to get really creative, you can cut the sponge into shapes such as trees, hearts, or fish.
    • Expect sponge painting to be messy. Only put small amounts of paint for the child to dip the sponge in, as they can easily get an excessive amount of paint.
    • Sponge painting works well with stencils.
  3. Cotton swabs/Q-tips®    (2.5 years+)

    • A personal favourite of mine. The small size of cotton swabs helps exercise the child’s fine motor muscles – the hand muscles used for holding a pencil among many other things. Cotton swabs allow the children to paint dots or small lines – far more detailed than most kids’ paintbrushes. I find the Q-tips® brand works well.
    • Some 2 year olds may find cotton swabs too small to grasp easily and thus may not enjoy using them. Therefore, I recommend them for children 2.5 years old and up.
    • Because cotton swabs are small, it takes more time for the child to fill the page, which encourages them to focus longer than with a large paintbrush. With this in mind, it may be wise to use only half a sheet of paper when working with cotton swabs to make filling the page more attainable.
    • Depending on the child, painting with cotton swabs can be relatively clean.
  4. Yarn    (2.5 years+)

    • Children can create beautiful works of modern art when painting withYarn Painting Sample - S. J. Little a short piece of yarn, and they enjoy doing it. While they’re at it, they will be strengthening their arm muscles by the abundance of up and down and side to side movements.
    • Cut yarn into pieces roughly 8cm in length. I like to have one piece of yarn per colour of paint. Inevitably a few strings will be dropped into the paint leaving them entirely paint saturated. Therefore, I try to have extra strings cut and ready to use for such emergencies.  
    • I recommend using a shallow dish to hold the paint for easy dipping. To start, it may help to use a finger to submerge one end of the yarn into the paint.
    • This yarn painting can get messy. The finished products, however, typically look attractive.
  5. Fork    (3.5 years+)

    • For a unique challenge, hand the child a plastic fork and a shallow dish of paint. Fun picture ideas could be a flower, a chick, or grass. This experience strengthens hand-eye coordination. Problem-solving is also required if trying to paint a specific object.
    • Keeping the paper small is advised as children may not have the attention span needed to fill a whole page.
  6. Toothbrush    (4 years+)

    • Want a major fine motor muscle strengthener? Bring out the toothbrush and prepare for a fun, messy time!
    • Toothbrush painting only takes a small amount of paint, but it may be helpful to add a drop of water to the paint. Cover the table and surrounding area or be prepared to wipe it as it will get messy.
    • Encourage the child to hold the toothbrushExample of how to use a toothbrush to make a painting with its bristles facing the paper. Show them how to run their thumb (or finger from the other hand) through the bristles causing the brush to spray droplets of paint onto the paper.
    • Expect most children to have a short attention span for this activity as their hand muscles will likely tire quickly – evidence that it is good exercise for those fine motor muscles.


Things to dip in paint:

Be aware that toys with metal parts may rust if exposed to water when cleaning paint off of them. Also, it may not be possible to get all the paint off whatever items you use, therefore, pick carefully.

  1. Jar/bottle lids    (2.5 years+)

    • Wash and save various bottle and jar lids, then pour paint on a plate and let your child use the lids as stamps. They might make a snowman, a flower, or a lovely modern art pattern. Their fine motor muscles will be strengthened by the various grips required to hold the lids.
    • If your child is prone to putting items in his/her mouth, beware that small lids may be choking hazards.
    • This can get messy and lids can become slippery when paint-covered and thus may fall on the floor. Therefore, if you are working over carpet you may want to cover the floor.
  2. Dinosaurs    (2 years+)

    • Choose some large washable dinosaurs (the smoother their skin the easier to clean – avoid those with metal). Encourage your child to “walk” the dinosaurs through a plate of paint and across their paper leaving dinosaur footprints. The dinosaurs have a fair amount of weight which, combined with all those up and down movements, will strengthen important arm muscles.
    • Children love this activity! However, I caution against using this “dip your toys in paint” idea with young children who do not yet grasp the concept that only certain toys are okay in paint at certain times. The last thing we want is their teddy doing a faceplant in the paint dish.
  3. Cars    (2 years+)

    • If you have some primarily plastic cars with no internal mechanisms which may be damaged by water, this activity can be tremendously thrilling! What’s the developmental value of it? If you give the child an extra large piece of paper to drive their car across, they will likely make many large, full-arm movements using muscles needed for writing. These types of large arm movements are especially important for development in 2-3 year olds.
    • Pour the paint onto a plate and encourage the children to drive the cars back and forth in the paint to coat the wheels before driving the cars around on the paper.Car Track Painting - S. J. Little
    • If you have the option, this is a good activity to cover the entire table with paper for the cars to leave tracks on.
    • As with the dinosaurs above, I caution against doing this with young children who may not yet realize that this does not give them permission to drive the cars through any other sticky paste they can find.



Changing up the paper is another way to keep painting fresh and exciting.

  1. Size

    • Change up the size of paper you give your child.
      • If they are painting with something small, have only a short amount of time, or have a short attention span, use a small piece of paper.
      • If they enjoy painting, have plenty of time, or are using a large tool, use a full-size piece of paper.
      • Using bigger papers can encourage healthy arm muscle development as they reach to paint on the far edge of the paper.
  2. Shape

    • Before it’s time to paint, cut the paper into a simple shape such as a triangle, heart, circle, or fish. Then allow the child to paint however they want.
  3. Whole table

    • On occasion, covering the whole table with paper and allowing several children to paint on it at once can be a fun change. The children often enjoy being able to paint long lines without running into the edge of the paper. On top of that, having several children painting on the same surface gives a social development aspect to painting.
  4. Colouring sheets

    • Some painting techniques work well on colouring pages. Younger children could use sponges, while older children could use cotton swabs which allow them to paint inside the lines.


        Have fun painting!

What are your favourite paintbrush alternatives for preschool painting?