Toothpicks and Paint. Invitation to Create

Feb 14, 2015

After we finally dismantled our toothpicks and mini-marshmallows constructions, we were left with a container of toothpicks sitting around, just begging to be used for something else creative.

As my favourite activities for children contain simple materials and no set instructions, (allowing them to think creatively and experiment with ideas), pairing the toothpicks with some paint and paper seemed like a good challenge.

We got out some paint, I provided one piece of paper and one doily each and presented them with the tub of toothpicks. After watching them experiment with mark making on the paper with just the toothpicks, I also popped a couple of paintbrushes on the table to add to their experience. 

I had thought about painting with the toothpicks and the marks and patterns you could make with them, but hadn't thought about actually painting the toothpicks themselves. This is why it's important to leave things like this to children. They have all the good ideas. Look at those fine-motor skills in play!

The kids discovered that applying the paint on the surface with the toothpicks was fiddly and too time consuming. They enjoyed adding the paint with the paint brush first and then using the toothpicks to swish, swirl, make patterns and spread the paint.

 A great fire-works type effect.

They discovered that not only could toothpicks help make marks and add details to paint, but that the actual toothpicks themselves could be used in the picture as well. 

Handy Tips:

Simplify this activity for younger children who you might be worried about using toothpicks with, by substituting them with craft sticks or cotton buds. This will still provide them with an alternative material for making marks and experimenting painting with.

Extend this activity by challenging children to come up with ways to apply their paint without the aid of any paintbrushes. With such a small surface area, toothpicks are difficult for transferring paint. Can they come up with any solutions? What happens to their painting, experience and possibilities by including some string alongside the toothpicks and paint?

Get well set up before you start painting with little kids. Be prepared before you start by having cleaning supplies like a damp cloth and/or towelling paper at the ready. This helps us keep mess at a minimum.

Talk with your child about what they are doing while they are creating. This will help them understand the physical and mental processes they are going through as well as giving them the vocabulary to describe it. While children are being creative and focused,  it can be a great time to talk about sensitive issues and their feelings.

- Use new language and descriptive words like, "flick," "swish," "impression," "texture," "design" etc. This will help with their language development.

- Still feeling creative? Here are some of our other arty ideas for kids. 

Happy creating,
Debs :)

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