We admit that sometimes we avoid the really fun painting and craft projects that include supplies other than the box of nice, neat, perfectly sharpened colored pencils we know will minimize cleanup time. (The glitter glue, that’s a whole other story.) But then we think, aw, the kids always have the best time painting. Maybe it’s time to get out the brushes?

That’s when we toss some newspaper or a drop cloth over the table, stick an apron or giant t-shirt over the kids, and let them get messy.

And you know? We’re always glad we did. Especially now, that we’re all running out of new freaking ideas for the kids to keep them busy and happy. (Sigh, we know you get it.)

The truth is, when we do get them crafting and painting, cleanup is never as awful as we imagine. Plus we end up with some masterpieces to show for the time together. And best of all, we make memories that hopefully last even longer.

That’s why we’ve put together 11 really fun, creative paint projects for kids that go beyond just brushes and a tin of watercolors. Because we know we’re not the only ones who sometimes need a little nudge to get out the messy paints and other craft stuff — whether the weather is keeping us indoors, or we have a whole backyard to turn into a studio.

But uh, we’re still iffy on glitter. You want to play with glitter indoors? Have at it. Ha.

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First, some of our favorite paint supplies for kids

Waterproof craft apron/smock for kids - the pockets are so handy

Waterproof craft smock for kids, with pockets. Long sleeve! Long sleeve! Here’s a 2-pack craft smock alternative that’s adorable, and fits kids a little older.

Reusable canvas drop cloth to protect tables, floors, and countertops with less waste.

Watercolors for little kids from Crayola, with 16 colors

Set of 11 washable tempera paints

Watercolors for older kids from Faber-Castell. They’re the best.

Fat preschool paintbrush set (the brushes are fat, not the preschooler)

Tabletop paper roll dispenser and additional paper rolls are especially great if you don’t have an easel

Affordable multicolor construction paper pads, because you can never have too many!


11 creative paint projects for kids: Get as messy as you want!


Creative painting projects for kids: Paint Splat Art at Crafty Morning. Fun!

Paint splat painting

We can’t decide what’s more fun about Crafty Morning’s paint splat art project for kids — whamming each cotton round with the rubber mallet, or the surprise of paint color that comes when you smack it. Check her site for a painting project so much fun you’ll want to join in.


The most amazing Fireworks salt painting tutorial: It sparkles! | DIY at Busy Mommy Media

Salt painting

This firework salt painting project spotted at Busy Mommy Media is incredible — it actually sparkles when it’s finished because of the salt! The supplies are stuff you likely have at home anyway (or go ahead and buy some affordable baking pans just for craft use). She’s even got tips for swapping in food coloring instead of paints if you’d rather go that route.


Bubble Wrap Stomp Painting at Mess for Less: Fun ways to put your kids' paints to good use

Bubble wrap paint stomping

How much fun is this bubble wrap stomp painting project at Mess for Less? Talk about making the kids happy when they’re stuck indoors. When they’re finished painting — with their feet, no less — you can even let them add stickers or color with crayons or markers.

Related: 4 colorful DIY crafts from Joy Cho to inspire curiosity in your kids

Creative painting projects for kids: Crumpled Paper Art is pretty enough to use as stationery | DIY at Buggy and Buddy

Crumpled paper painting

The technique for making this crumpled paper paint project inspired by the children’s book Ish is so clever, and we think the result looks pretty enough to turn into stationery when the kids are finished. Or something else that we never would have thought of at all. Kids are awesome that way. Visit Buggy and Buddy for a whole lot of inspiration.

Creative paint projects for kids: Bubble painting! Instructions via Childhood 101

Bubble blower painting

We are so taken with this bubble blower paint project at Childhood 101, which uses bubble solution and food coloring together for a very cool effect. We love all the great photos showing you all kinds of amazing results your children can get.

Creative painting project ideas for kids: Shaving Cream Painting DIY at In Lieu of Preschool.

Shaving cream paint art

If you have never tried your hands at shaving cream paint art,  there’s a great tutorial at In Lieu of Preschool (via web archive). All you really need is shaving cream and paint; or for an edible version you could use whipped frosting and food coloring. It’s a great one for toddlers, but even tweens love the marbleized result.

Related: Testing household hacks: How to clean the 5 biggest kid messes

Painting with tea bags: what a cool idea to engage all of kids' senses. | Tutorial at Fantastic Fun and Learning

Tea bag painting

It never occurred to us to use flavored tea bags as an art supply, but that’s the brilliant idea behind this tea bag painting project at Fantastic Fun and Learning. Kids will get a full-sensory experience with this one.

Creative paint projects for kids: Pendulum Painting blends science, art and fun | Innovation Kids Lab

Pendulum painting

We love it when science and art collide, and this pendulum painting project for kids from Innovation Kids Lab is an awesome way to explore both with your kids. It’s like one of the hands-on projects they may have tried at a science museum, only no admission fee. Win!

Use color and salt to melt ice sculptures with this cool DIY for kids at Artful Parent

Colored salt play

If you’re still staring at snow out your window, check out this very cool project at Artful Parent that lets kids use colored salt to melt ice. It’s a fun way to play with all that fun white stuff without getting bundled up to go outside in a storm, and it doubles as a science lesson on how salt and ice interact. But the tons of water colors that kids will get to use definitely makes it extra fun.

Make a magic, swirly mess of color with Magic Milk Paint, a fun science and art experiment | Modern Parents Messy Kids

Magic milk painting

Magic milk paint is a science experiment disguised as a craft project, and it’s one of our kids’ very favorite rainy-day activities. It doesn’t even require real paint, just food coloring. Check out the instructions at Modern Parents Messy Kids, one of our favorite sites for fun crafts for kids — but we’d like to add that we’ve found that milk, or even buttermilk, works best. That way, the second the dish soap hits the food coloring it swirls like crazy.

Related: 8 of the cutest rainbow crafts for preschoolers and little kids.


Creative painting projects for kids: Skip the paintbrushes with this Foil Printed Trees DIY project from Teach, Play, Repeat

Foil ball painting

You don’t have to wait for any particular season to make tree crafts. Our kids love it all year long! We can’t wait to try this fun foil ball painting project trick at Teach, Play, Repeat — then let the kids pick from pastels for spring, or earthy tones for fall. Or if you’re looking for a winter version, use colored paper and you can let the kids go to town with white paint.