No-mess watercolor: Dampen the paint with a spray bottle

parenthacks 001.jpgJenny, where have you been all my life?

I‘m always looking for ways to encourage my 20 month-old’s artistic desires without the mess that we all know that comes with this age.

I have found the best way for he to paint without too much mess. I buy the washable watercolors (availble at any discount store) and some heavy paper. The problem with using watercolors in the traditional way is that the child has to dip her brush into water and then into paint. With a young child I found that the paper would end up soaked. So one day I used an ordinary spray bottle and gave the paint pallet a couple sprays then gave it to my child with the normal brush and her paper. The results were magic. Bright vivid colors and very little mess!

Related: Quick cleanup tips for paint-loving kids


  1. Annette says

    You actually are SUPPOSED to put a little water directly onto the paint to let it soak up pigment, not dip a paintbrush in water and then smush it around in the dry paint. This is a good method for that though.

  2. says

    Annette is right, but I’m more curious why, with only one brush and no where to rinse it, the colors aren’t all mud? I repeat the paint litany: water, paint, paper… water, paint, paper….

  3. says

    Yep supposed to wet the paint first but most don’t know that because we follow what we’ve been doing for years. Most teachers put out a cup of water per kid so they don’t have as much to do in the long run. Kids favorite thing to do with a cup of water is to dunk the paint brush back and forth.

    Not only does the kiddo get to watch the paints mix and change on the paper but in the cup of water. So it becomes a game.

    Our painting times are usually outside, but then again I don’t mind stripping the boys to their undies and having an all out acrylic paint mess on the front lawn. *chuckles* Works out great because afterwards I just hose the boys down and they get both clean and some fun outdoor water time.

  4. says

    Love this! Love love love love love.

    Thanks Jenny.

    Now if you could give me a way to keep my daughter from painting on her sister that would be second best.

  5. says

    I’m going straight out to buy water colours first thing tomorrow. I’m going to spray the paint AND do the painting outside. Thanks!