For preschoolers, easel art combines the best of all worlds into one fun activity.
It pairs creative and cognitive skill development with physical movements, allowing your little one to strengthen their fine motor skills, planning abilities, hand-eye coordination and so much more—all while they build worlds from scratch, straight from their imaginations.
Making Easel Play Activities Easy and Exciting for Kids
Easel play activities are also a great emotional and physical outlet for kids because they give them a blank canvas to express whatever they are feeling, which sets the stage for better communication skills later.
With an easel, they have total freedom to explore their creativity, imagination and emotions. And these days, there are a wide variety of easels to choose from, so it’s easy to find one that suits your child’s unique artistic needs. Wooden easels with several surface options are perfect for preschoolers to explore, while magnetic easels offer endless creative possibilities. Or you can instantly turn any flat surface into an art station with this tabletop easel – perfect for on-the-go play.
Whether your preschooler is already an avid artist or you're looking to introduce your little one to the world of easel art for the first time, you have plenty of options. Of course, we know it can be challenging to constantly come up with new easel activities for kids, so we went ahead and picked out some fun and easy ones that will get your child's creativity flowing and unleash their inner artistic spirit.
Out with the Old, In with the New
If you’re in a preschool easel painting rut and can’t think of new ways to make the same activity engaging and exciting for your toddler, try changing up the surface and paint type. Not only will this draw—pun intended—your child back to their easel, but it’s also a great way for them to explore new sensory experiences.
You can replace regular paper with parchment paper or cardboard…you can even use bubble wrap or tinfoil! If they’ve been using paint, switch to crayons or markers, or give them completely new options like shaving cream or food coloring (just make sure it doesn’t stain). There are also a world of different paint types you can introduce to spice things up, from watercolors and finger paints to acrylics and puffy varieties.
To enter totally new territory, bring in objects to trace. Take your preschooler on an outside adventure and pick out leaves together. You can then tape them to their easel underneath the paper and have them color over the leaves. You’ll delight in watching their eyes widen in wonder as the leaf outline starts coming through on the page.
Bringing finger painting to this activity is a great way to layer in an engaging sensory play experience as well. The different textures make for fun and tactile hands-on play.
Five Stars for Finger Painting
Speaking of finger painting, it’s a great tool to have in your art arsenal, because if there’s one thing kids love, it’s making a mess. Ditching paintbrushes and experimenting with finger painting will get them excited and engage them in a completely different way—just make sure to put them in a smock before getting started. With a set of finger paints, and a full roll of blank paper, the possibilities are endless.
Get them comfortable with the new medium and kickstart their creative juices by having them create simple, colorful pictures. It could be a rainbow, which is a great way to strengthen their color and pattern recognition, or painting leaves on a tree. You can even ask them to try painting four different trees—one for each season.
Making a caterpillar is also a surefire hit. Simply put one color of paint on one of their palms and another on their fingers and have them place their hand on the paper three times, one imprint after another. Their palm will create the body and their fingers will create the legs. Finish things off by having them make the head using a different color on their other palm.
The more your child finger paints, the stronger the smaller muscles in their hands become. This is a big part of developing fine motor skills and it sets the foundation for better learning and more deliberate control of pens, markers and crayons. Finger painting has also been shown to help toddlers’ growing brains begin developing skills necessary for spatial, mathematical and language learning later on—all while providing a fun sensory experience in the present.
Cotton Ball Creations
When in doubt, break out a bag of cotton balls because this super-simple preschool easel painting activity is perfect for both preschoolers and kindergarteners alike. All you need is some child-friendly glue, several colors of paint, paper for your easel and plenty of cotton balls.
Ask your child to paint a big blue cloud with either a brush or their fingers, whichever strikes their fancy. Once they have their cloud painted on the page, have them decorate it by gently dipping cotton balls into the glue and sticking them on their cloud to make it extra fluffy and multidimensional. You can create a sky full of clouds, one really large one, or a rainbow with a cloud on each end.
That’s the beauty of easel activities for kids—there are no hard and fast rules. If they enjoy this project, you can take things a step further and have them create fluffy animals, like a bunny or puppy. Another great option is to use the cotton balls as painting tools. They can act as sponges, making for some fun sensory exploration that teaches your child a new artistic skill.
Make Your Own Mad Libs
When kids get a little older and start learning how to write, spell and read, an easel can serve as the perfect storytelling board. It’s so simple to set up and it can lead to an entire afternoon of fun, creativity and learning.
Think of this as a DIY Mad Libs. Write a short story-based paragraph, leaving key verbs, nouns and adjectives out. Then have your child fill in the blanks using their imagination and storytelling instincts. If they are learning how to read, this is a great way to help them sound out the words you have already written. And when they write their own words in the blanks, they are working on spelling and sentence structure.
The best part is, they will be so immersed in thinking of ways to make the story theirs, that they won’t even realize how much they are putting their brains to work. Not to mention, it makes for a simple and creative way to connect with them and create something together. You can either change the storylines every time to keep them new and interesting or create a longer story with each paragraph as a chapter.
There’s no end to the benefits your child can get out of easel play. It enables them to learn more about themselves and their interests as they build cognitive and fine motor skills. Whether you’re looking for a fun after-school solo activity or you need to keep a group of kids engaged and entertained, easel play offers endless opportunities for learning while having a whole lot of fun.