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Creative thinking, creative expression, and creative learning are all goals of open-ended art activities. Although I love a good craft, crafting is all about the product. I much prefer open-ended, process-focused, art activities that don’t constrain a child’s creativity by giving them step by step crafts to complete. I love to see where my child takes the materials they are given! Art is an adventure and it is so exciting to see where it takes you!

My sister-in-law shared the book “The Dot” by Peter H Reynolds with me and I absolutely adore it. In a nutshell, the book follows the story of a girl, Vashti, who thinks she could never be an artist. After her teacher says “Just make a mark and see where it takes you.” Vashti creates a series of dot pictures that are later put on display in her school’s art show. At the end of the book, a little boy is admiring her artwork saying how he could never do something like that. Vashti then passes on the advice of her teacher: “Just make a mark and see where it takes you.” Vashti encourages another young child to discover his inner artist.

Scribbles aren’t pointless. When your toddler makes scribbles say proudly “Look at the marks you’re making! Oh I see how you’re making circle marks now! Round and round and round!” Anyone can create art. All art has value.

This post will help you to find art activities to encourage your young artist through open-ended art that you can easily set up at home. It is full of inspiration for adding art into your home and into your everyday! Enjoy!

Open-Ended Art Activities to Inspire Your Child’s Creativity

1. Paint with your child!

I know some parents are afraid of the mess of painting, but, believe me when I tell you, in the chaos and mess there is soooo much to gain and so much to learn! My husband hates mess. I am unequivocally the messy parent. Soooo messy things happen when he’s not around and I try to have things cleaned up when he returns. He appreciates that and my kids love to create a gigantic mess!

Use paint brushes and paper of varying sizes and color. Learn about color, labeling the colors of paint your child is using and practice color mixing. Choose two primary colors to see what color they make when mixed. Anytime paint is involved my children get excited!

In case you need a color mixing refresh:

  • Red and blue make purple
  • Blue and yellow make green
  • Yellow and red make orange

2. Roll Cars Through Paint – Tape paper around the table in a circle, as a sort of track for your child to roll their car around. This activity takes an art project and turns it into a large motor activity and a social activity as your children coordinate going around the table without crashing into each other!

3. Ball Rolling Through Paint – Find a shallow box you don’t mind getting messy. Cut a piece of paper to fit the bottom of the box. drizzle paint blobs on the paper and put a ball in the box. Let your child hold the box and tip it from side to side and watch the ball roll around through the paint making trails through the paint.

4. Large Paper on the Wall – Taping a large piece of craft paper to the wall lets your child experience a different perspective when making art. Your child can stand as they create and use different large motor muscles for reaching that they wouldn’t use sitting at a table.

If you’re brave you can lay down a drop cloth and let your child paint on the big paper. I usually just do crayons and markers and stickers for this activity and let it stay up for a while. My kids enjoy coming back to it throughout the week.

5. Rubber Band Snap Paintings – I stretched rubber bands over a jelly roll pan (a cookie sheet with a rim). I slid paper under the rubber bands onto the cookie sheet and added paint. My kids snapped the rubber bands and PAINT WENT EVERYWHERE. This is an outdoor activity hands down. But my kids love it so I had to include it on this list.

6. Recycled Art – Hot glue (adult step) bubble wrap, egg cartons, coffee filters, paper plates and any random packaging material you may have on hand to create a “recycled art wall” with a flattened out cardboard box as the base. Your child can paint the wall deciding what and how to paint all the different textures and shapes you find.

7. Contact Paper Collages – Tape contact paper, sticky side up to either the wall or a table and give your child lightweight collage materials to create and recreate with! The beauty of this activity is that the collage materials can be peeled off and stuck back on again. You can use many different materials for this activity such as tissue paper, yarn, feathers and foam pieces.

8. Painting with Water – You can complete this activity with cotton balls, cotton swabs, or just plain old paint brushes. You can use construction paper or a cut off bit of carboard box. It’s fun to see the paper change colors!

*** if you use construction paper keep an eye out for color bleeding if your child adds a lot of water***

Painting with water is a fun activity to take outside as well! My children painted the sidewalk, the fence, the patio furniture, the windows, the wall, the flowers and more with water. I suggest designating a couple paint brushes that you ONLY use outside as they tend to get a little dirty.

9. Chalk Paint – This is a great activity to mix it up! Chalk paint is a great (potentially messy activity) you can do outside. It’s really quick and easy to mix up and only requires three ingredients: cornstarch, water, and food coloring! Gotta love this open-ended art activity for all kids! Check out the link below for the recipe and step by step instructions on how to make chalk paint!


10. Chalk Dipped in Water – See what happens when you dip chalk in water! Use wet chalk on black paper so the color really pops!

11. Do-a-Dot Painting – My daughter loves these for making meticulous dots and using the work books you can get with them to carefully fill in the dots. My son likes these for “booming” and splattering the dots all over the paper. Whatever personality your child has, these can accommodate and make for a really fun art experience!

12. Cotton Swab Paintings – This is a great activity to talk about pointillism with older children and promote strengthening fine motor skills with younger ones.

13. Tape Art – This is a collage-type art, but can age with your child to create more shapes and meaning. My daughter and I created a tree using tape. We balled up yellow, orange and red masking tape to create textured leaves and made a beautiful tree in the Autumn.

An extension of tape art is adding pipe cleaners or craft sticks and taping them to paper or cardboard for a 3D effect.

If you don’t already have colorful masking tape , I HIGHLY suggest adding it to your art cabinet. My daughter was over the moon when we got her these rolls of tape for her birthday. What can I say, my girl loves tape! Generally speaking KIDS LOVE TAPE!

14. Sticker Collage – Use dot stickers to create a sticker collage. If your child is just learning to use stickers, you can fold part of the dot over to create a little bit for your toddler to grasp. This is a great activity for increasing fine motor strength. Peeling stickers is hard!

If your child has mastered the art of peeling stickers, you can use create lines, patterns, or write your child’s name for them to put the stickers on. They can create patterns or simply work on following the lines.

15. Paint or Glue Tissue Paper to Sticks – It’s always fun to pull the outside inside. This activity is a great one to encourage creativity and the use of different muscles when gluing. You could also glue pompoms to the sticks for a fun look. Collect the sticks and display them in a vase!

16. Make Prints with Paper Towel Rolls – There are many ways to use paper towel rolls for art. You can print circles using the end of the paper towel roll as a stamper. You can also create a heart shaped stamper by bending and taping a paper towel roll into shape. But my favorite is cutting the roll to make a star burst sort of shape simply by cutting strips a few inches down into the roll and flaring them out.

17. Coffee Filter Butterflies – This is as close to a craft as this particular list will get you. Draw with Marker on coffee filters, then spray lightly with water to see the color bleed. You can then add a clothespin to pinch and hold the coffee filter in place to look like a butterfly. You can add pipe cleaner antenna and draw a little happy face on the clothespin to complete the look.

18. Handprint and Finger Prints with Stamp Pads – I love a good hand print activity and have given plenty of hand print art as gifts to the grandparents. After I’ve done my little crafty project though, I hand over the reins to my children to explore with the stamp pads.

If you want a more focused art project, you can draw a tree trunk for your child and invite them to create leaves and branches for the tree using their finger prints and hand prints!

19. Gluing Collages: I would probably start with glue sticks when doing glue art projects with your young child, but this is a great cogitative activity to show your child a two-step process and the idea that the glue sticks your collage materials to the paper.

I model this idea for my kids several times throughout the activity. I spread the glue, stick an item down, and hold the paper up to show: “See it doesn’t fall off! The glue holds it on the paper!” You can see their little wheels turning as they try to grasp the concept and figure it out.

20. Make Cards with Water Color Paint – We sent out little notes of encouragement by snail mail just the other day. My daughter and I drew on the watercolor paper using our favorite Sharpie Pens, and then we painted with simple water color over the black pen marks. They turned out great and it was so fun enjoying this project together and spreading some love to our family during a hard time.

21. Paint with Your Feet – You definitely need to be in the right mood to tackle this activity! But this is the kind of activity that gets your child belly laughing. It’s the stuff childhood is meant for, if you ask me!

Break down/flatten a large box to cover as much ground as possible. Tape the box to the floor to prevent slipping. ALWAYS do this art activity on a floor that is easily cleaned. Expect a mess. I end up carrying my children to the tub to wash off their feet when we’re done.

Painting with your feet can get very slippery so just watch out for running or sliding too much and warn your children to watch out for that.

*** If you prefer the mess to stay outside you can create art on an old flat sheet with your feet or lay down craft paper along the sidewalk to create a walking path of little feet.

22. Use Puffy Paint to Decorate a Box – Find just the right boxes to stack so that they look like a stacked wedding cake! I covered my boxes in brown craft paper to help with the look, but that is, of course, optional. I then made puffy paint using shaving cream, glue, and my washable kids paint for colors. I gave my children craft sticks to use as their spatulas to spread the icing all over their cake.


Put down a huge drop cloth. Anticipate a mess. Plan for a bath immediately following.

Oh, so worth it! My kids played for FOREVER with this art activity. It’s not one I feel up to tackling every day, but it is a definite must-try and one to pull out on special occasions!

23. Make Paint Brushes Out of Natural Materials – You can use sticks as handles and tie or tape different items from nature to the ends. You can use a bunch of grass, or stems, or flowers or leaves. Your imagination is your only limitation! I have also cut Queen Ann’s Lace growing on the side of the road to create firework prints using the flower of what is sometimes considered a weed. I have also seen people use Gerber daisies as paint brushes. What other ideas can you and your child come up with to create art?

24. Salt Dough Ornaments or Sculpture – Salt dough is fantastic for creating mementos to keep in your memory box. It is perfect for saving footprints and hand prints and to make precious keep sake ornaments. The link below provides a great salt dough recipe for you to try.

If you’re not in the market for a DIY keepsake, you can still give salt dough a try! Salt dough can be used to make a sculpture and then painted once dry.

25. Layered Art Projects – Come up with your own unique combinations, doing one layer at a time!

— Sharpies and water color

— Crayons and stickers

— paper collage then paint

— Oil pastels and water colors

— salt dough and popsicle sticks

I’d be willing to bet your child can come up with some new and creative ways to use the art materials in your home! It’s amazing to see what our children are capable of when we give them the space to be creative.

One of my daughter’s favorite organization projects (aside from organizing our book collection) is organizing our art cabinet. Organizing our art cabinet involves taking out all our various art materials so that they can be reorganized and repacked into our cupboard. Every time we do this it seems my daughter finds new ways to use the art materials we already have!

I hope this list inspires you to set up some open-ended art projects to spark your child’s creativity! Art is a vehicle to gain so many skills – from motor development to cognitive skills. Engaging in art activities is a way to grow your child. Open-ended art activities allow for creative thinking and creative expression. I can’t wait for you to experience the joy of creating art with your child! Any mess is well worth the experience and knowledge you gain when you engage in art activities together!

If you want to know my secrets for a well-stocked art cabinet check out my post:

How To Stock Your Art Cabinet to Inspire Your Young Artist

PIN this post to reference back to when you’re stumped on what art projects to try with your little one!

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