Preschool Art: Imagination Rules

Written by NPN Guest on September 23rd, 2011

Arts and Crafts, Natural Learning

At about the age of 2 1/2 years, play and movement cease to simply be an expression of energy and become intentional activities. Running throughout the house, your three-year-old is not so much running to feel what her legs are capable of doing, but flying faster than a speeding bullet to fight against villains. In art, this same intentionality manifests in drawing or creating particular ideas. Furthermore, you may find your four-year-old has a greater sense of focus and has become more interested in sitting down to draw or paint than he was just six months ago. The preschooler is completely absorbed in his world, most often mid-fantasy, and art can be an incredible tool for feeding his vivid imagination.

Still being so young, a preschooler continues to be very interested in experiencing the world through all the senses and, often, in big movements. With this in mind, here are a couple art activities that would appease the appetite for silliness, fantasy and sensual-exploration…

Clay Play (or Paint) with Toes

…Or elbows, heels, and knees. Anything but hands! A simple shift in perspective in an ordinary activity like playing with play dough or clay can really enhance thinking out of the box, and the silliness is thoroughly enjoyed by preschoolers. This could be applied to painting, like printing with feet, or drawing with a non-dominate hand or a pencil in the mouth!

Textured Paintings

These can be created in two ways. With the first, simply pour some washable tempera paint into a few jars and mix in a coarsely textured ingredient such as sand, rice or glitter.  Set your preschooler up with a big sheet of paper (the bigger, the better) and a few painting tools, such as a brush, spoon or turkey baster. Next, introduce the painting session with a note of fantasy. For example, “I’ve mixed up a batch of paint with dragon-scales! Let’s paint with it!” or “Last night, I heard some rummaging in our art supplies. This morning I found that the faeries had been playing in our paints! Would you like to see what we can create with the magical paint they left behind?”

Another way you could do this would be to first glue a texture onto some paper — again, sand, rice, beans — then, once dry, to paint on top of the textures. You could either have your preschooler glue them, or if she is younger, you could do it. Then, set her up just the same as above, with a bit of fantasy to get her imagination going.


Preschoolers with particularly good fine motor skills may appreciate a bit of simple origami, too. An art form often forgotten, it is a perfect media for creating creatures starring in their latest on-going fantasy. Furthermore, the simplicity of origami figures allows them to fill in the details with their imagination. There are many origami websites available, but one I’ve appreciated recently (my 4-year-old’s paper airplane obsession lead to his introduction to origami) is

With growing focus and excellent imitation skills, your preschooler is at an age where it is appropriate to begin showing him how to care for art supplies. Do this by modeling how to use and care for them, with little explanation. He doesn’t need lectures on it, just a beginning. Perhaps, too, set aside a few “special” art supplies of high quality so that he begins valuing them and the artwork he creates with them. Eventually, the way he values and cares for them may extend to other supplies and things.

In everything that you do with your preschooler, model, model model. Formal teaching (by way of classes or at home) about artists or correct techniques are for later. Teaching any of this too early would only squelch the natural passion preschoolers have for creating. Art now should be about simple, fun activities that enrich their blossoming imagination and create a foundation of passion for art later.


Acacia is a stay at home mama playing through life one moment at a time with her husband and two young sons. She is a natural parenting, cloth diapering, gentle disciplining, home schooling, wholesome foods eating, spiritually centered steward to this great Mother Earth.

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