Painting on Canvas (for Kids)

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Painting on Canvas for Kids

I picked up a 2 pack of stretched canvases on sale at AC Moore recently and brought them out when the kids were asking to paint earlier this week. They enjoy painting on something more substantial and a bit more "special" than paper. I've noticed that they usually slow down and paint more deliberately when using a canvas.

And I love how the canvas paintings look hanging on the wall!

We don't use canvases a whole lot, both because of the price and because of storage issues (It's a lot easier to store a hundred pieces of paper than 100 canvases!). But I do like to make sure to give the kids a chance to paint on canvases of different sizes every once in a while. 

They make great gifts, too!

Kids Painting on Canvas 1

I set out Autumn colors at Maia's request
—red, orange, burgandy, yellow, gold, brown, etc. And then she and Daphne asked for more colors, so we pretty much ended up with all the colors of the rainbow, and then some.

We used
BioColor paints
this time. I've found that tempera paints often dry a little chalky on the canvases. Acrylics look awesome, but are not so great for the little kiddos (although one of Maia's very first paintings at 14 months old was acrylic on canvas).

We've been using our BioColors more and more lately. I don't know what's in them that makes them different from tempera (perhaps something I should look into…), but I like the combination of their shininess (is that a word?), vibrant colors, ease of use, and how they adhere well to most surfaces.

Kids Painting on Canvas 6

Here's Daphne's painting as she was just getting started. I love it!

She worked on this painting for a long time, covering every inch of the surface with layers and layers of paint. The finished result (which I haven't photographed yet) is a dark mix of blues and purples.

I have to fight the urge to take the painting away at the point where *I* think it's beautiful and perfect and instead let her continue to work on it until she's satisfied with it (which often seems to be when it's a muddy mix of every color). 

Kids Painting on Canvas 8

Maia is painting a rainbow (still a frequent theme for her) in this photo on a piece of foamcore. She had finished her canvas and really wanted another, which I didn't have, but settled for the foamcore that I happened to have on hand.

So that was our afternoon painting session…

Do you ever buy canvases for your kids to paint? Do you feel like they work on them differently than when they paint on paper?

By the way, if you're concerned about the price, you can often use a coupon at the big arts and crafts chains. We have both an AC Moore and a Michaels where I live and both of them regularly have 40-50% off coupons that you can use on one item. For AC Moore, you can go to their store locator page, enter your zip code, and once it shows you the closest store, it gives you the option of printing out a coupon to use. I do that every time I go.

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  1. Barb says

    After allowing for a proper amount of time to pass in order to admrire the artwork, if you want to re-use a canvas, you can try painting over it in one solid color, then letting the girls use it again. My sister is an artist and she will do this sometimes when she gets tired of a piece.

  2. says

    Thanks, Barb! That’s a good tip. I think the kind of paints you use (both initially and to repaint it) matter.
    What kind of paint does your sister use?
    We’ve done what you suggest, repainting an old canvas with white first then adding a new paint. But we used tempera paint for each step and it just didn’t turn out so great. The paint cracked a bit, for example.

  3. Luli Hernandez says

    Hi Jean! I read your blog almost religiously, at least once or twice a week, and find so many things that inspire me. I’m finishing high school in Argentina and i’m planning on studying something related to both art and education (haven’t figured out WHAT exactly yet) and love blog related to these subjects…I must say I haven’t found anything quite like the Artful Parent! Thanks for the ideas and the enthusiasm!!
    PS: Maia and Daphne are absolutely lovely girls, congrats!

  4. Dena says

    Hi Jean,
    I love the idea of painting on canvas, I think Naomi will love it. I agree with fighting the urge to tell Daphne it’s done, I am the same way because Naomi does the same exact thing. As dark as her paintings turn out, they are still always beautiful. But now you have given me hope that maybe it’s a bit age related too!

  5. says

    I almost posted the exact same comment earlier!! I was wishing there were a like button for individual comments, though. :) There is a fb like button for posts, down at the bottom of the post. Maybe not quite what you were thinking, but just wanted to let you know!

  6. rachel says

    yes- love canvases! my little kids have always spent more time with and been more intentional with a canvas. however, as they’ve gotten bigger, my bigger kids have felt some “performance anxiety” and have had a hard time knowing what to put on the canvas… frustrated when it doesn’t look like they wanted, etc. so i’ve been sticking to paper with them… they seem to feel more free to try new things, take risks, throw it out and start over if they want, etc.

  7. says

    I’m SO glad you are enjoying my blog, Luli!! And I’m very impressed that I have a high school reader… :) I hope you will keep me posted about your studies in art and education!

  8. says

    Dena – Yes! Totally age related. All (or almost all) of the kids in the toddler art groups have been like that, including Maia. They change how they paint over time.

  9. says

    I bought some canvas for the kids, but haven’t gotten around to using it yet. I will have to check out the paints the suggested. Using coupons to purchase supplies is a good suggestion. They also have smaller canvas that they sell which is cheaper if you want to try it out. Pinning this fun idea.

  10. A says

    We have a special wall of canvasses by our two boys 5 and 8. I put the name and date on the back of each one.

  11. Barb says

    Hi Jean,
    I wrote earlier about re-using canvases. My sister uses gesso to paint over the used canvas, then applies a coat (or more if necessary) of white acrylic paint. The texture of the canvas will be smoother than an unused canvas because of the gesso and paint, but that may or not be a problem for the little artists. My sister also buys the canvas panels that are all primed and because they are flat, they would be easier to store than the canvas on stretcher bars. And, my sister found primed canvases that come in a tablets at an art store. Those would also be less expensive and easy to store. Have fun!

  12. Carly says

    I’ve done a few small canvases with the kids. They both have paintings in their rooms that they’ve created and we have a few in the house. I’ve never done really big canvases. I think they’d love that. Next time…
    One great thing about canvas is that stickers/tape peel off nicely. We’ve done paintings with letter stickers – they each picked three words that described things they liked to do in their bedrooms (daugher – dance, twirl, sing, son – play, laugh, sing). Together we stuck the letters on the canvas (which I had pre-painted white), then they painted all over it. Once it was dry, I carefully peeled off the letters. They’re gorgeous.

  13. says

    “I have to fight the urge to take the painting away at the point where *I* think it’s beautiful and perfect and instead let her continue to work on it until she’s satisfied with it (which often seems to be when it’s a muddy mix of every color).”
    – I can completely relate to this urge! I find myself muttering.. it’s all about the process.. repeat.. all about the process.. ;) And sometimes I’m pleasantly surprised when the outcome is more beautiful or interesting because of the uninhibited creative flow that kids seem to naturally possess!

  14. Donna says

    Are the stickers you use regular adhesive stickers that are not removable from paper, etc. or did you find stickers that can be peeled off without sticking permanently?
    I would like to try the canvas painting using stickers and want to make sure I purchase the correct type.
    Thanks.

  15. Wendy says

    Our dollar store has 9×12 flat canvasses for a dollar. They also have larger ones that are more expensive but I thought I’d start with the cheap ones. I have acrylic (tole) paints that I was going to let my kids (age 5 and 3) use to paint with. Is this a good idea or should I try to find something else? They don’t have much experience with paint at all.