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13 Simple Art Activities for Transitions

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playdough monster

When do you set up art activities for your kids?

When mine were younger, I’d do them at various times of day. Mornings were always good for us, but I’d try to have something simple up my sleeve to do at transition times, such as after lunch or nap.

Now that my kids are in school, I like to have a simple art activity set up for when they get home. As much a chance to sit around the table together and talk as to create art. (We often save the more involved or multi-step art activities for weekends these days.)

Here are some simple art activities that work well for after school or other transition times.

These are low-key, low-mess activities that generally require a minimum of set-up, a minimum of adult involvement, and a minimum of clean-up.

(Of course, there’s always simply drawing or painting, which are obviously wonderful as well.)

13 Simple Art Activities for Transitions

Shadow Art Tracing

1. Shadow tracing art

Shadow art is a super simple, yet highly engaging, art activity for kids. Set up in a sunny spot, trace a pattern of shadow and light on paper, and then paint it.

Pointillism Art - Add More Dots Over the Dry Artwork

2. Pointillism Art for Kids

This twist on watercolor painting uses Q-tips instead of paintbrushes, and is one of our standby, super-easy-yet-interesting activities. Kids love making dots with paint, and then connecting them and seeing how the colors blend.

easy yarn suncatchers

3. Easy Yarn Suncatchers

Yarn suncatchers are a simple fine motor skill activity that kids of all ages with enjoy! Create suncatchers by placing cut pieces of yarn onto contact paper. Younger kids will create abstract suncatchers; older children can create pictures with their yarn.

Playdough with poke-ins and embellishments

4. Playdough modelling and play

Playdough is a great transition activity – it requires very little set up or clean up, and the possibilities with it are endless. Here are more than 15 ideas, including making fantastical creatures, using poke-ins, trying playdough mats, forming letters, and pretend play.

DIY Art Activity Pages for Kids - Eye Stickers and Frames

5. DIY art activity pages (or printables, if you want something super simple)

Encourage kids’ creativity with DIY art activity pages. These can be created on the fly, using materials you already have, and customized to your child’s interests. And if you want something even easier, check out our list of printable art activities.

6. Contact paper suncatchers with colored tissue paper or nature items

We LOVE suncatchers! We actually have an entire page devoted to all of our suncatcher ideas. There are so many ways to make these, but contact paper framed by a paper plate is super easy. Feel free to use tissue paper, flowers, or leaves to stick on to make beautiful designs.

Painting with Oil Pastels and Oil

7. Painting with oil pastels

Try this easy oil pastel painting technique with kids. Combine the vibrant colors and smooth application of oil pastels with baby oil for a painting effect.

Paper Collage for Kids plus Cutting Practice

8. Collage with paper shapes

This super simple activity is always a winner with kids. Tear or cut shapes out of paper and glue onto poster board or cardstock for a colorful and creative design.

Simple Kids Activities - Toothpick Construction

9. Toothpick sculptures (try it with grapes for a healthy snack!)

If you haven’t tried toothpick sculptures with your kids, definitely give it a try! It’s a construction project that kids of all ages (adults, too!) will love, and the possibilities for materials are endless.

Watercolor resist

10. Watercolor resist with crayons or oil pastels

This is a lovely and easy art process that we come back to again and again. Draw designs with crayons or oil pastels, paint over with watercolors, and see the crayon designs come through the paint!

Sticker Resist Art Project for Kids

11. Sticker art

This is such a fun way to “draw” pictures! Make a design with stickers and paint over with watercolors; when the paint is dry, remove the stickers for a silhouette of your image. For an extra starry effect, sprinkle salt on the wet watercolors!

Masking Tape Art for Kids

12. Masking tape art (works great with washi tape, too!)

Kids love tape! Let them make patterns and designs with it and see what they come up with. You can use larger masking tape, or smaller rolls of washi tape.

Easy Kids Art Project

13. Hole Art Challenge

This is a super easy kids art project with the added bonus of being quiet, low mess, and, of course, creative. Kids love an open-ended prompt, and you will be amazed at what they come up with in this hole art challenge!

So there you have it. 13 simple art activities for kids that are great for downtime and transitions between activities, times of day (mealtime, naptime), or locations (school, errands).

Plus, here’s a bonus one… If you have a spin art machine (we got ours on Amazon for about 10 bucks), spin drawing and spin painting can be remarkably calming and mesmerizing. My kids love both and often gravitate to the spin art machine after school.

More Easy Art Activities for Kids:

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13 Simple Art Activities for Transitions

6 Comments

  • Reply
    Marieke
    September 3, 2015 at 1:16 pm

    This is a great list! My kids love to build “grape sculptures”! It sure makes it easier to fit art into our kids’ busy schedules, between homework and after school activities, when the art projects are quick to put out and easy to clean up! Thanks for sharing!

  • Reply
    Barbara Elson
    November 26, 2017 at 8:10 am

    I wish I would see boys not girls depicted in art activities on your site. Both my parents were talented in art and my brothers and I would always be involved at home growing up with drawing, painting, sculpture etc. My father and brothers were strong men, army, hunting, sports etc. and my 23 year old nephew in fact, graduated college with a masters degree in graphic design and now lives and works in LA. I taught art K-12 in my long tracing career, as well as being a parent. I also have a daughter who teaches art. I think your photos should include boys engaged in creative activities. Art leads to higher level thinking and leads to jobs in many areas. I have two grandsons now and their parents think the arts play a role in their development as much as academics or sports or anyother activity.

    • Reply
      Melissa Garrett
      November 27, 2017 at 12:00 pm

      Hi Barbara. Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts. This gender balance is definitely on our minds at The Artful Parent. Jean happens to have two daughters, so many of the activities she does and photos she takes and uses on The Artful Parent happen to be of her daughters (and their friends, many of whom are also girls) engaged in art activities. I’m the project manager at the Artful Parent, and I am also a former preschool teacher (and the mom of a boy); I can definitely agree wholeheartedly that art is for EVERYONE! All kids love to be creative (just as all kids enjoy building, playing with legos, wearing tutus, playing soccer, having dance parties, etc.) We have loved having boys as well as girls in our art groups at The Artful Parent, so you’ll see that reflected in Jean’s posts about activities we do with that group. Thanks for noticing and mentioning this and for embracing that art and creativity are for all kids.

  • Reply
    Nikki
    April 30, 2018 at 3:53 pm

    I love your ideas you’ve shared today, thank you. I’ve been struggling to find something for my 3yr old to do during rest time that lasts longer than 2 second and doesn’t require input or supervision by me. I’ll give some of these a go.Any more suggestions for 3yr olds?
    Thanks.

  • Reply
    Veronica
    August 24, 2018 at 10:18 am

    I have used many of these. good job.
    I would say however that the string pulls could be less messy if the two ends of the string are not put in the paint and you use something to squeeze the paint off before starting out.

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