The Genesis of a New Obsession?

The other day I decided it was high time I get Eli involved in some painting activities. He has done a little bit of painting at school, but it didn’t seem to make much of an impression on him. I picked up some chunky paint brushes and some watercolors in preparation.

I’m not sure how he did it, but he managed to reach way into the fenced off sewing are (a.k.a dining room) and snagged the brushes off of the ironing board where I had placed them when unloading the bag from the store.

I have no idea what happened to the watercolors. Perhaps we have an out-of-season leprechaun problem? I’m sure they will show up eventually as I bought two sets on separate shopping trips. In the meantime Eli was beside himself needing to paint RIGHT NOW!

Luckily, I had a set of acrylic poster paints in the house. I mixed a glob of green and another of blue into small dishes of water. Eli, paper and paint came together in his high chair.

He was entranced! I love the expression of serious focus and concentration he gets on his face while painting. You can tell this is serious work and not some frivolous game to him! We will have to work on the concept that a picture can be “done” while unused paint still remains. Either that or I just have to offer less paint for a while. When he had finished there was a beautiful but very sloshy lake of paint in the middle of his paper.

Another use for the abundance of D.A.R.E. shirts I’ve been blessed with.

The next morning my boy, who normally will sleep at least until 8 a.m. and often until 9:30 if we don’t have anywhere to go in the morning, was up at 5:30! He cut his wake-up nursing session drastically short (which NEVER happens) and grabbed his paint brushes. He made it clear that it was imperative he get started immediately, and no time to waste!

I gave him back the dried painting from the day before and some yellow paint. This time I didn’t thin the paint and I gave him one of my thinner paintbrushes. Once again ย he worked away with incredible focus and concentration. (This is the child who could not sit down for more than 30 seconds ever or remain with one activity longer than 2 minutes just 6 months ago!)


I’m thrilled Eli loves painting. Fine Art was my major in college. After much dabbling in many different mediums I focused on painting for my senior show. I haven’t done a lot of painting since those days but the love is still there.

Going forward… I need to make an easel for Eli. I would love for him to have the ability to go and begin to paint independently. Of course, there will be a fair amount of supervision and practice of expected behavior leading up to that. You know, small considerations such as using a smock and loaded paintbrushes staying in the painting area!

Our highchair painting extravaganza has left us with a very stained highchair tray. The sun, which does a great job of quickly bleaching out food stains, doesn’t begin to touch these! I rarely use chlorine bleach but perhaps I’ll have to now. Maybe you have a different suggestion?

I also need to lay in a supply of non-toxic paint. I wasn’t completely comfortable with letting him use the acrylic poster paints that are not meant for toddlers. I am learning that in the Waldorf tradition, high quality art materials are used. Cheap children’s materials (think Rose Art brand crayons) can frustrate and turn kids off. Eli is too young now to care if his paint brush sheds a bristle now and then into his work, but I remember as a child being upset by that happening. And just as children tend to take better care of their toys when they have fewer, higher quality toys, the same applies to the judicious use and care of art supplies. Honestly though, at this stage I think the main concern is safety. When Eli reaches the stage of greater intentionality in what he is trying to create the quality will be a greater factor of consideration for me. Right now he seems to be driven more by the joy of the process.

I’m not sure about the expense of using the “good stuff”. ย I would like to encourage Eli to be free to create and experiment to his heart’s content and not feel like I have to ration supplies that are too precious. I’m also wary of the attitude that one needs to buy only “approved” materials from Waldorf suppliers. But the jury is still out as I haven’t yet had the time to do my research. I’m sure I’m not the first parent with this concern. I’m off to find out how other families have ย provided eco-friendly, non-toxic, good quality art supplies for their budding Rembrandts without breaking the bank. If you have any ideas to share please leave a comment.

Mama’s got some readin’ to do.

Thanks for stopping by!




  1. 312east5th said,

    June 29, 2012 at 4:57 pm

    I feel your pain with the tricky decision of purchases in the arts, crafts and toy department. I agonize over them. I do find that at my son’s age (almost 3 and one) they couldn’t care less about the outcome. Its more about the process. But, I still opt for the good quality stuff most of the time just for practice I suppose. Or at least middle of the line. I love the lyra watercolor crayons.

    • June 29, 2012 at 5:35 pm

      I just took a look at the Lyra water color crayons. They look like they’d be such a pleasure to use! Thanks for the recommendation. ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. June 29, 2012 at 9:55 pm

    At my boy’s age (2.5) I prefer the non-toxic big-name brands like washable Crayola paints over the real art supplies. I think once he’s older like 5 or 6 then I’ll invest in better quality art supplies (I totally think giving kids real art supplies and not dumbed down versions of them really boosts their self-esteem and confidence) but for now I’d rather stick to kid products to be safe.

    And oh my gosh that’s so awesome Eli is into painting! Wow it’s like he’s found his niche, you know? He has that focus that’s really such a blessing for even adults to find. Hopefully he will continue to find his flow with painting.

    • June 30, 2012 at 2:30 pm

      Yea, I’m loving this new interest of his and hope it continues for a good long while. I found some good non-toxic recipes for finger paints I can make at home. I think we’ll give that a go next week.

  3. June 30, 2012 at 6:02 am

    This is too funny! So fun to see his expressions of concentration. Such serious business!! What wonderful memories you are capturing on this blog. So awesome, Karen!!

  4. ReStitch Me said,

    June 30, 2012 at 7:22 am

    What a great idea to give Eli back his painting from the day before, but with the smaller brushes and thicker paint. The ‘layers’ will make for an even more interesting finished work of art!
    I agree about the better quality painting supplies. Perhaps not right now, but as he gets older.
    My kids were given some watercolor books that they basically just painted with water and then the design appeared. They went through them so fast–with no artistic imagination whatsoever. Having them paint with real supplies was more satisfying and better for them!
    Yeah for Eli!

    • June 30, 2012 at 2:26 pm

      I know the water color books you’re talking about. I found one in a closet and offered it to Eli about a week ago. He didn’t want anything to do with it. Really, not only is the picture predetermined but the colors as well. It’s the artistic equivalent of “learning” to write by copying long passages out of a book by hand. Well perhaps not quite that much drudgery, but still…

  5. June 30, 2012 at 12:05 pm

    Does Eli “paint” in the bathtub? I bought some bathtub paints for my grandson when he was Eli’s age. He absolutely loved painting on the sides of the tub, and himself, with them. I loved the idea that I could wash it all off him and the tub easily when he got out! I think kids instinctively love watercolors. It’s the experience of creating something all by themselves that’s the charm and leads, I think, to more creative thinking and experimentation. The trick is not to lead him… I had trouble not interfering with his “designs” and limiting myself to suggesting what he might try. ๐Ÿ™‚ I loved watching this beautiful child in his moment of intense creativity. Ah, if only we could help our children to keep that creative mindset.

    • June 30, 2012 at 2:12 pm

      We will definitely have to try this! When I was little I was given some bath tub crayons, but they didn’t mark worth beans, and if you pushed hard enough to make them mark you had to scrub FOREVER to get it clean again. But bathtub paints? Sounds like a much different experience. It might take all of my self control to keep from getting into the tub with him!

  6. June 30, 2012 at 1:00 pm

    I love the idea of layering painting by giving them back dried artwork. I’ll have to try that!

    • June 30, 2012 at 2:18 pm

      It makes for much more interesting pieces in the end. I wonder if it will help him with the idea of coming back and continuing or reworking something instead of always starting anew when he is a little older and working on independent artwork or writing. Perhaps not, but maybe, if repeated enough times in different ways.

  7. Alexandra said,

    June 30, 2012 at 1:51 pm

    thank you for stopping by my blog and for the kind words! I really appreciate it. =] your boy looks adorable. painting is the best! And on what George Weaver said, I remember when I was just a wee thing and I LOVED bathtub paints!

  8. adohrenwend said,

    July 1, 2012 at 8:48 pm

    I too am looking for recommendations on good art supplies on a budget! I bought some really expensive crayons for my daughter in the beginning and then I just got bummed out when she broke them all.

    One thing I do love to let my daughter do is just paint with water on concrete. I have some big fat Asian calligraphy brushes that work great for this and hey, the mess just dries up!

    • July 1, 2012 at 10:26 pm

      I bet your daughter has a lot of fun with the paintbrushes and water outside. That would probably be a great way to have kids practice writing letters or spelling words as they get older too. Fun and less pressure because if it’s done wrong the mistake will just disappear. I like the idea of using the big calligraphy brushes instead of house painting brushes that i’ve seen recommended for this activity. They’d give a little more control over the lines made I would think.

  9. Inder said,

    July 2, 2012 at 9:08 pm

    Look at him go! He does look completely entranced there. You make me want to find some paints and get Joe started!

  10. July 3, 2012 at 4:43 am

    A budding artist – I love it! You know it’s true love when they’ll take something over nursing ๐Ÿ™‚

  11. Maysem said,

    July 3, 2012 at 7:46 am

    With an artist mama, Eli is sure to become one too! He’s already off to a good start;) My sister-in-law created an “art gallery” section in her basement (very nice basement I must add!) for her kids (4 & 3). She hangs up their art on the walls in a gallery fashion for others to admire.. it’s cute.

  12. July 3, 2012 at 11:23 am

    I liked how the painting turned out after you gave him the dried painting to pain over again. Gorgeous! Please share if you find eco- and child-friendly paints!

    • July 4, 2012 at 8:25 am

      Thank you! I just bought some Crayola non-toxic paints to keep us going as I search for other options. It may be good enough for us for now until he seems to care about the product. Right now it’s just all process!

  13. July 4, 2012 at 11:31 am

    I love the layering!
    We make a lot of our art supplies…non-toxic and good quality. The book First Art has a lot of good recipes (and a few duds). Here’s a sample playdough recipe, much nicer that the store bought stuff plus cheap and safe:
    We use a lot of Crayola as well…it’s much better quality that most of the kids stuff out there and is safe and washable. We did buy good quality watercolors in tubes because they are far more satisfying to work with. Now that C is big enough to use scissors (we started with spring-loaded but now he’s using real little kid scissors though we’re careful to get ones with blades that actually cut), one way I cope with the copious amount of work he can produce is to cut it up and use it for collages. Sometimes he’ll cut up the collages to make new collages.
    As far as the highchair tray, we just figure ours is permanently stained. It adds character. ๐Ÿ™‚ We now mostly use an art table my hubby salvaged from a dumpster. Very cool find! We have C stand on his stepladder at it.

    • July 4, 2012 at 12:48 pm

      The book First Art looks great and I’ve got it on my Amazon wish list now. Thanks! I love the idea of cutting up work to use as collage material… and using collages as collage material- sheer brilliance. ๐Ÿ™‚ That must give the hands a bit of a workout cutting through all of the layers. I need to get some first scissors for Eli. It is so important to get ones that actually cut as the ones that don’t are so frustrating! I think our highchair tray may just remain colorful. I tried some eco-friendly non-chlorine bleach and not a bit of change. Oh well! I do want to get Eli a little table (hopefully thrifted). I feel bad we don’t have any child-sized table or chairs in the house. I’m not sure where we will put it when we find one though. Our small house is already overcrowded.

  14. July 13, 2012 at 2:34 pm

    […] one of my Pinterest boards I have this recipe from Raising 4 Princesses. Given Eli’s recent interest in painting it seemed like the perfect time to give it a try. After being disappointed by the set of natural […]

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