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Cute crime scene art...

Updated: Jul 19, 2023

Here is a fun process based art activity that can be done just about anywhere.


Sidewalk chalk

Tempera paint

Paper plates

Variety of brushes

Water for clean-up

1) Start by having your child lay down on the ground outside and trace them with sidewalk chalk. Another option is to use a large piece of paper, or even have them stand up against a wall to do the tracing. Giving toddlers a space to work within (the outline of their body) helps create inspiration and gives them a starting point.

I decided to do the tracings on our garage door. It provides a somewhat smooth white surface and it will eventually wash off...mostly. If you love your garage door you might want to think twice about this, driveways and porches are more forgiving. If you do choose the garage door, the bonus will be the look on your spouses face when they get home from work. Not to mention how much your kids will love watching their images go up and down!

2) Get your paints, brushes and paper plates ready. Make sure you have a variety of brush sizes, including a couple of large house paint brushes.

3) Ask your children to choose one color and tell them they have to use it all up before they can get more colors. Having only one color to start with will help them focus. Once they use up all of that first color, have them choose 2 or 3 more colors. By limiting their colors and gradually introducing more, they are able to figure out the materials before they get carried away with mixing. Young children will almost always end up mixing all their colors together until they end up with brown. Don't worry, as they get older and become more experienced they will learn to stop before that happens.

While your kids are busy working you'll be able to kick back and relax while you watch their joyous experience. They will undoubtedly call you back for more colors, use your judgement as to how much you give them. When my daughter was little I think she just liked watching me squeeze the paint out, she would ask for more immediately after I had just given her more. This is an opportunity to teach them limits. Also be clear to set limits about where they are allowed to put the paint before they start. They will probably work outside their image, so point out the exact area where they are allowed to paint.

My 2 year old going rogue

4) After you trace their bodies, start out by suggesting that they fill in their body outlines with colors, shapes, and lines. This is all the suggestion they need. When they start going rogue it's sometimes hard to sit there and watch, but try. If you are a neat freak or perfectionist, process based art is going to require YOU to have self control! This is their experience, it might take them somewhere other than what you had planned. Embrace the mess.

My 4 year old having fun with dot brushes

Feel free to make comments on what you see them doing, "Wow, look at that, when you mix all the colors together it makes brown." Or "Wow, look how that big brush makes fat lines!" Try to limit your suggestions though, remember that this is their experience.

This experience is teaching your kids how to mix colors and apply paint. Eventually they will figure out that yellow and blue make green, red and yellow make orange and red and blue make purple. They will also learn that they can create a myriad of other colors, lines, shapes, patterns, and images with paint.

A large container of water makes outdoor cleanup easy

If you have an only child, invite a friend over for a play date. They will inspire each other and it will be more fun. Keep them outside and prep ahead of time for cleanup with a bucket full of water.

Most of us spend all day trying to get our kids to be less messy, but this is one experience where you should say yes to the mess!

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