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Teaching Young Children How To Clean Up After Painting

Tips and tricks to guide kids through watercolor clean up.

I love letting my kids explore with different art mediums. It is amazing for them to try new ways to show their creativity and imagination. Plus it is shown to enhance social emotional growth in early childhood age children, according to new research from the National Education Association!

So teaching young children the importance of respecting their art materials is an important part of their art education, whether it be in a school-setting or at home.

To help teach young children how to clean up after painting, we created a checklist that can help guide the children. The end goal is always for them to do things independently. This checklist is a tool to create independence.

Clean Up Checklist 1

Some important tips when working with watercolors with young children:

- An easy way to help kids manage their color choices is to tape off specific colors or rows of colors. I use painters’ tape. This guides young children with motor planning by reducing excess stimuli. Motor planning is the ability to create a plan then carry out that plan. For example, picking a color of paint (making the plan), then painting with that color of paint (carrying out plan).

Clean Up Checklist 2

- After the kids are finished painting, teach them to dab the watercolor palette. This helps clean up the excess water that can get around the paint.

- When cleaning the brushes, show young children to gently squeeze all the bristles into a paper towel or cloth to dry. Then hang the brushes over a table or sink to air dry. This helps preserve the bristles of the brushes.

- Teach young children how to reuse paper!

To use the watercolor clean up checklist, start by taking out the watercolors, water, and cloth/paper towel.

Clean Up Checklist 3

Allow the kiddos to paint and explore. Once they start to show they are losing interest/finishing their creation, take out the checklist. Explain that this checklist will help with cleaning up the watercolors. Walk them through the steps by demonstrating what to do, then allowing the children to do it themselves.

Download the Watercolors Cleanup Checklist here!

When you set up an art area for young children, make sure it is accessible for them. For more tips on how to do that, head over to my blog, The Organized Mama!

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Jessica is the founder of The Organized Mama; a professional organizing service and blog that inspires organizing a handmade home!  With a background in teaching, Jessica loves showing families how to live an organized life! She is also a wife to an amazing husband, mother to two kiddos & a fur-baby, crafter, exclamation-mark enthusiast, and lover of creativity. You can find her on all social media channels @organizedmamas and at