Painting with Kids: Still Life, Landscapes, and Portraits

Guest editor Carrie Anne from provided this post for the Melissa & Doug blog.

melissadoug_painting_with_kids Most times when my kids pull out the paint it is to create creatures, scenes, and images from their imagination. This is a great way to explore their creativity but painting to recreate something they see can also open a new way to look at art. Painting a subject, such as still life, landscape or even a portrait calls on the kids to recreate something they see versus producing something purely from their imagination.

Still Life

This consists of painting a collection of inanimate objects, such as a collection of bottles from the cupboard, cut flowers in a vase, a perhaps a favourite sculpture at home. Select a group of items that intrigue the kids and gather them in a collection to paint. melissadoug_painting_stilllife2 We used a collection of outdoor lanterns on our back deck. Recreating the lanterns meant mimicking their shape and finding colours that best matched. My youngest chose the closest colour in our Melissa & Doug Deluxe Poster Paint Set that matched the object she was painting, but my oldest tried a little colour mixing. It was great to see how they included the etched star on the side of one lantern, looking at these little details in the objects in front of them. melissadoug_painting_stilllife3


Family walks, outdoor scavenger hunts, and craft projects are a great way for kids to experience nature hands-on. Landscape painting is another way for kids to explore and understand the world around them. When my youngest was painting our big oak tree in the backyard, she didn’t just paint a straight trunk with an offshoot of branches. She noticed the curves and the varying thicknesses. melissadoug_painting_landscape By recreating a tree or a hillside kids see nature in a different way. The see the flow of hills interrupted by a forest of trees or the various shapes of the plants in a field. Landscapes don’t have to be just about the land. If you’re near the water you can try seascapes or cityscapes in urban centers.


When I attended a conference we were asked to draw a picture of the stranger sitting next to us. At the end we had to show each other the pictures we created and most of us were very apologetic to the other person. But, if kids were given the same task they would show their work with pride. Portraits are a great way of exploring how we are all different, how others see us and how we see ourselves (when you do self-portraits). melissadoug_painting_portrait3 You can have the kids paint each other, or in our house I was the subject. I never realized how hard it is to just sit still. Portraits also make great gifts, too. My son painted a picture of his dad based on a photograph, to give him for Father’s Day. melissadoug_painting_portrait2 Like the paintings found in a gallery, you can treat your child’s work like the art it is. Instead of painting on plain paper we used Melissa & Doug’s Picture Frame Art Pad. The kids loved choosing the frame for each piece they were going to work on, and the finished pictures are already framed and ready to display.

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