benefits of painting for toddlers development

7 Surprising Benefits of Painting for Toddlers Development

My 3 year old sweetly asks: “Mommy, can I paint this box and make a fire engine?” 

I respond: “Ummm”

In my head I am running through all the reasons to NOT do a painting activity with my toddler! It’s messy, our clothes will be covered in paint, we have to find a safe spot for it to dry, my baby will probably try to eat the paint at some point. 

But I’m also thinking about all the amazing benefits of painting for my toddlers development, and kind of inspired by his creativity. Plus I’m excited for some time to play with my baby while my 3 year old is engrossed in an activity. 

Picture of a toddler painting to represent the benefits of painting for toddlers development

Painting can captivate toddlers in a world of play

This is probably my favorite benefit of painting for toddler development. Isn’t this the picture we all had of our toddlers childhood? Hours of make believe worlds and creative play. 

And painting is a gateway to this. Once young children have mastered the skills they need in order to actually put paint to paper this will be an activity that can totally captivate their attention and hearts. 

Equipping your toddler with the ability to paint independently is opening up a big door for independent play.

And of course, the big bonus of independent play is some time for mama to drink her coffee or do one of the 100 micro housekeeping tasks that just never seem to get done. 

Wanna build your toddler’s self esteem

This is a really surprising benefit of painting for your toddlers development- it can build their self esteem. In this study kids displayed improved self-confidence after a 10 week creative arts program. The idea being that while doing open ended creative art the kids felt they had created something good and that had a ripple effect over into general self esteem.  

Ummm, yes let’s get some of that ripple effect going in our toddlers today please. 

The big takeaway from this research is that open ended painting is better than “must get it right” structured activities. Yip, it’s less about painting a perfect card for grandma and more about time engaging in creative play. 

You may be interested in: Painting with your toddler and the difference between process art vs. craft activities. 

There are many benefits of painting for toddlers sensory development 

There are lots of sensory things happening in the simple activity of painting : 

  • The feeling (tactile) of the paint of the skin (especially when finger painting with your toddler). How sticky is the paint, how does it feel when it comes off, does each color feel the same?
  • The neural feedback from the muscles and joints (proprioception) on how to hold the paintbrush and the feeling of smoothing paint over a surface
  • The feeling of painting on different surfaces

For toddlers and young children, every time they experience a new movement and sensation their brain is interpreting the new sensation (how the muscles and joints feel and need to respond) and making NEW NEURAL PATHWAYS. Literally their brain is developing. 

Another great thing that happens with paint is the opportunity to get dirty. I know it’s not always our first goal as the mamas (in other words, the ones that have to clean up afterwards) but getting dirty is important for sensory development. In fact, when a toddler hates getting any mess on themselves it is a red flag for sensory issues. 

Get these benefits of painting for your toddlers development 

Look I know how intimidating it can seem to hand over paint to your toddler. The thought of a 5 minute activity that could possibly result in hours of scrubbing paint off your sofa, is enough to put anyone off. 

BUT, painting is one of those amazing activities that boost so many areas of your toddlers development. And I don’t want you, or your toddler to miss out on the fun. 

If you want to 

  • Get started with painting activities for your 1-3 year old that are zero prep and easy clean up
  • Reap the rewards of painting activities without the mess
  • Have 5 days of simple painting activities planned out for you 

Join our free 5 day toddler painting challenge! Get more details here:

Early education benefits of painting for toddlers

There are many things that toddlers can learn through painting. Like: 

  • Colors
  • Mixing colors and how to make certain colors
  • Prewriting shapes
  • Filling a space with color
  • Recognising shapes 
Picture of toddler painting self drawn bananas to show how painting boosts toddler development

Painting develops toddler fine motor skills 

Painting is a powerhouse activity for fine motor development.  

  • Isolated finger movements: Finger painting is a great activity for teaching your toddler how to use one finger in drawing
  • Pencil grip:  Holding a paint brush helps develop good pencil grip and painting with other instruments (like stamps, pasta, sponges etc.) develops other essential hand grasps. It also develops grip strength and strong internal muscles of the hand. 
  • Using the help hand (non-dominant hand): Painting activities also give your toddler a chance to practice stabilising the paper while painting. It sounds so basic but this is actually a really important skill for drawing and later handwriting. 

You may also like: Toddler stickers: When, How and Why

Toddler mindfulness activity  

I have to say that I have always been a little jealous of the art therapists. They get to sit all day painting and teach kids mindfulness. It sounds pretty calming. And it is! Or at least that’s actually their goal. 

There is something exactly calming about painting. It makes us slow down for a moment and focus on the movement and act of painting. 

This is fantastic for toddlers. Especially those that need quiet breaks or to improve impulsivity. While engaged in a painting activity you may notice your toddlers shoulders drop, breathing slow, or they may even start humming. 

      You may also like: Toddler development: what to look out for in ages 1-3

Picture of paint brush, q tip and pom pom to represent different paintbrushes toddlers can use

Painting develops creativity in toddlers

Creativity is an attitude not an aptitude. What’s the difference? 

  • Aptitude: Something that can be done “right” or “wrong” or could be given a grade
  • Attitude:An openness and state of mind. 

It is not about training your 3 year old to be an artist but rather allowing their brain to develop divergent thinking skills

Divergent thinking skills can be described as a creative, non-linear thought process in solving a problem. 

In contrast convergent thinking is a fact-to-solution logical problem solving thought process. 

Traditionally education has focussed on training convergent thought processes. The truth is that we need both. 

This is the reason that STEM has changed to STEAM. Studies have shown that in order to raise a generation that will not only be book smart but also able to use their intelligence to create and innovate… art has to be a curriculum focus. 

But again- the thrust here has to be on creative expression instead of getting the painting “right”. 


Painting is a powerhouse activity that has some amazing benefits for your toddlers development. 

In order to get those benefits you need to present painting activities as process art instead of a  craft project. 

If you are wanting to boost your toddlers development and get started with painting activities join our free 5 day challenge

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