Children’s Paintings.


Hubbard (1994) cited in McArdle and Wong (2010) suggests that ‘for some, children’s drawings and paintings are merely a curiosity, and for others they are a window to the soul’. 

Physical Development

Painting allows children to develop a full range of motion progressing from large to small motor movements as they experience a variety of paper and brush sizes.  Children demonstrate increasing control as the size, over time, decreases.  In developing control of large and small muscle groups children increase co-ordination, strength, dexterity and control.  They refine hand to eye co-ordination, grip and even balance as they paint at easels.   


A human brain is divided into left and right hemispheres.  The left hemisphere is concerned with logical thinking for example, the things we teach in schools.  The right hemisphere is partly concerned with ‘creativity’ and for children to reach their full cognitive potential it is important to develop both sides of their brains.  Providing children with creative, open ended activities, including painting, we allow young minds to make connections and for cognitive development to occur.  Painting (and art activities), provide creative opportunities which encourage problem solving, symbolic thinking, curiosity, imagination, investigation, exploration, evaluation and even risk taking behaviours – attributes which are clearly reflected in the characteristics of learning element of Development Matters.  Brain lateralisation helps the mind to integrate functions, for example creative thinking, planning and doing, cause and effect and visual discrimination.  

Communication, Language and Literacy

Painting allows children the opportunity to explore visual patterns, imagery and literacy concepts that precede formal writing.  Research suggests that children who paint develop an early ability to compose stories more effectively and with greater confidence than children who don’t.  Painting is also an exceptionally important form of communication for children whose words and vocabulary are inadequate or inaccessible to them.   

Social and Emotional

Painting is soothing and has the ability to transform feelings to a visible stage.  If children can express their feelings potentially the result is increased self esteem.  By giving children choices of materials and colour we begin to allow children to take control and begin to become autonomous decision makers.  Children become involved with their peers developing skills of sharing, turn taking and negotiating.

Painting allows children to convey their ideas and express their emotions.  It is a sensory, exploratory and tactile experience where through a process of touching, experimenting, squeezing and manipulating, children are developing mastery as layers of technical skills are built on, to eventually, create an end product.  Painting is an enriching activity which supports growth, development and self expression – its benefits and value are almost too numerous to count.


Duffy, B. (2006) Supporting Creativity and Imagination in the Early Years. 

Englebright  Fox. Art in Early Childhood: Curriculum Connections.

McArdle and Wong.  What young children say about art: A comparative study.

Nursery World.  Art in the Early Years: Part 4: Painting.

O’Hanlon and Berquist.  The Potential of Paint: Exploring a basic material.

Van Horn.  Painting with Young Children: There’s more to the picture.