Monday is Painting Day.
July 24, 2012

In the early months of this pregnancy, most of the daily rhythms that I had gradually established with Charlotte went out the window, but lately Donald and I have been working to reinstitute them.

One of the hardest ones to get motivated to re-start was Painting Day.

Don’t get me wrong: Charlotte is always MORE than happy to baptize every square inch of our porch in paint.  Getting her excited about painting is easy peasy; it’s getting ME excited about painting that can be a problem.

There’s just so much WORK involved, you know?  When you paint regularly, you become accustomed to the steps involved and pretty soon it’s just one more task of the day.  Wash the unholy pile of dishes that crept up overnight (or over a fortnight, WHATEVER), sweat a bunch of small stuff that really doesn’t matter, watch as your toddler tracks dirt clods all over the floors you just swept, and paint.  No.  Big.  Deal.

But when you’re out of practice, re-training yourself is a pain in the ass.  You gather the supplies.  You prepare the paint.  You make sure the washing machine is empty.  You put a towel and wipes near the door – just in case a distracted child has an accident or a heavily-painted child needs to be air-lifted to the bathtub.  You lay out the paper.  And then, when everything is done, after you’ve dumped the painted clothing in the laundry and you’ve washed down the painted child, you clean up.  You wash the brushes.  You find a place to dry the artwork.  You put the supplies away.

And then, if you’re really lucky, you take a nap because HOO-BOY.  But more often than not, you really just kick up your feet and spend twenty minutes reading books about sea serpents or winged horses or some such thing because that’s the next-best-thing to a nap when there’s a rowdy three-year-old underfoot.

At any rate, over the past month I have finally made the effort to re-establish Painting Day.  Charlotte highly approves.

And after four straight weeks of watching her joyously fling paint everywhere, as though nothing in the world could possibly make her happier, I have to say that I approve too.

Although, for the record, I would also highly approve of a nap afterwards.  JUST SAYIN’.

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  1. By Sara on July 24, 2012

    First, I love the photos of the paintings. I may have to start doing that. I feel so guilty throwing away Maggie’s artwork, but I can only keep so much around the house. Second, we’ve been desperately trying to establish rhythms in our household too. It’s not going so well - between the second baby and “potty-training” life seems to be chaotic. Any suggestions?
    Third, I’m glad to see that Char paints herself too. Maggie does that and it’s just one of the reasons I dread painting with her (although, I can’t resist the “Don’t I look beautiful Momma” after…)

  2. By on July 24, 2012

    Bee-yew-tiful!!!! And, you know…I just can’t get over the fact that Charlotte is 3, AND I have been reading your blog since before she was born. Wow.

  3. By Clare on July 24, 2012

    Love the paintings. 

    I was wondering if I could ask a few questions (and hopefully my sleep deprived mind will even let me come back to find the answer. 

    1.  What age did you start painting with Charlotte?
    2.  Do you have any recommendations for safe/ less toxic paints?


  4. By Sarah Christensen on July 24, 2012

    Sara - I recycle/toss alot of Charlotte’s art too.  There’s only so much I can keep!  I try to keep pieces that she’s very proud of or that I particularly like - so far that amounts to a couple a month.  I try to take pictures of as much of it as possible, but I only started a couple months ago and I’m not very consistent yet.  But I think down the road it would be kind of neat to be able to give Charlotte a photo book of her artwork evolving over the years plus a small portfolio of some we kept, so I’m working at it =)

    I sadly don’t really have any good advice on rhythms.  We’ve found that what works best for us is to select one thing at a time.  When I set up our morning rhythm, for example, that was the only one we focused on until we got it down pat.  Then a couple weeks later we added the next one.  Etc.  Re-establishing those rhythms is alot easier than getting them going the first time around because Charlotte’s already familiar with alot of the behaviors.  I can’t even imagine trying to make it happen with two!

    Clare - Charlotte was probably about ten or eleven months old when we started breaking out paint on a regular basis.  At first, she just liked squishing it in her fingers or under her knees or sitting in it and she mostly seemed oblivious to the experience.  When she was about 18 months old, a group of moms I know started organizing messy parties and art playdates and the like so I started relying on those instead of having paint at my house all the time.  It happened less frequently, but it was more enjoyable for me because I could interact with other people during art time and it was more enjoyable for her because she could re-visit the art space several times over the course of a couple hours instead of me calling it quits and cleaning up after thirty minutes lol.  We started regular weekly painting days shortly after Charlotte’s second birthday.  Today, we try to have a weekly painting day (as well as a weekly modeling day and a weekly collage day - drawing supplies are always available and a couple times a month we experiment with other mediums) at home and some sort of art playdate or messy party every three to six weeks.

    Donald and I are currently in the process of trying to switch over to primarily home-made paints so that they are always a little safer and cheaper than what we can find commercially.  We’re planning on predominantly using Seelect Tea dyes ( if we don’t have time to make our own.  We use those for coloring home-made play-dough too and I’ve been toying with the idea of trying it out with home-made crayons or modeling beeswax; we’ll see!

    Since we’re not super reliable about making our own paint yet, we also use Earth Paint (  Their customer service is excellent.  They also let us sub out some of the colors in the children’s set in exchange for black and white powders, which they don’t list on their website but which they do carry.  We tend to only focus on primary colors, plus black and white and maybe brown, so that Charlotte can really see how color mixing works.  Anyway, so far we’ve only used them twice, but we’ve liked them, so I might have a better idea of whether or not we still like them in a few more months.  When Charlotte was younger, we used Wee Can Art ( in the art playdates and liked it - I’ll stock up again when Bambino#2 is at that age - and we’ve also used Glob ( I wasn’t personally a huge fan when we mixed it with water.  For our last messy party with a group, we mixed my leftover Glob dyes in unflavored yogurt for “paint” for the littles and it worked out very well (albeit paitning with yogurt is definitely more a process event than a product one!), but when we mixed the Glob dyes with water at home we found that they lost alot of their color as they oxidized and they were a little clumpier than we liked.

    And, of course, we also keep your run-of-the-mill toxic crap (Colorations, Crayola, Roseart, etc.) on hand as a back-up.  Since it’s already mixed and it’s cheap and it washes out and parents are familiar with the brands, it’s usually pretty safe to use when soemone needs us to watch their kid for a few hours.  It’s also really easy to manage for sick days when I don’t have the energy to stop Charlotte from dumping out half a bottle of paint on something, and it’s great for projects like pendulum painting which might require a little extra mess.

  5. By Christina on July 25, 2012

    Hi, Sarah.  Not sure if you’ve already tried these, but my 2 1/2 year old and I have been really into fizzy sidewalk paints lately.  I figured I needed to delurk and leave a message about them, because the clean up’s actually kinda fun.  To make the paint, you mix something like 2 parts baking soda to 1 part cornstarch and add some water and food coloring.  ...well, those proportions are too gloppy to paint easily, but the glop in the bottom turns into magic mud, so it’s good for finger play.  When the kids’re done painting, they can spray everything with vinegar and feel it bubble.  When they’re done bubbling everything, they can take out the hose and spray the sidewalk.

  6. By Sarah Christensen on July 25, 2012

    Christina - That sounds awesome!  Do you have to let it settle to get the glop at the bottom or does that just naturally occur?  What do you do with the part that isn’t gloppy enough to paint with?

  7. By on July 25, 2012

    I need to start inviting mine to paint more. My son likes it but it isn’t his 1st preference. My daughter used to live for it but she is struggling with perfectionism and has recently been shying away from it. I’m thinking some fun art lessons might be in our future.

    Also.. a way to save her paintings is to use a bigger roll of paper. She can paint a big section then once it dries you can use it as wrapping paper. You can also cut smaller pieces out for present tags and cards.

    And ditto on the chalk paint. I normally just do cornstarch and water though. Ooblek. We make traditional ooblek for the kids to play with and they have the freedom to add more water when they are ready to paint more. Then it dries back into a powder and hosed off. Love that stuff.

  8. By Christina on July 28, 2012

    Sarah, it settles pretty much instantly, and paints best right after it’s been stirred up.

  9. By on July 30, 2012

    Me and my husband work full time so my son goes to “school” 3 days a week. We have been looking for another school because we aren’t happy with the one he’s at. We went to look at one last Thursday and the first thing he asked is “Do they paint here?“ yes baby they do, see all the pictures the other kids have painted. “ok, I can come here Monday and paint with my friends” HAH!

    Right now painting takes up the majority of our days!





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