Why should I do that same old boring art activity in preschool

As long as I have been teaching, I have been including car painting in my lesson plans. That would be over 20 years of ruining Hot Wheels and other cars (that are probably now collectibles) with paint and water…

Today as I walked around, I observed children painting with cars yet again. But as I watched them, I didn’t hear – “You mean we are going to paint with cars again?”

Nope, instead I observed children taking their time exploring the mixing of colors, making designs, checking out thin lines and thick lines, criss-crossing their lines, using fine motor skills to hold their cars without getting paint on their fingers, and focusing on their “work.” In fact, the children seemed so peaceful as they painted – almost like it was therapeutic…

I am almost willing to bet that if we left the cars out with paint all week long, that there would be someone at the car painting table everyday….

I am always on the look out for new and innovative ideas. Perhaps it is because I get bored with the same old ones I have used over and over again. But I have to remember that what we, as grown-ups, find to be an old outdated idea may just not be so old and outdated to a child under the age of five. And each year, as a child gets a year older, the experience takes on new meaning and new interest…

So why should you offer up that same old boring art activity to your preschoolers? Because it isn’t just an idea – it is an experience…

By |2011-05-23T21:05:25+00:00May 23rd, 2011|

About the Author:

Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. has been working and teaching in the field of early childhood education for over 30 years. Deborah currently owns and teaches in her own part-time, private preschool called The Children’s Studio. Deborah’s deep passion for teaching and working with young children is documented and then graciously shared with millions of readers around the world through her blog and other social networking communities. Deborah believes that young children learn best through play and exploration and embraces this belief in all that she does in her own classroom so that she can effectively and passionately share rewarding, real- life, tried-and-true practices with other teachers, parents, and leaders across the field of early childhood education.


  1. Jillian May 23, 2011 at 9:14 pm - Reply

    Very well written! We are going to be driving some Trucks Tire Tracks over the Letter T in a couple of days and I will be Thinking of you!

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. May 23, 2011 at 9:28 pm - Reply

      Haha – I don’t think anyone has thought of me when driving tire trucks before:) I love it!

  2. katepickle May 23, 2011 at 10:20 pm - Reply

    yes yes yes!
    When I was teaching preschool I had a colleague roll her eyes at me all the time for doing ‘the same old things again and again’…. but just because she had done those activities last year or the year before didn’t mean the current children had. And just because she was bored, didn’t mean the children were. And just because she had mastered the technique or learnt all she needed to from the activity didn’t mean the children had!

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. May 23, 2011 at 10:57 pm - Reply

      Yes, yes, yes! Well said!

      • Marita May 24, 2011 at 2:59 am

        And just because the teacher / assistant / staff are bored with the project doesn’t mean it isn’t brand new to the parents either. I learned so many cool new ideas when my girls were at kinder that were old hat to the staff there.

      • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. May 24, 2011 at 6:48 am

        This is true for new teachers too!

  3. Amanda Morgan May 23, 2011 at 11:08 pm - Reply

    Wonderful post, Deborah! That’s part of the fun of working with these little ones – we get to see these “old things” through new eyes and hands, again and again!

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. May 24, 2011 at 6:50 am - Reply

      “we get to see these “old things” through new eyes and hands, again and again!” – great way to look at it – so true!

  4. Andrea May 24, 2011 at 12:06 am - Reply

    I love that reminder. Honestly, this was a struggle for me this year as I was learning through my first year of teaching. I constantly had to remind myself that just because an activity seemed too simple or repetitive to me didn’t mean it wasn’t profound for my students.

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. May 24, 2011 at 6:50 am - Reply

      Sometimes it is the simple or repetitive ideas that are the most meaningful..

  5. Debbie Clement May 24, 2011 at 12:08 am - Reply

    Paint + movement = EXCITEMENT

    Year after year after year after year……….

    I think that’s what you call, “classic.”

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. May 24, 2011 at 6:51 am - Reply

      Haha – yes! We should say this was “classic” car painting!

  6. Rachelle @ tinkerlab May 24, 2011 at 1:03 am - Reply

    Well said, Deborah! I’m the same as you, always looking for something that gets ME excited, and have to remind myself that my child will be curious if it’s something that she hasn’t tried before.

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. May 24, 2011 at 6:53 am - Reply

      Definitely there is merit to finding new and keeping the old!

  7. KidzOutdoors May 24, 2011 at 1:22 am - Reply

    What a fab idea, our boy will love that 🙂

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. May 24, 2011 at 6:53 am - Reply

      I love it!

  8. Mr. Ben May 24, 2011 at 1:54 am - Reply

    I needed this insight. Thank you for reminding me that when one of the kids in an audience or class sings her favorite song for the eight thousandth time that she’s not wasting time or stuck in a rut — she’s using a familiar song as a tool to help her learn other important skills. Skills like clapping, singing, tapping her foot, or remaining calm and confident while in a room full of people.

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. May 24, 2011 at 6:55 am - Reply

      Absolutely – well said!

  9. Hip chic tot May 24, 2011 at 4:17 am - Reply

    Well said, sometimes I feel like I’m concentrating more on finding new activities than letting the kids do what they enjoy more.

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. May 24, 2011 at 6:56 am - Reply

      This is easy to do. We get ourselves under pressure when the simple ideas are right there for the taking and can be just as wonderful for young children to try:)

  10. Brenna May 24, 2011 at 6:58 am - Reply

    The projects are old to us teachers who have been doing/planning for years, but they are not old to young children. They love new and different techniques and using something other than paintbrushes to paint. Nice post.

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. May 24, 2011 at 7:40 am - Reply


  11. Tania May 24, 2011 at 10:03 am - Reply

    I used to be stressed about having so few books in the school I work, and felt bored each time we had to read the same old one. But noticed that kids find new things when you read the same story again. Like us when we watch an old movie that we have already watched a thousand times and we always find something new and interesting when we watch it over…the kids are the same. I do try to find new books or get them from the library but other times they decide and they are still excited about the old books…

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. May 24, 2011 at 10:28 pm - Reply

      I agree – some books should just be read over and over again! Oh – and I do have my favorite movies that I watch without fail no matter how many times I see them!

  12. Scott May 24, 2011 at 3:18 pm - Reply

    Sometimes, when I offer that “same old idea” a child will take it to a place I’ve never seen before. And that old idea sparks with new life.

    And I’m always amazed at what kids can do with blank paper, markers, scissors, and glue sticks. Those “regular old things” become magic in the hands of a child.

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. May 24, 2011 at 10:26 pm - Reply

      “Sometimes, when I offer that “same old idea” a child will take it to a place I’ve never seen before. And that old idea sparks with new life.” I find this to be true too Scott! I think we just have to step back and see where things can lead!

  13. hilke May 24, 2011 at 5:39 pm - Reply

    I never did this with my kids… but after this post I will do it for sure.

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. May 24, 2011 at 10:25 pm - Reply


  14. Izah May 24, 2011 at 7:57 pm - Reply

    Your write-ups are very much helpful for me as an amateur Early Childhood educator. I always get new ideas from your works. Thanks for sharing!!!

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. May 24, 2011 at 10:25 pm - Reply

      Thank you Isah – such a kind comment – I appreciate that!

  15. Kelly, Little Wonders' Days May 24, 2011 at 8:21 pm - Reply

    Thank you for this good reminder. We’re doing a transportation theme at home this week and I almost didn’t plan to do this activity! All because I had already done it with my older son.

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. May 24, 2011 at 10:24 pm - Reply

      It would go perfect with that little truck collage you did this week!

  16. Esther July 23, 2011 at 1:10 am - Reply

    Car painting is just wonderful! we did car painting by sliding the cars on slide


    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. July 23, 2011 at 9:48 am - Reply

      I love that idea! So much fun with such a simple idea!

  17. Cathy@pre-schoolplay September 16, 2011 at 2:25 pm - Reply

    I’ve just been searching your site for car activities, other that cars tracks in paint when up popped this post. You have made me think that just because I think this activity is boring as I have done it hundreds of times, I shouldn’t assume the children will think the same. So on Monday we will be doing car tracks in paint!

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. September 17, 2011 at 12:47 am - Reply

      It is still one of my favorite activities:)

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