Creative on Canvas

If I could afford to have every child paint every week on canvas instead of on paper, I would do so. Hey wait a minute! I did do exactly that – except I only had to buy one canvas!

Creating on Canvas by Teach Preschool

I wanted to do a series on colors. You know, a series where I introduce a new color each week and we do something with the color. It’s not that we don’t talk about color all the time but I wanted to really dive into each color and do some color mixing and painting each week and I wanted to do all of our painting on canvas…

Creative on Canvas by Teach Preschool

I purchased a large canvas and it was not cheap. But I figured we would be exploring six colors over six weeks so that would be less than $10 per week spent on this process that would be explored by the whole group. I could have definitely ordered the same size canvas a little cheaper but I was in a hurry – you know how last minute ideas go – and bought mine from our local Hobby Lobby…

Creative on Canvas by Teach Preschool

We started with shades of purple our first week. I had already mixed up some of the colors to give the children the idea of color mixing to create shades of purple…

Creative on Canvas by Teach Preschool

The children spent a long time painting the entire canvas with all the shades of our color purple…

Creative on Canvas by Teach Preschool

Some of the children stayed longer than others but the board was left up for the children to come and go as they wished throughout the morning…

OI spent a little more time during the first two weeks showing the children how to mix their paint to change up the colors.

I spent a little more time during the second week showing the children how to mix the paint on their own to change up the colors…

Creative on Canvas by Teach Preschool

I set out red and white paint for the children to mix up shades of red (pink)…

Creative on Canvas by Teach Preschool

By week three, the children had this process down. No need for explanations or instructions or really to say much of anything at all. All I had to do was have the materials out a ready to go. This week the children added shades of orange…

Creative on Canvas by Teach Preschool

You might be wondering if the children expressed any concern about painting over the top of their prior painting each week. I can tell you that not one child even questioned it. The process of color-mixing was their focus and I loved seeing what the children would do each week…

Creative on Canvas by Teach Preschool

Sometimes there would be a group of children painting while other times, I would look over and find just one child exploring the process…

Creative on Canvas by Teach Preschool

Our next week, the children added both blue and yellow to follow up our reading of “Little Blue and Little Yellow” by Leo Lionni…

Creative on Canvas by Teach Preschool

The more blue and yellow the children added, the more we begin to see the color green begin to emerge…

Creative on Canvas by Teach Preschool

We have one more week to go and then we will wrap up our color series on canvas. I am still deciding if we will do any other type of painting right on top of our color series or leave it as is for our annual end of the school year art gallery. But I can tell you that this process has given us some beautiful color to explore over the past six weeks and I’ve enjoyed watching my students spend time creating on canvas.

Creative on Canvas by Teach Preschool

Even my granddaughter joined in!

Creative on Canvas by Teach Preschool

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By |2016-03-05T02:55:43+00:00March 5th, 2016|

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. Missy Griffin March 5, 2016 at 7:20 am - Reply

    Thank you!!! This is such a beautiful idea! We will be doing this soon! Did you use acrylic paint?

  2. Becky March 5, 2016 at 7:44 am - Reply

    Looks like a lot of fun. What kind of paint did you use?

  3. Barb March 5, 2016 at 8:01 am - Reply

    I love this idea, but what type of paint did you use?

  4. Sue March 5, 2016 at 9:22 am - Reply

    It looks like your preschoolers had a lot of fun. You might want to finish the canvas with each preschooler using a black paint pen or thick black sharpie to draw a self portrait on top of all the colors and or their “signature”. I often have my JK students draw a self portrait with a sharpie and paint on top with watercolors and the backgrounds often become similar to your layered colored painted canvas. Have fun with whatever you plan to do.

  5. Sue March 5, 2016 at 10:22 am - Reply

    What kind of paint did you use a different can’t believe no one had a smock on!!!!!!

    • Sue March 5, 2016 at 10:23 am - Reply

      That was some kind of spellcheck, what kind of paint did you use and I can’t believe no one had a smock on!

      • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. March 6, 2016 at 10:40 pm

        Crayola Tempera Paint and we almost never wear paint smocks. The children have them but its they rarely wear them. They are great self-regulators and do a good job managing their use of most products around the classroom.

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. March 6, 2016 at 10:41 pm - Reply

      Haha! Spell Check! Ugh!

  6. lynda howells March 5, 2016 at 10:24 am - Reply

    I have done this canvas painting as well…great one. One question …how did your children stay so clean and also they were not using aprons? 🙂 Lynda 🙂

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. March 6, 2016 at 10:39 pm - Reply

      We don’t use aprons and these children have been with me two and some for three years painting with all kinds of tools and materials. I Think they just are very good self-regulators when it comes to painting and this process really isnt all that messy for us.

  7. Alva March 5, 2016 at 10:30 am - Reply

    Love this idea! What type of paint did you use?

  8. Mrs. P March 5, 2016 at 10:47 am - Reply

    What a great idea and such a special final piece! Sometimes primed canvas on a roll can be reasonable, too–and it could be cut up after and “shared” among the artists at the end…perhaps, I’ve never tried it, but your idea got me thinking. LOVE this, though! Great job, as usual! 🙂 Mrs. P

  9. Susan March 5, 2016 at 11:00 am - Reply

    This is an awesome idea! Did you use regular school tempera paint? I was wondering if the dried paint started flaking off at any point. Maybe at the end of the year you could paint the whole thing white and use it again with the next class. It would also make a really cool background for the children to display some of their other work (when they are done using it to explore color).

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. March 6, 2016 at 10:36 pm - Reply

      We used Crayola Washable Tempera Paint. The paint did not flake off so far. We have beautiful layers and texture but it could I suppose. So far so good. I was thinking of painting it white and staring all over!!!! I am excited to give that a try and see what happens.

  10. Emry Quinn March 5, 2016 at 11:14 am - Reply

    I loved this! I also teach an art class one Friday. Month to our pres hoolers and yesterday we all painted our own 6×6 canvasthat were really inexpensive. We were doing a study of Jackson Pollock and children had fun dripping paint in all colors on their canvas… They turned out great!!! I like this idea too of making one large community painting!! Will try next year! Thanks

  11. julies March 5, 2016 at 11:52 am - Reply


  12. Maggi Bailey March 5, 2016 at 12:03 pm - Reply

    What type of paint did you use? Tempera?

  13. Terrie Flynn March 5, 2016 at 1:15 pm - Reply

    I introduced a similar painting experience with my two year olds. We followed some basic practices from the book, From Handprints to Hypothesis by Todd Wanerman.
    We used different tools, introduced colors one at a time. We placed our canvas horizontally, vertically and painted inside the classroom and took it outside too! They loved it! I was wondering if you used tempera paints? We did and I only wish the colors on our canvas were brighter. The process called for black then white and lastly color. It came out a little dark. I’m thinking of just letting them continue to paint layers on top. Maybe introducing acrylic paints. It’s about the process and they love using the large canvas surface. Thanks for sharing this!

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. March 6, 2016 at 10:34 pm - Reply

      We used Crayola washable tempera paint – and we used a lot of it! I think the black foundation might be a bit dark for staring the process? I prefer starting on white then just color on top of color.

  14. Lisa March 5, 2016 at 1:53 pm - Reply

    It is lovely! Totally obvious to see the level of engagement with this activity. I did wonder what kind of paint you used to get such bright vivid colors despite the overlay.

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. March 6, 2016 at 10:32 pm - Reply

      These are Crayola washable tempera paint. Nothing added but we did mix in white or black to shade up the colors a bit. But all Crayola paint.

  15. Pam Dreiling March 5, 2016 at 9:48 pm - Reply

    I’m curious – what kind of paint did you use for this project? Cool idea!

  16. Ti na March 5, 2016 at 10:26 pm - Reply

    I have wanted to have my 4-5 year old students paint on canvas. Should I use oil based or matte acrylics? Any advice would be appreciated.

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. March 6, 2016 at 10:31 pm - Reply

      Hi Tina,
      We actually used Crayola washable tempera paint. It always does a nice job and I don’t get worried about clothing or children getting paint on them so they can just go for it!

  17. Nancy Pittman March 5, 2016 at 10:27 pm - Reply

    This is fabulous. Oh how I am going to copy you. Hope you don’t mind. My kiddos will love this. It is such a great way to explore color and to see a work of art emerge at the same time. This will be such a great project for my whole class, not just one or two. I’m always looking for ways to get those who hardly ever go to art to emerge into the life of an artist. Yeah, I think you’ve found a way to pull them in. Thank you.

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. March 6, 2016 at 10:30 pm - Reply

      I am always thrilled to know that others will take an idea and run with it in their own classroom! I bet you will even do more than I thought of when it comes to using the process to teach new ideas!

  18. Scott March 7, 2016 at 11:10 am - Reply

    I love this, Deborah. We are doing an art camp this summer and I may be using this idea during that week.

    (Regarding tempera paint lasting on canvas–I still have the marble/ball painting we did several years ago. It still looks great. It’s a priceless art work – just like this one is!)

  19. eviebs March 8, 2016 at 4:55 am - Reply

    We have pre school children in our childcare center.We paint most days if we can.

  20. Deborah Hayford March 14, 2016 at 3:17 pm - Reply

    Love this idea. I went to Goodwill and purchased a canvas which is not quite as big, but was only $14.99. The kids had fun painting over the Eiffel Tower and a rainy picture. We used red first because it is one of the primary colors used a lot in Good Night Moon, our book for last week. This week we are using The Green Pocketbook, so we will learn how to make green!

  21. Jennifer Gibbons March 18, 2016 at 2:20 pm - Reply

    I have done group canvas projects as well. We approach the process differently, however. On the first day all of the children apply the “base” coat. On the second day we use various implements to print on the canvas. Implements can vary-we have used cookie cutters, lids, and different types of kitchen tools.
    As for the canvases, I have found them at yard sales and marked down 75% at Michael’s(due to a tiny tear on top canvas). I lucked out at Michael’s a few months ago and nabbed a 10 pack of 5×7 canvases, so each child had his/her own creation.

  22. Nichole {you clever monkey} March 19, 2016 at 9:38 pm - Reply

    I love the idea of continuing with the same canvas from colour to colour. I can just imagine the ownership created within your class for the work.

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