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Painting on Salt

Sweet Pea is 4 years old.

From: The Crafty Crow (a wonderful collection of children’s art ideas) featured this fun idea from A Bit of This and A Bit of That.


  • Half-sized sheets of dark colored paper or card stock.
  • Glue.
  • 2-3 Tablespoons of salt in a small bowl.
  • 1 Extra sheet of paper, the larger the better.
  • 3 or 4 colors of liquid watercolors, diluted if necessary (or a tablespoon of water with a few drops of food coloring added).
  • Paintbrush.
  • Smock or bib for your tot.


  • Show your tot how to squeeze the glue bottle to draw on the sheet of dark paper.

  • When your tot is happy with her drawing, help her carefully pour salt all over the glue.
  • Hold the salted paper over the extra piece of paper to contain salt spills.  Show your tot how to gently shake the dark paper so that every bit of glue gets covered with salt.

  • Turn the salted paper vertically so that any excess salt falls onto the extra sheet of paper.
  • Set the salted paper aside and gently bend the extra sheet of paper and pour the salt back into the bowl.
  • Allow your tot to dip her paintbrush in the liquid water colors.
  • Show her how to very gently just touch the tip of the paint brush to the salted paper.  The color will immediately run off of the paintbrush and spread only onto the salted area.  It is a very cool effect.

  • Let your tot continue dipping the paintbrush into different colors, touching the salt and watching the colors spread.

Observations: As I expected, Sweet Pea loved this.  She was completely engrossed in every aspect of it and used up all of the dark paper I provided.  We both had lots of fun.

This project does require quite a bit of fine motor control so I would not try it with a toddler.  However, I highly recommended this activity for preschoolers.

Notes from the Trenches: Make sure to put the salt in a small bowl.  Letting your tot pour directly from the salt container will result in an avalanche of salt all over the place.  Of course, the picture below was taken before I realized that I needed to give Sweet Pea a smaller quantity of salt to work with.

The salt creations are beautiful, but are not suitable for displaying.  I let ours dry for over a week, but the salt never stopped falling off of them when I held the paper upright.  You may want to explain to your tot from the start that this is “just for fun” and that you won’t be able to keep the pictures.

Also, I don’t know exactly why the water colors move only along the salt path.  I thought it was capillary action, but my husband thinks it is something else.  Any one else have an explanation?

Rating: 3 Stars * (Fun, Easy, Frugal)

Carnivals: This post is linked to Child Centered Art Party #7 at Art for Little Hands.

10 comments to Painting on Salt

  • This looks like lots of fun. I’ll give it a go in a few years.

  • Thanks for sharing this at art 4 little hands. It is a wonderful idea. I am excited to start following your blog. Such wonderful things here.

  • Robin

    Just did the salt painting activity and it went well. Thanks for sharing it!

  • Mimi Leach

    I bookmarked this idea I don’t know how long ago, and just did these this week in my 4-year-old preschool class. The kids really loved doing these. I bought black poster board at the Dollar Tree and cut it into manageable pieces. We poured the salt into bowls. Some children spooned the salt onto their glue, and others sprinkled it by hand. It was a wonderful exercise in following multi-step directions, as well as the capillary action, or whatever the scientific principle is! Thank you for such a fabulous idea!

  • I learned when mine was very young that saving the art isn’t always practical. I started a photobook for his art projects. He has just as much showing off the photos of his art as he does showing off the art even years later.

  • Lisa Wright

    Not sure this would work on this project but I use hairspray on many projects such as with glitter just a suggestion OH and love the projects thank you for sharing

  • Fran

    I tryed this activity with a small group of kids aged 2-6 yrs in Thailand where we live. It worked really well and the children had lots of fun but we left them to dry over night and unfortunatly, due to the high humidity, by the morning they had absorbed a lot of moisture and were swimming in water. I should have realised because we had the same problem with salt dough a year or so ago!

    • Shannon (admin)

      Yes, those salt paintings are fun, but not permanent. We didn’t have the moisture problem, but the salt kept falling off of ours.

  • […] P.S. Once you have the salt and liquid watercolors out, you might as well try this very awesome painting on salt project. […]

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