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Watercolor Spray Painting with Stencils

Sweet Pea is 4 years old.

From: I was inspired by this fun watercolor spray paint idea over at Creative Connections for Kids.


  • Food coloring or liquid watercolor. (Discount School Supply has their really great Dollar Sale going on right now.  Liquid water colors are only $1 per bottle when you use the code WDOLLAR).
  • Spray bottles. (Teacher Tom recommended the brand from ACE hardware.)
  • Paper.
  • An old towel.
  • Stencils.  (You can also make these yourself out of paper or craft foam as like Creative Connections for Kids did.)
  • Shallow box or tray. (This is to contain the colored spray.  However, we sprayed directly on our driveway and the liquid water colors easily rinsed off.)



  • Fill a spray bottle about halfway full with water and add several drops of liquid watercolor until you have achieved the desired color.

  • Take your tot, spray bottles, paper, stencils, old towel and shallow box outside.
  • Test your spray bottles to make sure they are set to spray in a fine mist (as opposed to a straight stream).
  • Show your tot how to place a stencil on top of a piece of paper and then spray the colored water at it from about 12 inches away.
  • Demonstrate using the old towel to lightly blot the top of the stencil.  This prevents the colored water from dripping onto the picture and ruining it when you pick up the stencil.

  • Remove the stencil and reveal the picture beneath.

  • Let your tot try the next picture, helping as needed.
  • For a variation on this activity, spray the paper entirely with one color before adding the stencil and spraying with another color.  See the creepy octopus below?  I think this would be a good method to make ghost decorations for Halloween.

  • For even cooler pictures, you can repeat again with new stencils and new colors on the same sheet of paper.

 Observations: Sweet Pea had l0ts of fun with this activity and I would consider it a huge success.    Sweet Pea enjoyed trying every combination of stencil and color possible.

We discovered that the trigger on the spray bottle needs to be pulled quickly or else the colored water “dribbled” instead of spraying out.  It took Sweet Pea several tries before she was able to pull the trigger quickly enough for the desired effect.

This is a really fun activity, but because of the strength required to use the squirt bottle, I would only recommend it for preschoolers (and up).


Notes from the Trenches:  We bought a pack of  stencils for only $1 from Micheal’s, but they were made out of glossy card stock and did not hold up well when sprayed with water.  I will probably order a plastic stencil sets from Oriental Trading Company for next time.

When we started this, Sweet Pea sprayed the water bottle with the nozzle directly above the paper.  This caused a big puddle of colored water that just ran under the stencil   Your results will be much better if you can keep the nozzle of your tot’s squirt bottle at least 12 inches away when spraying.  Good luck with that.  🙂

I liked the color of our pictures when they were wet, but I thought they were too light when they dried.  I would probably use a little bit more liquid water color next time.

Rating: 2 Stars * (Fun, Easy)

Carnivals: Linked up to Art for Little Hands: Monday Madness.

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