Paper Towel Paintings

Go from flat to vibrant in two scrunches of a paper towel! It’s painless to paint with an ordinary material and polish your preschooler’s small motor skills and hand-eye coordination too!


This is messy fun, so prepare yourself, your child, and your area. You can find quick cover-up tips in our FAQ.

MATERIALS - click to buy
  1. Paper towels - Separated into individual sheets from a roll like this found on Amazon, at least 4 sheets per child. We grab the inexpensive kind found at our local dollar store. Note that paper napkins don’t work for this activity, they’re just aren’t strong enough.
  2. Liquid tempera paint, from tubes like this or in jars found here. Choose at least two colors. Start with 2-3 Tablespoons and add more as needed.
  3. Shallow containers - one for each color of paint. We like to use unbreakable containers like a metal cereal bowl or clear, shallow plastic storage container with a lid like these.
  4. Construction Paper - in the color of preschooler’s choice. We steer away from dark colors like blue and black, because they don’t show paint well. Copy paper works in a pinch too, but be aware that under rigorous painting, liquid paint can seep through copy paper.
  5. Optional - Paper weight or rocks - If you choose to do this activity outside on a breezy day, small rocks will help keep your papers in place.
  1. Skilly Spark: What are these flat, rectangular things called? What do we use them for? Do you think we can use them to paint? Let’s begin by wadding them up and making them into a ball!
  2. Show your little one how to wad up the paper towel so they can hold it like a ball in one hand, about 3 inches or less in size.
  3. Next, show your preschooler how to dip the paper towel in paint.
  4. Then, dab, press, or rub the paper towel on the paper. Talk about the interesting shapes they are creating with the wad of paper towel, how rubbing looks different than pressing and so on!
  5. Encourage your little one to keep dipping and dabbing.
  6. Then, try dipping another balled-up paper towel in the other color of paint. Now, try painting with the new color.
  7. Take a moment to talk about how the two colors look together. Maybe some colors will mix and maybe some new shapes will appear!
  8. Repeat the process until your child’s attention wanes. Then have a ball cleaning up together!
Keep the fun going
  • Once your child has mastered painting with paper towels, try painting with other kinds of everyday, strong and crushable materials. Other wad-and-paint friendly alternatives are aluminum foil, wax paper or parchment paper.
  • Two at a time! Ball up two paper towels, dip them both and then paint with both left and right hands.