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Expressive Art and Design

In Nursery, we LOVE the messy area!

We have lots of fun at the playdough table and splashing in the water tray, but this isn't just us making a mess, we are developing our Expressive Art and Design skills! 

Here are some ides to help you get going.


Don't forget, the only limit is your imagination!


- Paint! Paint is fun to play with. You can use it in a conventional way, and create an amazing piece of art, or you can get creative!

  • Try adding 2 colours of paint into a zip lock freezer bag. Squidge it together and see what happens! This is not only a fun sensory activity, but also allows you to explore what happens when colours mix. Explore mixing the primary colours and see what happens. See if you make a picture with the new colour you have made!
  • Ditch the paintbrushes! Experiment painting with different things. Printing with sponges to create different textures, or even with fruit and vegetables can be a fun way of creating different art! Cutting a potato in half and creating different shapes can be fun too!
  • Or you could get really messy by painting with your fingers, hands or even feet!


- Go on a nature walk and collect interesting items you find. Use them to create a nature collage, or a colour picture with the things you find. Please remember to only pick up items that are already on the ground – don’t pull anything off a living thing! Going for a nature walk on (or just after) a windy day will help you find lots of things that might have blown off trees or plants!

- Keep your eyes peeled for big stones or rocks when you’re on your nature walk too. Look for strange shaped rocks and think about where it might have come from. Is it a dinosaurs tooth? Maybe it is a giant’s button, which has fallen off their shirt! You could take the stones or rocks home and paint a design on it. Some people do this and then put them back in the park or by the river for other children to find! Have a look if you go for a walk with your grown-ups to see if you can find one of these beautiful rocks on your travels! Maybe you could paint one yourself and leave it for someone else to find? Or you could just make one to keep for yourself!


- Bubbles! Who doesn’t love playing with bubbles! You could have competitions to see who can pop the most bubbles, or who can blow the biggest bubble. Bubble mixture is quite cheap to buy, but also very easy to make yourself.

There are lots of recipes for ‘best bubble mixes’ online, but mixing 50ml of washing up liquid with 300ml of water is a really quick and simple mix (if you want to make the bubbles ‘stronger’ add more washing up liquid, and apparently a teaspoon of cooking oil – although I haven’t tried this myself!). Stir the mixture carefully, trying not to create too many bubbles at this stage!

Wands are another must have for creating bubble a, but you can make these with things you have around the house! Pipe cleaners bent to form a ring or cookie cutters make good bubble wands, and paper clip can be fun to make smaller bubbles.

If you want to create the biggest bubbles, two drinking straws and a piece of string will do the trick! Thread the string through the holes of the straw (great fine motor activity too!) and tie the ends together. All you need to do now is dip it in the mixture and run!



- Salt dough creations – Salt dough is great for making your own decoration that will last for a long time! You can make a simple dough with 250g of plain flour, 125g of able salt and 125ml of water.

  • Mix all of these together in a bowl until it forms a ball. Sprinkle a little flour onto a work surface and roll it out and make your creation.
  • Once this is finished, you place your designs onto a baking tray and place in the oven (pre-heated to around 150 degrees/gas mark 2) for around 3 hours, or until they are completely hard and dry.
  • Let the dough cool and paint (if you wish!)

You can make anything you can think of! Make shapes with cookie cutters, make a model, even make yourself some props to include in your play!

You could make a plaque with the handprints of everyone in your house! Roll out the dough so it is large enough for your handprints, get everyone in your house to add their print and then bake your dough.

You could even make your own hanging decorations (like you might put on a Christmas tree) by adding a small hole before you bake your dough.


- Shaving foam! – This is a really fun sensory (and messy!) activity to get your hands into! You can buy shaving foam quite cheaply on your supermarket shop (the supermarket own brand/savers version is the best to use!). You can have lots of fun making patterns in the foam with different objects; fingers, cutlery, toy cars, whatever you can get your hands on! Try adding different textures into the foam – dry rice or pasta for example. You can also add a splodge of paint or food colouring to create a colourful masterpiece!




- Junk modelling! Collect used yoghurt pots, toilet or kitchen roll tubes, egg boxes, cardboard boxes, bubble wrap, plastic bottles – anything! Basically, if it is clean (or can be easily cleaned) and you can think of something to make with it, you’re on to a winner! PVA glue, sticky tape or masking tape are also must haves for this! Adding googly eyes can make any creation fun too!


- Kinetic/Moon Sand – if you love playing in sand (and let’s face it – who doesn’t?!) then you could try kinetic or moon sand. It has the consistency of sand, but holds together and is moldable like playdough. You can buy versions of this online, but it can be a little expensive, so why not have a go at making your own?

  • You will need 8 cups of flour and 1 cup of baby oil or cooking oil (I suggest using a smaller cup to measure, unless you want to make lots!) If you want to add colour or smell, you can do so by adding a few drops of food colouring and/or essential oils.
  • Pop the flour into a large container.
  • If you want to add colouring, you can do that now. Mix a few drops of food colouring into a few tablespoons of water. Stir it into the flour until you get the colour you want (it might be a bit pale, don’t worry – it should get a little brighter later on)
  • If you’re using essential oils to add smell, add a few drops into the flour now.
  • Make a well in the middle of the flour and add the oil. Mix it well, until you can squeeze the ‘sand’ and it holds together. Keep adding oil, if needed, until you get this consistency.
  • You now have your very own kinetic/moon sand! Have fun with cookie cutters, cutlery, moulds or buckets and spades!
  • Store in an air-tight container for up to 2 weeks until it dries out.


- Dry pasta/rice/lentils/cereal etc can be fun too. We often use this on our sensory table. The children have fun playing with dinosaurs and other small world animals and toys here, creating their own stories to match their play.


- Have a go at shadow drawing! Simply place an object or small world toy on a flat surface with a light source behind it. Sunny days are perfect for this – but it can be a great rainy day activity too, if you have a lamp you could position behind it!

Draw around the shadow created by your object or toy onto a piece of paper (or straight onto the floor with chalk if you’re outside!)

You can be as imaginative as you like – you might want to create pieces of art, or you could make your very own science experiment, by exploring what happens when the light moves! Can you create a long shadow? What about leaving your object in one place outside for a little while and seeing what happens to the shadow during the day?


Encourage your child to help tidy too! Mopping the floor if they get it wet helps them to understand the risks of slippery surfaces underfoot and can help develop their health and self-care skills. Cleaning their own paintbrushes and other toys is great for their fine motor skills, can be fun as you keep getting messy/wet, and it makes tidy up time a little less stressful for the grown-up too (sometimes)!


We hope you find something in here that you and your family can enjoy! For more ideas, have a look online. A quick Google or Pinterest search for ‘early years art and craft ideas’ will bring up lots and lots of other ideas you could try!