Why should I do that same old boring art activity in preschool

As long as I have been teaching, I have been including car painting in my lesson plans. That would be over 20 years of ruining Hot Wheels and other cars (that are probably now collectibles) with paint and water…

Today as I walked around, I observed children painting with cars yet again. But as I watched them, I didn’t hear – “You mean we are going to paint with cars again?”

Nope, instead I observed children taking their time exploring the mixing of colors, making designs, checking out thin lines and thick lines, criss-crossing their lines, using fine motor skills to hold their cars without getting paint on their fingers, and focusing on their “work.” In fact, the children seemed so peaceful as they painted – almost like it was therapeutic…

I am almost willing to bet that if we left the cars out with paint all week long, that there would be someone at the car painting table everyday….

I am always on the look out for new and innovative ideas. Perhaps it is because I get bored with the same old ones I have used over and over again. But I have to remember that what we, as grown-ups, find to be an old outdated idea may just not be so old and outdated to a child under the age of five. And each year, as a child gets a year older, the experience takes on new meaning and new interest…

So why should you offer up that same old boring art activity to your preschoolers? Because it isn’t just an idea – it is an experience…


  1. says

    Very well written! We are going to be driving some Trucks Tire Tracks over the Letter T in a couple of days and I will be Thinking of you!

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. says

      Haha – I don’t think anyone has thought of me when driving tire trucks before:) I love it!

  2. says

    yes yes yes!
    When I was teaching preschool I had a colleague roll her eyes at me all the time for doing ‘the same old things again and again’…. but just because she had done those activities last year or the year before didn’t mean the current children had. And just because she was bored, didn’t mean the children were. And just because she had mastered the technique or learnt all she needed to from the activity didn’t mean the children had!

      • says

        And just because the teacher / assistant / staff are bored with the project doesn’t mean it isn’t brand new to the parents either. I learned so many cool new ideas when my girls were at kinder that were old hat to the staff there.

  3. says

    Wonderful post, Deborah! That’s part of the fun of working with these little ones – we get to see these “old things” through new eyes and hands, again and again!

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. says

      “we get to see these “old things” through new eyes and hands, again and again!” – great way to look at it – so true!

  4. Andrea says

    I love that reminder. Honestly, this was a struggle for me this year as I was learning through my first year of teaching. I constantly had to remind myself that just because an activity seemed too simple or repetitive to me didn’t mean it wasn’t profound for my students.

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. says

      Sometimes it is the simple or repetitive ideas that are the most meaningful..

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. says

      Haha – yes! We should say this was “classic” car painting!

  5. says

    Well said, Deborah! I’m the same as you, always looking for something that gets ME excited, and have to remind myself that my child will be curious if it’s something that she hasn’t tried before.

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. says

      Definitely there is merit to finding new and keeping the old!

  6. says

    I needed this insight. Thank you for reminding me that when one of the kids in an audience or class sings her favorite song for the eight thousandth time that she’s not wasting time or stuck in a rut — she’s using a familiar song as a tool to help her learn other important skills. Skills like clapping, singing, tapping her foot, or remaining calm and confident while in a room full of people.

  7. Hip chic tot says

    Well said, sometimes I feel like I’m concentrating more on finding new activities than letting the kids do what they enjoy more.

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. says

      This is easy to do. We get ourselves under pressure when the simple ideas are right there for the taking and can be just as wonderful for young children to try:)

  8. says

    The projects are old to us teachers who have been doing/planning for years, but they are not old to young children. They love new and different techniques and using something other than paintbrushes to paint. Nice post.

  9. Tania says

    I used to be stressed about having so few books in the school I work, and felt bored each time we had to read the same old one. But noticed that kids find new things when you read the same story again. Like us when we watch an old movie that we have already watched a thousand times and we always find something new and interesting when we watch it over…the kids are the same. I do try to find new books or get them from the library but other times they decide and they are still excited about the old books…

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. says

      I agree – some books should just be read over and over again! Oh – and I do have my favorite movies that I watch without fail no matter how many times I see them!

  10. says

    Sometimes, when I offer that “same old idea” a child will take it to a place I’ve never seen before. And that old idea sparks with new life.

    And I’m always amazed at what kids can do with blank paper, markers, scissors, and glue sticks. Those “regular old things” become magic in the hands of a child.

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. says

      “Sometimes, when I offer that “same old idea” a child will take it to a place I’ve never seen before. And that old idea sparks with new life.” I find this to be true too Scott! I think we just have to step back and see where things can lead!

  11. Izah says

    Your write-ups are very much helpful for me as an amateur Early Childhood educator. I always get new ideas from your works. Thanks for sharing!!!

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. says

      It would go perfect with that little truck collage you did this week!

  12. says

    I’ve just been searching your site for car activities, other that cars tracks in paint when up popped this post. You have made me think that just because I think this activity is boring as I have done it hundreds of times, I shouldn’t assume the children will think the same. So on Monday we will be doing car tracks in paint!