This is the fifth in a series of periodic posts in which I test out easy, inexpensive, low-mess, low-parental-involvement activities for young children to do. In the first, I tested, um, dry pasta in cake pans. In the second: painting with water. The third: marshmallows and toothpicks. The fourth: unspilly stuff in a bowl. Today’s test: no-mess paintbrushes.
As the package says, I will be able to “Say ‘YES’ to painting!” Painting is something I generally (for generally, read “always except for like three times”) say no to.
- one package of Elmer’s Squeeze ‘n Brush pre-filled washable paintbrushes (I paid $3 for a package on clearance, but I think they’re usually more like $5). (Other brands have comparable products; I chose these particular ones only because of the clearance.)
It took a minute to figure out how to unseal the brushes, and then I opened two of them at the start and opened the others periodically during the activity; I think if I’d done them all it once it would have taken about five minutes total to unseal all the brushes and read the instructions and put out the paper and decide who got which color first.
Time activity lasted before someone was whining again
Parental assistance required
I don’t think there was ever a single minute I wasn’t helping: opening a new brush, cleaning up a small spill, cleaning a brush that had accidentally gone through another color, explaining the difference between a gentle squeeze and a wringing, settling a disagreement about who had touched whose paper or whose turn it was for a color. This was NOT a low-parental-involvement activity but a full-parental-participation one. I got nothing done, plus I got paint on my hands.
Medium for painting—but high for something labeled “NO MESS!”
Several minutes: rinsing and capping each brush, moving the paintings to a drying zone, wiping table and hands
The caps of the brushes are CLEAR, and they get lost IMMEDIATELY. We added another 5 minutes to our clean-up time trying to find them all. Also, the brush tops screw off in the opposite direction you’d expect them to. They’re marked that way, which made me feel very silly when AGAIN AND AGAIN I was all, “This stupid thing is STUCK!!” and using my teeth to try to unscrew it.
I’ll put all the caps in one place (like a plastic cup) the minute I take them off the brushes. Also, I’ll have more washable paint on hand: one huge plus of these is that they’re REFILLABLE, so you don’t have to toss them out as soon as the small paint supply is used up. This all assumes there will BE a next time.
Although the first use of these brushes was a bust, subsequent uses were much better. My 4-year-old girl was persistently interested in using them day after day, and quickly learned to uncap the brushes herself (and to put the caps ALL IN ONE PLACE so we could find them afterward). There were also far fewer reasons for her to call me for help: the brushes only had to be unsealed the first time, she got used to using them without spilling (or panicking if the colors mixed), and so my help was required only for rinsing the brushes at the end before we put the caps back on. However, I’ve been to two stores now looking for Elmer’s paint to use as refills, with no luck. It’s not a big deal, I’ll just use Crayola paint—but I’m irritated that the package is all “It’s easy, just unscrew and refill with Elmer’s Washable paints!” and then the paints are so hard to find.
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