Four Essential Art Activities for Preschool Students: Play-Doh, Drawing, Painting & Cutting


Mouse Paint

Preschool children need freedom to play with Play-Doh and modeling clay, simply as a muscle-building exercise for the fingers. The more they knead the dough, the stronger their hands and fingers become. Model rolling a ball in the hands, flattening it into a pancake, rolling it into a snake. Demonstrate how to create an exotic imaginary creature, using fingers, tools, cookie cutters, rolling pins and more, and allow their imaginations to take over.

A fun experiment with Play-Doh is to give children two different primary colors, one for each hand. Read a story, such as Mouse Paint. When the mice begin to mix the colors, have the children put their hands together and squish the balls until they make one color.

For take-home projects, provide a bunch of colors to expand upon their creativity. Remember that Play-Doh and many clays will eventually dry if left out. Modeling clay doesn’t typically dry out, so it can easily be used and reused.

Different types of Play-Doh and clay are available at local retailers and through school catalogs. Homemade versions can even be made as a class project. Stick to the nontoxic, brightly colored varieties. Try both name brands and off-brands.


Preschool drawing activities should consist of the child replicating lines, then patterns and eventually shapes. Start with thicker media for those smaller hands, then eventually use narrower ones. Let children try colored pencils, regular pencils, markers and crayons. Increase the sensory experience and creativity of crayons by removing the paper.

Children can also use tracing paper or thin white paper to try to trace drawings as part of the learning process. Have them trace coloring pages so that they can color them in again and again.


Once children know how to use a paintbrush, provide them with many different sizes of brushes. Let them figure out which ones work best for each kind of line. Add scrapers, brushes, stampers and other objects to see how painting is different with each tool.

Use large paper at an easel or smaller paper on a tray. Take big paper outside for really messy painting projects, using spray bottles, water balloons filled with paint, or simply throwing paint with a brush or cup.

Use nontoxic versions of many kinds of paint. Let them try to figure out which paints work best on which kind of paper. Have them practice painting objects that they have created out of clay, toilet paper rolls, or other collage and sculpture projects. They can also use paint on pre-purchased wooden objects or stone, as long as an adult sprays a varnish or finish to preserve it.


Preschool cutting activities begin with line cutting exercises to make the child comfortable with manipulating scissors. Lines can eventually turn into shapes. Make line and shape cutting more difficult by folding paper and drawing lines on it, to make butterflies, paper dolls, snowflakes, etc.

Allow children to draw and cut out their own designs. Encourage them to make collage creations on paper, make paper bag puppets, or paper plate masks. They will come up with a lot of their own creative creations.

The cutting naturally leads into practicing gluing. Teach them how to use glue sticks as well as Elmer’s glue, to find which works best with which project.

The key to successful classroom art activities is to teach the children how to use the materials. Most commonly used are Play-Doh and clay, painting, and cutting and gluing. Demonstrate random creations, not necessarily a specific model, to encourage their creativity to flow.

This post is part of the series: Preschool Art Activities

Art in preschool requires a knowledge of how to use each material. Be sure to have plenty of options on hand! Then let them go nuts exploring and creating.
  1. Fun Classroom Art Projects for Three Year Old Kids
  2. One-Stop List of Must-Have Art Materials for Preschoolers
  3. Four Great Art Activities for Your Preschool Students!