10 Tips on How to Paint to Music

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I love providing open-ended art opportunities for Ella, especially process art which allows her to focus on skill building and integrating information, rather than trying to create a perfect final product.

Recently, we tried painting to music which is a great EQ art activity, as well. Here are some tips for how to paint to music and why painting with music is a great process art activity.

10 Tips on How to Paint with Music with Kids

10 Tips for Painting to Music with Kids:

  • Use an easel or hang paper on the wall, if possible. Painting this way is easier for children to control their movements
  • Set up your painting area so that your child can drop paint or get a bit messy without interruption – you don’t want to interrupt the process  because you’re worried about the carpet. Either take it outside, or put down some newspaper or a towel
  • Provide only a couple of colours, preferably ones that mix well to avoid a murky brown end result. You can also provide some white and black for pigmentation
  • Also, provide different painting tools for sensory feedback – thick, stubby paintbrushes, sponges, feathers – and have a cloth or baby wipes ready if they decide to start finger painting!
  • Start off with happy, upbeat music – it’s okay if it’s music your child has never heard before
  • Pick a few songs with different tempos and moods, and try at least one instrumental-only piece
  • Encourage your child to “paint what they feel” or “paint what they hear” and not worry about painting anything specific (like an object or a scene)
  • Sit back and observe. Allow your child to focus on their art without interruption. They may pause, but if you think your child is nervous, try to ease their concern with just a small amount of encouargement
  • Provide new canvases or sheets of paper with every new song. Also try to take a break in between songs if you feel like your child needs to “reset”
  • After your child is done, ask them about their art:
    • How does it feel?
    • What do they see?
    • What were you feeling when you painted this?
    • How does this colour make you feel?
    • Did you enjoy painting to music?

Why Painting Along to Music is Important

Painting to music allows children to interpret and process sensory information and allows them to take ownership of the music by creating their own impressions.

Through this process-art activity, children begin to understand that things we hear or experience can shape how we feel and what we do. Emotions or thoughts that may have been confusing or intangible are now on paper, expressed without encountering communication boundaries.

Painting to music can allow children who struggle with confidence in art let go and experience the movements and emotions of creating, while being “given permission” to not worry about creating something representational (like a perfect flower or person).

Also, this activity opens up dialogue about emotions, music, and art. Descriptive words like “sweeping” or “fast tempo” can be used to describe the art and music, and music can be a relatively safe subject matter for your child to practice communication their emotions. Don’t push your child to “label” how the music made them feel if they struggle, but allow them to understand how the music had an effect on them.

10 tips on

What do you think? Would you try painting to music with your children?

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  1. I really enjoyed your post! Our kids love to paint and I never thought to put it to music. I have also chosen you to be on the Laugh and Learn Linkup for this Tuesday!
    Have a Great Week,

  2. I am doing a music and art activity at a community event. I love your description of the importance of combining art and music. Would it be okay with you to hand out reprints of this article? If so, how would you like the authorship to be credited?

  3. Hi, I’ve got a little one who I presented this opportunity to and she just flinched about it! She said “I don’t know what you are asking me to do,” and she could not begin. This was in a classroom setting, and the activity was presented in a very casual way of “just painting what you hear/feel.” Has anyone else had a similar reaction?

    1. I think you’re dealing with a fear of failure combined with literal thinking – just encourage the child that there is no wrong way to paint to the music. Let them be – watching their friends for a bit, and show them different ways the music makes people feel/paint and how there is no wrong answer. This child will need lots of positive reinforcement to feel comfortable being creative.

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