Art With Jenny K.


Art-themed Water Activities for Kids: Painting with Water and Andy Goldsworthy Rain Shadows

water activities for kids




I run a week-long summer art camp out of my Tucson studio, and anyone who has ever been in the desert Southwest during the summer knows how #&#%! hot it is. And even though I have a canopy that I set up, it’s like 110°F in the shade! So, while I was looking for something that we could do outside as a brain/movement/fresh-air break after being cooped up inside, I knew that the heat was a factor that I would have to consider. What I needed was some fun water activities for my students—with an artsy twist of course, if I could pull that off! After a bit of brain-wracking, I came up with a couple of ideas for some art-themed water activities for kids. And to my great delight, the kids absolutely loved them!!

So I thought that I’d share them with you—keep reading for my ideas for art-themed water activities for kids.

Art-themed Water Activities for Kids


      • Hose with a spray nozzle
      • Bucket/cups
      • Large paint brushes
      • Concrete patio, sidewalk, or wall
      • Kids!

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Painting with Water

Buddha Boards

This idea for an art-themed water activity for kids was inspired by a cool little interactive art station that more or less permanently sits on a side table in my living room—a Buddha Board.

What is a Buddha Board, you ask? It is a small whitish board that turns black when it gets wet (then gradually turns back white as it dries). It also includes a small basin to hold water and a bamboo paintbrush. You can see one (or get one) for yourself here.

Buddha Board

Almost everyone (kids and adults alike) who come by the house and sits in the living room eventually ends up interacting with it. The paint (water) strokes are so transitive and ethereal that it’s easy to freely have fun with, since anything you do, good or bad, only lasts a couple of minutes—then you get to create some more right away! It’s a bit addicting.

Taking it Outside

So I thought, why keep all the fun in the living room? Can’t we do the same thing outside on a bigger scale using a sidewalk, a bucket, and some big paintbrushes? Of course, we can!

I filled up some buckets (or cups) with water, handed out some paintbrushes to the kids, and sent them outside to “paint” on the sidewalk.  They had a blast! They drew, splashed, outlined, and doodled until they ran out of water. By the time they came for another bucketful, the sidewalk had dried, and they began again. Each day, they asked for this activity during the break. That’s a success in my book.

Art-themed Water Activities for Kids: Painting with Water

Rain Shadows

Andy Goldsworthy

This project was inspired by one of my favorite artists, Andy Goldsworthy. Andy makes incredible works of art from elements of nature, in nature. His eye-catching works are purely ephemeral, lasting sometimes only as long as a gust of wind, a flowing stream, a rising tide, or a warming sun.

If you are not familiar with Andy Goldsworthy’s work, you owe it to yourself to check him out. You won’t be disappointed! Here are a couple of good books that are filled with beautiful pictures, including process pictures:

One type of artwork that Goldsworthy creates he calls “rain shadows.” Sometimes, when he is out somewhere and notices that it is about to rain, he lays down and spreads himself out on a rock, sidewalk, or patch of dirt and lets it rain on him. After a while, he gets up, and where he once laid is now just his dry impression. Simple but striking! I figured I could do the same thing with the kids, except instead of waiting for it to rain (because we’d be waiting forever), I could make it rain…with my hose!

Making it Rain!

water activities for kids

I have a brick wall the encloses a courtyard at the Art Lab, so I had the kids stand against the wall and strike a pose—the crazier, the better! Then I, well, let ‘em have it with the hose (actually, a quick spray will do) when they step away, voila!—a perfect negative of themselves on the wall where they once stood—followed by screams of fun and laughter.

This same thing would work on a sidewalk as well. Just have the kids lay down on it (first, make sure it isn’t too hot). And then lightly spray them.

Here in Tucson, the water on the wall evaporated so fast that we were able to do each child several times before we had to go back inside (but they were begging for more). Another success!

Art-themed Water Activities for Kids Andy Goldsworthy Rain Shadows

That’s it!

Well, that’s it, pretty simple, really. Nothing earth-shattering, but I was happy for my flash of inspiration that turned a dreaded trip into the Arizona heat into a bunch of fun, art-themed water activities for kids that had them asking for more.

I hope your kids have as much fun as my art (happy) campers did!

Jenny K.

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