Painting with Blocks: Experimenting with Printmaking

Blocks are great to build with, but why not paint with them! We took the familiar block and used it to explore printmaking.

Painting with blocks can be both process art (it’s all about the process of doing and creating, not the final product) or used in a more structured way (making a picture or learning about shapes). It depends on what you feel like doing.

A basic picture like a boat or car is easy to make when you have a few different shaped blocks to paint with. For the younger artmaker just dipping the block into paint and printing onto the paper is great too!

Painting with Blocks

I tend to follow my child’s lead and encourage whatever he’s into at that moment.

Painting with blocks
Quick Tip

Repeat experiences are great and toddlers love to repeat things. Resist the urge to pack everything away and leave it within reach. Repeating the process helps them to master it or experiment and do something completely new.

Painting with Blocks

What you will need for this invitation

  • Blocks (Various shapes are best)
  • Paint (Washable paint works best for toddlers and kinder aged children)
  • Paintbrushes
  • Paper
  • Paper plate or flat surface to put paint on

Materials and substitutions

I believe you should use what you have. If you only have watercolour paint use it. The watercolour paint will give a more subtle effect on paper.

Level of engagement

Both toddlers and younger children will love this one. Once they experiment with how the technique works you can retain their engagement longer by showing them how to make a picture like a car, boat or cityscape. Or ask them to create a picture or scene, and see what they come up with.

Level of Mess

Moderate, paint can get messy. It’s best to prepare for some mess. Limit the number of paints available at one time. 2-3 paint colours work well. if you want some tips and tricks I’ve written about containing the mess here 11 Tips for managing messy PAINT experiences with kids

How to

Place the block straight into the paint for a more rich vibrant colour and press onto the paper. You can also use the paintbrush to paint one side of the block before making your print. You get the idea!


  • Step back and see what happens, resist the urge to show them how it’s done. Set up the materials and let them go for it! They might surprise you.
  • Trace around the shapes onto a piece of paper with a texta or sharpie to create a DIY puzzle.
  • Encourage your child to match the shapes by dipping the shape into the paint and placing onto the traced shape. You can add some new vocabulary and learn the various shape names together. Now you have a DIY puzzle board. Fold it up and keep it with your blocks.
  • Do you have some wool or kitchen twine? Make a new type of print and texture by wrapping the twine around a few blocks into a random pattern and tie to secure.
Painting with blocks and twine
  • Bubble wrap leftover from a recent purchase? Wrap this around a block, make sure the bumpy part is on the outside. Wrap around a few times and secure with sticky tape. This creates a new and exciting texture to both hold and paint with!
  • Why not cut up an orange or a lemon and print with that? 
  • What would it look like if you applied two colours to the same block?
  • What would the print look like using a lot or a only a little bit of paint?
  • Why not experiment with applying different levels of pressure onto the paper?
  • What would it look like if you used just the edge of the block? 
  • What would it look like if you rolled the cylinder-shaped block across the paper?
  • Why not forget the shapes all together, paint your hand and print with that!
Painted hand print

Every art invitation is a chance to slow down and enjoy the creative moment with your child. Toss out your idea of how it’s meant to go and follow your child’s lead, they know the way! Printmaking possibilities are endless, that’s why I love this invitation so much. How did you go?


About Emma - Founder of Art Play Heart and passionate advocate of getting as many children as possible to enjoy art making in their lives! There is nothing more magnificent than watching a child or anyone for that matter flourish and discover themselves and the world around them through being creative and making art in all its glorious forms.

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