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Salt Painting

Full disclosure: I love painting projects. I never tire of watching the creativity bubble from children as they experiment with colors and textures in new ways. Here’s an easy, exciting painting project that uses an unexpected, everyday material: salt! Salt painting is one of my favorite imaginative activities because it’s process-driven, simple and creates a pretty cool piece of art for the home. 

What You Need:

  • Salt (fine salt works best)
  • Watercolor tray
  • Brush
  • Water
  • Baking tray (or large tray for your child to work over and to collect the excess salt)
  • Thick paper (white cardboard or cardstock preferred)
  • Elmer’s glue

Step 1:

Use the glue to make a design, pattern or picture on the cardboard.


Step 2:

Sprinkle salt over the top of the glue generously, making sure to completely cover the glue.

Step 3:

Gently pick up your paper and lightly tap the back so that excess salt falls into the container. This is when your kiddo may require some help, because if you tap too hard the glue could drip or move, disrupting their design.

Step 4: 

Wet your brush and dip it into a watercolor, making sure that the watercolor really saturates the brush. To ensure this, I encourage children to swish their brush in the paint for three seconds and say “swish, one, two, three.”

Step 5:

Lightly tap your brush to drop watercolor dots onto the salt. When you do, the color will spread out across the granules. Continue to add different colors and enjoy watching them combine. Ask your child what he or she notices when the colors mix together.


Step 6:

Once the salt is painted to your liking, let the cardboard dry. It’s that simple!


Play Tips:

This is another fantastic open-ended art project that stirs the imagination and validates process over results. When I did this salt painting with one of my students, a 5-year-old boy, he placed red watercolor next to orange on a patch of salt. As he noticed the colors spread, he exclaimed, “Hot lava! I’m making hot lava like the kind that comes out of volcanoes — watch!” Look out for these great moments during their artistic process, when children make connections between their work and existing knowledge. Whether you’re a parent, teacher, caregiver or friend, use these comments to extend their learning, like having a talk about how volcanoes erupt, looking up videos of lava or building a volcano out of blocks or other open-ended materials.

Share your salt painting fun and discoveries with us @roseandrex using #roseandrexplay.

About the Author

Allison Klein is the founder of Rose & Rex. She received a B.A. in Anthropology with minors in Psychology and Writing from Washington University in St. Louis, and a dual M.S.ED degree in Early Childhood and Childhood Education from Bank Street College of Education. While in graduate school, Allison studied the importance of imaginative play on early childhood development, and later applied this research in pre-kindergarten classrooms where she worked. As she watched her students grow and transform through play, Allison knew she wanted to start a broad conversation about the importance of play for children in today’s results-driven culture.

Now a play-based tutor, when Allison is not working with children or playing with blocks, she loves to explore Central Park, drink matcha tea and practice pilates. A native New Yorker, Allison lives on the Upper East Side and appreciates the abundance of experiential learning opportunities that exist on every block.

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