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What Do Preschoolers Learn From Watercolor Painting?

by Debra Pachucki, studioD

Watercolor painting with nontoxic paints is a beneficial developmental activity for preschoolers. It can get a little messy, but with a large, easy-to-clean work surface and a plastic smock or two, your preschooler will have a fantastic time exploring her creativity while also benefiting from the developmental and learning advantages this activity results in, without a huge cleanup on your hands afterward. You might even discover your child’s inner Rembrandt in the process!

Fine-motor Skills

Watercolor painting involves using a small brush to paint light strokes onto thin paper. The delicacy of watercolor painting, unlike painting with heavier media such as poster board paints, requires a degree of gentleness and precision. Practicing these skills will facilitate and promote a preschooler’s fine-motor skills, which are crucial to her development at this stage. Fine-motor skills are a child’s ability to coordinate small muscle movements, especially in the fingers, making this type of arts and crafts activity developmentally appropriate for a preschool-aged child. From watercolor painting, a preschooler will learn how to coordinate the small movements of her fingers to produce a work of art. This will aid in her long-term ability to write, manipulate tools and objects and perform other small movement-based tasks essential to everyday life.


Paint-by-number watercolor activities promote fine-motor skill development while also facilitating your preschooler’s ability to recognize numbers and colors. Paint-by-number watercolor activity sets come with a small set of watercolor paints, labeled by numbers that correspond to different sections of pictures throughout a booklet or unfinished canvas. The painter’s objective is to use the appropriate color to paint-in specific portions of a picture labeled with a certain number. This task helps preschoolers learn numbers while also promoting pattern-recognition abilities.

Hand-eye Coordination

Watercolor painting requires young children to put paintbrush to paper and create strokes, shapes, letters or numbers, depending on what the child is painting. This promotes a child’s hand-eye coordination, which is her ability to use her eyes to guide her hand movements. As your preschooler paints, she is using her eyes to direct her brush strokes and create the picture, shape or line curvature she has in mind. Reinforcing hand-eye coordination now will help her coordinate larger visual-muscular movements later, including swinging a bat at a baseball, using a computer mouse and driving a vehicle.


Watercolor painting will enable your youngster to develop her creative skills, which are just as important as the other skills this kind of activity promotes and develops. Opportunities for creative thinking reinforces a preschooler’s ability to engage with the world in new and novel ways, which promotes inquiry, reflection and critical-thinking skills. So go ahead and let your preschooler paint a purple sun or a blue bunny rabbit -- it will only reinforce her cognitive skills and her ability to interpret and respond to the world in meaningful and insightful ways later!

About the Author

Debra Pachucki has been writing in the journalistic, scholastic and educational sectors since 2003. Pachucki holds a Bachelor's degree in education and currently teaches in New Jersey. She has worked professionally with children of all ages and is pursuing a second Masters degree in education from Monmouth University.

Photo Credits

  • David De Lossy/Digital Vision/Getty Images