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Top 10 Creative Mark Making Ideas

Mark making is usually associated with a piece of paper and having a pencil or paintbrush in hand. However, there are many creative ways children can get involved with mark making; building on their physical skills and letting them explore their world in different ways. Before they learn to spend hours creating works of art, children need to develop muscles and discover how they can manipulate materials for different effects.

Here are That Nursery Life’s Top 10 Creative Mark Making activities that focus on the skills needed for writing, making art and being expressive:

Photographer: Markus Spiske | Source: Unsplash

1. Sand Writing

Fill a tuff tray or smaller individual trays with sand and simply let the children make marks with their fingers. As they push the sand out of the way they will see the base of the tray, creating a ‘mark’. Other tools can be given, such as paintbrushes, sticks or forks. Children can explore how they can be used in different ways to make a variety of marks in the sand, such as rolling or dragging. The sand can also be replaced with other materials like flour, glitter, salt, oats or sugar (making sure they don’t eat it!). The mark making premise remains the same no matter what item is used to fill the tray.

2. Water Painting

Using a cup of water and a paintbrush outside, children can explore making marks to their heart’s content. As the water evaporates, they can continue to make new creations as well as exploring the different textures outside. They might find they prefer painting on brick than on wood or vice versa. Chalk shapes, letters or numbers can also be drawn and children can use their water and paintbrushes to erase the chalk from different surfaces.

Photographer: Pawel Czerwinski | Source: Unsplash

3. Painting with Household Items

Giving children a tray of paint and some random household items is a fun way to let them discover how they can make different patterns using everyday objects. Try to get a good variety; thinking about what print they might make. Things like a potato masher, sponge, toothbrush, fork, peg, hooped earrings or a hairbrush will all create unique shapes for children to explore; just make sure the items are not wanted as, once they go in the paint, it is doubtful they’d be usable for their original purpose!

4. Shaving Foam

Some settings may not allow shaving foam but it is so much fun for the children that it is highly recommended. Aprons and a ‘kind to skin’ brand are advised, as well as close supervision to minimise children tasting it. A tray, bowl or plate can be filled with shaving foam and children can explore how they can manipulate this strange substance. They might drag their fingers through it to draw shapes, smear it on a surface, or pick up a handful and squeeze it through their fingers. All of the above will deepen children’s understanding of how they get different results from the same material.

Photographer: Phil Hearing | Source: Unsplash

5. String Painting

Have the children dip strands of string into some paint then help them pull it across their paper to see how they can paint with a piece of string. They might wish to swirl it across their page, zigzag it up and down or squish it up into a small bundle. Any method is effective and providing them with a variety of colours enables children to enjoy mixing different colours together in their mark making process.

6. Cling Film Painting

Cover a table with paper then place blobs of paint across it, not too close together. Securely cover this with clingfilm and help the children see how they can push the paint across the paper without getting messy! They can push the paint between the paper and the clingfilm, observing how it disperses as they squeeze it. Fingers are the best tool for this as any pointy object is likely to pierce the clingfilm, resulting in a much messier activity! The same idea can be incorporated using zip lock bags and paint.

Photographer: Ibrahim Rifath | Source: Unsplash

7. Rubbings

Using chunky crayons and a piece of paper, children simply have to place an item underneath their paper and rub the crayon on the top to see what marks they can make. The backs of leaves are the best item to use due to their thin, yet intricate, make-up, but other items like brick, wood and stencils can work just as well. Adult assistance is usually required, particularly if using an uneven or vertical surface.

8. Corn Flour

One of the messier suggestions but still a ‘must-do’ activity for young children. When mixed with water, corn flour has such as strange consistency that it simultaneously has the properties of a liquid and a solid. Poured into a tuff tray, children can explore how they can make marks in this engaging medium. Fingers are best to use as children can feel how the material changes as they push pressure on to it. As they make the marks they will almost instantly disappear, leading to endless hours of fun and learning.

Photographer: Kelly Sikkema | Source: Unsplash

9. Playdough

Already a firm favourite among nurseries, playdough can be used for sculpting and building, but also for mark making. Children can roll or push out their playdough out and can either explore what marks they make with a variety of tools, or be encouraged to try and write shapes and letters in the dough. Alternatively, they can roll it into long, thin strands and attempt to make shapes or letters in this way. It’s such a versatile material that can be used for countless activities.

10. Spray Painting

Using water-spray bottles filled with diluted paint, children can spray onto large pieces of paper, easels, or even hung-up sheets. They can discover how spraying repeatedly in the same spot deepens the colour, or how spraying and moving at the same time spreads the paint in different ways. Using the pumping action on the spray bottles helps to strengthen important muscles in their hands, supporting their development for further mark making in the future.