Brown bags make wonderful painting surfaces, not just because of the resistant material they are made of, but also because you can carry them around afterwards.

The possibilities are endless when we mix materials. This Play Invitation is no exception!

Using soft pastels and watercolors will bring new discoveries about contrast, color mixing, permeable and impermeable materials while developing observation and creativity.

What Could Lead Us to This Play Invitation

  • Children have been exploring recycled materials;
  • Children are excited about the concept of beauty, personalizing things, and adding decorations.

Materials Needed

  • Liquid watercolors
  • Soft pastels/ soft chalk
  • Brown bags
  • Brushes

Setting up This Play Invitation

  1. Collect brown paper bags. You can reuse old ones.
  2. Place the pastels and the bags together on a table within children’s reach.
  3. Prepare the liquid watercolors to offer the children after they have finished drawing with the pastels.

    Tip: If you have brown bags with printed logos on them, you can cut them at the seam, turn them inside out, and glue them back together at the seam.

How to Create the Painting

  1. Invite children to draw wonderful squiggly lines all over the brown bag. Offer a variety of soft pastels or soft chalks.
Child drawing with chalk on brown paper bag

2. Then, let them paint over the pastel drawings with watercolors.

Child drawing chalk on brown paper bag and painting over it with water color

How to Nurture the Natural Unfolding of the Child’s Identity During This Play Invitation

  • Children have the right to appreciate and analyze what they create beyond the “activity.” Encourage children to observe and contemplate their own artwork. Explore the texture, color, movement, and techniques they used to arrive at the resulting piece.
  • Honor children’s thought processes and encourage them to continue exploring the materials. “What happens if we use pastels over watercolors?” Be open to experimentation and trust that the child is making connections between ideas, and formulating theories.

The Academic Learning Opportunities

  • MATH: Shape recognition, spatial relationships.
  • LANGUAGE: Engage in the exploration of new vocabulary.
  • SCIENCE: With this play invitation children can explore concepts such as the state of matter: e.g., concentrated, dissolved, spread, mixed, permeable, and impermeable.
  • ART: Develop perception of color and hue, experiment with composition, contrast, and visual balance.


  • Explore how permeable and impermeable objects interact with water or paint. For example: What is the difference between painting a glass jar or a piece of fabric with tempera paint? The paint on the glass will probably crack after drying. Why is the paint on the fabric different?

Book Recommendation

A lovely story about a rainy day and what we do not to get wet.