Here’s a simple painting technique that gives children an amazing opportunity to create some incredible designs.

By using rubber bands and watercolors, children can develop fine motor skills like hand strength when stretching the rubber bands, and hand-eye coordination when positioning the rubber bands as they choose. Children can also explore concepts such as geometry, and positive and negative space.

What Could Lead Us to This Play Invitation

  • Children have been exploring contours in their drawings;
  • Children are curious about the concept of what happens “around” an object – for example, they have noticed that when it rains, the ground below a car stays dry.

Materials Needed

  • Watercolor cakes
  • Watercolor paper
  • Cardboard
  • Double-sided tape
  • Rubber bands
  • Brushes
  • Water

Setting up This Play Invitation

  1. Cut the cardboard and the paper to the same size.
  2. Attach the paper to the cardboard with double-sided tape.
  3. Place several rubber bands on a table accessible to the children.
  4. After the children have finished placing rubber bands around the cardboard/paper in a design of their choosing, bring out the watercolors, brushes, and a water jar.

    Tip: Make sure the rubber bands can be stretched to the size of the paper and a bit more. The thicker the rubber band, the more evident the markings will be on the paper.

How to Create the Painting

  1. Invite children to wrap rubber bands around the paper/cardboard. They can add as many or as few rubber bands as they want in any direction creating all sorts of shapes.
Child placing rubber bands around paper

2. Next, using the watercolors, let the child paint the entire paper using whatever colors they choose.

Child painting over rubber band secured to a paper

3. Let dry. Remove the rubber bands to reveal the beauty.

Optional next step: Offer scissors and invite the children to cut the painting following the white lines. Children can then create new compositions, using the pieces as a puzzle.

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

  • Children have the right to take the time to develop their motor skills, overcome frustration, and think of creative solutions to meet their intentions. Resist the temptation to try to make the process go faster by doing things for the children.
  • Children also have the right to experience common challenges. Exploring a painting technique with a group of peers is an opportunity for children to find their space within a group, learn how to be with others, and develop their observation and communication skills. Establish a safe and caring environment by supporting children in interacting, helping, and pushing each other.
Child painting over rubber band secured to a paper

The Academic Learning Opportunities

  • MATH: Describe and compare shapes, and define positions like “diagonal” and “parallel.”
  • PHYSICAL: Build on their fine motor skills and explore visual-spatial relationships.
  • SCIENCE: Explore cause and effect, resistance, absorption, and spreading.
  • ART: Understand the need for steps in an art process, explore the concepts of negative and positive space.


  • Explore cut-out shapes to make stencils and continue learning about negative and positive space.
  • Explore the contour of shadows, and wonder with children about natural positive and negative space.

Book Recommendation

A fantastic book about the power of images, and positive/negative spaces, to be explored with a flashlight.