Painting with Cars

two cars on a ramp

Now we are pretty against stereotyping boys and girls. We believe that girls can like blue and play with trucks and tractors, just as boys can like pink and play dress up with fairy wings. However, it is not uncommon to hear Mothers and Fathers of boys say that they find it hard to get their boys involved in creative play. Glitter doesn’t have to be included in every art craft that you do. In fact, there are lots of crafts that can be tailored toward a more boisterous audience. Car painting is one of these. Now we are not saying that girls don’t like cars, both my daughters are obsessed with cars and will play with them for hours. But cars may draw the attention of a boy in and that is all you need to do to get them involved. In fact we can guarantee that they will want a refill of fresh paper after filling it with car tracks. That is a win if you ask us!

Car painting is rather simple! All you really require are toy cars, some paint and white paper. The rest you can take or leave.

painting with cars

So why do it?

Allowing them to engage in Process Art

Process art is not needing a specific end outcome when creating. It is so important to allow children to just do. Like sensory play, process art focuses on the learning in just allowing them to experiment with creating, using what is in front of them. They are learning from their actions and the results of their actions. So in this case, that different cars may make different tracks in the paint. That if you hold a car down firmly and roll it back and form quickly you may get a more solid, clear paint track, that is you weave the car in and out of the paint, you can make fun paint tracks.

It ticks the sensory play box.

Car movement with paint, it is a different experience for children then using a paint brush. It requires a bit more involvement and physical activity.

It encourages imaginative play.

Children’s toy cars are often themed. Whether it’s characters from their favorite films, books and televisions series, a wide variety are available, and so with that, they will naturally play out scenes that they may have watched or read about.

Practise in both Fine and Gross motor skills.

Their tactile use of holding the cars and zooming them across the paper are all practise for them developmentally.

car on ramp

Things you will need:

  • Plastic cars or any toy cars you don’t mind getting covered in paint
  • A long roll of white paper (available on Amazon or most craft stores)
  • Paint, a few colours
  • An outdoor space, ideally a pavement or patio
  • Sellotape
  • A slide, optional


  1. Firstly, I would advise attempting to set this up before your children want to play with it. Not always possible but it means they can just get stuck in immediately.
  2. Decide whether you will be using a slide or not. If you aren’t using one, find a couple of meters of pavement or clear patio to use. Roll out your white paper and sellotape down the ends. If you think your children would benefit from the sides being help down, do them too.
  3. If you are using a slide, start at the top of the slide with your paper. Sellotape it down and then roll it down your slide and on to the paving stones and sellotape that end down too. Make sure to roll out the paper at least a couple of metres. This will give your children enough space to play with, especially if there are more then one. It means one can play with the slide and the other on the floor and then take turns. My eldest (4 years) played mostly with the slide and my youngest (22 months) played on the floor with the paper flat on the floor.
  4. Squirt some paint all over the paper. Space it out. It is up to you whether you want to put more the one colour on at once. We slowly built up the colour by putting one colour on at a time and adding another once the first had been used up.
  5. Once the paint is on you can leave your children to experiment. If they need some help to begin with, show them what to do by zooming a car down the slide or across the pavement. Talk about how you can see the car tracks as it hits the paint and drags it across the surface of the paper.
girl painting with car

Don’t interfere too much with their play, this should be about process art. It is not about having a particular outcome, it is very much about allowing them to play and learn from it themselves.

Once they have finished, why not let them put them through a ‘car wash’ in a plastic tub with some washing up liquid. If you are brave enough and have one, give them your garden hose to wash the paint off first. Then put some sponges and a watering can toy in the tub with the cars and let them play.

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Grace Selous BullContributor

Grace Selous Bull is an arts education author and freelance blogger. Her book, ‘Potty About Pots: arts and crafts for home and school’ is aimed at children from 5-12 years old and takes them through a journey of ceramics through time. Her blog, The Rainbow Tree, explores all aspects of arts and crafts, and is aimed at children of all ages.  She is a full time Mummy of two girls, both of whom love being creative, and is married to her husband, Andrew, who does not. Follow her on twitter.

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