Painting in a Box


(E was 31 months old.)

You’ll need:

  • A cardboard box.
  • Paint or markers of any kind {we used tempera paint – a brand that seemed slightly more stubborn than the bottles we had back home and that were still on a ship moving slowwwly towards us while we did this activity; it still washed off E’s skin fine, and her clothes just needed a bit of help with spray-on detergent for the black paint; if your tempera paint doesn’t seem as washable as it should be, you should definitely try a different brand}.
  • Paintbrushes (optional).


After the first part of our Big Move, we were left with seven heavy-duty moving boxes that screamed for being used for toddler activities. {Ours were used for Air Freight – any other kind of box that’s big enough for your toddler to stand in will do perfectly, though.}

E absolutely loved this one and asked to do it again several days in a row.

And of course she gave it her own spin that I hadn’t expected 😉

I love the simple set-up {she’d asked for black and blue paint}.


Set up for painting in a box.

She jumped in excitedly and started painting. 

Painting with a paintbrush.

Trying another side. 

Painting another flap of the box.

Really getting into it. 

Laying on more paint.

Then she discovered something new: Ooooh, I can paint other surfaces as well… 

Toddler body painting.

Yeah, she really wasn’t kidding with the body painting 😉 

Toddler sitting in a box with paint all over.

But hey, even with body paint on, you can still explore a horizontal surface! 

Painting the box some more.

The next day, she wanted to do it again – picking green and white paint. She painted the box and her feet this time. 

Painting her feet.

After her bath and a change of clothes, it wasn’t long until she climbed in again. I’d attempted to let the paint dry because it’ll flake, and you can just pull it out of your containers without resorting to washing it out.

E was faster… 

Green and white painted hands.

The box kept sitting out on our porch, and E involved it in a little spray bottle activity we did a couple of days later {plain water just to try out our new spray bottle}

Spraying water on the box.

Later that day, she again asked to paint the box – she asked for red this time and made quite a dramatic impact 😉 

Painting a box (and two legs) red.

What I learned:

E needed a bath after each time she painted the box {several occasions aren’t pictured, including the time she climbed in nude – interestingly, that was actually the time she chose to hardly paint her body at all 😉 } but there was literally no mess at all outside the box.

Additional suggestions:

  • You can do any kind of art project inside a box but the messier, the better.
  • Try splatter painting,
  • painting with balls,
  • or pouring paint




What’s your favorite way to contain the mess of toddler activities? What unusual painting surfaces have you tried? Leave a comment!




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