Art with Toddlers, Autumn, Nature Play, Paint Play

Wet on Wet Watercolor and Leaf Rubbing

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This process based project for 2+ year olds is the perfect layered, multi day artwork for slow, cozy autumn days. It is a combination of traditional wet on wet watercolor painting and leaf rubbing.

Through this engaging process, your little artists will explore a focused autumn color group, autumn leaf study and mark making. Let’s get started!


  • 3-5 liquid watercolor paint colors thinned with water (use food color + water for little paint tasters)
  • Watercolor paper (do not use normal paper with this technique)
  • 3-5 jars to hold watery paint (each with its own brush)
  • A sponge or spray bottle to wet the paper
  • Leaves for leaf rubbing (not too crumbly—fresher, more supple leaves work best)
  • Crayons in autumn colors for leaf rubbing on top of the painting when it’s dry


Day One

  1. Set up the paint play invitation by taping watercolor paper to a table and wetting it thoroughly with a sponge or spray bottle. Place one paint brush in each jar of watery paint. For 2-6 year olds, work with just 3-5 autumn colors that will work harmoniously together on the paper. We use red, orange and yellow.
  2. Model the possibilities of how to use the materials.
  3. Let your child explore the magical wet on wet watercolor process. This delightful sensory experience allows the artist to explore color without thinking about line or shape.
  4. Lay flat to dry

Day Two

  1. Model the leaf rubbing process on top of a dry painting
  2. Watch your child explore building another layer on top of their beautiful wet on wet painting with autumn leaves and crayon. Your child may prefer to use the crayons for mark making on top of their dry painting, and that’s wonderful as well!
  3. Your child may want to explore the process further by doing leaf rubbing on watercolor paper first, and painting over the top of their leaf rubbings. Follow your little artist’s lead and the project can provide enjoyment and engagement for days.

Process Over Product

Art play for children is about the process, not the product. When your child is “done”, the paper could look different than you envisioned it would. Let their process be what it is.

I hope you have time to enjoy this painting method with your little ones sometime soon. Enjoy!

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