Sitting or Standing? The best way to paint and draw…

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One of my all-time favorite things to do…

Set up an activity or craft for children and then sit back and watch how it all unfolds…

It is especially wonderful to watch a group of children tackle something in completely different ways!

Unaided and uninterrupted, I can not believe how different a reaction, response, and outcome you can get from 20 children, the same age, same materials, same pretty much everything, yet these beautiful little minds just diversify and create so so SO differently!

Try it sometime!

Watch the jungle jim on a playground or watch (with permission) into your child’s classroom – or watch 4 children during a play date.

Really take note of how they are doing the same thing differently!

A few weeks back I set up a still life painting activity for my daughter’s class. We were painting with watercolors so I had set it up around a table, 4 children at a time, paper in front of them, paints to the side.

I took the chairs away because in my own mind I wanted them to reach to up to the top of the paper without putting their sleeve onto the paper and smudging the paint – and because we were using A3 paper (fairly big) I figured if they were sitting they were not going to reach.

Most children just accepted the situation and started painting, but a few (4 out of 26) insisted on getting a chair. At first I said – in my best encouraging tone – ‘why not stand so you can reach the top of the paper…’


The children who wanted to sit wanted to sit. They stood until I looked away and then got a chair.

One child just said, “no I want to sit.” … and so she did.

I thought about this activity afterwards – specifically, I though about standing vs sitting.

I do a lot of art and crafts with children and I have never really intentionally thought about creating art standing or sitting…until now that is!!

Sitting vs Standing

What is best for children?

What works better with art and drawing and painting?

What do some of my favorite teachers think?

Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed of Teach PreSchool; “Young children learn best and will often focus for longer periods of time on a process when given the choice to stand or sit. A child who may not be interested in sitting still to draw at a table may very well find it interesting to stand and draw on a clipboard.

When it comes to young children, we must first understand their need for movement and changes of position and then be responsive to that need so that young children will want to take the time to write, draw, or paint.

Along the way, young children will begin to naturally adjust his or her positions to help them achieve their goals and master new skills.

Stand or Sit

Simone Davis from The Montessori Notebook; “I think either can work depending on the space available. When the child stands, they have full range of movement in their arm/s. Particularly for young children who tend to still make whole arm movements while they are painting, rather than refined movements of the wrist or fingers.

I think that even though the movement is a little more difficult at a table, it is still better to have painting available in an environment – even at a table, than not at all.”

Advantages of Sitting and Standing  Painting and Drawing

Elizabeth McQueen, Early Years Educator, summarizes the advantages of both:


  • Full range of movement in their arms
  • Allows freedom of movement. Can use their ‘whole’ body
  • Easier for children who find it difficult to sit still
  • Gives them more perspective. They can walk back and view their artworks at a distance
  • Can put more energy into their painting
  • Little ones find it easier to create bigger paintings standing up
  • Children tend to find painting and drawing, standing, more fun. Sitting at a desk or table can mean they have to ‘work!’
painting standing


  • Encourages more refined movements of the hands and fingers
  • Better control
  • Can work on detail
  • Less messier
  • Allows easier use of thinner mediums. It won’t ‘slip away’ – for example watercolor paints
  • Easier for children with physical limitations
Painting at a table

Both standing and sitting – seem to have advantages and while a child may favor one or the other, both can be encouraged.

Some mediums ask for flat surfaces – at a table or on the floor – for example painting with watercolors or runny paint. The child can choose to sit or stand at the table, or sit on the floor…

Other activities ask for standing – for example bark rubbing on a tree…

How is just as important as what

It is worth remembering before you set up an activity, (I certainly will from now on) that how is just as important as what, especially when dealing with younger children who are still finding their own way!

Here are some wonderful variations – standing and sitting art ideas!


Outdoor Spray Painting // Emma Owl

Bubble Painting at the Easel // Teach Preschool

Painting at the light table // Teach Preschool

Outdoor Window Painting // The Jenny Evolution

Giant Easter Eggs // Emma Owl

Mural Painting // Beyond Mommying

Slinky Painting // Fantastic Fun and Learning

Try this SITTING

Oil and Water Painting  // Emma Owl

Lemon Drop Painting // Teach Preschool

Printing Flowers with Okra // Emma Owl

Klimt Shape Printing // Red Ted Art

Bubble Blowing Apple Painting // Teach Me Mommy

Foil Painting // Crafty Kids at Home

Mondrian Tuff Spot Painting // Tuff Spot Play

You can find more from Deborah J. Stewart at Teach Preschool and Simone Davies at The Montessori Notebook  here!

Sitting vs Standing Get real advice from teachers who know what is best!
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