Happy Accidents: 7 Steps to Enjoy Painting with Kids, Inspired by Bob Ross

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We need to establish something straight out the gate: my family does not paint. Besides the obvious lack of talent or interest in the visual arts, there are also logistical barriers to having my three boys choose painting over more popular activities such as wrestling, yelling like cavemen, or laughing at bodily functions.

bob ross

For one, sitting at a table for longer than a few minutes is already a struggle for them. For two, painting has always seemed to be more work (for mom) than it is play (for kids). Drag out the supplies, set up the paints, wipe up the accidents, and then clean it all up after only two minutes of actual painting? Not interested, thanks.

But Painting with Kids Has Its Value…

As much as painting with kids drives me batty, I recognize the importance of the arts. There has been study after study demonstrating the benefits of arts education, and I fully support my children exploring their creative side while their imaginations are uninhibited. I’d just prefer they do so when I am not around. Nonetheless, painting is one of those do-with-your kid activities that I always felt I should enjoy with them. Maybe I felt just a tiiiiiiiny bit of mama guilt for essentially shutting it out of our lives. And, of course, painting is a reasonable go-to activity for rainy days or some kind of unexpected snowpocalypse.

Enter Bob RossHappy Accidents Bob Ross

Fortunately, a few months ago, our family (re)discovered Bob Ross. Yeah, that Bob Ross. The “Happy little accidents” and “There’s nothing wrong with having a tree as a friend” Bob Ross. He is a beloved national treasure, our hair-haloed artist who has now become the quiet inspiration behind dozens of my kids’ paintings.


Make Painting with Kids Fun (For YOU!) with Seven Simple Steps:

I credit Bob for my greatest parenting win this season: we all actually enjoy painting at home. Thanks to him, we have established an interactive, seven-step approach to painting that is fun for the whole family.

  1. Watch a Bob Ross video.

    This is screen time that I can get behind (it’s educational, mmmkay?) and the kids REALLY enjoy it. In fact, they beg for Bob Ross videos on a regular basis. You can find full episodes on YouTube or Netflix. Relax to the soothing sounds of his voice while your children sit mesmerized. BAM! You just got a calm twenty minutes out of this deal already.

  2. Get out the supplies.

    This is the hardest step, so take a deep breath: paints, cups of water, paper towels, palettes and paper. Did you get it all? Okay, phew! Well done, mama.

  3. Pour yourself a beverage of choice and take a seat somewhere comfortable.

  4. Tell your children to channel their inner Bob Ross.

    And watch the metamorphosis with glee!

  5. Secretly film your children as they reenact the previous Bob Ross episode out loud and onto their papers.

    It’s theater and painting in one! Mysteriously, my children complete this step quietly to themselves, not acknowledging what others around them may be saying or doing. This means I often have three Bob Ross episodes occurring at once, all in soothing, hushed voices typical of our painting guru. They go something like this:
    Five-year-old: “Now I am just going to grab some burnt sienna…there we go. Just a happy little branch. This branch is just going to sit riiiiiiight here.”
    Three-year-old: “I need more thalo blue. This is some good thalo blue.”
    Nine-year-old: “Snow caps. Titanium white. Let’s just touch up along the side here. Happy little mountain tops.”

  6. Send someone the video you just took. More glee!

  7. Marvel at the fact that TEN WHOLE MINUTES have passed and they are still whispering to themselves and painting!

    Combined with the video lesson, you have just spent thirty reasonably stress-free minutes exploring painting. Plus, you have some great archive footage of their Bob Ross reenactments to embarrass them when they bring home future dates.

Bob Ross once famously  said, “I started painting as a hobby when I was little. I didn’t know I had any talent. I believe talent is just a pursued interest. Anybody can do what I do.” Thanks to you, Bob, our family is working on it now. One happy tree at a time.

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Lee Ann moved to Portland in 2008 following an eight-year stint in Paris, France, where her eldest was born. Though she thought nowhere could compete with the City of Lights, the City of Roses immediately stole her heart. As a great place to raise kids, she loves getting out and exploring the city and the PNW with her husband and four young children. While in France, Lee Ann earned a B.A. in Journalism and a Master's in Linguistics at the American University of Paris and L'Universite de Paris - La Sorbonne, respectively, before returning stateside to become a Speech-Language Pathologist through the Portland State University graduate program. Throughout her studies, she kept one foot in the digital world, writing content for publications and creating websites for clients. After many years as a medical Speech Pathologist, she left to the field to continue freelance writing, become the owner of Portland Mom Collective (!), and to create a crafting/workshop space for PDX makers. She likes to spend whatever "me" time she can muster making soap, geocaching, jogging, sewing, and staring at the wall with no small humans talking to her. Get in touch by sending a note to leeann {at} portlandmomcollective {dot} com, or follow her on Instagram.