I love finding new ways to encourage the Little Tots to make marks and finding alternatives to painting with brushes. It really helps to capture their interest and engage them for longer in the activity and this cotton reel painting was no exception.

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The cotton reels were part of a huge Mark Making Kit we received from Early Years Resources along with the ready mixed paint.

You will need:

  • Tuff spot
  • Large roll of white paper
  • Sticky tape
  • Ready mixed paint
  • Cotton reels

To set this up I brought our tuff spot outside and placed on a table so it was at an accessible height for all the Little Tots. Next, I covered it in white paper using the sticky tape to secure, then added some squirts of paint and cotton reels and we were ready to go.

We’ve tried a similar technique before using trucks to roll through paint as well as rolling conkers but using cotton reels was a new painting idea for us.

I demonstrated how to roll a cotton reel through the paint by laying it down and giving it a push and they immediately had a go themselves.

cotton reel painting

The Little Tots were completely engrossed in watching the reels move across the tuff spot and making marks in the paint as they went…and of course they had to squeal “wwwweeeeeeee” after each push.

This painting activity provide plenty of opportunities to practice colour recognition whilst older children could talk about colour mixing and the new colours made.

cotton reel painting

As well as rolling the cotton reels they discovered that they could stamp the ends of them in the paint which also made marks…..and, of course, like all painting activities it ended in smooshing the paint around with their hands.

cotton reel painting

This was such a fun group activity and it created some beautiful process art which once dry I hung up in the play room and it’s provided a great talking point all week as they try and describe how they made it.

Watch the Little Tots in action below.

To find out what was in the rest of our mark making kit check out my post on 10 Mark Making Ideas for Toddlers where I share the contents and show you my favourite mark making ideas for little hands.

Links to the EYFS

  • Physical Development – fine motor skill and coordination
  • Maths –  counting the reels, talking about the shape and speed of them
  • Personal, Social & Emotional Development – playing alongside others, working as a team,
  • Literacy – noticing the effects of the marks they made
  • Expressive Arts & Design

cotton reel painting fun and easy toddler painting activity great for early mark making

cotton reel painting


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