Easy Fall Art Project – Busy Toddler

A child dabs a Q-tip onto a fall tree creating a pointillism effect with the leaves. They are working on a yellow tray.


Looking for a really easy fall art project? Maybe something to send to the grandparents? This simple fall craft is perfect for all kid ages and makes an adorable greeting card. See how five children ages 2 to 10 each made their DIY Autumn cards.

A child dabs a Q-tip onto a fall tree creating a pointillism effect with the leaves. They are working on a yellow tray.

What is this easy fall art project about?

The basis for this art project was pointillism.

Using cotton swabs, kids make dot leaves on a piece of thick paper. These dots mimic leaves and the pointillism technique.

Not familiar with the term pointillism? You’ve seen it before: this is the art technique of using many dots to create a work of art. Up close: it’s just dots. Far away: they all blur together. You probably have seen this 1880s work by George Seurat.

This is the kid version of pointillism.

And we can do it with just a few cotton swabs, which is pretty cool.

RELATED: Are you interested in more fall activities for kids? Check out my list of simple ideas to try this fall.

Try this style of fall art with different kid ages

I’ve loved cotton swab art since I was a kindergarten teacher. It’s something I carried with me into parenting as a fun and intricate way to have kids paint.

It requires a little more focus, a little more quiet, and a little more patience than traditional painting.

What I love about this style of art is that it works for many ages of kids and many different personalities.

For this activity, I had a 2-, 6-, 7-, 8-, and 10-year-old painting with me. I adjusted the project and expectations for each child and voila, it met the needs of everyone and each was thrilled with how their fall art project turned out.

RELATED: Struggling with “what are we doing today?” questions? Print out my absolutely free bucket list of fall activities.

A yellow activity tray, a brown empty tree, and an egg carton full of paint with cotton swabs.


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A note on cotton swabs: These can absolutely be optional. The back of a pencil (eraser) works great too and so do little fingers (like in this finger paint tree project).

Two kids work side by side with cotton swabs dabbing paint onto fall trays.

How-to create an easy fall art project

I quickly drew fall trees on each piece of kid paper.


I wanted to cut out that variable for the kids to navigate, especially my littlest painter. My goal and intention was to have the kids color the tree before painting and I completely forget. LOL. Face palm emoji.

Note: for my toddler artist, I made a much smaller card than I used for the bigger kids. I also used that same size for my 10 year old artist who isn’t super into painting.

Again, why?

Because I wanted them to be successful. Large art is intimidating for toddlers and for kids who are art-reluctant. Help them be successful by shrinking the canvas.

I set the cards on painting trays to minimize clean up. I’ve had trays like these since I was a teacher in the mid 2000s – they come in handy. I put the paint in egg cartons because, again, mess.

Then I gave directions, an example dot or two for each kid, and away they went.

RELATED: Does painting with kids make your skin crawl? I can help. Read my tips for painting with kids (tips I wish I’d always known).

Process art vs product art

While this activity does have an “intended” final product, I left it wide open for the child’s process to take over.

There is not right or wrong way to do this art.

The 2-year-old dotted diligently for a few minutes then began using the cotton swap as a paint brush. Awesome. She was delighted by her art and couldn’t wait to show her proud mom.

My 8-year-old dotted away, creating a fall leaf pile and using the cotton swap to paint the truck. Her 7-year-old sibling did the same after being inspired by her artistic choices.

Say it again: no right way to do art.

A child holds open a card. The card reads "Happy Fall Lala. Love Kate"

Turn the easy fall art project into greeting cards

I intended for these cards to be sent to relatives as kid-made Autumn greeting cards (it’s also a great and sneaky way to ship art out of the house instead of keeping it all. Wink).

You can absolutely do this art project as flat paper to hang on the wall.

You can also make it into cards.

Do what feels best for you – we loved sending these out to family. The kids always love sending mail.

Image shows 6 pieces of art by 6 different age groups. The art is a fall tree made with Q-tips.

How each age did with this fall art

Here’s your break down (above) of how each age did wit the art project.

Look at that variation.

Look at the beauty of child interest and development.

Look how much fun I had doing this project too.

I know it’s easy to see adult-made kid art on Pinterest and then be disappointed how it looks with kids. This doesn’t have to be the case, especially not with this activity. Everyone can be successful.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is washable tempera paint actually washable?

Yes, BUT you have to know this trick: scrub the paint out of the clothing with hand soap first. Yes, hand soap. Rinse in warm water and scrub some more. It’ll come out before it’s even gone into the wash.

What do you do with kid art at home?

I save what is special, and I toss what doesn’t hold memories. When my daughter drew her first cat, I dated the back and saved it forever. By the 15th cat, I didn’t need to save it anymore (wink wink). I use an art portfolio (Amazon affiliate link) to save their work which keeps it manageable and also limits how much I can save.

When can kids start using paint?

Whenever you are ready and feel like they’re enjoy the experience AND it won’t become an all you can eat, non-toxic paint buffet. My best advice, though: try. Don’t wait. Give it a go on a small scale. This is like a food exposure. Little by little, let them grow and learn how to use paint.

Susie Allison, M. Ed

Owner, Creator

Susie Allison is the creator of Busy Toddler and has more than 2 million followers on Instagram. A former teacher and early childhood education advocate, Susie’s parenting book “Busy Toddler’s Guide to Actual Parenting” is available on Amazon.


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