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Watercolor “Shape” Birds for Kinder

Is there anything more adorable than watching little kids paint? Only if its watercolor paint! The brushes might be the smallest these five-year-olds have ever worked with and I sense the paint feels dainty to them. They are oh-so careful! This art lesson is a great introduction to the world of color. Paint mingles, spills and splatters. Children smile and beam, proud of their work.

Drawing the Birds

On a sheet of watercolor paper (regular drawing paper is fine), children follow a directed-line drawing for the bird. I use a directed-line approach with this lesson for a number of reasons. It allows me to get a sense for how well the kids are able to follow instruction and to see where their art skills are at. I say this loosely because I expect very little. I have fun showing them techniques for drawing the bird. I try to make them laugh and to think of funny names for the birds. And if they make a “mistake” we turn the line into something else or if they really want, try again on another part of the paper.

I use Sharpies for this lesson for one big reason: I didn’t have any black oil pastels. My art supply shipment has taken a LONG time so I didn’t have what I needed for the first day of school. I could have used crayon or another color of oil pastel, but the Black Sharpie was my second choice.

Handouts: To Use or Not to Use?


I created this handout (which you may print out if you like) but I must offer you a word of advice: Don’t give it to the children! I’m not exactly sure what I was thinking when I passed out these sheets. Perhaps I was hoping that the sheet handout would offer a few ideas. But I was misguided and quite frankly, not at all thinking. The classroom teacher came up to me near the end of the lesson and kind of chuckled. She said she couldn’t figure out why so many of her students were drawing multiple birds on their papers when the directed-line instructions were quite clear to draw only one. We both looked at one another and laughed. It was the handout. Some kids assumed they had to draw multiple birds!

Don’t get me wrong. Multiple birds are fine, but if you have multiple birds, you can bet that the birds are tiny and tiny birds are very hard to paint. So use the handout for your own personal use (or for older kids) and enjoy!

Painting the Birds

I use liquid watercolor paints. Totally love them. Sure the colors can get a bit muddled if the kids don’t clean their brushes well, but that doesn’t seem a good enough reason not to use them. For easy set-up, place watercolor paints in small condiment cups and place in muffin-style palettes. Less spillage this way.

After the drawings are done, I set out the trays of paint, brushes (medium all-purpose brushes) and let the kids play. I don’t overwhelm the children with any techniques. I let them experiment as I move around the room and talk to them about the paints. Some kids have big puddles of paint and they keep trying to paint over it. I show them how to squeeze the water from their brush and place on top of the watercolor puddle. The brush soaks up the extra liquid and the children are thrilled.

Displaying the Artwork

Since many of the papers had multiple scribbles and more than a few birds, I decided to cut out the completed birds and place them on colored paper. I think the birds look adorable. On the back of each paper, I wrote “First Day in Art Class”. It’ll be a nice keepsake for the parents.

Art Supplies:

Watercolor Paper: Canson 9 x 12/100sht packs ($13.99 per pack)

Paint: Blick Liquid Watercolor Β ($3.55 per 8 oz bottle)

Colored Paper:Dick Blick Construction Paper (9 x 12 50/pk $2.22)

Palette: 6 -well paint palette from Dick Blick

This post contains affiliate links

Kindergarten Watercolor Shape Birds Gallery


  1. what is it about birds lately? they are everywhere, including my classroom too! everywhere you look these days there are owls, birdcages, folky chickens, cardinals… i love the trend!


    September 17, 2011

  2. Patty,
    I LOVE the birds! I had to laugh when I read what you wrote about NOT giving the kids the handout! So true!
    You have to be very specific with Kinders or they become overachievers and draw very tiny birds. IO just love following your blog because it’s always new and original!



    September 17, 2011

  3. I just love following your blog, and feel very excited when I see a new post from you on Google Reader. You may like to know that my Primary One class in Dunoon on the West coast of Scotland drew beautiful direct line turtles last week. Your influence travels!
    Please keep up the wonderful work – the whole world is following!

    Karen Wheatley

    September 17, 2011

  4. Those are adorable! I am going to try that my kidlets!

    Thanks for sharing,

    The Orchard

    September 17, 2011

  5. Hi
    What is the recipe for your pre-watered down watercolors that leaves the color so vibrant?

    Art In Brentwood

    September 17, 2011

    • Click on the “Liquid Watercolor paints” link highlighted in the post and you can read all about the paint.


      September 17, 2011

  6. Love this idea, especially the idea of giving the children a lesson with line drawing and if they make a mistake then incorporate it somehow into your art work. They are so festive and colorful.

    Rose Rodriguez

    September 18, 2011

  7. lovely! these birds colored my morning πŸ™‚


    September 18, 2011

  8. I’m trying liquid watercolors for the first time this year and bought the little cups with lids as you recommended. When looking at your photos I noticed you had the plastic cups in a tray. I love the idea of keeping them in a tray to make them easy to pass out and have on the tables without the kids being able to knock them over. Where did you get those large trays?

    J. Cooper

    September 19, 2011

    • Try <a href="Dick Blick Art Materials“>Dick Blick. They are called 6-well paint palettes. I ordered about a dozen. Fantastic to have in the classroom.


      September 19, 2011

    • I’ve heard of teachers using muffin tins as well, not sure which would be cheaper.


      September 25, 2011

  9. What a great lesson for a Monday morning full of 4 kinder classes! Thanks!


    September 19, 2011

  10. Patty I love these, my kids are loving birds at the moment and the girls adore being able to put hearts into their work. Whilst I admire the way you have mounted these on bright coloured paper I am also keen to see you do some sort of collage wall display where you mount your kids animals in a whole picture. I am thinking of doing this at some point and think these birds would be great for that. I love the art and literature ideas you post as I try and use books as my stimulus as often as possible. Thanks for getting me through my first year in the art room, I have loved it and with one term left (I am living in Australia) I am already thinking how many of your ideas can I get into next year as I want to stay in the art room and not return to the grade teaching as I have had so much fun. You are my inspiration.


    September 28, 2011

    • Yes, a collage. It seems easy but I’m terrible at it! I also like to keep the children’s artwork in a “mountable” state for art shows. I have always wanted to channel my inner Laura @ Painted Paper who does the most fab collages.


      September 28, 2011

  11. I just found your website last week and it’s great! I tried this lesson with my 5-7 year olds and the birds turned out great! They had a lot of fun with the Shape Birds πŸ™‚

    Thanks for sharing all your great ideas and knowledge.


    October 4, 2011

  12. Good Morning! Another mom and I are doing art at a brand new little school and the funds are tight. I was wondering if this would work with tempera paints or even acrylic? Have you tried those before with this type of project?
    Thank you so much for all of your wonderful ideas and posts! We are truly glad to have found your blog πŸ™‚

    Star Nakamoto

    December 31, 2011

    • Hi Star,
      I wouldn’t use acrylics with kinders as the properties of this type of paint might be a little hard (fast drying, doesn’t come out of clothes, etc) but you could use whatever medium you like. The concept of oil pastel resists really only works with either crayons or oil pastels and watercolor paints. For a tempera project, use black oil pastel (or another dark color) to draw the bird, paint with either liquid or wet tempera and then outline with black tempera paint. Different look, but age appropriate.


      December 31, 2011

  13. Thank you, thank you, thank you for all that you share. I am a homeschool mom who also teaches at homeschool co-ops. I did this bird project with my own kids who had so much fun with it. This project was a confidence booster for my son who is behind on fine motor skills. I am so excited to try many of your other project ideas with my kids and my art classes. Thank you, again, for making these tried and true projects available to us. (and the great tips) It so nice to see your project, gather supplies and make it happen knowing that it will be successful.

    Christine Foss

    January 19, 2012

  14. Fantastic project! My kinders loved it, start to finish, and their birds turned out divine. I’ve had many comments about them from both parents and other staff members. I bought Astrobright paper to mount them on, and boy, do they ever POP! Thank you so much for your generosity. Sharing great ideas is NOT the norm in education these days πŸ™

    You’re a terrific inspiration!


    March 13, 2012

  15. I am teaching Kindergarten for the first time this year and I have gotten so many great ideas. I love this lesson! While the students are working on their birds I played the movie Up. They watched the part about the big bird named Kevin. They really loved making these birds. Thank you!

    Mary Beth

    October 2, 2013

    • Great idea! I would love to be in your classroom.

      Patty Palmer

      October 2, 2013

  16. This is one of my favorite DSS projects. I ran across pictures of my students work of this last year and had to recreate it with my kinders this year. Love it!!

    Katie Matheny

    January 8, 2014

  17. Patty,
    I would love to try with with my class but I’m new to teaching art, what sort of instructions did you give your kids during the line drawing portion of the lesson?


    November 18, 2015

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