Painting with balls is a fun way to combine process art and science. Use these simple ideas to extend your art activity to include science.
I love making art. I love it, even more, when art and science can be combined. Painting with marbles and balls is the perfect combination of creativity, experimentation, and exploration for kids. Let me show you how you can do so much more than just roll a sphere around on a piece of paper.
For this process art project, you need four supplies.
- a ball
- a box
- paper (any color)
- paint (I like to use tempera)
The ball, of course, is the most important supply. We can’t call this “painting with balls” without one. It’s fun to experiment with different types of balls. Try some of these ideas:
- whiffle balls
- playground balls
- smooth balls
- nubby balls
- koosh balls
- suction cup balls
- golf balls
- tennis balls
- ping pong balls
- ball pit balls
- water beads
- a ball of yarn
- Styrofoam balls
Your box needs to be big enough so that you can lay a piece of paper at the bottom. The sides need to be high enough to contain a ball. You can use the bottom of a pizza box, or pick up some nice shallow boxes on your next trip to Sams or Costco.
If you want to test the box to see if it’s a good one. Use a cat. Cats are the best box testers. This is my baby Gracie, and I’m excited to find an excuse to share her picture on this website :).
Gracie approves of this box!
You may also want to use some plastic containers to hold the paint and balls. You may want some eyedroppers to add paint to the paper and tongs and spoons to pick up paint covered balls and marbles.
How to Paint with Balls
There is no set way to make a ball painting. Play around with it and use the method that works best for you. Kids can use an eyedropper to add drops of paint directly onto the paper.
They can then add balls to the box and roll them around through the paint until a beautiful work of art is created.
Here’s another way to do it. You can also place the balls in containers of paint. Kids can add the balls to the box with spoons or tongs. Then, they can move the ball around in the box to create their masterpiece.
We did find that these suction cup balls stuck to tongs. It was pretty funny, but a spoon would probably be a better choice next time.
Use Different Types of Balls
It is so much fun to use different types of balls to create artwork. Ask kids to predict what type of artwork each ball will create. Why does this ball make a different design?
The suction cup balls make cool circle patterns. The biggest ball in our collection made the tiniest little dots of paint on the paper.
The football rolled around much differently than the other balls. Why do you think this happened? The grooves in the ball left thick lines of paint on the paper.
Marbles created thin lines, racquetballs created thicker lines, and plastic golf balls created a line with a little bit of texture.
My favorite painting ball was this koosh ball. The sea anemone-like arms created the most amazing patterns on our paper.
Talk About It
Here are some additional things to think and talk about as you paint:
- Movement – Hold the box at different angles. Does it change the way the ball moves?
- Speed – Do some of the balls move faster than others? How can you make the balls move faster or slower? Does fast rolling ball art look different than the art created by slow rolling balls?
- Color – Kids can look at how the colors blend together. Are new colors created?
- Quantity – Make artwork with different quantities of balls. How are they different?
- Weight – Are some balls heavier than others? Does this change how they move?
- Time – Kids can roll balls for different lengths of time (use timers) How is the artwork different?
- Other – After the artwork dries, kids can use a magnifying glass to examine the artwork.
Ramp it Up
Do you want to add more fun…and more opportunities for scientific inquiry to the ball painting experience? Add a ramp! I taped together a couple of stiff pieces of cardboard to make a ramp. I butted the bottom of the ramp up against a flap in the bottom of a box to keep it in place. You can hold a piece of paper in place with a couple of clothespin clips.
Kids can place a paint-covered ball at the top of the ramp and let it roll down. Did it roll fast or slow? Did it roll in a straight line? What kind of paint line or pattern did it create?
Make ramps with different slopes. Do the balls roll differently as they go down the different ramps? Does the paint line or pattern that a ball creates look different on the different ramps?
I hope that you and your kids have fun painting with balls.
Do you have any additional ideas for using balls and marbles to create art? I would love to hear about them in the comments at the end of this article.
Are you looking for additional preschool STEAM activities, check out the following resources in my store. Click on the images below to check them out.