So last weekend, during our family trip to the grocery store, I let Kat pick out a small pie pumpkin by herself. Surprisingly, she picked one of the smallest ones; I thought kids always went for the biggest is best philosophy. I also picked out a pie pumpkin for myself with the intention of making my own pumpkin puree - more on that soon! (Update 11/4/12: See how to make pumpkin puree.)
Sunday afternoon, Kat and I set up a painting station at the kitchen table. I taped a couple broken down cereal boxes to the table to create a work surface and to hopefully make clean-up easier. I put a bib on Kat and sat her in her booster chair.
I let her pick five colors from my collection of acrylic paints. I like acrylic paints because they wash off with water, are available at most craft stores, and are pretty cheap (less than $2/bottle). I have a whole shoebox of paint bottles from my time in college when I was still trying to be "artsy". I also pulled out one paintbrush for each color to minimize the need to rinse brushes mid-project.
I squirted a bit of paint on the cardboard, handed over the paintbrush, and let her go!
I tried to avoid "helping" (a.k.a. taking over), and stuck to just turning the pumpkin whenever one side was mostly covered. I let Kat decide when she was ready for a new color and then swapped brushes with her. Amazingly, the paint was contained to the cardboard and just a bit on her fingers (yea for no paint in her hair!!).
This project kept her attention for about 15 minutes. From set-up to clean-up was slightly longer than a football game halftime. ;-) And since it wasn't overly messy, I think we'll have to try more painting projects for future holidays. Any ideas?