Kids of all ages love to paint. After years of painting with three kids, I've developed several tips and tricks to make painting more sustainable.
Use Powder Paint. Avoid the tiny bottles of wet paint that are used up quickly or dry out before you are done using them. Instead opt for non-toxic powder paints, which can be mixed with water whenever you want. Since the bottles stay dry, they can be recycled easily afterward. Not only does this cut down on waste, but older kids also love mixing the colors themselves, so powder paints are actually a great choice for creativity also.
Mix Paints in Recycled Containers. You can mix your powder paints in the recycled jars from your old paint or in egg cartons or other recycled materials.
Choose Sustainable Paper Options. Depending on the age of your kids, you can get away with all sorts of "paper", including old newspaper, wrapping paper, past projects, cardboard, etc. Once your kids get older, they'll get more picky about paper. My husband brings home lots of one-sided paper from work (frustrating that people still print things one-sided) that we use at home. Rolls or pads of recycled paper are another option. Try to avoid paper wrapped in plastic, if you can, but if they are wrapped in thin film, that can be recycled at the grocery store.
Wash Brushes in Recycled Jars or Cans. This may seem obvious, but don't go out an buy a jar for washing brushes. Any recycled container will work for this!
Protect Your Floors without Plastic. There are lots of options here. The best option is to paint outside, avoiding all cleanup. I used to have a big sheet I laid down whenever the kids wanted to paint inside, but I found that hard to dry effectively before I had my clothesline. Sometimes I use big pieces of cardboard that I later use as mulch in the garden. If paint does get on the floor, white vinegar should take it out easily (more cleaning tips here).
Keep Lots of Rags Handy. Rags can be made from anything from t-shirts to towels to sheets. Keep some with your crafting stuff so kids can easily clean up without paper products. Rags can be washed with your regular laundry or soaked and hand-washed separately.
Recycle or ReUse Your Painting Projects. Once you've finished displaying your kids' art, you can reuse it as wrapping paper or cut it into cards or labels for gifts. You can also use it as backgrounds for scrapbooks. Your kids can also reuse their art as part of a new collage or other project.
Here's a fun Spring project or Mother's Day gift: Use flowers to make prints using paint.