There’s something so fun about balloons!
Most kids love playing with them, because they’re the perfect combination of floaty, light, bouncy and colourful.
We love finding new balloon printing activity ideas, so we jumped at the chance to give this balloon dabbing activity by Zoe from Zee DIY Mumma a go.
Painting with balloons for kids
This balloon dabbing activity is great for children who love to get a little messy. Kids get to have fun using inflated balloons to create colourful prints with unusual patterns.
One of the things kids love most about this activity is seeing how pressing the balloon onto the paper can instantly turn blobs of paint into mesmerising patterns.
They can also explore what happens when different coloured paints get mixed together by pressing the balloon onto them. That’s why this fun experiment is a good way to explore colour theory and the colour spectrum too.
When doing a balloon-based activity, we always recommend taking some time to explore the properties of balloons with kids too.
Make sure you read on to find out how to do printmaking with balloons, and use it as an opportunity to learn some cool science as well.
Painting with balloons for kids
The first thing to consider when doing a balloon painting activity is whether any children taking part have an allergy to latex.
It’s not common, but it’s always a good idea to double-check if, for example, you are planning on doing this with a large group of children at a party or school setting.
If you’re thinking of doing painting with balloons for toddlers, it’s especially important to be aware of the risks associated with balloons.
Children under the age of 3 need to be supervised especially closely. Watch out for any choking hazards.
Burst balloons are a very common choking risk, so remove any burst balloons immediately and keep a close eye on children throughout the activity – even if they are older than 3.
Another issue to consider is that some children are wary of balloons and may worry about them popping. Leaving the balloons only partially inflated will significantly reduce the chances of them popping.
Make sure you keep any sharp objects well clear of the balloons too, and let children know they need to watch out for this too.
How to do balloon painting with children
One of the great things about this activity is that it is really simple to set up and do.
There are two main ways to print or paint with balloons.
Kids can either dab the balloons in paint and then press them onto paper to create a print/paint mark, or they can add the paint to the paper first and press down onto it with a dry balloon.
To do this activity, you will need:
- Child-safe water-based paints in different colours
- Droppers (optional)
- Thick paper such as craft or construction paper (thinner paper will also work, but may tear if it gets very saturated with paint)
Here’s how Zoe from Zee DIY Mumma did this activity with her family:
- First, water down a little bit of paint.
- Use droppers, spoons, sponges or other tools to add the paint to a large piece of paper.
- Partially inflate some balloons. You can inflate them to different sizes, so kids can explore the different patterns they can make.
It’s usually best for an adult to blow up the balloons, though older children might be able to help too.
Don’t inflate the balloons fully as they may burst. They only need to be a little inflated for this activity to work.
- Press down on the paper and see how the texture and pattern of the paint on the paper instantly changes. Be sure to remind kids to only press gently so as not to risk popping the balloons.
An alternative way to print with balloons:
Another fun twist on this activity is to do the classic balloon dabbing technique.
This involves kids dipping their balloons into paint before pressing down onto the paper.
To make this easier, add paint to plates or dishes (disposable paper plates are a safe and convenient option) so that balloons can be more easily pressed into the paint.
The science behind printmaking with balloons
This activity is full of learning opportunities for kids of all ages.
Explore colour mixing with younger children, and focus on the properties of balloons with older kids.
Balloons are a great STEM tool because they hold elastic potential energy. When you blow up a balloon, it is stretched much more than it naturally wants to be.
All the time it is inflated, it wants to go back to the size it originally was. This is because the rubber is stretched, and air inside the balloon is compressed (squished).
The reason balloons are bouncy and can be pressed down a little onto the paper is because the air inside the balloon can be compressed a little more – but only so much. You can only squish the air molecules so close together before there’s no room left at all.
Also, when the balloon is only partially inflated, the rubber can still be stretched further. When it’s fully inflated, it can’t fit any more inside and it can’t stretch any more.
That’s why fully inflated balloons can’t be pressed down as easily.
When you do this printmaking activity with kids, take some time to talk to them about what they notice about the balloons. What do they feel like? What differences do they notice between balloons that are more or less inflated than each other?