If you’ve ever walked into a preschool or kindergarten, I feel pretty confident that somewhere you have seen an easel set up. Perhaps it was set up for painting, or maybe even as a chalkboard.


As such a staple in preschools and kindergartens around the world, surely there is a reason why easels are so popular


Easels are so popular not just for the opportunity for creativity, but to help children with some key developmental building blocks.

If you’ve ever had to consider your child’s development you will most likely be aware that gross motor development happens prior to fine motor development. 

And if you’ve worked with a therapist, I’m sure you’ve been told that it’s really important to offer opportunities for working on a vertical surface.

As a Serious Mumma I am constantly asking our therapists questions and doing my best to understand how to best help and support my children’s development. After all, my aim is to provide an environment where children thrive.


Well, offering opportunities for your child to work on a vertical surface is definitely a great start to helping them thrive. This will help them in some of the following areas:

  • correct positioning for the wrist (slight extension)
  • shoulder strength and bi-lateral coordination
  • developing core strength
  • executive function and motor planning/motor sequencing
  • developing appropriate pencil grip

At home, we have these great tabletop easels for the kids. One side is a whiteboard, and the other is a chalkboard so it offers multiple ways to work on a vertical surface.

Here’s how I set our painting activity up. I like to offer different paint types and colours, along with different styles of brushes to encourage creativity


Here’s What We Used:

  • Desktop easel for our vertical surface
  • A variety of brushes including foam brushes, different sized artists brushes and a circular sponge dabber
  • Acrylic and tempera paints
  • Artist’s canvas
  • A3 and A4 paper


Allow them to explore different grips with the brushes and try not to over correct them

It has taken a lot of opportunities for creative play to get this level of control for my daughter









Depending on your set up and their handedness, you have a great way to encourage crossing the midline

By having different thicknesses in the brush handle, your child will need to adapt his/her grip and develop better hand strength











Since they were very young my two have shown a different approach to painting.

My son’s first completed painting of the day

My daughter’s first completed painting of the day










This painting session from a year ago is yet another example of how they each approach creative play.

My daughter’s artwork on the left, and my son’s on the right


There are multiple ways that you can encourage your children to work on a vertical work surface and further develop these key developmental skills.

Ideas for Vertical Work Surface Opportunities:

  • “Painting” the fence with water
  • Washing their “car”
  • Magnets on the fridge
  • Painting or collage on windows or sliding doors
  • Felt board stories or play scenes
  • Shaving cream paint in the shower
  • Stickers, drawing and colouring on paper taped to the wall
  • Copying/tracing against a window


It’s a great idea to get them started on vertical surface work at a young age. If they’re older enough to stand up and control their movements, they are old enough to play this way.

Additionally, kids (and grown ups) of all ages have fun and benefit from vertical surface activities. It’s great for posture.

If you’re looking for further information and inspiration, Lauren at The Inspired Treehouse wrote a great post about Why Kids Should Work on a Vertical Surface. You can also check out Sheryl at Teaching 2 and 3 Year Olds take on Preschool Art at the Easel for a great source of tools to paint with and surfaces to paint on.





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