Reviewed by Louise Totton
My daughters, aged 7 and 9, are both mad on arts and crafts; they love drawing, painting, gluing and sparkling. We are lucky enough at home to have space for a play room, and we have a whole area of it dedicated to all of their crafty materials, and they go back to it again and again, very often on rainy days when we know we can dedicate a whole afternoon to getting creative. As the years have gone on and the girls have got older, I think one of the things I have enjoyed seeing the most is how they have grown creatively – how their ideas are getting bigger, their attention span and concentration levels getting longer and the ability to include finer detail flourishes.
The girls love creativity so much that if we ever go away anywhere, even if it is only for a night or two, when they pack their bags, they always take along drawing books, pencils and felt tips, so they can be sure that they have something that they love, to keep them entertained. Having said that, I do think that kids don’t get enough fresh air and exercise these days, so I do like to encourage them to spend as much time outside as possible when the sun is shining.
Their favourite media is definitely paint – what child doesn’t love the instant gratification that comes from the lovely opaque coverage from poster paint, not to mention the fun of mixing the colours. I must be honest and say that as a parent who is left with the bulk of the cleaning up, my favourite media is absolutely not paint and there is no way on this Earth that I would ever allow them to take paint out with them. Can you imagine the mess from the water, the dirty brushes, the inevitable ‘dirty brown’ sludge that always happens, irrespective of how often you remind them to clean the brushes properly and not to double dip!
I recently gave the kids the exciting news that we were going away for a few days for the bank holiday weekend to Centre Parcs, and once they had gotten over the initial excitement of going away for a few days, their thoughts turned to what they would like to pack to take with them. The list was unsurprising to say the least: dolly, teddy, nightlights, favourite books, paper, pencil cases and PAINT! Absolutely no way! Paint just isn’t the kind of thing that I wanted to be taking somewhere like Centre Parcs for a list of reasons as long as long as my arm! It’s messy, the painting crate at home is massive, paints take too long to dry, it’s messy, I wanted the kids to be spending time in the fresh air rather than indoors, it’s messy, I was worried about spillages and cleaning up and most of all, did I mention, it’s messy!
Then the kids struck it lucky! An email landed in my inbox, asking if the kids and I would like to try out a spill-proof, compact and almost mess-free paint! Little Brian Paint Sticks are a cross between poster paint, crayons and glue sticks and promise quick-drying, vibrant paint without the mess and with no need for brushes or water – it almost sounded too good to be true. Little Brian have a number of different options in their range, but we were sent the following:
- Day Glow Paint Sticks – 6 pack
- Metallic Paint Sticks – 12 pack
- Fabric Paint Sticks – 6 pack
- Mini Paint Sticks – 24 pack (12 standard, 6 metallic, 6 day glow)
The Mini Paint Sticks (RRP: £9.99) are around the size of a Lipsyl and the full-sized ones are the size of a chunky Pritt Stick – both are perfect for small hands to grip. I wanted to try the ‘mess free’ claims out first, before we packed them and took them to Centre Parcs, so we took advantage of the sunny weather we were lucky enough to have over the school holidays and took the Little Brians out to the garden.
Kids being kids, my two were immediately drawn to the metallic (RRP: £9.99) and day glow packs (RRP: £6.25), which is no great surprise as kids always go for the brightest and sparkliest of everything! The paint sticks are housed in a plastic tube, just like a glue stick and a quick twist of the base pushes the solid paint up just enough for the paint to be used but not so much that it is in danger of breaking. This is where it gets really clever and the product really comes into its own! The paint sticks can be used either as a ‘crayon’, but with far brighter and more opaque colours than any wax crayon could ever provide, or they can be used with a brush and water. The plastic tubes are the same colour as the paint that they contain which is great, especially for younger kids, as they can see at a glance which colour they want.
Both of the kids found the paint sticks great fun to use as they provide the thorough, instant coverage that kids love. The range of colours in both the metallic and the day glow packs were great and very engaging for the kids – they thoroughly enjoyed all of the interesting effects they were able to create, which were far beyond what they could achieve with either crayons, felt tips or even the (normally) least messy paint option of water colours.
I particularly liked how quickly the paint sticks dried after they were applied, even when they were applied thickly. They were fully dried in around sixty seconds, which really helps if you are hoping for a mess free crafting afternoon. We also really liked how you can mix the colours together, in the same way as with normal, wet paint. The girls really enjoyed layering their paints to create new colours, and we managed to get some lovely shades of purple, orange and green, some of them even with a metallic sheen, in and amongst the usual dirty brown that kids always manage to make when mixing paints.
As well as using them as a crayon, you can, if you can cope with something slightly more involved, use a paint brush to get some really nice effects with the paint sticks. All that is needed is a pot of water and a paint bush and we just wet the brush with water, swiped the brush over the top of the paint stick and was then able to use the paint sticks with a brush as you would normally use paint. Depending on the amount of water used, we were able to either get an opaque, poster paint type effect or a more water colour-esque wash, which is lovely for the kids to create skies and seascapes.
Now, the full-sized paint sticks are wonderful but they are pretty chunky and sometimes the kids felt like they needed something slightly finer for creating smaller details on their pictures and this is where the mini paint sticks are great. We were sent the 24 pack which contains a mixture of the standard colours, metallics and day glows in a smaller tube than the full-sized ones. These are wonderful for the smaller lines and patterns on the kids work and meant that the kids didn’t end up frustrated by not being able to add smaller components to their work and having them spoiled by inaccurate daubing.
My youngest daughter is going through a bit of a stage of being mad with Sellotape at the moment and she was delighted to find that when being used as a crayon, the pain sticks will colour over the top of Sellotape perfectly – something that doesn’t happen with any other media that they have been using.
The final product that we were sent to try out was the set of six fabric paint sticks (RRP: £9.99). These are designed to be drawn on to fabric and after fixing, are there permanently and are even suitable for machine washing. I bought the girls cheap, plain white t-shirts for a couple of pounds each and they got designing! The fabric paint sticks don’t glide on quite as easily as we found the normal ones did but they were still not difficult to use at all. Full instructions are provided in the box, but in short, we used a piece cardboard between the layers to stop transfer and the kids were able to draw their designs onto their t-shirts. Once they were happy with their garment, I sealed them by ironing onto the reverse of the t-shirts although this can also be done with a hairdryer if you aren’t keen on using your iron. Once this is done, the garment is immediately wearable and is also washable at up to 40 degrees – the paint is permanent. The kids absolutely loved the idea of creating and designing their own clothing and I’m sure it is something we will be doing again before too long! Sealing them with the iron worked perfectly and we have had no fading or loss, although we have so far only washed the t-shirt once.
We really loved these paints – they do exactly what they promise! They really have made painting as close to mess-free as you will ever get it and some of the effects that the kids managed to achieve were great and they were really proud of their work. They are ideal for taking out and about, be it for using as a travel item if you are going away and the kids want to take their creativity with them, or for using in the garden on a summer day. They would be perfect for taking camping as an extra activity, or to keep the kids entertained at a BBQ party or even for sitting outside and having a go at painting a landscape or a sunset. Each pack contains a techniques guide with instructions for skills such as stamping, washing, scraping, blending and more – all of which can be achieved quickly and easily, either indoors at the table or sat in a tent with very limited tools.