During the “rainy season,” what passes for our winter, we look for indoor activities to keep the kids busy. We also love the idea of homemade gifts for the holidays, so we are sharing our experiences at Color Me Mine and Paint:Lab in time for your kids to create their own works of art for Valentine’s Day.

Opening the door to Color Me Mine, we were greeted by shelf after shelf of adorable things to paint. We expected the piggy banks and teacups, but were amazed by the variety of choices. We looked over napkin rings, votive holders, dinosaurs, dragons, soap dishes, light switch plates, butter dishes, robots, and even a helicopter with moving rotors.  Special holiday themed items for both Valentine’s Day and Easter, such as heart shaped ring holders and bunny statues, seemed like ideal gifts for relatives. With all these attractive nuisances at toddler level, we had to watch Zora like a hawk so she wouldn’t love the very breakable statues a little too much.

Dash picked out a gift for his dad and Zora finally selected a unicorn after a long consideration of several animals.  Alisandra decided to help Addison make a handprint for her grandmother. 

The kids grabbed a palette and filled it with their favorite colors from a wide selection of hues. Paintbrushes in many different sizes were also available. Zora and Addison could choose larger brushes that were easy for them to manipulate, and Dash could work on his fine motor skills with the smaller brushes. Grabbing a brush for each color also spared us from trying to teach them how to clean their brushes in a cup of water in between colors. 

Addison was less than thrilled with fingerpainting. Not only did she balk at the idea of putting her hands in the pretty purple paint she chose (sort of), she flat out refused and made quite a stink about it. No amount of coaxing from the owners or other patrons was going to convince her to get her hands in that gooey mess, so we ended up settling on feet prints instead. Honestly, that didn’t go all that smoothly either but the finished product did make a nice (and not terribly expensive) memento.

Addison had a melt down so she left early to spare the ears of the budding young artists (no Van Gogh’s please).  Dash and Zora had so much fun that they begged to make another creation. They could have stayed all day. The permission for more art was easily granted. It’s not like we had to worry about spilling paint on the furniture or floor.  And after we were all finished, someone else would wash the brushes and clean the table.

When we picked up their artwork a few days later, Dash and Zora were thrilled with the results. Zora proudly placed her unicorn on her bookshelf so she can pat it every day.

For a more two-dimensional paint experience, we visited Paint:Lab, a quaint little art studio on Main Street where artists of all ages and talents can come to get their paint on and then leave all the mess behind. Luckily we found parking without any difficulty. The fear of trolling the streets for an hour looking for a spot usually deters me from frequenting this area, which is much hipper than my neck of the Santa Monica woods. The setting is serene with an outdoor brick courtyard and an indoor studio area, populated with both tables and easels. Although they offer toddler and children’s classes, we weren’t sure Dash, Zora and Addison could sit still for an entire class. So we opted for open studio time instead. We also liked the idea of creating outdoors, but we were afraid the younger tots would make a break for it out the wrought iron gate. We set the kids up at a table inside, and someone brought out a palette of watercolors for each of them.  

This time, Addison really threw herself into painting, mimicking the big kids and smiling big when we “oohed” and “ahhed.” Alisandra thought her artwork showed some promise as she dabbled in this color and that. Zora was convinced she had painted a dinosaur so we were very appreciative of her efforts. Thankfully, the paint brownies had placed paper towels at all the tables so I could comply when Zora periodically demanded, “Clean me.” 

My only complaint was that we ran out of paint pretty quickly (and the many bright varied colors got mixed up in a giddy free-for-all artistic brown mess), and no one was around to refill our palettes. When the paint ran out, the toddlers stopped listening to their muses and chased each other around the courtyard instead. Dash graduated to painting on his first canvas. Little kids are not patient beings, so Dash completed his “Masterpiece in Brown,” a canvas of brown rainbows, brown swords and brown galaxies. I may have not been so thrilled with the monochromatic color scheme, but he loved sitting at an actual easel, just like a real artist. No one asked us if we wanted more paper, so we wandered out.

On the way home, Dash told me he didn’t want to be an astronaut anymore when he grew up. “I’m going to be a painter,” he said. That’s a Valentine’s memory that beats a box of chocolates any day.

• Color Me Mine is located at 1335 Fourth St.,   Santamonica.colormemine.com. On Thursdays, kids paint free all day with the purchase of a ceramic piece. Prices range from $4 to $50. Otherwise, there is a session fee of $6 for kids (12 and under) and $10 for adults. Kids also paint free on Valentine’s Day from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m.

 • Paint:Lab is located at 2912 Main St., www.paintlab.net. Session fees are $20 for adults, $15 for kids ages 3 to 11 and $10 for ages 2 and under. Canvases range in price depending on size and type. Ours was $6.  Paper is 20 cents each. There is an $8 fee for using your own canvas. Children’s workshops are also available.


Find a calendar with local events, helpful links, and more adventures of Addison, Zora, and Dash at smatoz.blogspot.com.


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