Kid’s Springtime Activity: Truck Painting and Car Wash

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Now that the sun is shining, and we can go outside without full-on Arctic gear, I’m excited to move our messes out of the house with a super fun springtime activity: truck painting and car wash!

I use the term “mess” lightly because outside messes are so.much.easier.to.clean.up than the ones we’ve been dealing with indoors all winter, #amiright?

Plus, this activity has a built-in clean-up step: the car wash! Genius, I know. Easy to set up and break down, the truck car wash could become a daily occurrence at our house this spring and summer.

Here’s what you need to get started:

  • Toy cars and/or trucks 
  • Paint! We like this super colorful neon washable set by Crayola
  • Brushes and sponges (optional) to paint with
  • A bucket
  • Dish (or other) kid-friendly soap
  • A “car wash” scrubbie brush (aka, a clean sink brush)
  • A safe painting surface– so many options here! A plastic tub lid, a kiddie pool, an old box…anything you can find that you aren’t afraid to get paint on!

As I mentioned, I love Crayola because there are always fun color options like neon or glitter, and with all the “painting” we do in our family, it’s nice to mix it up. Try Target or Michaels for the best selection. 

Mom Tip: While the packaging boasts “washable,” this paint *did *not* come out of my son’s clothes in the washer (though it did wash off the trucks). I’d advise wearing “play clothes,” or even better, an old bathing suit.

And don’t forget, come prepared with plenty of paintbrushes! The little shaped sponges are also a fun addition and give the kids another sensory option for painting.

Above is the basic “car wash” setup. Easy peasy. I like using free and clear soaps in general, but any dish or baby soap would do just fine. Heck, use body wash…whatever works! I bought this sink scrubbie at Target and keep it in our “painting supplies” box for activities like this. 

My son has about 17 million toy cars and trucks, so choosing ones to paint and wash is pretty easy. I make sure not to use anything with a battery (because, water). Also, any trucks that are more expensive or he could possibly throw a tantrum about being “ruined” sometime in the future are out of the running. I try to use my psychic mommy abilities to predict such instances. #Momlife.

For the most part, if you paint and wash in a timely manner, the toy vehicles all come relatively clean. Enough for me to allow them back inside the house, if that gives you any indication. 

Setup takes a max of five minutes, and this activity is guaranteed to capture interest for *at least* a solid half hour, but often much longer!

As mentioned, I keep all of these supplies (minus the cars) easily stored a la Marie Kondo, so busting it out at any given time is always a breeze.


While my fancy “setup” photos show a large Rubbermaid lid that I safety-sealed with some paper and tape, we opted for a simple broken-down box on the day I photographed my son in action (pictured above). I squirted a few piles of paint onto the box for him to dip the brushes into. This method is highly preferred to letting a toddler have free-reign over the little paint jars (less mess, paint mixing, etc.). 

My son loves to drive his trucks right through the paint blobs and create art with the tire tracks– a regular Picasso. 

And what do kids love more than making messes? Cleaning them up! OK OK, I’m kidding– but they DO love water play. Enter: the car wash segment of this double-the-fun outdoor hit. I prepare a small bucket with soapy water, provide a scrub brush, and my three-year-old goes to town.

Bonus points: be a cool mom and get the hose out for some added water action! 

So there you have it– a quick, easy, and inexpensive (you may have all the materials already!) sensory-friendly outdoor activity that your kids are going to love, with minimal cleanup and a built-in bath for your kid at the end.

Will you try the car wash out with your littles? 

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