“99 Red Balloons”: Creative Balloon Painting In The Early Years

This current 6-part series of early years music articles features a new activity each month from a number of arts activities trialled for 1 and 2-year-old children, along with musical suggestions, with recordings on You Tube.

A Finnish study, (Lehikoinen, 2023) was asked to find new ways to engage 1 and 2 year olds creatively. This age group is known to work independently, playing alongside each other rather than with each other, so it can be tricky to get them to participate in the same activity together. The 6 activities devised for this age group included the following (from previous weeks):

  • Dance-painting – paint feet, move to song (part 1)
  • Magic dough – create playdough objects from songs (part 2)
  • Digital drawing – taking pictures or creating pictures using technology (part 3)
  • Musical drawing – drawing or painting while listening to music (part 4)
  • Balloon painting – painting using balloons, and paint-filled balloons
  • Snow-painting

This month, we are focusing on early years painting ideas using music and balloons.

Balloons have long been associated with parties and celebrations. They capture the attention of children like very few other toys and games and can be almost guaranteed to make any event successful. Very rarely do they fail – only with negative experiences (giving children a fright when popped), but this can be managed through creating positive experiences and associations.

Using balloons in the early years at this age is an inspired idea. It allows children to work autonomously by explore their own physical skills and abilities; work alongside each other by interacting constructively and putting individual pieces of work together collectively; and even start to work with each other, by beginning to plan where they will make their marks, and how they will build on others’ contributions.

We look at four different ways of exploring creativity with balloons and music – as well as paint and fabric – that are accessible and most of all, meaningful for 1- to 2-year-olds:

  • Painting using balloons
  • Popping paint-filled balloons
  • Rolling paint-filled balloons (on fabric)
  • Throwing paint-filled balloons

(Easy-burst water balloons are recommended, as is water-based paint and old sheets/t-shirts – for painting and protection!)

Way Up In The Sky

Way up in the sky
Where the big birdies fly
While down in the nest
The little birds rest

Shh! Shh!
They’re sleeping, they’re sleeping
The bright sun comes up
The moon goes away
Good morning! Good morning!
The little birds say

This traditional rhyme captures the extremes that can be used in language. Up and down, sky and nest, big and little, sun and moon … all create an expressive picture that can be demonstrated by using balloons as paint brushes – dabbing them in paint and creating picture whilst listening to music. Get creative by using extremes in paint: deliberate dabs or spontaneous drops, paint with them blown up (a little!) and tied or paint with them floppy and loose. Paint by dipping the balloon in one colour, or paint by dipping the balloon in many colours.


Star Light

Star light, star bright
First star I see tonight
Wish I may, wish I might
Have the wish I wish tonight

This lovely wishing song is often best remembered from when Geppetto said these words to turn Pinocchio into a real boy. Making wishes can sometimes involve an action, like throwing a coin into water, or breaking a wishbone. With all the stories on magic and wands, you could use skewers as “wands”, and have children paint them and / or cover them in glitter. Carefully syringe paint into small balloons, fill them slightly with air (using a balloon pump), and tie them, placing them on white sheets or paper. Children can sing the song and make their wish, and then burst the balloons with their wands, leaving colourful displays of their work!

Rock-a-bye Baby

With no clear origin, this traditional lullaby is usually attributed to cultural practices of rocking babies to sleep in trees to avoid danger. Rocking motion has been shown to have a calming effect on the body, promoting relaxation and sleep, most likely based on subconscious memories of being rocked in the womb before birth. This rocking motion could be used in small balloons covered or filled with paint, and being rolled on a children’s parachute or even stretchy fabric, leaving creative lines and splotches showing where the balloon has rolled and exploded! (We particularly love the last verse in this version!)

Rock a bye baby on the treetop
When the wind blows, the cradle will rock
When the bough breaks, the cradle will fall
And down will come baby, cradle and all

Rock a bye baby up in the sky
On a soft cloud, ‘tis easy to fly
When the cloud bursts, the raindrops will fall
And baby comes down to mummy once more

Rock a bye baby on the treetop
When the wind blows, the cradle will rock
When the bough breaks, the cradle will fall
And mummy will catch you, cradle and all

 99 Red Balloons

This song was inspired by the sight of balloons being released in the sky! It tells the story of a potential prank: 99 balloons released in the sky, mistaken as UFOs, mobilising the army and accidentally ending in nuclear warfare … but, apocalyptic issues aside, it conjures up lovely images of freedom and joy! This song could be played alongside throwing or dropping paint-filled balloons on to a canvas (sheet/paper). Or children could wear oversized t-shirts and throw them at each other! (And only stop the fun when the 99th balloon has been thrown!)

99 red balloons 
Floating in the summer sky 
Panic bells, it’s red alert 
There’s something here from somewhere else 
The war machine springs to life 
Opens up one eager eye 
Focusing it on the sky 
The 99 red balloons go by

 Painting with balloons is a wonderful way to develop artistic expression in young children. Balloons evoke feelings of fun, light-heartedness, joy and celebration, both grabbing attention and inspiring new ideas. Enjoy trying out these new ideas with children, and who knows, they may find new ways to explore music with them, too!


Lehikoinen, S. M. (2023). Joy of exploring–visual art methods for 1-& 2-year-old children in the early childhood education. 42.


Benefits of Early Creativity


Creative activities in early years can have long-lasting positive effects on children's development. These activities can stimulate their imagination, promote cognitive development, and enhance their problem-solving skills.


Additionally, they can help children develop social and emotional skills, collaboration, and communication.


Children who participate in early years creative activities tend to show better performance in school and have higher self-esteem.


At Musicaliti, we offer a variety of creative activities for young children, including music, dance, painting, and more. Join us today to discover the benefits of these activities and to enhance your child's development!

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