The Magic Paintbrush

Watercolour triceratops with paint splotches for short stories for kids The Magic Paintbrush
Digby and Arthur discover that their paintbrushes are magic and make their pictures real!
The Magic Paintbrush



Once upon a time, there was a handsome boy called Digby. He was four years old. He loved to look at dinosaurs in his dinosaur book, and imagine what it was like to draw a real dinosaur… from life!

One day, he was sitting in his bedroom with his paint and paintbrushes and a beautiful picture of a dinosaur. It was a Triceratops, which meant that it had three big horns coming from its forehead. Its face looked hungry, like it would like to eat a little boy, or perhaps just a big bowl of porridge.

Digby took his red paint and made the dinosaur the colour of a fire engine. He used green paint for the horns. Then, because it still looked hungry, he painted a big bowl of porridge right beside it.


Painting of porridge in bowl from short stories for kids The Magic Paintbrush

He was admiring how well he had coloured in the dinosaur. There were hardly any spots at all where he had gone outside the lines. But then – what was this? He noticed a tiny little purple spot in the corner of his picture. Oh no! He must have gone outside the lines after all!

He didn’t stop to think that the little dot was purple, and he had only used red and green paints (which as we know, together don’t make purple at all!). He just put down his paintbrush, and with his little finger, rubbed the paper very gently, to see if the spot would come off.

OWWW! The page was spiky!

He pulled his finger back and saw a little sore on his pinky finger. There was even a bit of blood beside his fingernail. He thought he would definitely need to put a sticking plaster on it.

He sucked his finger until it felt better and looked again at the picture. Did he imagine it? Or had the dinosaur moved, just a tiny little bit?

He took his finger out, and this time more carefully, touched the picture again. Sure enough, the paper did not feel like paper when he touched it. Instead, it was rough and scaly, like a snake, or perhaps like a scab.


Red watercolour triceratops for short stories for kids The Magic Paintbrush

He ran his finger gently down where the dinosaurs spikes made a fence along his backbone. That part of the picture was pointy. What was going on? His dinosaur picture didn’t feel like a dinosaur picture any more!

Just then, as he was about to call his big brother Arthur, the dinosaur took one beady little eye and turned it towards Digby. He heard a tiny ROAR! like the sound of someone’s television on a different floor. Could it have been his dinosaur? He didn’t dare touch the mouth…

Then the dinosaur made another ROAR and there was no doubt about it this time. It was HIS dinosaur painting that had made that sound.

Suddenly, the bowl of porridge that he had made for his dinosaur disappeared. It seemed that the dinosaur had eaten it all up.


There was no doubt that Digby had painted himself a real live dinosaur. It never seemed to move, but it was hungry, Digby could tell. He could tell by the glistening little eye that seemed to look at him as he picked up his paintbrush once more.

If the dinosaur was hungry, then Digby was going to have to paint him some more food. But what would a dinosaur like to eat?

He though that some sweets might be yummy. He painted a lovely pink chocolate with a little heart on it, and some jelly snakes. He watched the dinosaur picture very carefully. Sure enough, very soon, the sweets and the chocolate that he had drawn beside the dinosaur just – disappeared. It was like he had never painted them at all.


Painting of chocolate with heart from short stories for kids The Magic Paintbrush

Digby put his face very close to see if the pictures he’d painted had left any traces, like sometimes happens when you use an eraser to rub out your drawing that you did by mistake. But there was not a trace of the sweets and chocolate he had painted, or of the porridge. There was just one – slightly less hungry looking, and still very sharp, Triceratops.

Just at that moment, Digby’s big brother Arthur walked into the room.

“What are you doing?” said Arthur.

“I don’t know…” said Digby, trying to think of something that wasn’t true. He didn’t want to tell Arthur right at this moment that he had a real live painting of a dinosaur eating porridge and sweets.

Arthur leaned down and looked at the dinosaur.

“That’s a pretty good dinosaur Digby,” he said. “But I think you’ve done his head a little bit wrong.”

And before Digby could say anything at all, Arthur had picked up a paintbrush and, using orange paint, was starting to paint on the Triceratops’ head.

“NO!” yelled Digby. “Don’t do that!” But it was TOO LATE!

Arthur gave a scream as the end of his paintbrush was snapped right off by a set of angry Triceratops teeth.

“What happened to my paintbrush?” cried Arthur.

“The dinosaur is alive!” said Digby. “I painted him just now, and when I had finished painting him in, I think I spiked my finger on him! He’s really sharp! And he’s hungry. He’s already eaten one big bowl of porridge, a chocolate with a heart in the middle, and some jelly snakes.”

“Wow!” said Arthur, his eyes gleaming. “I can’t believe you painted a real life Triceratops! How did you do that? Are you magic?”

“I don’t know!” said Digby. “I just used these paintbrushes here.”

Arthur snatched the paintbrushes away from his little brother and spread them all across the desk. They did make a mess. Every colour you could imagine was in their bristles. Then he grabbed a piece of paper and started to paint.


“What are you painting?” said Digby.

“I’m painting a tiger!” said Arthur. “See it? It’s got big orange ears, and black stripes like this.”

He painted the tiger and a very nice tiger it was too. It was standing up on two legs and had its paws out, like it was about to swat somebody.


Kids painting of tiger from short stories for kids The Magic Paintbrush

He coloured it in carefully then stood back to look at his work. Sure enough, he’d done a fine job. He hadn’t gone outside the lines at all. All except a tiny purple dot in the corner of the tiger’s tail. Arthur frowned. He didn’t like going outside the lines.

“What’s this?” he said. He took his finger and very carefully, rubbed at the little purple spot. “OWWWWWWWWW!” he said. “It bit me!”

“The tiger bit you?”

“It bit me! Look! I’ve got a sore, right here. On my pinky finger.”

“It’s just the same as me,” said Digby. “My triceratops did exactly the same thing when I touched it. Perhaps the tiger doesn’t like you touching his tail. Why don’t you try to very carefully give him a pat?”

Arthur was a bit worried about this idea, because he already had a sore finger. But, very carefully, inch by inch, centimetre by centimetre, he put his finger towards the tiger picture. Very softly, he ran his finger down the tiger’s black and orange fur.

What do you think it felt like? It felt like the softest butterfly you’ve ever touched. It felt like a Mummy’s kiss in the middle of the night when you have woken up from a nightmare. It felt like a tiny, shiny spiders web drifting from the doorway.

“It’s beautiful!” said Arthur in awe.

“It must be the paintbrushes,” said Digby. “I think we’ve got magic paintbrushes. Everything we paint, turns into something real. I think Arthur, you’d better paint something for the tiger to eat, because he is probably hungry.”

“But what do tiger’s eat?” said Arthur.

“I don’t know,” said Digby.

“I think they eat antelopes,” said Arthur. “I’m not sure if I know how to draw an antelope.”

“You could try,” said Digby. “It’s a bit like a horse, but with curly horns on its head.”

“Okay,” said Arthur. So very carefully, he dipped his paintbrush into some lovely yellow paint and beside the tiger, he painted a very nice looking antelope. It ended up with beautiful eyelashes, a long neck, and a little smile at the corner of its mouth.

When he had finished painting the antelope he was very happy with it. He thought it must be a girl antelope, because she was so pretty.


Kids painting of antelope from short stories for kids The Magic PaintbrushBut he had forgotten while he was drawing, the reason WHY he was drawing an antelope.

“Oh no,” said Digby, realising what Arthur, in the excitement of painting a beautiful animal, had forgotten. “Oh the poor antelope! She is going to be eaten by that tiger! What shall we do?”

There wasn’t much time. The tiger seemed to swivel its hungry little eye towards the pretty antelope.


“Maybe you could you just put a big squiggle of white paint on her! Rub her out!” said Digby. “Quickly, before the tiger eats her.”

“But if I do that, she will still disappear!” said Arthur. “That will be just the same, won’t it? If I rub her out, I won’t be able to paint her again. I might paint a different antelope, but she wouldn’t be exactly the same one. That would be just like if a dinosaur ate me, and then Mum and Dad thought, well it’s ok, we’ve still got Digby. He’s a little boy too.”

“You’re right. That wouldn’t be the same at all,” said Digby.

They both thought very hard. They were not sure if they imagined it, but the antelope seemed to look a bit scared. What could they do?

“Quickly! What animal eats tigers?” said Arthur to Digby.

“I don’t know!” exclaimed Digby. “I don’t think there are any animals that eat tigers.”

“But maybe….” Arthur said, then they looked at each other and thought of something. They said together: “Dinosaurs!”

“But how would I get my dinosaur onto your picture?” asked Digby.

“Oh it’s no good, you couldn’t” said Arthur. “It would have to be a different one. But look at my picture. There’s no room on it for another dinosaur. No room at all for any big animals. Look, here’s the tiger, and here’s the antelope, and there’s no more space for another big animal.”

“Oh,” said Digby. Then he had another idea. “Why don’t you eat the tiger, Arthur?” he asked.

“What do you mean?” Arthur replied, thinking Digby had gone a bit silly.

“Well, I’ve seen people eating paper before, you know, when they accidentally bite a cupcake wrapper or even a sweet wrapper. It doesn’t taste too bad, you know. It’s just kind of like eating nothing. So maybe you could do it. Just eat the tiger, and leave the pretty antelope alone.”

“He may only be paper,” said Arthur. “But that tiger still bit me before. What would happen if I put him in my mouth and he scratched my gums? What if he kicked and made one of my teeth fall out?”

Digby shrugged. “That wouldn’t be so bad,” he said. “Your tooth is already a bit wobbly, isn’t it?”

But Arthur’s eyes looked very big and round, like dinner plates, and he didn’t really seem to want to put the tiger in his mouth.

“Could you paint a different kind of food?” said Digby, thinking of something different, because he really didn’t want to make Arthur have a sore in his mouth. “What about sweets? Or porridge? My triceratops liked that!”

Arthur very carefully painted a big bowl of porridge, just like Digby’s, except this time he covered it in strawberries and chocolate sauce. He thought a tiger would not be able to resist a big bowl of porridge, especially when it was covered with strawberries and chocolate sauce.

But once he had painted it, the bowl stayed exactly where it was. Digby put out a finger and felt it – perhaps it was cold? But no, it was steaming and warm and cosy like the nicest dessert you’ve ever eaten on a cold winter’s day. It was impossible that a tiger who liked porridge would not like this bowl of porridge.

The tiger’s little beady eyes seemed to swivel. They seemed to swivel in the direction of the pretty antelope. “I don’t think he likes porridge…” said Digby with dread.


“I’ve got it!” shouted Arthur! The shout was so loud that the tiger, the triceratops and even the antelope seemed to startle. The bowl of porridge even seemed to wobble in its bowl, that’s how loud Arthur’s cry was, and that’s how good his idea really was.

“What?” said Digby. They were running out of time and they knew it.

“No time to explain!” said Arthur. He dipped his paintbrush into the nearest colour – brown – and before Digby could even ask one sentence more, Arthur had painted a great big cage around the tiger. He quickly put in the bars, and just in time!


Painting of tiger in cage from short stories for kids The Magic PaintbrushThe tiger blinked, and the smallest little piece of the antelope’s foot disappeared. But it was only a bit of the foot, and no more. The antelope herself looked sad, but Arthur very quickly painted another foot right where hers had disappeared, and her smile seemed to return. The foot was a little bit different to how it had been before, but surely that was better than being the tiger’s dinner.

Digby have Arthur a hug, he was so happy for the antelope. But he still worried about the tiger.

“Quick, paint some more food for him. He doesn’t like porridge, but maybe you could paint him some sushi. Everybody likes sushi. And it’s little, so you can fit it here, in the corner of his cage.”

Arthur thought it was a good idea. So he painted some yummy sushi and the tiger must really have been very hungry, because before they knew it, the sushi had disappeared. Arthur had to paint another six sushi before the tiger was satisfied.


Painting of sushi from short stories for kids The Magic PaintbrushSo now the boys were left with a triceratops, an antelope and a tiger in a cage to look after. It seemed they should be careful before they painted anything else. Already they had to spend ten minutes painting some nice green grass for the antelope, and then painting some nice bowls of water for all of them to wash their dinners down. Then they had to paint a night time sky, because they thought the animals must be getting tired by now. Then they had to paint pillows, quilts, a bed, and by that time the whole picture on both pieces of paper was getting far too crowded.


Painting of wooden bed from short stories for kids The Magic Paintbrush“It’s late boys!” said a voice, and Mummy walked in. She looked at the pictures. “Wow! They’re really great pictures!” she said. “Say, Daddy, come have a look at these pictures the boys have painted!”

Daddy came in and looked at them. His smile was huge, because he thought they were so good. “I’d like to put them on the fridge,” he said.

“You can’t do that!” said Arthur and Digby quickly. “We don’t want them on the fridge. We want them in our bedroom.”

“In your bedroom!” exclaimed Mummy. “Where will you put them? All the walls are covered in your pictures already. There’s no more room. No, no, these pictures are really special. Look at what you’ve done with the tiger’s fur! And the cage! And that sushi looks so real, I could almost touch it!” Mummy put out her hand to touch the sushi, but just in time, Arthur whisked the paper away from her. Luckily, because he knew that tiger’s teeth were really sharp.

“Oh,” said Mummy, disappointed.

“We just really like these pictures,” said Digby. “Is that okay?”

“Of course it’s ok,” said Mummy and Daddy, and they gave the boys a kiss and left the room.

“Thank goodness. That was close,” said Arthur. “We can’t tell Mummy and Daddy about the paintbrushes. What if they thought they were too dangerous? No, we need to keep them somewhere safe. Let’s pick them all up now, and put them at the bottom of the toy box. No one will find them there.”

So they picked up all the paintbrushes and tidied up the paints, and put them at the bottom of their toybox. They though they would be safe there. But how wrong they were!



(for now, anyway…)


Short Story for Kids by Jade Maitre

Illustrated by Arthur and Digby 

Header illustration by Jade Maitre 

Let’s Chat About The Stories ~ Ideas for Talking With Kids


1. If you had some magic paintbrushes, can you think of some great things you could paint? Why would you paint those particular things?

2. Can you think of some other ways that Digby and Arthur could have stopped the tiger from eating the antelope?


3. What is the best painting you ever did? Why was it so good?

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