We recently tried using straws as paint applicators. I demonstrated the technique first, putting one end of the straw into the paint and my finger over the other end of the straw. Then I brought the straw over the paper and released the paint where I wanted it. Now I could blow the paint across the paper using the straw. My son couldn't wait to try it. He really enjoyed this new method!
Our 1 1/2 year-old had more trouble with this technique, of course, but she enjoyed dragging the straw across the paper, making her own unique marks!
Both kids worked on the same paper, and the finished product was later presented to Aunt Beth for her birthday. She loved it, of course!
Special Note: Even though I used wide, shallow bowls for the paint, we still ended up with a spill (they will always find a way!). We had to turn the big brown spill in the corner into "intentional art!"