See the rainbow? Let’s paint that! Finger painting is an ideal activity for babies and toddlers — it’s fun, social and best of all, it will hone their physical and social skills. It’s even an art form that’s been around for thousands of years — researchers have found that children as young as two made finger paintings in a cave in France more than 13,000 years ago.
The benefits of finger painting
Painting is messy, but it is also very enjoyable for little kids. At this age, they tend to be tactile learners, so the sensation of wet, cold paint on their fingers can be very stimulating. In fact, finger painting involves all the senses – seeing, hearing, smelling and tasting (edible paint) too!
Finger painting will boost your kid’s hand-eye coordination and fine manipulative skills. And if you sit your child on a newspaper-lined floor to paint, he gets to develop his core muscles and balance skills, too. Finger painting will also allow your child to stretch his imagination and creativity, while helping him to express himself visually.
Art is often a great starting point for a conversation with your child, even at this young age. Talk to him about what he’s doing, and use it as an opportunity to hone his language skills —point out paint colours, show him how to paint basic shapes or get him to handle paints with different textures.
Paint it right
Some babies or toddlers are hesitant to touch paint as the colours and texture both fascinate and scare them. If you child is uneasy, sit near him and let him run his fingers through the paint, one colour at a time. Describe the colours and how they may make him feel — e.g. blue like the sky above, white like the birds you see.
Encourage him to touch a little patch in your own hand and ask, “How does this feel?” Accept all his feelings and answers and allow him time to have further contact with paint. Keep a bucket of water or some wet wipes nearby so you can clean his fingers if he feels uncomfortable. If your child is still reluctant to get his hands dirty, try other materials, such as liquid soap, shaving cream with a drop of food colouring added, or even chocolate pudding!
A two-year-old may exhibit a lack of motor control over his manipulations. He may not be able to paint a rainbow, for example. Giving him time, and letting him explore with all his senses is important. For a start, he may have little interest in creating a picture. Don’t fret about what he can or cannot paint, instead simply view his finger painting as your child’s way of expressing himself – it’s the creative process that counts. Safety first
Babies and toddlers have difficulty understanding safety restrictions. They need lots of assistance and supervision at all times. Do not leave your child unattended. Ensure that Baby does not stick paint or paintbrushes into his mouth, nose or ears. If you use non-toxic or edible paint, he can eat or lick up his paint and you won’t have to worry. (See sidebar for edible finger paint recipe).
Activity #1: Puffy Paint
Here is an interesting finger painting activity that everyone can try at home. Puffy paint is a must try for any baby or toddler – after your child has finished painting, just stick it in the microwave and wait for the magic to happen!
1 tbsp self-raising flour
1 tbsp salt
3 tsp water
Pieces of cardboard
1. Mix the flour, salt, water and food colouring with a brush until all ingredients have combined well into a paste. Adjust the amount of water as you see fit — the thicker the paint, the puffier the outcome.
2. Cut thick cardboard into small pieces that fit into the microwave oven.
3. Let your tot finger-paint one picture after another, until the paint and cardboard pieces are used up.
4. Microwave one painted piece at a time, so you can see each painting turn puffy. Different microwaves have different power levels, so you’ll have to work out view trial and error how long you need to microwave the painting for.
5. Check often to ensure that the paint is not overdone. The puffy paintings should come out warm not hot, so keep an eye on the time to avoid over cooking.
Activity #2: Edible Finger Paint Recipe
Non-toxic and edible, this is a safe paint for very little ones. It is also easy to make and offers extremely satisfying results in terms of texture and consistency.
½ cup corn starch
2¾ cup cold water
1 envelope unflavoured gelatine
¼ cup cold water
Small jars with lids for storing your paint (we find it easier to dip the paint out of teacups)
1. Mix corn starch with 2¾ cups of cold water to make a smooth paste in a saucepan.
2. Soak the gelatine in ¼ cup of water to soften.
3. Cook corn starch mixture over medium heat, stirring constantly until mixture boils and turns clear.
4. Remove from heat and stir in gelatine mixture.
5. Cool and divide into several jars — one for each colour you plan on creating. Stir in food colouring to create the colours you want.
6. Makes about 3 cups of paint.