I’m always looking for new and fun activities for Sage. Last week I took him to his first messy art class. While he was the youngest kid in class (and we found he was still a bit young for it), the experience reminded me how much he loves to finger paint. Before you groan about the mess involved, consider this activity for your little one for a few key reasons.

First and foremost: It’s fun. Babies and toddlers love messy art projects. They get to put their hands in gooey paint and experience what it’s like to smear it on paper and themselves. Sage’s was nine months old when he had his first finger painting experience! To make it more fun we invited a friend over. Sage and his friend Hazel liked feeling the new texture and being able to mix colors together to make new ones.

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The first 10 minutes was all about exploring how the paint felt and moved in their hands. Once they became used to the feeling of the paint, they liked the freedom of play. They were in full control of the paints we’d laid out for them and we just let them go for it. If you want to do a more directed and focused project, there are some cute ideas on Pinterest.

Since it is a messy project, I recommend doing it outside so you can hose off the ground. I also recommend laying down a piece of plastic like a tablecloth, cheap shower curtain, or a painter’s drop cloth (we had some laying around that I used for our painting project). Having this extra covering reduces the mess. Plus, you can keep reusing the plastic for next time, just make sure to let the paint dry before you fold it up.

IMG_0075The other great thing about finger painting is, you can do it any time and get creative with the materials you use. We used pumpkins since it was before Halloween, but you can use big sheets of paper or pick up other objects at your local craft store. Boxes for their treasures, wooden shapes, picture frames and other fun items can be great keepsakes or gifts for family members. And, best of all, they’re all fun to paint!

We used tempera-based paints which are safe and non-toxic for a baby (just in case baby tastes it). When we painted, neither baby put paint in their mouths. However, Momtastic has a good edible finger paint recipe, if you’d prefer that. We chose about six colors and squeezed them onto paper plates. The babies could easily place their hands in the paint and share if they both wanted to use the same color.

The pumpkins were good to use for the first finger painting experience because they were a big and easy target while the babies were sitting or standing. In the end, we found that they liked painting the pumpkins as much as each other!

IMG_0084And finally, playing with finger paint isn’t just fun, it’s an excellent way to begin teaching about colors and practicing those motor skills. Painting also stimulates creativity and imagination, even at a young age. We liked noticing which colors each baby preferred. Sage also really liked painting the stems of the pumpkins, while Hazel enjoyed painting the bumpy faces of the pumpkins.

For more reasons why finger painting is a healthy and fun developmental activity, check out nothingbutgenuis’ list. Need some more ideas, for painting fun? The Artful Parent has dozens of cool projects I’m going to try out next!

Have you tried finger painting with your little one? Tell me about your experience below!