As a Kindergarten Teacher and new mom I was eager to begin painting and sensory experiences with my daughter. I began painting with my daughter at about three months, and then when she was able to sit in a booster seat, we explored paint more regularly.
A Few Tips
Before bringing my daughter to the paint experience, I always set up the materials first and have the paint out for her. I use the Crayola washable paint as it cleans up easily and is non-toxic. Although I don’t recommend eating it, your little one will likely end up with some paint in their mouth. If using regular brushes, I put the paint colors in muffin tins. If using other materials, I put the paint on plates or styrofoam trays for easy clean up. I also choose paint colors of the same family or primary colors so that when mixed together they do not turn brown (e.g., blue, purple, green together). I tape the painting paper down with painters tape so that it stays in one place and so the tape doesn’t rip the paper afterwards. I also have a package of baby wipes nearby and clean up as we go. Finally, my daugther wears a paint smock which is actually a full coverage bib from Ikea.
20. Painting in Ziploc Bags
I did this activity with my daughter as a tummy time experience at as early as three months old. I put paper with a few blobs of paint on it inside a Ziploc bag and then taped the bag to the floor with painters tape. She used her hands and body to squish the paint around to make her imprints. When finished, you can just cut the bag to get the painting out to let it dry.
19. Painting with Different Brushes
When introducing painting with brushes to your little one, I suggest beginning with brushes that have a relatively thick handle (no thinner than a marker) so that your little one can easily grab on to them. You may need to provide your little one with support so that the paint they put on their brush ends up on the paper. Also providing a variety of different types of brushes (e.g., foam brushes or makeup sponges are great too!) will peak your little ones interest.
18. Color Mixing in Ziploc Bags
A fun and non-messy activity is exploring color mixing. Once your little one is able to sit up (either on his/her own or with support) this is an easy activity. I put two primary colors of paint into a bag and then used duct tape to seal around the bag. You can then tape it to the floor or to the window and let your little one explore the bag. If doing this as a tummy time activity, I would double bag the bag with the paint inside so that it doesn’t pop.
17. Painting on Mirrors
Mirrors are a great material to let your little one paint on instead of paper. The reflection she sees will not only be exciting but seeing herself painting will be very engaging for her. Mirrors also clean up easily with just a little bit of soap and water. Note, if your little one tends to be messy, put an old towel or plastic tablecloth underneath the mirror.
16. Textured Painting
Another great way to add texture to your little ones painting experience is to cover a rolling pin in bubble wrap. You can also use paper towel rolls with designs made on them with a hot glue gun. Although they sell plastic rolling pins that already have different foam shapes on them, I find these difficult for little ones to use as they don’t spread out the paint evenly so it doesn’t roll nicely. I’d provide your child with paint on a plate and then let them explore. This would also be a great activity for mural paper or DIY wrapping paper.
15. Bubble Wrap on Canvas
This is another great activity for a little one who is just beginning to explore her surroundings. I did this activity with my daughter at about three months old and it turned out great. I purchased a large canvas and bubble wrap from the Dollar store. Put some paint on the canvas and then tape the bubble wrap on top. I used packing tape and taped the bubble wrap around the canvas. Then let your little one use his hands, feet, or whole body to spread the paint around. When your little one is finished, the canvas will have a neat texture on it from the imprints of the bubble wrap.
14. Painting with Toy Cars
My one year old enjoys playing with toy cars so why not let them drive their cars through some paint. This is a great activity to do with mural paper outside in the warm weather but it can also be done inside. Placing a plastic tablecloth on the floor and letting your little one work on the ground will help to contain the mess. All you need is a few plates with paint on them, a couple cars (I buy Hot Wheels) and then let you little one explore making tracks. You can also have car races if Mom or Dad want to take part too.
13. Painting with Kitchen Utensils
My daughter loves playing pretend in her kitchen, so why not turn this interest into a sensory experience. My little one loved this activity! Just give your little one a few kitchen utensils (e.g., potato masher, whisk, pastry brush) that will make different prints and let him or her use these instead of regular paintbrushes. If you don’t want to use your own kitchen utensils, the Dollar Store also sells all these materials.
12. Painting with Natural Materials
Items found in nature provide great paintbrushes. Take your little one on a walk outside and collect a variety of items to bring back. Some suggestions are evergreen branches, medium-sized rocks (to drag through the paint), pinecones, sticks, etc. What different types of marks can your little one make on their paper?
11. Seasonal Activities
Seasonal or holiday activities are a great reason to paint. Instead of carving your Halloween pumpkin, let your little one paint the pumpkin instead. Need Christmas gifts for your family? Pick up a few ceramic tree ornaments and let your little one paint them. Note, if painting ornaments, I would spray them afterwards with modge podge, as the washable paint will easily chip.
10. Things That Roll
Have an empty box that you have no use for? Put some paper inside, dip a couple of balls in paint, and let your little one explore things that roll. Plastic under the bed containers also work well for this activity. If you don’t mind some mess, this would also be a fun experience for outside on a nice day.
9. Bathtub Painting
Looking for a fun before bath activity? Bring up some paintbrushes and paint, and then let your little one paint the inside of the bathtub in just their onesie and diaper. Clean up is relatively easy, as the water will wash the paint right off. Also, if your little one is used to sitting down to paint, standing up in the tub to paint may be a new experience for them.
8. Painting with Spray Bottles
If you don’t mind some mess, give your little one a spray bottle with diluted paint, and let him paint with a spray bottle instead. This would a be a great activity if you have an easel and your little one is able to stand.
7. Painting Outside
If your little one is used to painting at the kitchen table or on an easel inside, changing up the environment can be exciting for him or her. Let your little one paint outside instead. Just use your regular paintbrushes and paper, but the change in location can be enough to reengage your little one.
6. Cookie Cutter Stamping
Plastic cookie cutters make for great stamping tools. Give your little one a few cookie cutters and let him or her explore the sensory experience. The Dollar Store also sells cookie cutters for most holidays, so this could be an activity that you repeat throughout the year. This could also be a great activity for DIY wrapping paper.
5. Hand and Footprints
Little ones love getting messy, so roll up your little ones shirt and pants, and let him explore painting with his hands and feet. Your little one may be a bit hesitant to get started, but once they know that getting messy is ok, they’ll love this. If doing this activity inside, I’d put down a plastic tablecloth to contain the mess.
4. Snow Painting
If your little one is getting a bit stir crazy in the winter, let them paint the snow! For this activity you can use squeeze bottles (or spray bottles for children who have strong enough hand muscles) and diluted paint or water with food colouring. Let your little one make designs in the snow or paint some clothing onto their snowman. Note, I would use diluted paint for younger ones as food colouring can stain. If it is too cold to go outside, you could also bring in a bin full of snow, and let your little one paint it with brushes.
3. Edible Paint
Does your little one eat more paint than put it on the paper? Why not let her try out edible paint. Instead of using regular paint, you can mix up your own paint with pudding or whipped cream and some food coloring. Your little one will enjoy this new sensory experience! Also, if you have a sprinkler or pool outside, you could add a new twist to this by letting your little one paint themselves before getting wet! Once my daughter discovered that she was allowed to eat the pudding paint, she really enjoyed the experience!
2. Painting with Fruits and Vegetables
This is an activity that I remember doing as a child! Any hard fruit or vegetable such as apples, potatoes, or pears would work great. Don’t forget to cut your apple so you can see the star as well. Note, as your little paints, the fruit or vegetable may get slippery, so you can stick a hair clip into it (one that has ‘claws’ works well) so your little one can hold onto the clip instead.
1. Water Painting Outside
On a hot summer day, let your little one paint the ground, a tree or the side of your house with a brush and a pail of water. You will be amazed how excited your little one is to paint surfaces that they usually aren’t allowed to. This is an activity that my daughter and I do quite frequently and she never gets bored of it! Also, as the water begins to dry up, your little one will be amazed to see their painting disappear.