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My kids go wild for finger-painting.
I suspect this is because it’s messy. Messy = naughty = fun.
Which makes finger painting for toddlers the ideal activity.
Which is exactly what makes anyone with a clean house hesitate to let their children finger paint. Finger painting, I find, takes some mental bracing on my part. It doesn’t need to be this way, though. There’s a way to survive finger-painting without all the stress.
So here are my steps and tips to survive finger-painting with the kids.
But let’s start with benefits of finger-painting for toddlers. Because, why would we want to get ourselves into something that needs a survival strategy in the first place?
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Quick wee side note: Because I know how hard it can be to come up with fun games each time, I’ve created a 7-day challenge for parents of toddlers and preschoolers. This is a great way to get started if you’ve fallen out of the habit of playing with your kids, or to learn about fresh ideas and activities.
Each day for 1 week, you will receive an e-mail with an activity that you can do with your kids. Join the newsletter and start your 7 days of play today!
Yes, there are benefits of finger-painting for toddlers
Like I said, the kids love it and it is an activity that is good for their development.
So cave in I must.
There are several reasons for letting your children finger-paint, however much we as parents sometimes dread the mess: Children learn about colors and how they work, mixing them into new colors.
9 reasons finger painting for toddlers is a good idea:
- They learn about the effects of using different colors, shapes, and the spaces in-between
- Encourages the development of social skills if it’s done as a group activity, including communication and sharing
- Good for fine motor skills and strengthens the muscles used for hands and fingers
- Good for the development of sensory integration
- They learn an appreciation for the process as opposed to focusing on the finished product
- Almost all senses are being used: seeing, smelling, touching and feeling. If you’re using edible paint, all senses are being used.
- They learn a different way to express themselves, through visual means rather than words
- It stimulates creativity and imagination
- If done on the ground, it also stimulates balance, large muscle control and spacial awareness
So you see, letting your children finger paint has some great benefits. It’s an opportunity to let them learn some social, creative and physical skills while they think they’re just playing (learn and play, a tried and true combination 😉 ).
How to survive finger-painting
But that is all nice and dandy, of course, we want our children to thrive.
But we also want to limit the number of grey hairs we acquire making our children thrive, right?
So, here’s my solution: the secret to surviving finger-painting is to limit the area where the kids get to paint and make that area easy to clean.
Survive finger-painting for toddlers in 4 easy steps:
The quick and dirty, ahem I mean clean way to survive finger-painting, is to do this at the table. If you have a plastic or vinyl table cloth, you cover the (part of the) table in that.
Tell the children in a calm but authoritative manner that finger painting is done at the table and that when they leave the table, that means that finger painting is done.
State beforehand that after finger painting they will shower / take a bath.
Let them paint and once finished, immediately wipe down the table cloth. If you don’t have a table cloth, you can also cut open a garbage bag and cover the table with that. But some heavy objects near the edges to keep it from slipping.
If you want the children to paint while on the floor, then cover the floor with the table cloth or garbage bags. This works best if the colors table cloth and the floor contrast well, so that the boundary of the painting area is very clear. When the kids are done painting, park them in their chairs and clean up the floor.
Some tips that I’ve found works well:
- Use a calm, but authoritative tone to tell the children that finger painting is limited to this area. You can do this consistently across arts and crafts projects (such as drawing, coloring, cutting and pasting, etc).
- State beforehand that after finger painting they will shower / take a bath, and that they will be carried to the bathroom. Best to have this clear from the start.
- Strip them from woolen sweaters, cute dresses and the like. You want whatever they are wearing to be easily washable.
- Tuck or roll up their sleeves. Don’t worry whether their arms get dirty, the paint washes more easily off the skin than it does off their clothes.
- If they’ll accept a crafting apron, especially one with sleeves, by all means use one!
- Whether they’re in their chairs already or not, I like to have them in their chairs just after the painting session. It’s a well-defined place for them to wait in and you can put the chair where you like. For instance, out of reach of curtains or more paint. Or each other, for that matter. It’s a way to create calm and space for you to clean away the paint and table cloth, while they can’t make any further messes.
- Get rid of the worst of the mess on the kids themselves with moist wipes. This will make it easier to strip them off their clothing and you’re more likely to get them into the bathroom without becoming a mess yourself.
- Strip them of any paint covered clothes in the crafting area, there’s no need to move them to the bathroom first, unless you want to get yourself and the house dirty.
Finger-paint when you feel up to it!
We don’t have a plastic of vinyl table cloth anymore (would be handy, though), so I tend to cut open garbage bags myself and cover the table with those.
And in summer, I consider finger painting and OUTSIDE activity.
One more thing about how to survive finger-painting
One more thing, I do NOT worry over my kids getting covered in paint. This will happen and trying to stop it will only lead to frustration and exasperation. and from their to much yelling, crying and grumbling. Simply don’t go there. I let the kids finger paint when I feel I can handle the mess (i.e. I’m not feeling too tired or stressed) and I can see how I’m going to handle things from the start.
Go mess about
So, don’t let the mess stop you or your kids from enjoying what is in essence a great activity together. Apart from the many benefits of finger painting for child development, simply the sheer joy on their faces is fantastic. Do the damage control beforehand and then drink in their radiant happiness as they get to muck around.
Want to play with the kids, but also want to do something a little less messy from time to time? Why not play a game of family-friendly conversation starters!