You’ve made it through the tricky newborn phase, and now your baby is sitting up, ready to play- or maybe even crawling or just walking- and you’re ready to start creating art with them! If you’re like me, you’ve probably had a vision of yourself as the cool parent that encourages your child’s creativity from the very beginning!
Still, art projects this young can be tricky. You’re ready to break out the paint and the craft supplies, but your little one just might not be there yet. You have to worry about choking hazards, and whether you really want them eating handfuls of paint. You also might not want to destroy your home furnishings OR spend hours cleaning after a ten minute project. Luckily, there are still ways to give your little one opportunities to be creative and make beautiful artwork- you just need the right project! So read on, because here is a list of
Art Experiences for Babies and Toddlers!
(If all of this is really new to you, I definitely recommend checking out my Beginner’s Guide to Encouraging Creativity and Having More FUN with Your Kids! It has some really great information to help you get started with art, sensory play, and more, as well as tips for managing everything!)
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Let’s start where I did- with
mess-free painting experiences!
Plastic bags are your best friend here- your baby can see and feel the paint, but it stays contained, so you don’t have to worry about them eating it, or getting it everywhere! (and yes, you can and should rinse out the bags and reuse them!)
- The blog “Darcy and Brian” has instructions for a basic rainbow writing/drawing bag, and a great tip for how older kids can use it without scratching the bag with their nails!
2. Check out Powerful Mothering’s “Rainbow in A Bag- No Mess Art” activity, which includes an easy recipe to make your own paint if you don’t have all the colors you need on hand!
3. If you have a light table, you can really have some fun with my No-Mess Painting on the Light Table! This is a beautiful and irresistible activity for any baby- and they just have to be old enough to sit up and reach for it!
(if you don’t have a light table, do NOT miss the tutorial for this crazy EASY DIY 2-in-1 Light Table and Sensory Bin! It’s such an amazingly cool tool for your kids to use! Of course, in a pinch you can always hang the bag in a sunny window as well!)
4. If you want to create a quality keepsake to display in your home, check this out! You can create a gorgeous painting on canvas while keeping your baby clean! Don’t miss the instructions for the galaxy-inspired version!
5. A row of sensory bags taped to the floor is even more fun, as it allows your baby/toddler to explore them on their tummies, with their feet, or by pushing toys like cars through the paint!
No-mess painting is fun, but at some point you’ll want to let your baby/toddler actually come in contact with some paint. With little ones that are still mouthing, the safest way to do that is to make edible fingerpaint!
Here are a few recipes for safe and delicious fun!
6. Living in a Happy Place has a nice, easy recipe for Edible Yogurt Paint for Toddlers and I LOVE that the first ingredient she listed is “patience”!
7. “A Little Pinch of Perfect” has a really yummy sounding 2 Ingredient Edible Paint Recipe that they use to paint on food! You’ll never believe what she uses as the base- it’s such a clever idea!
8. Another great idea from “Crayons and Cravings” is to have your little one “paint” by pushing colored ice cubes around on white paper! Check out her directions for Colored Ice Play!
(to make this activity even more fun, you can try using these molds to create ice spheres like Jenny from Creative Play Ideas on Instagram. She does the most gorgeous projects with her little ones! Her baby was only 8 months old the first time he did this activity)
Just don’t make the same mistake I did and use cool whip as a base for edible fingerpaint- sure it works, and it’s safe, but as my twins smeared it around, it melted into a liquid, and when they banged on the counter it splattered ALL over my kitchen. I had ten minutes of peace to cook dinner and an hour of wiping little green flecks off of every surface!
Speaking of reducing mess, here’s another good trick for keeping those first art experiences from destroying your house- contain them! Especially with twins, containment is key! So check out these
Contained Art Explorations
9. We started our fingerpainting journey in really, the only logical place- the bathtub! I used this recipe for homemade fingerpaint from Paging Fun Mums. Then I smeared it on the sides of the tub, added two babies in diapers, and let them go crazy! They LOVED it! When they were done, I took the diapers off, filled the tub and rinsed everything, then drained and refilled it for an actual bath. They played happily throughout the “cleanup process” and at the end, I had a phone full of adorable pictures and a squeaky clean house and kids!
10. After a while, I got even smarter and started making my own DIY bathtub fingerpaint out of baby shampoo! This way, we can use it during baths, and any paint that washes into the water just adds to the cleanliness! Sometimes the water does take on the different tints of the paint, but there’s not enough to stain anything.
Although I’m slightly obsessed with the texture of the Paging Fun Mum’s finger paint (the recipe I linked to above), DIY bathtub paint is WAY easier to make! You start with six containers, and add a couple of tablespoons of cheap baby shampoo to each one. Stir in about a teaspooon of cornstarch per container, and about 8 drops of food coloring depending on the shades you want. I highly recommend getting the McCormick “Neon” food coloring for the prettier pinks and purples. It’s basically impossible to get a nice purple with the four basic food colors you usually get.
Anyway, make sure to check out my original instagram post about the finger paint recipe for more details!
(If you don’t feel like making your own bathtub fingerpaint, it is available from Crayola here.)
The colors are vibrant and look amazing on the walls of the bathtub, especially when you swirl the paint around and mix it up!
Don’t be afraid to bring some paintbrushes into the bath as well for your little one to explore with! I especially love using silicone pastry brushes for baby art projects, they’re safe and the texture is so nice- here’s a link to a set with the prettiest clear handles. We have some of these and the boys are obsessed!
11. Another amazing way to contain your baby and really let them go wild is to plop them in a giant cardboard box, and pour paint down the side! If you’re an Amazon junkie like- let’s face it- all of us- you probably have some big boxes lying around. We used the box from one of the boys’ Christmas gifts- a set of giant foam blocks for this project and it was amazing.
You can repeat this over and over, and add more layers of paint each time! There’s honestly no limit! One trick that helps it stay looking nice, though, is to only use a limited palette of colors each time. For example, the first time your baby’s painting, give them blue, yellow, green and white. The next time, use purple, black and red- and so on. Since the old colors are dry, it won’t mix to a muddy brown, and you get a clean but colorful effect!
12. I repeated this project a few months later with a box from a convertible carseat (again, nice and big!), and after they’d covered the inside pretty well over several sessions, I converted into a little playhouse by folding over the top flaps on an angle and hot gluing them, and cutting a door and windows. Then we had a really lovely play date in the yard with some friends, and painted the whole outside of the box!
The result is the cutest little playhouse- which fits perfectly into the corner of our playroom and is great for peekaboo and toddler hide and seek. Check out it’s new home on Instagram!
(For an even more dimensional painting experience, check out This Post from Art Bar Blog on Instagram!
Smearing paint around is a super fun way for your little one to start their artistic career, but as they get older and their grip develops, they’ll be ready for
drawing and painting with tools!
13. Crayons are a great way to start. I’d suggest getting large sheets of paper to maximize the chance that it’ll catch all the crayon marks, and securing them to the table with a little painter’s tape, so they don’t slide all over.
14. My twins also love drawing with chalk on our Chalkboard Activity Table! Another tip- watch your little ones closely during their first drawing experiences. Crayons and chalk, for some reason, are very tempting to mouth. I’d suggest saying “no” the first time or two your little one tries, then gently taking it away and trying again another day.
15. A really popular early art tool is Dot Markers– they’re easy to hold, satisfying to bang around, and make a lovely bright mark!
“Adventure in a Box” had an amazing idea for a cool painting tool that toddlers would totally love- upcycled roll-on deodorant bottles! Read about how she did it here! What a fun idea!
16. Toddlers LOVE squeezing bottles and pouring things out, so homemade paint in condiment squeeze bottles is sure to be a hit! The paint is simple to make- equal parts water, flour and salt, divide into bowls and mix with a little food coloring. Then pour it into squeeze bottles and let your toddler have fun!
17. PickleBums has a fun idea for DIY mesh dabber painting that toddlers would love as well! Check it out here!
(similar, but super cool- check out this little painting with circles project!)
18. When your toddler is ready for a little more of a fine-motor challenge, q-tips can be really fun things to paint with as well! Check out “Fun with Mama’s” rainbow q-tip activity– your little one probably won’t be ready to fill in the circles on her free printable, but you can let them go for it anyway;
Or just let them be creative and have fun with blank paper (Image from My Instagram page)
19. Watercolor painting can be a great activity for toddlers as well. I love this post from “Kori at Home” because of all the great tips for managing the mess and helping toddlers be successful!
20. Of course, the absolute simplest way to let your toddler paint, especially outside, is to just let them paint with plain water! It looks really cool and when the sun dries the water, the mess is cleaned up for you! If you’re stuck inside, you can totally try it with construction paper, too!
What will be your baby/toddler’s first art experience?
Leave a comment and let me know!
For more easy ways to entertain your little one, don’t miss this list of Easy Baby Play Hacks! And again, if you’re a new parent and you really want to help your child blossom, make sure to check out my A Beginner’s Guide to Encouraging Creativity and Having More FUN with Your Kids!
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