9 Tips For Finger Painting With Your Toddler

finger painting for toddlers Of all the questions I get one of the most common is “How do you deal with the mess?” This is often followed by “I just can’t do messy stuff with my kids.”  If messy things really honestly upsets you I am here to tell you that it’s not worth the upset. If you will spend the whole time cleaning up after them, telling them to not do this or that it’s not worth it as an activity at your house. That’s OK. We all have our limits and not allowing messy art in your house doesn’t make you a bad parent.

If you are just nervous but eager to try it than these tips are for you. Over the years these have been my go to ways to make messy art like finger painting a wonderfully creative experience for my kids without me budding in every two minutes with a wipe interrupting their play. When we break up their play with wipes and cleaning up under them what we are saying is ” What you are doing is wrong, let me fix that.” or ” This is annoying me, let me make it right.” Sure this won’t register with every kid but most pick up on it and by nature most children want to please us. If we are going to let them be creative we need to find ways to make it work for all of us so we aren’t stepping in constantly.

These tips will help! These are old pictures of my now four and a half year old daughter, she was just under two when we did this activity.

finger painting with toddlers

1. If possible strap them in. If you use a booster seat for meals use that same chair for the activity. When their hands are covered in paint you don’t want them free to roam. If this isn’t an option position yourself so that you are between them and the area you do not want them to reach until their hands are clean. For us that’s the family room ( specifically the new couch)  only a few feet away from the kitchen where we were creating.

2. Tape their paper to a cutting board, or right to the table if the table is easily washable. This prevents the picture covered in paint from hitting the floor and other things on the way down. toddler finger painting tips to avoid mess

3. Dress your child in old clothes/ Pajamas. Little toddlers and smocks don’t really make a great pair. Avoid the dramatics and just let them wear something that you don’t care if it’s stained.

4. Use an old table cloth to protect your table. If you need to protect your floors try a shower curtain under your child’s chair.  happy tips for toddler finger painting

5. Give them control and let them have small dishes of paint to explore with. Toddlers are on the verge of a lot of new independence and giving them some control during activities is a great way to support this development. You don’t need to direct this activity at all!

6. Have extra paper ( and anything else you are using) on hand so you don’t have to leave them unattended for a second. tips for finger painting

7. Have wipes or a wet wash cloth, and a towel ready. Also don’t unbuckle the booster until after they are all the way clean.

8. If they are super messy my favorite trick is to have a big old bath towel ready and wrap them up in it, and go directly to the bath. toddler finger painting

9. After the painting is dry display it with pride! This seems obvious but it’s really important. Children need to their their art to complete the process. They are artists and should be proud of their work!

 

 

Need a great finger paint recipe? Try this one that your child can help make with you in the kitchen! Click on the image to find out how to make it.

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Exercise Eggs – Find & Move Scavenger Hunt

gross motor activities for kids I have been going through my photo archives and finding activities I have photos of but never posted. This scavenger hunt must have just gotten missed because it’s a great game and we’ve played it many times since, I don’t know why I have never posted it. The goal of the game is to get kids moving when it’s too cold or wet to run outside but it uses the novelty of finding and opening these sport themed Easter eggs ( which are already in the stores) to make it just a little more fun.

Please excuse the blurry photos – this was before I had a great camera or kids who’d freeze when I asked!

Gather your materials. You will need some plastic Easter eggs ( any theme will work), some paper, a pen, and scissors.easter egg gross motor activity

Start by cutting your paper into strips small enough to stuff into the eggs. Write different actions on the paper. If you really want to tire your kids out go big!gross motor eggs

Here are some ideas for you :

10 jumping jacks.
Sing the alphabet while skipping around the room.
March in place for 25 seconds.
Do a crab walk around the couch.
Stomp 5 times.
Touch your toes.
Jump as high as you can 5 times.
Sing Head and Shoulders.
5 burpees.
5 sit ups.
Dance like a maniac!

Pop those in and hide the eggs. Can you see any in the room? My little ones ( oh look how little they were…) were eager to find them all.sport egg

Search for the eggs. easter egg gross motor sports eggsAs you find them open them up, read it exercise eggs and do what it says. We all did the actions as a group but you can decide if the finder does it or everyone joins in. easter egg gross motor jumping

You can make this activity a quick brain break or a long full body workout. It’s all up to you. Either way it’s fast and fun to put together. So go grab some plastic eggs and get moving!

 

Squeeze Painting – Valentine’s Day Art Project

squeeze painting for preschool Squeezing isn’t just a fun way to burn off frustration, it’s also a wonderful exercise to build hand strength. The reason we want to encourage activities that build hand strength is that stronger hands leads to an easier time with handwriting, cutting, and even things like buttoning shirts and zipping jackets. This is especially true for doing any of those activities for a long time. Just like training for a marathon requires some strength training our little ones to write for a long time requires it as well. Working on developing hand strength doesn’t need to be work though. Using tools and materials that you squeeze with the whole hand is a great way you can encourage this at home or in your classroom. Tape resist is nothing new but instead of finger painting over the tape grab a few squeeze bottles and go to town. You can do this art project with kids of all ages and it’s a great option for multi-age groups. Here is how we made this squeeze painting Valentine’s Day wall art while working on hand strength.

Gather your materials. You will need a canvas, some painter’s tape, a box or something else to contain the mess, paint in 2 or more colors, and squeeze bottles.squeeze painting

Start by pouring your paint into the squeeze bottles and writing out the word you want on your canvas. You can do a shape if your child isn’t interested in letters yet. My daughter helped me with the letters telling me if I needed a long strip or a short strip of tape next for the letter.valentine's day canvas art

Next it’s time to paint. Do NOT worry about how this looks ( or how anything on this whole blog for that matter). This is really a process heavy project and I encourage you to try this simply with a canvas and no tape after. I try to make all our projects process heavy even if they have a product at the end.squeeze painting

Squeeze and splatter!squeeze paitning hand strength

She dumped a ton pf paint on and decided to move it around by tilting the box after. squeeze painting love sign for kidsThis way and that.valentine's day art canvas project

After all the paint was out of the bottles she continued to squeeze by blowing the air from the bottles and moving the paint around with the force of the air. I wanted to get closer photos but the thought of the little specks of paint on my camera lens kept me at a safe distance!squeeze painting for kids

After we let it dry for a long long long time we pulled the tape off together.love sign tape resist squeeze paint

Then together we found a great place where my daughter could SEE how much we valued her creation. love sign close up squeeze paintingWe settled on a spot in the kitchen.

 

Valentine’s Day Books For Kids

all our book lists include affiliate links.

the day it rained hearts

Day It Rained Hearts
by Felicia Bond is a sweet story that in my experience is a better bedtime story than circle time story especially for 4 and younger. The story is moving and lovely but in groups of children it just doesn’t grab them the way it does when they are snuggled up with someone they love. The story is about a little girl who collects hearts that fall from the clouds and makes incredibly touching gifts from them for special friends. The pace is just too slow for an active class that needs a hook, but perfect for bedtime when you want kids to be slowing down.

valentine friends

Valentine Friends
by April Jones Prince is one of my favorite Valentine’s Day books for 2 and 3 year olds. It’s simple, sweet, and has a great message about teamwork. The text is short enough for a circle time with very young children but the book isn’t baby-ish so older children will enjoy it too. The friends in the book all work together to make Valentine’s day treats and readers are left with the message that working together is a treat in itself.

10 valentine friends

10 Valentine Friends
by Janet Schulman is one of my daughter’s favorite counting books along with the other books in this series. While the rhymes are ta times forced the book itself is fun and it kept the attention of my 2-3 year old classroom who all participated in counting the valentines on each page. My daughter who is 4.5 likes picking out the details in each page and making up stories about the characters. I like that the children are all trying to make valentines for each other using the knowledge they have about the recipient. It’s a wonderful lesson about gift giving and how you should tailor gifts to the recipient and not just make something you’ll like.

 

Chocolate Gluten Free Play Dough

gluten free chocolate play dough recipe

Cooking together is one of my daughter’s absolute favorite activities and the only thing that makes it better is to cook play dough we can play with after! This chocolate gluten free play dough recipe was a bit of an experiment because our tried and true Bisquick play dough recipe needs a microwave and we don’t have one. So we changed it a little and the end result was a yummy smelling , soft , and gluten free.  While we don’t have any issues with wheat or gluten many kids do so we wanted to create a fun and easy recipe for everyone.  After making the dough play with it – have some fun chocolate themed tools and materials ready to play.

gluten free playdough recipe

Gather your materials. You will need Gluten Free Bisquick, cooking oil, salt, unsweetened cocoa powder, and water. You will also need a cooking pot, spoon, and all your accessories for playing like some mini cupcake liners, sprinkles, a mini rolling pin, cookie cutters, and empty chocolate boxes.

Recipe :

1 1/2 cups of Gluten Free Bisquick
1/2 cup of salt
1 cup of water
2 tablespoons of cocoa powder
2 tablespoons of oil

gluten free playdough recipe for kids

Start by reading the recipe and measuring out the ingredients with your child. I can’t do this AND take her photo so we measured them out together and then she patiently waited for me to scurry around the island and grab my camera.

homemade gluten free playdough

Add the Bisquick, salt, and water together in the pot and let your child mix it until it’s thick. Add in the oil and cocoa powder.stiring play dough gluten free play dough

Pop it in the stove on medium low and mix. It’s ready to come off the stove when it forms into a ball.chocolate gluten free playdough

Time to knead it. We added a little more Bisquick and oil as we kneaded it. It smelled SO good!kneading play dough choclate factory

Then it was time time to play. chocolate gluten free play dough candy factoryShe made me some cookies, chocolates for Valentine’s Day, and more with the play dough SHE made. chocolate gluten free playdough recipe

Tips For Making Great Play Recipes With Kids

play recipes

Asia Citro has no issue with getting messy. The former science teacher turned blogger turned book author has devoted many many hours to finding just the right combinations of ingredients for amazing sensory play.  I appreciate this because much like baking I am great at playing with these recipes and even creating activities to do with them once they are done but I am no good at creating the recipes. Recipes like these are precise , not really my strong suit. It is Asia’s. I received this book free for review and you should probably know the author and I are friends. I hope it’s clear to all my readers I wouldn’t promote something unless it was rad even if my friend wrote it.

banana playdough

In her new book 150+ Screen-Free Activities for Kids (affiliate link) she not only shares amazing screen free ideas she shares some exclusive play recipes, not even found on her blog Fun at Home With Kids. I decided to share some of my favorite recipes from her blog and then I let my daughter choose one of the exclusive ones from the book and share some one my favorite tips when you are making play recipes with your kids.

Before we get to the tips let me share my favorite play recipes you can find on Asia’s site Fun At Home With Kids:

edible paint

1. Scented Edible Paint
2. Rainbow Soap Foam Bubbles
3. Borax Free Slime
4. Polka Dot Slime
5. Foaming Dough Recipe : Magic Foaming Snowman

 

What I love about involving your kids in creating the play recipes is that it’s cooking and play all together. A lot of parents express how nervous they are about cooking with their kids or that they don’t have the patience for it. Well try this first. You aren’t a bad parent if you know that cooking dinner with your child will make you nuts. Maybe a play recipe like this will be the perfect compromise!

Browse for some recipes and let your child choose, she chose banana playdough. Letting your child choose the recipe they are going to make isn’t just a fun way to get them excited it’s a great way to model how you browse and read cookbooks. Flip through, read the ingredient lists together, and make shopping lists if need be. In this step along you are modeling real world reading and writing.

banana cooking

Measure out all the ingredients together making note of the numbers on the measuring cups. Cooking can be a wonderful intro to fractions in the real world for kids.banana mash

She loved mashing the bananas. Mashing bananas, avocados, cooked potatoes… and other mashable foods are always a good choice because kids can do this without you stepping in every two seconds. This builds their confidence.

banana cooking with kids

If a big bowl equals a big mess at your house give you child a little bit of the dough ( or whatever you are cooking) in their own smaller bowl and don’t worry if they spill it.

banana playdough

Time to play with it! Even if you are making real food play can absolutely follow. You can play restaurant with the completed meal, invite Barbie for a tea party, or my daughter’s favorite  play” TV Chef” Did I mention she would stop nursing if Giadia was on the TV as an infant? This girl has cooking in her DNA!

If you want the full recipe for the banana playdough  ( and so many others) grab a copy of 150+ Screen Free Activities For Kids by Asia Citro I can’t praise this new book enough. I think of it as my cookbook for sensory play. You can buy it on Amazon  —>  150+ Screen-Free Activities for Kids: The Very Best and Easiest Playtime Activities from FunAtHomeWithKids.com! ( affiliate link) and check out the author’s blog here.