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Painting with a baby or a toddler

Paint is a great activity for children from about 6 months. The younger they are, the bravest you must be, but it will pay off! They love to see how their actions (spreading the paint) have an effect, it’s just like magic! Babies can start painting during tummy time or sitting on the highchair. It will help them develop their body strength, motor skills (body movement and hand control) and coordination between their eyes and their hands. Here are some tips on how to set up the activity and what to expect:

  • IT’S ABOUT THE PROCESS, NOT ABOUT THE RESULTS.

Don’t be hoping you will be able to keep that picture the baby or toddler will make and hang it on the wall. The child will learn and enjoy the process and you need to focus on that too. It’s really not about the result. Take a picture of the baby painting (or making a mess) and use that as a result. If you try to keep it clean and beautiful the baby will get frustrated and won’t enjoy it. He will probably also hate painting and make negative associations with it.

  • ONE COLOUR AT A TIME.

The thing kids love the most when they are very young is to see how colours mix, rather than painting on paper. If you place a tray with different colours they will probably go from one to another exploring the different combinations as soon as they discover that the colour changes when mixing with others. Don’t panic, they are learning so much! If you want them to focus on each colour before they make a big mess, just offer one colour at a time. Start with lighter colours and add darker colours as they are painting.

  • OFFER DIFFERENT TOOLS AND MATERIALS

As well as exploring the paint and the colours, kids will also enjoy exploring different textures and materials to paint with and to paint on. Painting doesn’t have to be always the same. They can paint on different surfaces (a box, paper on the floor, on tinfoil, rocks, the bath…) and also use different tools to paint with (hands, brushes, sticks, feathers, sponges, stamps, vegetables like a carrot would make circles…). Trying lots of different items will open up their creativity and problem-solving skills as they discover how things work.

  • LET THEM GET MESSY!

When you are worried about how dirty they are getting or the mess they are making, they get that negative feeling and they won’t enjoy it as much as if you relax and allow them to feely explore what’s given. Using old clothes or just a nappy is a way of giving them permission to get as messy as they want to so they can really explore and make that activity a unique and fun learning experience.

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