Finger painting is a great way for toddlers to experience sensory play, and this fun, easy painting activity has so many wonderful benefits for kids.
Finger painting stimulates your child's senses, using touch/feel, sight, smell, sound and - more often than not - taste, when they are playing with the paints. Finger painting encourages cognitive development, as well as strengthening the hands and fingers, which improves their fine motor skills.
Many toddlers and young kids find finger painting to be emotionally soothing, and as they get older it will help with intellectual development - learning how the colours mix together to create a different colour - as well as encouraging imaginative play and creativity.
We have gathered together a list of easy finger painting ideas toddler artists are sure to love. These brilliant projects are suitable for any three year old and under - but many older kids would also enjoy these finger painting ideas.
Top Tips for Finger Painting
How to Prepare
Finger painting is messy - but don't let that put you off, just get prepared. Why not set up your painting station in the kitchen or bathroom? Make your toddler an 'artist studio' in the bathtub so they are free to make as much mess as they like - and if you don't have a big plastic sheet, you can always use a shower curtain as a mat to protect the floor. Keep baby wipes or an old towel nearby for quick clean up jobs.
Give yourself enough time to properly prepare the tools before starting - it's easier to have everything in one place rather than having to run around to find more supplies.
What You'll Need
Always have lots of paper to hand, as well as lots of different brushes, sponges and tools. Toddlers will always want to paint more than one picture at a time, so be prepared to get stuck in for a few hours. By doing a few painting activities in one go, you only have to set up and clean down once.
A roll of paper is a great investment - kids love the freedom of making big finger paintings, exploring lots of different colours and tools.
Dress your toddler in old clothes - or just let them paint in their nappy.
There are lots of paint recipes, and making your own is cheap, quick and easy, plus you can be sure that the paints don't contain harsh chemicals. Using homemade paint is less stressful if (when) your toddler decides to taste-test the paints or wipes it all over their face. We have lots of easy ways you can make child-safe paints here.
Pour the finger paints on to paper plates - one plate per colour - as young kids find this easier than pots and tubes.
Easy Finger Painting Ideas for Kids
1) Find tools that are different sizes, as well as some tools that are hard and others that are soft. There are lots of tools, brushes and rollers that have been designed for toddlers to use, but kids will also love using household items like kitchen sponges, metal scourers, earbuds and cotton wool balls.
2) Make some easy cardboard scrapers by cutting zig-zag lines into a piece of cardboard. Kids can drag the scraper along the paint, making different patterns and squiggles. Kitchen utensils, like a fork, hand whisk or potato masher also leave interesting patterns in the paint.
3) If you have an old rolling pin that you no longer use, create a cool painting tool with it by putting elastic bands onto it, and letting the kids roll it around in the paint.
4) Dip the wheels of a toy car into the paint, then push the car around the piece of paper.
5) Cut different fruits and vegetables in half, using these to stamp and smear the paint on the paper. Oranges, potatoes and corn on the cob are great finger paint tools.
6) Your toddler can make beautiful butterflies by using this free printable template. Simply print out the template, and then hand the paper over to your toddler to be painted. Once the paint has dried, cut out the butterfly shape and use the butterflies to decorate the fridge, to make cards or to hang from a mobile.
7) One of the best finger painting ideas for kids is to use shaving foam - which has a light, airy texture that is easy to grab and is lots of fun to play with. Simply spray out the shaving foam onto a paper plate - or several - then pour different colour paints on top. Kids will love mixing the coloured paint into the white foam, using the thicker paint to make colourful artworks.
8) You can make quick and easy 'gel' finger paint by using this paint recipe: simply mix cheap, clear hair gel with a few drops of food colouring, then start finger painting.
9) To change the texture of the paint, add some sequins, glitter or sand into the paint. Adding salt and sugar will also change the texture of the finger paint.
10) You don't have to paint on paper - why not try painting on tin foil, baking paper or bubble wrap? Using lots of different surfaces is a great art project for kids - and it is a good way to re-purpose packaging, rather than putting it in the bin.
11) One idea for explaining the process art goes through from beginning to end, is to use masking tape to make shapes or letters on the paper before painting. There are lots of easy ideas to try - why not write their name or initials - or put some dots or strips of tape on the paper, then hand it over to be painted. Once dry, pull the tape off to reveal the letters, words or pattern that was made using the masking tape. This also works well with stickers, which will resist the paint and can be peeled off to reveal the paper beneath.
12) If you have cardboard boxes waiting to go in the recycling bin, why not let your toddler decorate it? Painting big boxes is a great art activity for kids, and once dry, they can use it to play in.
13) Finger painting on large, smooth stones is a sensory activity that lots of toddlers enjoy.
14) Frozen paint is another sensory activity that toddlers are likely to enjoy. Simply mix a little bit of paint with water, and fill up an ice cube tray with a few different colours. Once frozen, let your toddler play with the cubes, exploring how they feel and how they can paint with them.
Godmother to two little girls, Rosanna enjoys finding ways to entertain her goddaughters with games, cooking and – best of all - arts and crafts. Having studied Fine Art, Rosanna uses her creativity to make colourful, fun and educational art and craft projects that are perfect for kids of all ages. Full of ideas for homemade cards and handcrafted gifts, toys and decorations – Rosanna also has a knack for finding child-friendly cultural activities and fun places for kids to blow off steam.