Everything You Need To Know About Finger Painting With Babies

tips tricks and activities for sensory fun with paints. CanDoKiddo.com

Baby Finger Painting...what's the big deal? It seems every other baby-related Pin on Pinterest is a recipe for homemade edible finger paints for babies. Parents are clearly interested - my most popular post to date here at CanDo Kiddo is Tummy Time Finger Painting Sensory Play. But let's explore why finger painting for babies isn't all fun and art on the refrigerator.

A pediatric OT explains the importance of messy play for babies. CanDo Kiddo

Supporting Healthy Sensory Development

According to this article from the University of California San Francisco, 5-16% of school-aged children have sensory processing disorders. More and more children are being referred to Occupational Therapy for one type of sensory processing disorder in particular - "Tactile Defensiveness" - an overreaction and aversion to different forms of touch sensations. Learn all about Tactile Processing from Lemon Lime Adventures. And you know what one of the overarching principles of treating these disorders is? Lots of activities that encourage touch exploration in fun, relaxed ways. 

I believe (purely my speculation and a commonly held belief among my OT colleagues), that one of the contributing factors for the increased tactile processing issues we see relates directly to less opportunity for the types of play that develop healthy sensory skills.

Western parents are busy. Boy, are we busy. We spend less and less time at home with our children in unstructured playtime. Messy play with babies and toddlers is inconvenient, involves set-up and clean-up and requires close supervision. But it is critical to healthy development. In the same way that you know that sleep is important for your baby's growth or that fruits and veggies are good for your toddler's brain, now you know that messy play is vital for healthy sensory development.

6 Tips For Finger Painting With Your Baby

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Finger painting Without Paper - Saving Artwork. CanDo Kiddo
  • Don't bother with paper: Your baby is more likely to rip, mouth, throw or flap the sheet of paper than paint on it. Let him paint directly on a wipeable surface. If you want to save his artwork, lay a piece of paper on top of it when it's completed, pat the paper thoroughly and peel off. Voila - a masterpiece to decorate your fridge or to send to grandma!


Sensory Play for Babies - more fun with less mess. CanDo Kiddo
  • Paint in the tub: Strip your kiddo down to the diaper, put some paint on the side or floor of the tub and let the paint fly! When you're through, just remove the diaper, rinse the tub and run a bath.


  • Have an open pack of wipes and a wet washcloth or damp paper towels handy


  • Take painting outside - on a porch, deck, patio or on the lawn


  • Get creative with surfaces to paint on - the high chair tray, a cookie sheet, a large plastic storage container lid, a tarp or piece of plastic sheeting. I love these silicone trays because they have a lip to keep messes more contained.  {affiliate link}


  • For babies who haven't been introduced to food yet, put finger paints in a Ziploc bag. It reduces the messy play effect some but is a great precursor to finger painting and keeps your little one busy in Tummy Time
Tummy Time Finger Painting. CanDo Kiddo