Finger painting: why it’s good for children
Finger painting is a great way for children to explore, learn and develop through sensory play.
When children can feel the cool, squishy texture of the paint and experiment with colour and patterns, it encourages their creativity. It’s also a good way for children to express emotions.
Finger painting develops children’s fine motor skills too, which they need for writing later on.
And of course, finger painting is great fun!
What you need for finger painting
Here’s what you and your child need to get started with finger painting:
- finger paint – shop-bought or homemade (see the recipe below)
- waterproof smock, apron or old clothes that won’t be ruined by paint
- painting surface that’s easy to clean – for example, a large sheet of paper, an old tray, or a smooth benchtop or table that you can wipe down
- cleaning materials – sponges, a bucket of soapy water and a towel for drying hands.
How to do finger painting with young children
Once you’ve set up your painting surface and cleaning materials, it’s time to get creative. Try these ideas to encourage your child:
- Spread paint on the paper, tray or benchtop and let your child make patterns with their hands and fingers.
- Join in. For example, if your child is making squiggles, make some of your own.
- Talk about what’s happening, and describe the paint textures and colours. For example, ‘This red paint is really slippery, isn’t it?’ Or ‘I love your spots. Can I make spots too?’
- Listen to music while you paint. Encourage your child to paint the way the music makes them feel.
- Make the paint more interesting by adding some sand to create texture.
- Try making prints of the patterns by pressing clean sheets of paper onto the paint.
Try to follow your child’s lead with play. This means watching your child and responding to what your child says or does. With finger painting, you can follow your child’s lead by going along with the colours or patterns they’re making. You can also let your child say how long they want to paint for and when they’re ready to move on to something else.
Adapting finger painting for children of different ages or children with diverse abilities
You can get younger children started by covering the painting surface with paint and then moving their hands around in it. Your child will probably start to enjoy the sensation of the paint and the colour and texture they’re creating.
Older children might like to choose how to mix and make colours. For example, your child might like to use paint from separate pots of different colours and mix them together to make new colours. Your child might also like it if you display their painting for everyone to see.
Homemade finger paint recipe
- 3 cups of boiling water
- ½ cup of cornstarch
- food colouring
Put the cornstarch into a large, heat-proof bowl with a little cold water. Mix into a smooth paste with a whisk or fork. Slowly add the boiling water while whisking continuously. You can add more or less water to get the consistency you prefer. Let the paint cool, then add a few drops of food colouring and mix (your child might like to do this part).
If you want to make more than one colour, divide the mixture among containers first, and then add colouring to each container.
This paint is best used on the day it’s made.