Most children love the feeling of finger painting. And part of what feels so good is being allowed to be messy. Fortunately, it's easy to participate in this joy and take a few preventive measures to keep the mess in check.
Cover up. Pick a room in the house where you feel comfortable having your child use paints. Then cover the floor and table with newspaper. Help your child roll up her sleeves and put on an apron, smock, or oversize shirt to protect her clothing from paint.
Experiment with the paint texture. Ask your child to spread some paint on paper; then sprinkle a tablespoon of water over the surface and show her how slippery it becomes. You can also reverse the process and drop a teaspoonful of finger paint onto wet paper. Compare the different textures.
Play with colors. Start out with one primary color. Present other colors gradually so your child can mix them and watch how they change.
Connect your child with the process. Talk to her about how finger paint feels. Encourage her to use descriptive words or metaphors. Put on some music that makes her fingers want to move! Show your child how to use her fingers to draw designs.
Make a print. You can make a print of your child's finger painting by placing another piece of paper, the same size or larger, over the surface of the painting and pressing down gently. The reverse image of the finger painting easily lifts off onto the top sheet to create an almost dry finger etching suitable for framing—or just hanging on the refrigerator!
Other forms of tactile fun. If your child is reluctant to get her hands "dirty" with finger paints, you can substitute other materials, such as liquid soap, shaving cream with a drop of food coloring added, even chocolate pudding!
What You'll Need
Newspaper to cover floor and table
Apron, smock, or old oversize shirt
Water-resistant paper, including shiny finger painting paper, drawer liner paper, waterproof wallpaper, smooth finished cardboard, the back of a plastic tray
Primary-color finger paints, purchased or made (see recipes below)
Finger paint #1
1 to 3 tablespoons liquid starch
1 tablespoon tempera paint
Spread liquid starch (instead of water) on finger-painting surface. Add tempera paint.
Finger paint #2
4 cups cold water
1 cup cornstarch
1 teaspoon tempera paint or food coloring
Mix water and cornstarch; cook over medium heat until thick, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and add paint or food coloring, or divide the mixture into three parts and add three different colors.
Learning and Growing
Finger painting is one of the most emotionally satisfying forms of creative expression for young children. Benefits include the chance to strengthen hand and finger muscles and to help children understand firsthand how to mix colors.