Fin­ger paint­ing is a fun, open-end­ed activ­i­ty appro­pri­ate for chil­dren at any stage of motor devel­op­ment. There is no right or wrong way to fin­ger paint. Every child is a suc­cess­ful fin­ger painter!

All that is need­ed is space, time, paint, a com­fort­able place to sit, and no one to tell you how to do it. Avoid giv­ing advice. Let chil­dren dis­cov­er for them­selves what they can cre­ate with fin­ger paint at their own pace.

Finger painting can’t start too early.

Have you noticed how infants love smear­ing food all over their high­chairs? Chil­dren love the feel­ing and free­dom of being messy and uninhibited. 

Supporting Finger Painting

Intro­duce chil­dren to fin­ger paint­ing ear­ly. By age two, many can man­age fin­ger paint well. Expe­ri­ence has taught them where the paint goes and where it does not go. They can even wash up pret­ty well after­ward. Large cafe­te­ria-style trays help con­trol the area in which the paint can spread and work very well, espe­cial­ly for younger chil­dren. Large trays allow chil­dren to ful­ly extend their arms. Lim­it­ed space to paint can feel inhibiting.

Table­tops that are smooth and wash­able are ide­al for fin­ger paint­ing. Occa­sion­al­ly wipe the edge fac­ing the child where paint over­flow can become a nui­sance. A spat­u­la will pick up most of the paint when the child is fin­ished, and a soapy sponge will quick­ly get the rest. Clean­ing the table is just as edu­ca­tion­al as fin­ger paint­ing and to chil­dren, it is not work at all. Allow plen­ty of time and pro­vide plen­ty of sponges, warm water, and clean, dry tow­els. Adding col­or to basic fin­ger paint (what­ev­er your base) is best done with tem­pera paint. Although non-tox­ic, food col­or­ing stains and it is hard to wash out. 

Finger Painting Tips

Vary the type of paper used by adding the option of parch­ment paper. Wet the table, then put the paper down with a wet sponge. Fin­ger paint­ing on wet paper is fun. The paper isn’t ready until it’s smooth and wet. Hang on dry­ing racks to dry. Take pho­tos to show par­ents their children’s work.

Chil­dren of all ages can cre­ate prints by lay­ing paper over their art­work, smooth­ing the sur­face light­ly with dry hands, and pulling up the paper.

Adding back­ground music to fin­ger paint­ing or any cre­ative art activ­i­ty adds anoth­er lay­er to a mul­ti-sen­so­ry expe­ri­ence. Clas­si­cal music pro­vides an ide­al accom­pa­ni­ment. The pure, clear tones of clas­si­cal music can be par­tic­u­lar­ly calming.

Image of Abstract Musical Notes

Background Music

Any clas­si­cal music can add enjoy­ment to learn­ing with fin­ger paint­ing. Select works by com­posers such as Antonin Dvo­rak, Claude Debussy, Mau­rice Rav­el, W. A. Mozart, J. S. Bach, Franz Joseph Haydn, or Vival­di. Chil­dren are espe­cial­ly fond of flute, clas­si­cal gui­tar, and harp­si­chord music. Notice how faster or slow­er music affects the way the chil­dren paint.

Homemade Finger Paint

“Com­bine 1 cup of water and ½ cup of flour in a pot over medi­um heat. Keep stir­ring until the mix­ture thick­ens and you can pull it away from the sides of the pot. Take it off the heat, sprin­kle a pinch of salt, and start adding cold water until it reach­es the con­sis­ten­cy you want. Divide it in small bowls and add a small amount of dif­fer­ent food col­or­ing to each bowl. Keep it in sealed con­tain­ers until you are ready to use it.”

“Use 1 cup corn flour and ½ cup of tap water at room tem­per­a­ture and whisk togeth­er in a saucepan until there aren’t any lumps. Then place the saucepan over low heat and kept whisk­ing until it thick­ens. Take it off the heat and add a lit­tle tap water until it reach­es the right con­sis­ten­cy. If you get it too thin, put it back on the heat for a bit. After it cools off, add food col­or­ing. If you want to use nat­ur­al food col­or­ing, you can use blue­ber­ries, spinach, beetroot…”

“I use about 1½ cups of soap flakes and 1 cup of hot water, and I whipped the mix­ture with an egg­beat­er until it stiffens.”

Have fun! Share your fin­ger paint­ing ideas and recipes in the com­ments section.

Inter­est­ed in oth­er activ­i­ties to do with chil­dren? Read our blogs, Cre­ative Art Activ­i­ties for Chil­dren and Fun Indoor Activ­i­ties.

Professional Development Training

Inter­est­ed in learn­ing more about cre­ative art in ear­ly child­hood? Take our cours­es Mak­ing Learn­ing Fun, Play and Learn­ing, or The Ear­ly Child­hood Envi­ron­ment: Learn­ing Cen­ters!

Care Courses Support 

Please con­tact us and let us know how we can be of addi­tion­al assis­tance! Call us: 1–800-685‑7610, Mon­day through Fri­day, 9–5 ET, or email us days, evenings, and week­ends: We’re here to help!

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