Infant Art Projects

By Erica Loop
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As your baby's fine motor skills develop, you can help her abilities bloom with infant art activities. Between 4 and 7 months, your baby is using a rake-like motion to move objects. By the end of her first year, she'll develop the pincer grasp she'll need to hold a marker or crayon. Art projects can play up these developmental milestones while teaching new vocabulary words and inspiring creativity.

Edible and Artsy

Your curious baby is exploring the world in every way he can, including with his mouth. If your baby is using his newfound ability to grip and grasp to put everything into his mouth, avoid any art activity that uses materials that could harm him if ingested. Instead of using paint or glue, swap out the store-bought stuff for homemade edible materials. For example, make your own finger paints by adding a drop of food coloring to vanilla pudding. You can make red, yellow and blue -- the primary colors -- and let your infant mix them together to make his own hues. If you're concerned that food coloring may get messy, use flavored yogurt, such as pink strawberry or green lime.

Sensory Art

Engaging your baby's senses can help her learn and develop fine motor, social, emotional and cognitive skills. In addition to edible art, you can add a sensory component to your baby's art-making. For example, mix coarse salt or sugar into her finger paint or add natural materials, such as grass clippings or leaves, to make more of a texture. Another option is to add a drop or two of vanilla to her paints or mix the scent into play clay.

Fine Motor

Even though painting and clay play can certainly help your infant's eye-hand coordination and dexterity, using crayons, paintbrushes and other writing tools can reinforce his grip and even start him moving toward prewriting. Before 2 years, most children will only randomly scribble. Don't expect your baby to draw a picture of a concrete object or letters. Give him a few different options, such as thick crayons and washable markers. Encourage him to explore making marks. Name the colors for him as he picks up different crayons or markers to reinforce new vocabulary skills. For example, say something like "You are using the pink crayon now!" You can also give your baby an array of paintbrushes to experiment with, such as fine watercolor or thick-handled types. Use child-safe temperas or even water mixed with food coloring to add a hue.

Sculpt It

While your little one isn't exactly ready to sculpt the Statue of Liberty, she can grasp play clay and mold her own abstract forms. If you're using a store-bought play dough, make sure it is age-graded for your child and nontoxic. Pick a soft clay that is easy for your child to manipulate. Give your child a few simple tools to push and pull the clay with. Try out a plastic rolling pin, wooden spoon or cookie cutter. You can also make your own. Make your own version by mixing approximately 1 1/2 cups of flour, 3/4 cup of salt and 3/4 cup of water. Experiment with your own recipe, varying the ingredients to get a consistency your baby can work with. If the dough is too tough for your baby's hands, add a touch of vegetable oil to make it more malleable.

About the Author

Based in Pittsburgh, Erica Loop has been writing education, child development and parenting articles since 2009. Her articles have appeared in "Pittsburgh Parent Magazine" and the website PBS Parents. She has a Master of Science in applied developmental psychology from the University of Pittsburgh's School of Education.