Painting Activities With Finger Paints for Infants & Toddlers

By Erica Loop
Help your toddler to paint a masterpiece.
Help your toddler to paint a masterpiece.

The child development experts at PBS Parents note that infants and toddlers typically use art materials in an exploratory way. Instead of trying to paint a picture or make a drawing of a specific person or object, very young children enjoy using materials such as paints in a more process-oriented way. Finger painting activities will allow your little learner to explore her creative side and truly get hands-on while making her own art.

Edible Finger Paints

If your infant or toddler can't seem to stop himself from exploring with his mouth, you may want to think twice before giving him any type of art supply store finger paint. Although most finger paints are child-safe and non-toxic, they are not fit for consumption and should never go in the mouth. That said, you don't have to avoid painting with your young child simply because you are afraid that more eating than art making will go on. You can make your own edible finger paints out of food products to help your child explore the process. Fill a few paper cups or bowls part-way to the top with plain yogurt or vanilla pudding. Add one or two drops of food color to each, creating a rainbow palette of edible finger paints.

Color Mixing

Instead of giving your infant or toddler all of the colors that he wants, help him to explore the arts by making his own palette. Pour four golf ball-sized pools of finger paints onto an art-only tray or a piece of thick scrap cardboard. Use the three primary colors -- red, yellow and blue -- along with white. Your young child can use his hands to mix and blend orange, green and purple, or throw in some white to make any of the colors lighter.


Make finger painting into an even more tactile experience than it already is. Add different items and ingredients into regular finger paint to make a textured concoction. Craft sand or glitter will make the paint coarse, while baby oil will make it slick and slippery. Simply place your chosen material into the paint and have your child mix it in with her hands. Other items to try include separated cotton balls, crushed fall leaves or sequins.


Although the paint is certainly prime when it comes to finger painting, don't forget about the paper part. Instead of only using plain construction paper, switch it up to create a more unique experience for your infant or toddler. Use regular kids' finger paints on kitchen foil, wax paper, corrugated paper or cardboard. For a more colorful (pattern filled) art activity, use wall paper sample scraps, child-friendly newspaper or magazine pages, and fabrics or felt.

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.