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Babies and Paint: It's a Sensory Experience

Jane Tyson
Baby enjoying sensory activity of painting.

OK, OK, everything is pretty much a sensory activity for a baby. They learn about the world through their senses, whether it is through playing with that brightly colored toy with different textures and sounds or finding that one thing on the floor you didn't get cleaned up and putting it in their mouths.

The infant teachers offer opportunities for the babies to experience the color, temperature and texture of paint. I'll admit I've never been quite able to wrap my mind around the value of infants and art, but after observing these little ones paint, I will admit to being wrong. 

Picture this: The teacher tapes a paper plate to the floor of the classroom. The babies are wearing paint shirts. (I didn't even know they made infant sized paint shirts!) The teacher sits on the floor with the baby and squirts some paint onto the plate. The baby is then encouraged to put their fingers or hands into the paint and move it around. And they could do it. There was no pressure on the baby to paint more or to use their whole hand if they were just using one finger. And I didn't witness a single baby trying to taste the paint. (Just in case, all our paint is non-toxic.) When they were done, the teacher washed them up and let them play with toys. 

The teacher told me that the really young babies are helped to paint with their bare feet so as to avoid the hands in the mouth tendency. The older ones use one or two fingers and eventually the whole hand. The teacher says she has seen a definite progression in how the babies paint from using one or two fingers to their whole hand.

So what are they learning? On this day the babies saw the color orange and heard the word orange associated with it. The felt the cool smoothness of the paint on their fingers and added this bit of knowledge to what they already knew for future reference. They used their small muscles in the fingers and hands to move the paint around. Connections were made as they used their hands and spread the color around. 

You can see these pumpkins near Room 2 with the babies' pictures on them. Yes, that part is for the parents. But look past the photo of the baby and see all that they learned and experienced.

Let me know what you think of the idea of babies painting? Do you let your baby paint at home?