We all know how messy paint can be - especially with toddlers. But this shouldn’t discourage you from using paint at home. Just contain the mess by allowing your child to paint in the tub. You can even mix a small amount of tempera paint with dish soap or your child’s favorite bubble bath soap to minimize the clean-up efforts!
What developmental skills can your child learn while using paint? Painting in a tub (or at an easel) allows a child to use large brush strokes and learn the basics of line and form. They are using both gross and fine motor muscles as they create. These basic mark-making skills will pave the way for future drawing and writing. If your child does not use the muscles in their hands enough while they are little, it will be much harder to gain the dexterity and endurance needed to hold a pencil and to write. The more they have the ability to work with their pincer grasp (an object pinched between the thumb and index finger), the easier it will be when it’s time to start writing! Painting also lends itself to language development and storytelling. It allows a child to express thoughts that they may not be able to completely verbalize yet. It promotes emotional regulation and the ability to express oneself.
There is so much more to painting than simply color recognition. Another fun way to enhance this activity is to play various types of music and see if the way your child paints changes! For example, classical music usually encourages children to paint circular images and move their bodies slowly as they create – unless of course, you pick a track like Flight of the Bumblebees by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov!
Other bath ideas: Turn off the lights and add glow sticks to the bath! Or combine the two concepts and turn the lights off and try painting in the dark and seeing what you created when the lights come back on! There are so many fun games that you can create with very little hassle and big developmental pay-off.
Rachel McMinn is an early childhood educator at Buckle My School Preschool in Tribeca, who has taught the young 2-year-olds for almost ten years. She holds a Masters in Early Childhood Education from Hunter College and a Writing degree from Pratt Institute. She lives in Brooklyn with her infant daughter, post-production & screenwriting husband, and two attention-seeking cats.
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