Kids love, love, LOVE gooey stuff. Love to put their hands in it, love to put their toes in it – sometimes even love to throw it around. They truly come alive when there’s colourful sticky stuff around.
But unfortunately children’s enjoyment is usually matched, or even exceeded, by their parents’ abject terror in the face of goo. The new curtains! The cream carpet! The Persian rug!
Which is a shame, because finger painting has been shown to benefit children’s development in important ways:
It stimulates the senses
Finger painting is an activity that involves nearly all the senses. Bright, bold colours to excite the eyes, the satisfying squidgey feel of the paints between fingers, the pleasing squelchy sound as little hands plunge into the pots.
Stimulating children’s senses is essential for healthy development of their young brains. Experiencing different textures and colours helps inspire creativity, and using fingers to draw pictures is a great way to develop hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills.
It helps children to express themselves
Finger painting has existed for centuries, but was established in its modern form in the 1930s by Ruth Faison Shaw, the “First Lady of Finger Painting”. She was one of the first to recognise its therapeutic potential and was hailed as “a pioneer in progressive education”.
At a time when many thought children should be seen and not heard, she saw finger painting as an important way for children to communicate their unexpressed words and feelings. The instinctive nature of finger painting, she said, “aids the imagination and gives a delight in creating things subconsciously – things that one may not even have seen or dreamed of before”.
Here’s why it doesn’t need to be messy
So you know about the benefits of finger painting for children, but there’s still one thing holding you back. The Mess. But I promise, it really doesn’t need to be messy.
Perhaps the most obvious reason why not is because (weather permitting) it can be done outside. Kids love the combination of being out in the fresh air and doing something creative. And they won’t be able to do much damage out there. A children’s wipe clean apron will cover up their clothes and you can lay down an old tablecloth or sheet to protect the surface they are painting on.
But the biggest reason why finger painting doesn’t need to be messy is that many finger paints are completely washable. All you need is a cloth and a bit of soapy water and the paint wipes off. Which means that, however much they try, your children will never be able to cause any damage. No stains – no need to worry.
But don’t take my word for it. Sometimes you just need to give these things a try for yourself. Finger painting is one of the simplest, least expensive children’s activities. It’s brilliant fun, it helps kids learn and grow, and is something you can enjoy with them. So no more fear – roll up your sleeves (and theirs) and give it a try!