Gross Motor and Art for Infants

I can feel the cold seeping in through our old home’s walls as I watch my twins toddle laps across the wood floors. It is below zero again outside and as much as I love going on adventures with my babies, we will not be going anywhere today.

With the thermostat turned up another couple degrees to ward off the cold, I wonder what are we going to do in here all day? 

One of our favorite activities is painting. My kids love the sensory squishiness of paint and I love that they are developing their curiosity. Despite that, I sometimes avoid pulling out the paints. Especially with babies it is just so messy.

However, today we have nowhere to go. The cold has given us the gift of endless time to make a mess and clean it up. There is a problem though. As I watch them trying to worm their little bodies onto the couch I know they are not going to sit still for long.

Babies need to move. They are entrenched in the task of learning how to coordinate their bodies to crawl and walk. This is a task they take quite seriously and hours of our day are focused on climbing, crawling, walking with push toys, and cruising along furniture.

Also Read: 10 Gross Motor Activities for Infants + Toddlers

 

They want to move, they love to paint, so let’s combine the two!

post has been updated. originally shared May 2014.

4 Ways to Promote Infant Gross Motor Development Through Art

Big Paper Painting with babies

1. Large Floor Paint

Target skill: Crawling

When our infants started crawling, I covered our ENTIRE dining room floor in paper. I put a few plates with paint on them spread out around the paper. I sat them down on the paper (away from the paint to motivate some initial movement) and sat back.

Immediately they crawled for the paint and soon there were little paint tracks all over the paper. The immense size of the paper allowed them to really explore and move around.

Big Art might seem intimidating and a bath was certainly needed to de-paint them, but it is so worth it.

Materials You Will Need:

Huge Roll of Paper

Tape (to secure paper to the floor and pieces to each other)

Plates or Cookie Sheets (to hold paint)

Tempera Paint (non-toxic & washable)

Set Up + Activity: 

Cover a HUGE portion of floor with paper. You will need to tape several pieces together – some overlap is good. Tape all of the paper down to secure for crawling babies.

Spread out some plates with paint .

I usually put our kids in diapers for this kind of activity and make sure I’m wearing clothes that can get paint on them. Tempera Paint is washable but this just makes me less tense.

Crawl and paint!

Clean Up Plan:

I did my best to keep my kids on the paper but of course we got some marks on the floor. This is best done on washable floors.

When they are done painting, they will be covered in paint. Put your kids directly into the bath to wash off the paint. Tempera Paint washes off pretty easily except for the Magenta. For some reason that is the one color that seems to linger a little longer on their skin for us. When they are clean, put them somewhere safe and contained. Options: cribs with some toys, high chairs with a snack, room within your sight but behind a gate.

Then move paint trays to the sink. Hang the painted paper up high or throw away. We saved a portion and tossed the rest (remember the process was the point! Some of ours was really pretty though so I framed a big piece.) Then use a sponge or Clorox wipes to wipe up any paint that strayed off the paper.

2. Box Painting

Target Skill: Pulling to a Stand

Pulling to a stand often quickly follows crawling. This is the time when your infant is suddenly popping up along the couch and lower tables.

I was slightly concerned that paint covered babies would be crawling around the floor that, unlike the previous activity was not covered in paper, but this was not the case. I spread out our old large IKEA curtain and put a paper covered box in the middle. A large diaper box would work great. I put the paint on a tray on the floor and encouraged them to paint the top.

They were very engaged in this activity and we ended up with a well painted box and they got lots of practice reaching down to get the paint and standing back up.

Materials You Will Need:

Huge Roll of Paper

Big Box

Paper, Old Curtain, or Tarp to cover floor

Tape (to secure paper to the box and pieces to each other)

Plates or Cookie Sheets (to hold paint)

Tempera Paint (non-toxic & washable)

Set Up + Activity: 

Cover a big box with paper.

Place it on top of a large floor cover.

Spread out some plates with paint around the box.

I usually put our kids in diapers for this kind of activity and make sure I’m wearing clothes that can get paint on them. Tempera Paint is washable but this just makes me less tense.

Stand and paint. Having the paint on the floor encourage them to stand up and bend back down a lot. If they are just sitting on the floor encourage them to paint the top of the box by patting the top or drawing a shape or lines and saying something like “Look how the yellow and green mix together when I do this!”

Clean Up Plan:

I did my best to keep my kids on the paper but of course we got some marks on the floor. This is best done on washable floors.

When they are done painting, they will be covered in paint. Put your kids directly into the bath to wash off the paint. Tempera Paint washes off pretty easily except for the Magenta. For some reason that is the one color that seems to linger a little longer on their skin for us. When they are clean, put them somewhere safe and contained. Options: cribs with some toys, high chairs with a snack, room within your sight but behind a gate.

Then move paint trays to the sink. Put the box up high or throw away. Your tarp can get wiped off, put up high until later, or if you use an old curtain it can go straight in the laundry. Then use a sponge or Clorox wipes to wipe up any paint that strayed off the paper.

3. Wall Art

Target Skill: Standing

Wall Art is good for almost walkers through younger toddlers.

Attach a large piece of paper to the wall and offer either coloring or painting materials. We have done this in a wide variety of settings and with different materials. It is an easy one to set up and seemed highly motivating to our infants.

If you are painting, covering the floor beneath the paper is a good idea unless you are painting outside.

When we did coloring for the first time, around the time our babies were 15m, I emphasized that the colors “stay by the paper.” They were free to wander off and return, but the markers needed to stay by the paper. When they started to totter off with a marker in hand, I would kindly remind them “the markers need to stay by the paper” and took the marker and placed it back in the basket. I did have to say this a few hundred times the first couple of days, but it set a good precedent.

We now have a similar rule for all art materials staying in our art space, chalk staying at the chalk table, etc. Paint, with infants, on the other hand is more of a one time event.

When they want to be done we get all cleaned up and then we are done for the day or the morning. If that’s frustrating you can kindly say “you seem upset that we are done. It sounds like you liked painting a lot and we should do it again soon!”

Materials You Will Need:

Huge Roll of Paper

Tape (to secure paper to the wall and floor)

Plates or Cookie Sheets (to hold paint)

Tempera Paint (non-toxic & washable) or other art materials

Set Up + Activity: 

Cover a HUGE portion of wall with paper at your child’s eye level. If painting, I also recommend taping some paper to the floor or covering it with something else. Tape all of the paper down to secure for crawling babies.

Spread out some plates with paint .

I usually put our kids in diapers for this kind of activity and make sure I’m wearing clothes that can get paint on them. Tempera Paint is washable but this just makes me less tense.

Stand, walk, and paint.

Clean Up Plan:

I did my best to keep my kids on the paper but of course we got some marks on the floor. This is best done on washable floors.

When they are done painting, they will be covered in paint. Put your kids directly into the bath to wash off the paint. Tempera Paint washes off pretty easily except for the Magenta. For some reason that is the one color that seems to linger a little longer on their skin for us. When they are clean, put them somewhere safe and contained. Options: cribs with some toys, high chairs with a snack, room within your sight but behind a gate.

Then move paint trays to the sink. Hang the painted paper up high or throw away. We saved a portion and tossed the rest. Then use a sponge or Clorox wipes to wipe up any paint that strayed off the paper.

4. Feet Painting

Target Skill: Walking

We have done feet painting two ways with mobile children. The first was still before they were independently walking. This meant that they were holding on to an adults hand. It took a bit of a twister act for me to accomplish this with our twins, so I recommend a helping adult if you are attempting this with multiples, if possible.

Once they were stable walkers, we repeated it again.

Similar to the crawling activity, I spaced out the trays of paint to motivate them to move around more. I also prompted them with questions like, “can you stomp to the blue paint?” or “how does it feel when you walk on the paper?”

Materials You Will Need:

Huge Roll of Paper

Tape (to secure paper to the floor and pieces to each other)

Plates or Cookie Sheets (to hold paint)

Tempera Paint (non-toxic & washable)

Set Up + Activity: 

Cover a big portion of floor with paper. You will need to tape several pieces together – some overlap is good or just make one really long trail to walk along. Tape all of the paper down to secure for walking babies.

Put a tray of paint on two ends of the paper.

I usually put our kids in diapers for this kind of activity and make sure I’m wearing clothes that can get paint on them. Tempera Paint is washable but this just makes me less tense.

Dip feet in the paint and then walk to make tracks.

Clean Up Plan:

I did my best to keep my kids on the paper but of course we got some marks on the floor. This is best done on washable floors or outside (obviously on a less cold day)

When they are done painting, they will be covered in paint. Again you will want to put them directly into the tub or have a huge amount of water and washcloths on hand. When they are clean, put them somewhere safe and contained. Options: cribs with some toys, high chairs with a snack, room within your sight but behind a gate.

Then move paint trays to the sink. Hang the painted paper up high or throw away. Then use a sponge or Clorox wipes to wipe up any paint that strayed off the paper.

Gross Motor and Art for Babies: 4 Simple Ways to Promote Infant Gross Motor Skills Through Art

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