Friday, 15 May 2015

Play Time: Art with a Baby?

I love arts and crafts. They were always my favourite activities when I was younger (play dough, painting, paper crafts, you name it) and I continue to do crafts as an adult. So, I was impatient to start sharing this love with my daughter. Until recently, I took it for granted that babies can't make art, right? They're so little, they don't have the fine motor skills, they don't understand the concept of creation, etc. I didn't want to accept it, though, so I did some research and brainstormed some ideas for introducing art earlier than I had originally planned. Babies can be creative, you just have to make some small adjustments and treat it like a sensory experience as well as an artistic one. Here are some ways for you to get creative with a baby 6-18 months:
Sensory Collage
Babies love novelty and, lucky for us as caregivers, most things are still new to them! This activity is a great way to introduce your child to new textures, colours, and sensations. It is a great work-in-process art piece to re-visit on rainy days or whenever you're looking for something to do.

You'll Need:

* Contact paper 
(I've used clear and used it on a window, but you can use one that is white and put it low on any wall in your home.)

* Art supplies of different textures. Like foam, felt, feathers, fun fur, cloth, burlap, etc.
(These items can be inexpensive to pick up. The Dollar Store is a good place to start. I also went to the clearance section of Micheal's and got large sheets of textured scrapbook paper and pieces of felt all for under .80 cents a sheet.)

Cut the textured sheets into smaller squares and put them all into a bowl. Tape the contact paper to the window or wall, at a height your child can reach, with the tacky side facing out. Sit down with your child and the bowl and start to place the pieces into your child's hand and onto the "canvas." Discuss the look and feel of each piece as your child holds it. Is it scratchy? Soft? Rough? Pink? Don't forget to mention the sticky feeling of the contact paper. After you place a few pieces up, allow your child to add (or remove) as s/he likes. This is his or her art to create and creative activities with babies are more about the process than the end result.

Remember, you'll have to sit with your child as s/he does this activity as babies are going to try to put things into their mouths. Plus, you want to discuss the experience. We have left our art up on the window and we go back to it a couple of times a week since spring is so wet! You can add new items to the bowl as you come across them.

No Mess Painting
Painting in the traditional sense is obviously not suited for babies. They can't hold paint brushes in their little hands, and finger painting clashes with the inevitability of them putting theirs hands in their mouths. Babies can make little masterpieces, however, if you get creative. By creating a barrier between the paint and the baby, you allow him or her to feel the paint, move it around, experience the colours, and notice the action/reaction - all without any mess.

You'll Need:

* Ziploc™ bag 
(Doesn't need to be name brand, but you'll want a seal you can trust and a bag that can withstand a baby.)

* Paint
(Any brand/colours. I used Crayola Washable Kids Paint.)

* Paper 
(Card stock is preferable, because it's stronger.)

Put a few large globs of paint onto a sheet of card stock and then carefully (so as not to smudge them before baby gets at it) place it into the bag. Limit yourself to 2-3 colours per picture, lest you get a big brown blob-by mess every time. This activity is best done with baby on his or her belly, so they can move freely and easily. You'll have to place the little hands onto the bag at first, but they'll probably catch on pretty quickly as the paint feels really cool beneath fingers. The art is done when baby loses interest. Remember to take it out of the bag to dry.

It bears repeating that these activities are for doing with your baby. The bag creates a barrier between the messy paint and the baby, but you should obviously never leave a child alone with a bag and not to mention possible tears to the bag (read: paint spills!) from sharp little nails and teeth.

Edible Finger Paints

If you want to take it up a notch, and you're not afraid of a little mess, try edible finger paints. Baby gets an even more tactile painting experience, but there still isn't any worry about fingers in mouths. This is for a baby who has already started to eat solids. Hey, you might actually want to encourage baby to lick his or her fingers since they are healthy veggies and it took some effort to make!

You'll Need:

* Colourful food purées 
(Only foods that your baby has already tried. If you want a broader colour palate, wait until baby is older. )

* Rice cereal 
(Any brand. Again - use what your baby already eats.)

* Paper
(Card stock is preferable, because it's stronger.)

Make two or three vegetable or fruit purées (or use your favourite pre-packaged brand) and mix with rice cereal. You'll want a smooth texture with no bumps (like paint). Choose a surface where your child can get messy - this could mean outside, or on easily mopped tile, or as my friend prepared, on an old pair of sheets. Tape the paper down so that baby doesn't send it flying once the paint comes out.  Then, hand baby the "paint" and encourage exploration. My baby didn't need prodding - she immediately dumped both containers out and smushed them around - but other babies may need more encouragement. This is a finished product that you'll want to photograph for posterity, but not post on the fridge because it'll go bad.

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