Being creative is fun, no matter your age. However, it can also be rather messy. Below, I’ve shared two activities that are particularly good for toddlers and preschool age children, with parents that don’t want a big clean up.
(You’re welcome 😉)
IDEA #1: DO A SMUSH PAINTING
Being creative with your little one is not only a fun bonding experience, it’s also a great way to help them develop in multiple areas, both physically and mentally. The downside to creativity being that it can often result in a very untidy home. Think bright acrylic handprints on your wallpaper, and wax crayon in the carpet. Not ideal for the busy mama. Enter smush painting, a relatively mess free activity that allows your child to explore their creativity in a controlled way. Simply put paint onto card and seal in a transparent wallet, and watch your toddler smush.
WHAT YOU’LL NEED, AND HOW TO SET UP:
An assortment of paints – the runny kind. Watercolours won’t work for this activity, but anything that comes in a tube should be fine. You can use child safe paints if preferred, but as the child won’t be coming into contact with the paint itself (providing the activity is set up correctly!) any paints you already have at home should be fine.
White card (A5 works well for this activity). You can use paper, should you wish, but it will lose its integrity a lot faster than card. As card is a little more inflexible, it’s less likely to crumple during the smushing, too, so tiny one can focus on spreading their paint, rather than smoothing their paper.
A sealable plastic wallet/sealable see through sandwich bag. To pop your pre-masterpiece into once the paint has been applied, ready for your little artist to take over.
Sellotape (optional). For the mama’s that really want that extra protection against leaky paint, and the children that find it hard to stay in one place without a very clear reason to do so.
Setting up a smush painting couldn’t be easier. Simply put dollops of paint onto your card – either in a random way, or in a pattern of your choosing – carefully place inside your wallet, and seal. Extra security can be given by taping the wallet to a clean, dry surface ahead of handover. Then, simply seat your toddler in front of the pre-smushed painting, and let them go wild. If you want to keep the creation once smushing has been completed, remove from the wallet immediately, to avoid the card drying onto it. Then wash your wallet, ready for next time. Easy peasy.
Benefits of smush painting include:
- Smushing paints together is creative, and creativity is important for children. And although you could argue that smush painting is a controlled creative activity, creative it still is. Especially if you involve your toddler from the start by allowing them to choose the paint colours they want to work with, before setting up the activity! Being creative allows children the freedom to express themselves, which helps them to cope with their feelings, and vent anything they can’t or won’t express through words. Through this, it helps aid in mental growth, lets them attempt to bring their ideas to life, make discoveries that are new to them, and gives us a little insight into who they are, and what they’re thinking. (As well as helping us learn their favourite colours through those they choose, which makes buying clothes they won’t tantrum about wearing just that bit easier!)
- Messy play helps in several developmental areas. Alongside mental growth, messy play helps to develop fine motor skills, gross motor skills, physical muscles, hand eye coordination, body control & balance and spatial awareness
- Smush painting is a great sensory experience, stimulating both touch and sight. Find out more about sensory play, here
- It’s easier to clean up than traditional painting. Leave the truly messy painting to nursery. And grandparents. They don’t say no to anything
- Smush painting is a great way to teach toddlers about colours and colour mixing. Just talk to them about the colours they’re choosing, and the colours you’re using. They’ll see what happens when colours are mixed when the smushing commences!
- And lastly, for the believers, is the power of colour psychology. Some experts claim that certain colours evoke certain emotions. So, if true, using certain colours in your smush painting adventures could lead to certain responses. Some examples of the associations made with different colours are below, via creativealys.com
Remember, even if all you’re presented with at the end of your child’s smush sesh is a brown mess, a little praise goes a long old way. Seeing their ‘art’ on the fridge might even make them happy enough to eat their vegetables come tea time.
A mum can dream…
IDEA #2: INVEST IN ‘MESS FREE’ ART SUPPLIES
My neighbour introduced me to the idea of mess free art supplies on a playdate, just as my son was approaching the right age to show an interest. I was genuinely amazed by the concept, having previously been afraid of art products, for fear of a redecorated house at the hands of a tiny Picasso. Having done the research, the four that truly stuck out to me are as follows:
- Galt Water Magic. A simple spiral notebook, with a difference. Available in an array of designs, each notebook comes with six chunky ‘picture board’ pages, sturdy enough to avoid immediate destruction from adorably un-coordinated hands. On first view, pages appear to be blank. But put water to the paper, and a colourful scene magically appears. And the best part? The pages return to their original state as they dry, leaving you with an activity that can be pulled out over and over again. The notebooks come with their own water pens, which you simply fill at the tap. Age recommendations start from 3+, presumably because the cap of said pen could be a choking hazard. Replace the pen with a regular baby-friendly paintbrush and pot of water, however, and you’re good to go at a younger age, should you feel comfortable doing so.
- Crayola Color Wonder Pens & Paper. Felt tips are a mum’s worst nightmare. They stain clothes, skin, the sofa… Which is why the idea of felt tips that only release their colour onto a specialised paper is so appealing. Color Wonder is a range of paper and pens designed to work together, letting your little one run away with their imagination, whilst keeping their inner Banksy in check. The best thing about Color Wonder is that the art created can be kept forever, while the surface used to create said art remains completely unscathed. One thing to note, in the interest of full disclosure, is that they do seem to leave faint oily marks on surfaces that aren’t wipe clean – just a warning for those of us raising a child that leans toward wild.
- A magnetic doodle pad. Complete with a pen and shapes for stamping, magnetic doodle pads are just the right size for little hands, and offer the opportunity for repeat play, with zero mess. To use, little ones simply have to draw on the allocated space, and their picture will appear before their eyes, often with a multitude of colours on display. When finished, simply slide the bar along the bottom to erase the image, and start all over again.
And, last but not least…
- Aquadoodle. Much like the Water Magic pad, Aquadoodle works by applying water to a surface, at which point drawings magically appear. This time, it’s a large mat, that your child can sit on whilst creating their artwork. Once dry, pictures disappear, ready for them to start all over again. Hours of fun!
Art is beneficial at all ages, the catch when doing art with tiny people being that they don’t tend to stick to the paper. And while mess free art clearly eliminates the damage this can cause, felt tip free walls aren’t the only reason to partake in the activity. In fact, benefits of the above are very similar to those of more involved activity, smush painting, which you can find at the top of this post.
Happy creating, little ones, mama is going to have a cup of tea.