Painting with babies sounds like a messy disaster, but it doesn’t have to be!
Once the cold started creeping in, I began scouring the internet for new (indoor) activities to keep the kids entertained. There are lots of good ideas out there for painting with babies, and I find that a combination of techniques works best for us. This method checks the following boxes:
- No (or minimal) mess — at least not on the babies
- Keeps TWO babies entertained for at least ten minutes
- Bonus: paintings make great gifts!
Here’s how we do . . .
You’ll need small canvases: small enough to fit in a freezer bag. I used 8×10 inch and 5×7. The 5×7 are much easier to work with of the two. You’ll also need freezer bags, acrylic paints, masking tape, and a highchair.
First, let me tell you the most important part: get everything prepared before involving the babies. This is especially important if you are dealing with more than one baby at a time!
This is optional! Use masking tape to cover an area where you don’t want paint. I tried several different masking materials and techniques, but found that plain old masking tape works best. Choose simple shapes or letters and use a coin, card, or your fingernail to make sure the tape is stuck on really well.
You can start on the blank canvas, and the shapes will be white at the end:
Or, you can let the kids paint a little first, then mask areas after the paint has dried for a different result (you’ll add another paint layer later):
Drip some paint onto the canvas. Small amounts work best! If you plan on adding a few layers of paint, I recommend starting with light colors first, then adding darker colors later. You also have a *little* bit of control where the paint will end up. You can see below that I kept the paint mostly to the top of the canvas, because I’ll add darker colors at the bottom later.
Carefully slide the canvas into a freezer bag and zip it shut. Again, the 5×7 canvases are easier . . . and this is a big reason why!
Use your masking tape to secure the bagged canvas onto a highchair tray. This is optional, but I find it necessary. With two babies to contend with, and one with sharp little teeth, taping the canvas down allows for some peace of mind. This step ensures that paint won’t get into baby’s mouth.
Finally — bring in the babies! Strap the kiddos into their highchairs and let them “paint” away. Arlo is a natural, but Everly needs a bit of encouragement. If your little one needs some encouragement, too, you can give him or her a toy to bang with. Or stick a piece of masking tape to the top of the bag, over the canvas. In the process of trying to pick up the tape, some painting will take place as well. Everly did eventually catch on!
Of course, painting with babies is an activity that requires constant supervision. Babies are clever. And curious. And crazy.
When the kids lose interest in painting, remove the bagged canvas from the highchair. Carefully remove the paintings from the freezer bags. If you’re nervous about sliding the canvas out, you can cut the bag open instead. Once the paint is completely dry, you can remove the masking tape, or start over from Step Two and add another paint layer.
For this painting, we did a layer of oranges, yellows, and greens over the whole canvas. Once that dried, I masked off “LOVE,” and the babies painted a second layer of dark blues:
This one was masked right away, and was also painted in two parts: light colors first, then dark colors:
For this last one, we got a bit more ambitious. I masked off tiny sailboats and birds. You can see that the smaller shapes don’t turn out as well. The babies painted the sunset sky first. Then, I masked the sky and let them paint the lake.
And there you have it, little masterpieces! Using canvas and acrylic paints makes these works of art permanent and immediately ready to hang on your wall, or give as a gift.