Painting with babies and toddlers (and a recipe!)

There are so many different ways to use paint with infants and toddlers. The first thing you need to make sure is that you’re using a non-toxic paint. It would be even better if it was edible (I’ll provide a recipe at the end of this post) and while I’m pretty sure most children’s paint is non-toxic, I’ll mention it anyway. 

If I’m using store bought paint (which, honestly I usually do to save on time & because my little ones are too little to help me make our own) I prefer to use finger paint. In particular, Lakeshore’s finger paint. I just think it’s good quality, especially for the money ($2.99 a pint).

With my girls, I’ve done a lot of finger painting. It’s an easy activity to do, and I’ve pretty much got the quick clean up down to a science….which needs to happen when you have two mobile babies! Easiest way for us is one at a time sitting in a bumbo chair (with a tray) or high chair. I put an old towel down underneath because A -We do it on carpet and B – One of my girls likes to smack the paint more than smear (can you say messy?). I don’t have many pictures of the girls actually painting that I can put on the blog because I typically have the girls shirtless while painting (again, for easier/faster clean up). At some point, I’ll be getting the girls art shirts (plain t shirts) from the dollar store. 

First finger paintings (7 months old)!
I write their names on the front of the paper, and the dates on the back, just because I think it’s nice to know when they did a particular piece of artwork and you can look back and see how their skills improved over time. I spoon a quarter sized, maybe a little bigger, amount onto the paper. Speaking of paper, I think it’s much easier/better to use cardstock instead of construction paper. The construction paper tends to absorb the paint while the cardstock doesn’t. I think the paint glides better on the cardstock as well. 

Back to the painting process though. I hold the paper on the tray while they paint. As they get older and they’re not so into trying to eat the paint, I’ll have them both painting at the same time and I’ll use painter’s tape to tape it to their trays. I let them paint to their little hearts content, smearing and smacking it until they show me they’re done (painting the chair, trying to wiggle out, etc). Then quick clean up time.

Paint with salt mixed in – a whole new texture!
Don’t forget about their feet! Feet are another important way that babies and toddlers learn about their world. For the girls first painting, they used their feet. I put them in the jumperoo, and put the paper (with paint on it) underneath the jumperoo on top of the pillow (which I covered with saran wrap and had to use because they were too little to touch the floor even at the lowest setting) and let them paint with their feet. I’ve also done this using the exersaucer (without the pillow). 

First feet painting (barely 6 months old)

There’s so many different ways to make each painting experience different for babies and older children. Here’s a good starter list:

  1. Use a different color paint each time
  2. Put two colors down and let them mix them together
  3. Add texture to the paint – salt and rice work well
  4. Use different color paper
  5. Let them use their hands
  6. Give them a paintbrush, a plastic spoon, a wooden spoon, a slotted spoon, a silicon basting brush, etc. Think of all the possibilities here!
  7. Let them use half an apple or half of a potato to stamp in the paint
  8. Let them paint with their feet
  9. Give them a toilet paper roll to paint circles and/or to roll in the paint
  10. Willing to get really messy? Strip them down to their diaper, tape a big sheet of paper onto a easily washable floor, give them bowls of different colors and let them go wild!

Here’s a good recipe for homemade finger paint (I did not create this recipe but I can’t remember the original site where I got it. Please let me know if you created this!)

Ingredients –
  • 1 cup cornstarch
  • 4 tablespoons sugar
  • 4 cups cold water
  • 1/2 cup clear liquid dish soap
  • food coloring
  • plastic containers with lids

Directions  –
  1. In a saucepan, whisk together the cornstarch, sugar, and cold water over medium-low heat. Cook and stir until thickened and slightly bubbly.
  2. Remove from heat and stir in dish soap.
  3. Let cool for 30 minutes.
  4. Divide paint into plastic containers and add food coloring as desired.
  5. Paint! Store in airtight containers when not in use.
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The Power of Playdough (& a recipe)

Happy Monday! I’m going to just get right into it and I apologize to those who don’t like reading long posts…this will be one.
Who doesn’t love mushing a good chunk of playdough with your hands? Playdough can teach children from infants (yes, infants) to preschoolers so much! Here’s just a few examples and how you can help –

    – Have children describe what they’re doing (or for younger children, narrate what they’re doing for them)
    – Model words they might not be familiar with (“are you layering your playdough? I see you’ve put the red on top of the blue” “tell me about the texture of your playdough – what does it feel like?”)
    – Discuss what they’re making, what colors they’re using, what tools they’re using, etc
    – Making letters out of playdough

       – Measuring out ingredients to create homemade playdough
       – Making numbers out of playdough
       – Counting out pieces of play dough
       – Identifying shapes
       – Discuss/identifying sizes of playdough


         – Mixing colors
         – Mixing ingredients to create homemade playdough
         – Make scented playdough
         – Add texture w/ rice, sand, etc
         – Observations during cooking process (if using homemade playdough)

        Not to mention, playdough encourages imagination, improves fine motor skills, and it’s a great sensory experience! I could go on and on about what playdough can do for a child.

        Some of you are probably thinking “playdough with infants? She’s crazy!” But, I can tell you that it is a great sensory experience for them as well. I’m all about doing what you’re comfortable with. If you aren’t comfortable giving an infant a chunk of playdough, don’t do it. I’m just sharing my experience with you. 
        This is one of those things (like the fall sensory bags and the pom poms) where you do not want to leave your child alone or take your eye off them. The way I like to do it is with the baby in a bumbo chair or a high chair. I give them a chunk of playdough and let them do what they want with it. I don’t however, let them put it in their mouth. If the baby uses a pacifier (my girls don’t) it would probably be easiest to let them have it in their mouth during playdough time. Imagine how many connections are being made in their brain during this! They’re using so many senses – touch, sight, hearing (you should be describing what they’re touching and what they’re doing), perhaps smell as well! 
        Manipulating playdough in her hands.

        Figuring out what playdough is all about.
        Here’s the Microwave Play Dough recipe. It’s my go-to recipe since it’s the easiest and in my opinion makes the smoothest play dough. It also lasts a nice long time.

        1 cup water
        1 cup flour
        2 tsp cream of tartar
        1 tbsp oil
        1/2 cup salt
        food coloring (optional)
            1. Mix all ingredients together except water and food coloring in a microwave safe bowl.
            2. Mix water and food coloring together.
            3. Mix water/food coloring mixture with the rest of the ingredients.
            4. Microwave play dough for one minute, then 30 second increments, stirring after each increment (will take around 3 minutes total, give or take – playdough will easily form a ball and look like playdough… hard to explain but you’ll know it when you see it)
            5. Play dough is HOT, put on lightly floured surface and carefully knead till cool
            6. Play! Store in an airtight container or ziplock bag when not in use. 


              Fall sensory bags

              Today, while the girls were taking their first nap, I was brainstorming things we could do. We went to Storyville yesterday, so the library was out of the question, we recently did a painting project, and it was pretty chilly out so the park wasn’t an option either. I decided I wanted to give the girls a chance to explore the falling leaves and the acorns that are strewn about their yard without the risk of them attempting to eat them. 
              I went outside and collected some leaves and acorns and put them into two sandwich size plastic bags (one for each baby). I ended up trimming off some of the plastic from the top (above the seal) and putting them in another plastic bag upside down so that even if the outside bag was opened it still wouldn’t spill out. We only had brown and a few yellow leaves, it would have been really nice if there were other colors to fill the bag with. 

              Fall sensory bag with leaves and acorns inside.
              Regardless of the lack of color, the girls enjoyed these bags. They spent a good five minutes or so shaking them all around and at each other, smiling and giggling the entire time. After shaking them, they got settled down and began to touch the bag with their fingers and hands. They really enjoyed squeezing the bags and making them crinkle. 
              Exploring the bag with her hands.
              After a few minutes of them manipulating the bags with their hands, Madeline in particular wanted to see what the bag tasted like. She especially enjoyed chewing on the seal of the bag. Luckily I had double bagged them, so there wasn’t a huge concern about her ingesting the leaves or acorns. In the end, they used their sense of taste, touch, sight, and hearing with this activity. 5 out of 6 senses used in a baby safe activity? I’ll take it! This goes without saying that since these are plastic bags, this is another activity where you shouldn’t leave your child alone while they’re playing with them. They should be closely monitored and the sensory bags should be thrown away if they get a hole or rip in them.
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              Visiting the Library

              Sometimes it’s difficult to find places to go for children under the age of two and it’s especially difficult to find places to go for children under the age of one. Typically, there aren’t many places where children that young can be “free to roam” so to speak. 
              One place where I love to take the girls is our local library. My girls love books and we read one before each nap every day as well as reading throughout the day. After a while, reading the same book over and over gets boring (to me anyway, they don’t mind!). So we like to head to the library once a week or once every other week to pick up new books. 
              Not just that, but one of our closer libraries has a room just for children. I’m pretty sure it’s geared mainly towards children 1 1/2 and up based on the toys they have, but there’s room for the girls to play on the floor and a few toys that they can play with, even if they aren’t using them the way they’re supposed to be. Plus there’s more books than I would want to count to read to them and to borrow. The girls also love older kids, and usually a few come in during our time there. 
              We’re lucky enough that we have quite a few libraries pretty close to us and we’ll be working our way through visiting them all as the year progresses. One of mine (and the girls’) favorite places to go is another library in our area that has something called “Storyville” in it. It’s a little bit of a longer drive (20 minutes or more depending on traffic) but well worth it. Storyville is basically an indoor town for children. It has a house, post office, grocery store, puppet theater, construction zone, etc in it. All child friendly and ready to be explored. Only children under age 5 are allowed. 
              The Baby Garden inside Storyville
              Photo credit: R. Schaefer, from
              Right now, we stay in the Baby Garden. It’s a fenced in area specifically designed for infants and toddlers who aren’t walking. They have tons of board books, infant friendly toys (which are sanitized as needed and throughout the day at regular intervals), boppy pillows, bumbos, and even giant flowers which the children can use to practice standing. Mirrors are on both the walls and on the floor. Storyville as a whole is a wonderful place and we will definitely continue to visit on a regular basis. I can see it becoming a great place to go when the girls are older and there is bad weather outside. 
              Our libraries offer story times for different age groups as well, but we haven’t made it to one yet since baby story time is right before morning nap. The girls can usually do fine with a shorter afternoon nap, but need a decent morning nap to avoid the grumps for the rest of the day. As they get closer to a year old I’m sure they’ll be transitioning to one nap that will start later in the day so I’m looking forward to eventually making it to story time!
              Be sure to check out the library in your area to see what they have to offer your young child or children!
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              Tendinitis and Pom Poms!

              After a day full of pain (and periodic pain over the past month) I headed to the doctors after work.  Long story short, after an exam and some x-rays, I was diagnosed with severe tendinitis in my elbow. Fun right? The gave me a prescription (pain/anti-inflammatory) and sent me on my way with instructions to ice it throughout the day and rest it. Ha! Rest it with twin babies? Funny! So tomorrow, my goal will be to carry the girls on my right. I’m right handed so I typically carry them on my left side so that I can use my right hand. Not anymore I guess. Hopefully that (plus the ice and meds) will help soon. Anyway, onto the fun stuff!
              Today, we played with pom poms! First, I put multicolored pom poms into a recycled plastic pretzel jar. I put it on the floor (with the lid on) and let the girls roll it around and look at it. Then one at a time, I put the girls on my lap and held the container so that they could reach into it. I also sat both girls on the floor (again, one at a time) and dumped pom poms on their feet. After each girl had a turn I had them go play with other things for a bit, just so they didn’t get “pom pom-ed out.” 
              Exploring pom poms in the jar.

              Exploring pom poms with her feet.

              Then, the real fun began! I sat the girls on the floor, facing each other with their feet almost touching their sister’s feet. I put a handful of pom poms in front of each and let them explore them. This was a great sensory experience! This kept the girls entertained for at least 30-45 minutes. It was insane how into it they were. I made sure they were fed not long before, but there were still some attempts to taste the pom poms (as expected). I just stopped them before it got into their mouths. They were pretty good about it. Just a few tries and they stopped. 

              Such a fun activity!
              I was able to see just how much Emily understood “more.” I started with just one handful of pom poms for each baby and after a few minutes of playing with those, she looked up at me, signed “more,” and waited for me. Once I put more in front of her, she got SO excited, played with them and then a few minutes later, would sign “more” once again. This continued until the pom pom jar was empty! This reminded me of just how much a baby understands and how much they want to communicate with you!

              **Cautionary note**

              Please, if you choose to do this activity don’t take your eyes off your child. These are choking hazards after all. I’m the first to admit it! However, with complete and focused attention this can be a very fun and enjoyable experience for your child and you!

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              Art vs Crafts

              Let’s chat about art with young children and infants. To me, there is a difference between art and a craft. Art is more “free”, more open ended. While with crafts there’s a set outcome. For example. Art would be a child in front of an easel with multiple colors of paint, just painting their little heart out, painting anything they’d like. A craft would be giving a child green construction paper cut into stems and leaves and yellow construction paper cut into petals and asking them to create a flower.

              Ideally, most if not everything would be art, not a craft. Giving children the chance to create what they want without limitations is ideal. However, with that said, I’m well aware that sometimes this can’t happen. Sometimes you need a footprint turned into a ghost, or hand prints in the shape of a Christmas tree, or other things to give to moms and dads or as gifts to other relatives.

              There’s a saying that definitely applies to art with children – It’s about the process, not the end result. This couldn’t be more true. With kids, it’s much more about the act of getting there. Through art a child can learn SO much – color, texture, shape, I could go on and on.

              Here’s some open ended art I did with my old class of kids.

              With this project (7  two-year-olds), I started with placing bowls of different colored paint on the table along with paint brushes. After some time, I allowed the children to use their hands to paint the roll of paper I had taped to each table. (Thank goodness for art shirts from the dollar store!)

              Here (7 two-year-olds), I gave each child their own watercolor palate  and a cup filled with a very small amount of water. I demonstrated how to use watercolor paint (this was their first time) and then let them do what they wanted with it. 
              With this project (4 three year olds, 1 two and a half year old, and 3 two year olds), we were not only working on art, but also practicing communication skills and sharing. I purposely put one bowl of each color on the table and instructed the children that they needed to ask their friends to pass them the color when they were done using it. The older children grasped this concept very easily and I was there to help the younger ones.

              Stay tuned for more!

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              DIY – Shakers

              Here’s a little DIY project I did when the girls were around 5 months old. They still play with them today! All you need are plastic baby food containers, a hot glue gun with glue, and various “noise-makers” (I used salt, spiral pasta, and rice).

              The instructions are simple too.
              1. Fill the plastic baby food container about 1/4 to 1/2 full with whatever noise-maker you’re using.
              2. Put a ribbon of hot glue around the top edge of the container.
              3. Put the lid on and hold down for about a minute until there’s a tight seal.
              4. Remove any glue strands or glue that bubbled out.
              5. Regularly check to make sure the lid isn’t coming loose, there’s no cracks in the container, etc

              Madeline examining the new shakers.

              Both girls playing with their new toys.

              When they were this age (5 months), they weren’t capable of shaking them just yet, so they mainly looked at them, manipulated them in their hands, and rolled with them. Now, they pick them up and shake them and listen to the different noises they make. These are easily one of their top 5 favorite toys.

              In the future, I may dye the pasta and possibly the rice just to add a little extra something for them to look at.

              More DIY toys to come!


              Who am I? What’s happening?

              I guess I should introduce myself all over again. Originally I had another blog, but after some extreme frustrations with HTML, I had to start a new one in order to save me from throwing my computer out the window! Right now, I’m a nanny and LOVING it. I’m a nanny to twin girls. They were a little over 3 months old when I started. Previously, I was a nanny for another family for a little under two years (3 kids under 5, the oldest having autism). I then went into daycare for five years where I had 6 week old infants up to five-year-old kiddos. I have an associates degree in Early Childhood Education, as well as various other child-related certifications. Anyway, enough about me. Lets get into the good stuff!

              My girls are now just shy of 10 months old! I can’t believe how much time has flown. They’ve been crawling for quite some time now, and are both cruising along everything and anything. M (as she will be known on this blog) is even standing on her own for longer and longer periods of time. I originally predicted she’d walk around 12 months, but now I’m thinking it will be in the next month. E (as she will be known) is doing so well with eating any and everything. M is very picky and has a terrible gag reflex. Everything has to be cut extremely small (we’re talking practically invisible pieces) or she will throw up. It’s really… pleasant (can you hear the sarcasm in that?) E loves eggs, chicken, and sweet potatoes, but really will eat anything (…once I mixed prune juice with peas and she LOVED it).

              I’ve been working on teaching the girls sign language, because in my experience it drastically reduces tantrums. E has easily picked up “more” and loves to sign it each time she eats. Next, we’ll be working on the signs for “eat” and “drink”. I always say the word as I’m doing the sign so they understand that there is a word and eventually, they will transition to saying the word instead of or on top of using the sign language for it. HERE is a good resource for basic, early sign language to teach young children.

              I’m planning on making this blog not only a “what’s happening with my life and job” sort of thing, but also a resource for people working with children. I’ll be sharing things that I do with the girls along with things I’ve done with other children in the past.

              That’s enough jabber for now, and I’m looking forward to getting back into blogging!