Babies are truly amazing with how quickly they seem to learn new things. Almost every day I seem to notice new things that Lewis is doing or understanding that he wasn’t just a few days or weeks before.
A while ago I had tried drawing with him, to see if he would “get” it. He liked playing with the crayons and markers and flipping the pages of the sketch book, but he didn’t seem to notice my drawing or make the connection that I was using the markers to make pictures on the paper.
A few nights ago I picked up a dry-erase marker and started doodling on a plastic lid. He seemed curious about what I was doing and tried to touch the markings, so I showed him how we could wipe it off with our fingers. A little while later he picked up the capped marker and moved it back and forth across the floor, clearly trying to copy what he had seen Mommy doing. The next day I got out my crayons and a notebook and started doodling again. He explored the crayons and of course tried to eat them, but he also tried several times to ‘write’ on the paper. Of course I had to save his first drawing with his tiny faint scribble marks on it!
Obviously that is not the messy art referred to in the post title, but that is where things started. I have been meaning for a while now to try painting with him, and seeing him begin to understand how to draw inspired me to finally whip up some baby-safe paint.
While he was napping yesterday I mixed together 1 T flour, 1 T cornstarch, 2 T water, and some food coloring. There are plenty of baby-paint recipes on the web, but I chose to just make it up from what I thought would work. I made two bowls, yellow and pink, and one was a bit thicker than the other but I figured there is no need to be perfect when making something to be dumped all over the floor and smeared all over hands/face/legs/etc.
After his nap we went for a quick walk to take out the garbage and pay rent. We’ve been having a lot of rain and hot humid weather that has kept us from walking, and since it seemed nice out for once I decided to walk a bit more before coming home. Then I happened to notice some ripe black raspberries on the bushes along the side of our apartment buildings, so I picked what I saw and shared some with Lewis. We had just had raspberries for dinner the day before and he loves berries in general, so I expected him to dig right in and try eating them. I knew they’d be a bit messy but I figured it wouldn’t be too bad.
Boy was I wrong on both counts!
He started off with a look of “what the heck is this stuff?” and began mushing up the berries in his hands. I showed him how I ate one of them and said “Mmm! These are yummy raspberries!” By the time he finally decided to try eating them his hands were so coated in mushed berries that he dyed his whole face purple too. He was a mess and I knew he would only get messier, so instead of continuing on our walk I turned around and headed back home to finish our messy snack and get cleaned up. He decided it would be fun to paint his legs with the berries too. (This kid paints everything onto his legs. Dinner, sensory materials, etc. It all gets put onto his feet/legs.)
He hates getting cleaned up and since I was already planning to paint with him I just wiped most of the berry mess off, stripped him down to a diaper, and started getting ready for painting. He was very curious about my bowls of paints and everything else. Once I sat him down in the kitchen for the activity he lost no time in dumping out the paint and smearing his hands in it. He loved “painting”!
He took only one tiny taste of the paint at the beginning and didn’t try eating it again. Either we are starting to grow out of putting everything into our mouths, or the paint just tasted really gross!
I originally thought about giving him sponge brushes, but then realized he would probably take bites out of them with his new teeth. Instead I gave him a silicone pastry brush and small spatula as his “brushes.” He tried wiping these back and forth in the paint copying me, and also used his hands a lot. Eventually he also took over my spoons from mixing up the paint.
I had thought i might be able to save the picture and let it dry, but after he had played for a while he noticed the tape around the edge of the paper and decided to try peeling it up. The paper was so wet from the paint that when he pulled on the tape the whole paper started to tear, so then of course he had to continue ripping it up. Oh well – I guess that is just part of the fun!
My paint mixture was actually very easy to clean up with just a wet cloth, which was a blessing since he has been refusing baths recently. I tried to put him in the bath to was this off and he just stood there crying and refusing to sit, so I wiped him down as quickly as I could.
The baby gate was also a genius idea as far as clean-up. It kept him in the kitchen and off the carpets while we painted, and once he was clean I was able to put him on the other side while I got the kitchen back under control. He surprised me by sitting and happily reading his books for most of the time it took me to mop up the floor, although by the time I was done he was ready to be back in the same space with me.
I had a lot of fun with this and since the weather is continuing to trap us inside for most of our days I will definitely be trying more fun messy art and sensory activities. If you are looking for more ideas for baby play, check out my recent post on Safe Sensory Play For Babies.