Infant Painting – My Almost Pinterest Fail

I’ve seen cute photos on Pinterest of babies doing fun paint projects.  My favorite shows an adorable baby smiling as it sits on top of a canvas dotted with brightly colored paints.  As a new mom, I wanted to spend some time bonding with Bugaboo, and so I embarked on this little painting project myself without reading any instructions.  How hard can it be?  Well, we had a lot of fun, but I made some mistakes.  We tried again and again until we got it just right, so I can give you the best tips!  Here are some steps to make a beautiful painting with your baby.

Cost: $5

Time: 15 minutes

  • 4 minutes set-up
  • 4 minutes painting
  • 7 minutes clean-up

Step 1 – Purchase Supplies

You will need:

  • A canvas – make sure the canvas you select is not too large (my first mistake)!  You are going to cover the canvass with cling wrap, so use that as a guide for the size.  Think more about doing an 8 x 10 size picture than the monstrous 24 x 36 inch canvas I chose the first time.  Do not use paper – it will get too soggy.  My first canvas was $1.99 at Godwill, the second two canvases came in a two-pack for $2.99.
  • Some paint – I purchased four colors of acrylic paint for 50 cents each from Walmart.  They are the Apple Barrel brand, and listed as “Matte Acrylic Paint, Quick Drying, Easy Cleanup
  • Scotch tape or painter’s tape
  • Plastic wrap

Step 2 – Setup

If you are a stay at home mom like me, do the setup while the baby sleeps like I did.  Or place your baby in her high chair with a snack while you prepare the project.  Once her snack is done, it’s craft time!

  • Squeeze pea sized drops of paint onto your canvas.  I noticed that my acrylic paints did not ball up the way that my favorite example showed.  In the end, this worked out as well or better – the plastic wrap will squash down some of the paint blobs anyways.  Don’t put the paint too close to the edge, in case the plastic wrap doesn’t hold.
  • Carefully cover the canvas with plastic wrap.  Tape the edges to your baby’s high chair tray.  If you are working with plastic wrap on the floor, tape it to the floor.  This will keep gaps in your baby’s artwork, but will allow the paint to ooze over the edges to finish the work off.

Step 3 – Have Fun!

When you are all set up, place the canvas in front of your baby or bring her down to where her project has been set up.  Now let her at it!  

Four Attempts

First Try – Plastic Wrap on Tarp

Bugaboo had fun patting the plastic wrap.  In our first try, as our painting project went on, she started wanting to roll around on the tarp.  Paint was starting to ooze out from the plastic wrap because I hadn’t sealed it very well.  I started to help her out.  On our first finished painting, the smears are all Bugaboo’s, while I was smoothing paint out to get the entire canvass covered.

I would suggest you let your baby play around as long as you are comfortable – looking back I wish I hadn’t been so afraid of the mess and had let Bugaboo explore a little longer.  She was really starting to get the hang of it!  Then again, when I reached in to help her out, that was when she really took notice and started having fun.

Second Try – Paper in a Bag

With our second try, we put paper in a freezer bag and taped it to her high chair tray.  Bugaboo patted away, but the paper was too wrinkly.  The bag shifted a lot, and she kept trying to throw it off her high chair.  Thankfully, because the freezer bag was sealed, there was no mess.  However, I couldn’t get the paper back out of the bag!  It was sopping wet with paint and ripped.

Third Time’s Not a Charm – But It’s a Lot Better

From my second attempt, I learned that we had to use a canvas, not paper.  So I purchased an 8 x 10 canvas and carefully slid it into the freezer bag.  Again, this was a no-mess way for Bugaboo to pat the paints.  (She was grumpy and didn’t play with the bag very long).  The problem was getting the canvas back out.  As I slid it back out of the bag, everything ran together.  The painting was still nice enough, but it lost the nice splotches of paint that Bugaboo had put onto it.

Fourth Attempt – I Think I’ve Got It

Here’s a quick review of what we’ve learned:

  • If the canvas is too big, you cannot get the plastic wrap on it.
  • If the baby is working with the paint on the floor, there’s the chance she may wander away – and drag paint all over your house
  • If you use paper, it will get soppy wet
  • If you try to fit a canvas into a freezer bag it will smear.  One thing I did not try was to cut it out of the freezer bag.  I figured my hands and scissors would get messy that way.

So for my fourth attempt, I went back to the plastic wrap.  I used a smaller canvas that was easy to cover, and I placed it on Bugaboo’s high chair tray.  We both had fun, and I didn’t worry about the mess.  The only thing I would have done differently is to tape the sides of the plastic wrap to Bugaboo’s tray.  That way I wouldn’t worry about the plastic wrap coming up or the painting falling on the floor.  However, if it had, the paint is easy enough to clean up.

Step 4 – Clean Up

You may want to do this project when you have another adult to help you.  Although my acrylic paints were labeled as “easy cleanup” I still worried about paint getting dragged over the house.  After our first attempt, I picked up Bugaboo but noticed that she had paint all over her legs – where did that come from?  I folded my tarp in on itself and found paint on the kitchen floor!  Fortunately, the paint really was easy to cleanup – just a quick wet rag.  For Bugaboo, squirmy as she is, the only solution was a bath (first time taking a bath with just mom).

I was lulled into an unrealistic expectation, though, of just how easy that paint was to clean up.  I got some on my sweatpants and threw them in the laundry without wiping it off or rinsing.  So now I have a paint stain!  Word to the wise: rinse all paint stains off your clothes!  Also, make sure your baby is only wearing a diaper.

It’s best to do this project with your baby in a high chair.  That way you can clean up any paint in the area first and then wipe off your baby’s hands (and face and legs) while she is still contained.

Step 5 – Repeat!

As you can see, I had so much fun we did this four times!  I plan to use the two small canvases we made as Christmas gifts for Bugaboo’s grandmothers.

There’s a lot more you can do with your baby her first year.  I’m now on the lookout for fun activities we can do together because I’m not afraid of the mess.  I think our next project will be finger painting, and then maybe some sort of play dough.  These are the good old days, after all, and we can have a lot of fun together!

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