Mess-Free Sensory Play: Ziplock Finger Painting

As the Pinterest queen that I am ( all hail! ), I am familiar with all sorts of sensory play activities for babies. Although most of them are fantastic ideas (and yes, I’ve pinned them for later), many of them require quite the mess: rainbow-dyed spaghetti, edible play dough, painting with balloons…

Not sure they were invented for my energetic/curious 9 month old 🙂

Instead, I chose this mess-free finger painting activity that I thought would be perfect for Liam. We had a LOT of fun! The activity is short and sweet (Liam didn’t get bored of it, despite his short attention span), and you get to keep the “painting” as a souvenir… your baby’s first masterpiece! *tear*

This is a perfect activity for a baby who is crawling actively and excited about discovering new things. The great thing about it is that it’s appropriate for babies of all ages, as long as they’re able to lift their chests off the ground during tummy time. This activity can be set up on your child’s high chair tray, or at the dining room table for toddlers!

This is what you’ll need:

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I first squirted paint all over the sheet of paper, making sure that all edges were covered. You want to have as many colors as possible to attract your little one’s eye! Make sure the globs of paint are big enough to be smudged easily. The key is sensory play, here – your baby should be able to feel the texture of the paint and have fun blending the colors together!

I then carefully slipped the sheet of paper inside the ziplock and sealed it, making sure to squeeze all of the air out.

I picked a good spot in Liam’s playroom and taped the ziplock down using masking tape. As a precaution, I taped over the ziplock zipper and all other sides to prevent him from yanking it free (he’s a clever one, so better be safe than sorry!)

All I did was position him in tummy time over the ziplock. He immediately reached for the globs of paint and started “painting” using his hands and mouth!

When he was finished (he went back and forth from his toys to the activity a few times), I peeled the masking tape off, used scissors to cut both sides of the ziplock, and peeled the top layer off, careful to not smudge the paint.


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A fun activity for your infant/toddler that is short, sweet, mess-free, and that you can keep as a souvenir in his/her baby book! This was Liam’s finished product/masterpiece… I think he was impressed with himself 🙂 :

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  • Skip the sheet of paper and just pour paint in a gallon-size Ziplock. Tape it to the living room window. Perfect for a baby learning to stand on his own! For extra fun, give your toddler a paint brush and let him/her feel like a little Picasso for the day!
  • Instead of paint, use hair gel or baby oil (with or without food coloring), shaving cream, or even ice cubes. Add sparkles, glitter, or googly eyes to the bags. Experiment with different colors and textures!
  • Feeling particularly brave? Skip the masking tape and let your baby be more hands on with the ziplock bag. Good luck!

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Johanna Riehm teaches in the department of Communication and Media at Manhattanville College and in the department of English at Mercy College. She teaches courses in the history of communication, public speaking, and social media, as well as creative and technical writing workshops. Johanna’s work has been featured in Graffiti Literary Magazine, The Write Place at the Write Time, The Bangalore Review, Cactus Heart Press, and the LaMothe Review. She is working on her first longer work, a creative nonfiction novel called We Carved Our Names in Tamarind Trees.

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