A Sensory Paint Bin for Babies…Keeping the Mess Contained, One Baby at a Time!

“One of the advantages of being disorderly is that one is constantly making discoveries.”  ~A.A. Milne

My regular readers will already know that I run an equal opportunity household when it comes to play. Just because you’re little, doesn’t mean you are no entitled to exploration opportunities. I don’t believe “being a baby” is a spectator sport. But I do understand that there are certain limitations that come with infancy, and that is one of safety. There simply are SOME things that babies can’t play at.

But art should never be one of them.

Of this I’m certain.

I get it…art with babies is a messy undertaking. They spread their “masterpiece” everywhere. They put the materials in their mouths, they shake and smash things, and they spill.

Here is an activity that helps contain all that a baby will do, but still allows them the freedom to explore the art of painting with a brush.

I have seen so many cool “bathtub” art activities for toddlers and babies and I’ve been inspired by them. My friend over a Growing a Jeweled Rose is especially good at creating bath time art. What a cool way to REALLY contain the mess! It all just washes down the drain! The bathtub is an excellent tool for parents to use for teaching art to their own children.  I am running an approved dayhome business, and the use of the tub with other people’s children is not appropriate, so I had to come up with something else.

So I used a plastic tub, a splash mat, and a smock. We have sensory bins for everything else under the sun, why not for paint, too?

First, we need a baby-safe paint. I’m not a fan of pudding paint, simply because I’m cheap, and think it’s a waste of perfectly good milk! I prefer to make my own out of a few inexpensive ingredients from my pantry…I use silicon baking cups for baby finger painting for a couple of reasons. One, I can pour the paint into them while the paint is still hot. Secondly, babies can’t break them or crush them to oblivion if they decide to pick them up.Once the paint is coloured and mixed, it should have the consistency of runny pudding. It should not pour out like milk…When I first presented this activity to Baby J, I gave him the paint in a plastic veggie tray…I soon realized that it was hindering his exploration more than it was helping, so I removed it and he got right down to work…

He experimented with the brushes, turning them upside down and stirring the cups of paint,  getting gobs of paint on his brush and shaking it off…

But because the paint was inside the plastic tub, the paint was not being shaken all over my kitchen floor!

Every once in a while, baby J would abandon the paintbrushes and use his wee hands to explore…

Baby J picked up the cups, dumped them out, swirled the paint around with the brushes and or his fingers. All the while, not being hindered by a grown-up trying to contain the mess. It was already contained inside the tub.Did he put the brushes in his mouth? You bet he did…But because I left the soap out of the recipe (most finger paint recipes add dish soap for easy clean-up), he was perfectly safe, and perfectly happy.Remember, babies will not always keep their hands inside the bin. They don’t understand this rule. So there shouldn’t even be one. I use a splash mat under the babies so they can paint “outside the lines.” It’s also a good idea to have them in a diaper only so they aren’t painting on their trousers. 

When baby is done painting, all the mess is inside one bin…easily rinsed in the sink or bathtub. Easily.

And because Mamas like to know what their babies have been up to during the day AND have keepsakes for journals or scrapbooks, I try to produce “evidence” of our activities when possible. It’s very simple to make a print of baby’s masterpiece…Thanks for stopping by!

~Arlee, Small Potatoes


15 thoughts on “A Sensory Paint Bin for Babies…Keeping the Mess Contained, One Baby at a Time!

  1. This is a wonderful post (as are all of your posts)….great for getting those timid folks comfortable with the idea of painting with babies. I have lots and lots of messy, child-safe art ideas to share on my site, but since I offer them at a designated art space, we are less concerned with “containment”. One suggestion I would add to your idea would be to use a solid white or light drop cloth (or even a piece of paper) under the bin so as not to distract from the visual impact of the splattered paint itself. It is a tactile as well as a visual experience (and oral as well; looks yummy! ) 🙂

  2. I was an infant teacher for nine years before my lil peanut was born this May….. I LOVE THIS! Parents (and other teachers and directors too!) were often baffled at how I could do messy sensory or art activities with 8 babies (I had an assistant!) every day… But when you see how it gets their little wheels turning in their heads and their face full of joy… How can you NOT do activities like this?! 🙂 ❤

  3. Very cool idea! We went to a Mommy&Me art night last week hosted by our school PTA. My 5 year old and 3 year old loved the painting activities. They were all very messy projects so I held my 1 year old the whole time….and he was fighting to get out of my arms to join them!! (for fear of eating real paint along with a clothing diaster) This seems like a safer method to let my little guy explore!! Thanks for sharing.

  4. Pingback: Soapy, Gritty, Slimy, Smelly! …Mixing Different Paints to EXPAND the Senses! | Small Potatoes

  5. I’ve just started to paint with my youngest who just turned one, but I always find painting with little ones a bit short lived, so I love the idea of a sensory bin, we’ve always painted from the high chair, but its a bit limiting. Also loving the recipe, don’t think I’ve one across this one before. Thanks

  6. Pingback: 30 Sensory Bin Activities for Kids…A Small Potatoes Sensory Round-Up! | Small Potatoes

  7. Pingback: Super Fun Finger Painting Ideas + A Cleanup Trick - B-Inspired Mama

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