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Mess-free Art for Kids, Improved!

Lily finger paints through a gallon ziploc freezer bag

This activity is a super-simple way to let your child finger paint without dealing with the mess! Take a plastic ziploc bag (freezer works best, since the plastic is stronger), and add paint or a similar colored substance. We have used paint, shampoo, hair gel – you name it, and we have probably tried it. I think hair gel from the dollar store is our favorite texture! You can add food coloring or paint to the non-paint substances. I prefer to use washable paint, since the plastic bag can break, and it’s hard to get food coloring out of clothes – and even off of hands!

Mess-Free Art for Kids

I’ve blogged about this activity before (here and here), but this time I made two improvements: I put a sheet of white paper underneath to allow for greater contrast, and I taped the edges down with masking tape. Painter’s tape would work just as well, and you could even use scotch tape, although that might be a bit more challenging to remove from the table.

Johnny and Lily fingerpaint without making a mess

Having the bag stabilized made it easier to control the paint, so that two children could play together, or one child could explore in greater depth:

Lily explores textures and watches the paint react

We left this out on our little table for several days, and every child who came over (and there were many) was intrigued. Several of the parents were, too!

Happy Lily!

Lily may have been the most excited of all!

Have you tried this activity? Do you have an art activity you think my kids would enjoy?

MaryAnne lives in Silicon Valley with her Stanford professor husband Mike and their four children. She writes about parenting through education, creativity, and play. Mama Smiles - Joyful Parenting is a space to share crafts, hands on learning activities, and family outings that enrich lives and bring families together.

28 thoughts on “Mess-free Art for Kids, Improved!”

  1. Sometimes these easy activities are best. We did it, but Anna was already older than Johnny, and she had only a mild interest in it (we did a version with 2 color paints that were gradually blending in the bag). Once they blended, she was done. I was hoping for some writing attempts :)

  2. This is a great idea. I have never tried this though I have seen it done. I suggested something like this once but was told by Selena, “Finger paints are suppose to be on my hands.” We didn’t push the issue after that. Especially since we worked so hard to get her to understand that it is OK to get our hands dirty.

  3. I’m going to have to get this out again, I think I have a three year old bag of paint in our art drawer! Penelope has been cutting everything right now, so I’m curious to see whether she will manage to put a hole in it… I’ve caught her trying to cut up her sisters stuffed animals, the couch, her hair… There is constant paper snow all over our living room. She is so different than Rebecca was! Oy.

    1. None of my kids have been that scissor happy, luckily! Although Lily cut holes in at least two of Johnny’s shirts, and a pair of shorts before I realized she was that competent with scissors!

  4. Came across this on pinterest and had to take a closer look. I’ve seen paint-in-a-bag activities before, but I really love the idea of taping it down and leaving it where the littles can come back to it several times over the course of a few days. Re-pinning, if you don’t mind, and doing this when my little guy wakes up from his nap! :)

  5. I think I just had a “momgasm” reading this article. You have quite simply just savedmy sanity! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

  6. Wow! I really want to try this with my almost 2 year old. I think I will tape it down to his high chair tray…theres a second tray that snaps over the main one. It would probably keep him busy when I’m putting the finishing touches on dinner xD!

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