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Open-Ended Art Activities for Infants

by Aline Lindemann, studioD

Infants use their senses to explore the world around them. Their glances and gropes might seem random, but their grabs, lunges and attempts to speak are reflective of brain development taking place. Engage your infant's senses of vision and touch with open-ended art activities. Let your goal be to enjoy the process of making art versus the creation of a masterful project.


One of the easiest introductions to making art with your infant is with drawing. Holding an object and making marks on a surface requires a lot of hand-eye coordination for little ones, and it's best to start with something simple that doesn't require long periods of time or focus. Tape a large sheet of butcher paper or newsprint wrapping paper to a table top and give your child a thick crayon. Older children might prefer an array of colors, but remember this is kind of activity is new for your infant and it's best to limit options. Guide her to make marks on the paper. If she'll allow you to move her arm and hands for her, encourage her to move her entire arm to make large marks to develop gross motor skills, and eventually help her to make smaller marks on the paper to develop fine motor movement. Keep in mind that those so-called scribbles, though they don't resemble anything familiar, are art and are indicative of brain activity.

Fun with Paint

Pour tempera paint into shallow dishes or the compartments of an egg carton and show your little one how to dip a thick-handled brush or sponge into the paint and then dab it on to watercolor paper that you've taped to a tabletop or countertop. Or let her paint three-dimensional objects such as driftwood or large stones. There's a good chance that she'll ditch the brush and use her fingers instead -- let her enjoy making fingerprints and hand prints on paper or a sheet of plexiglass that can be rinsed and reused.

Feet First

Brush sidewalk paint on the bottom of your child's feet and let her walk around on the driveway. Show her the foot prints she made. Pour a small puddle of sidewalk paint on the ground and guide her to walk in it, dance in it, stomp in it. The art she makes will be washed away with the next rainstorm or a garden hose, but you can take photos of her creations to print and frame. For more controlled footprint fun, paint the bottom of your child's feet and press them, one at a time, on a sheet of paper that you've taped to the floor. Frame the print and hang it in her bedroom or in a hallway. This can be the start of a yearly tradition -- after a few years, you'll have a collection of prints that you can hang and compare.

Contact Paper Sun Catchers

Attach 1- to 2-inch-wide strips of construction paper to the edges of a piece of clear contact paper. Lay the contact paper, sticky side up, on a table or work surface and guide your child to press pre-cut squares of tissue paper, Easter grass, feathers, bits of fabric and yarn scraps to it. You'll need to hold the edges of the contact paper by the frame to prevent it from shifting. Hang your child's creation and talk with her about how the light shines through it to illuminate the objects and cast shadows.

About the Author

Aline Lindemann is a health, food and travel writer. She has also worked as a social worker, preschool teacher and art educator. Lindemann holds a Master of Liberal Studies in culture, health and creative nonfiction writing from Arizona State University.

Photo Credits

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