Painting with a 9 Month Old

For a while now, I’ve been trying to attempt art activities with Squirm. I’ve gazed enviously at babies who create spattered masterpieces, who stick things onto sticky surfaces, who wield art equipment with ease. Alas, until now our art activities have been failures.

You see, Squirm is very interested in art equipment – as long as he can eat it. Everything – paint, crayons, pencils, paper – goes in his mouth. And because he’s got a little collection of teeth, we end up with crayon tips being bitten off, paper torn to shreds and not a piece of art to show for it.

Until yesterday . . . . Inspired by reading An Everyday Story (which is a seriously beautiful blog worth checking out), I rethought my ideas about ‘doing art’ with Squirm. The finished product wasn’t important, it was the doing that I should focus on. So, for that to be successful, I needed to change two thing – 1) Stop worrying about mess and 2) Remove the paper

Painting with a 9 Month Old: Adventures of a Subversive Reader

Stop Worrying About Mess

This was probably the biggest challenge for me. Although I’m not a neat person (I have a lot of clutter) I really like the idea of things being neat and clean. And as a messy person, I’ve constantly heard the message that ‘clean is best’. Great when talking about a kitchen before you go to bed, not so good for play.

The first thing I needed to prepare was Squirm himself. I knew the paint I would use was washable, but I still didn’t want his good clothes getting messy. So I popped him into a onesie that I’m not fussed on, and he was ready to go. I also dressed myself in old clothes. I took us outside onto the concrete in the back yard to paint, which meant that cleaning would be easy (there’s a tap and sink right nearby) and had the added benefit of a nice mix of sun and shade to play in. I also made sure the paint was non toxic, which meant that the inevitable tasting wouldn’t be dangerous. (As it turned out, Squirm tasted it once, and that was it)

Remove the Paper

Squirm loves paper. Only, he loves to rip it and to eat it. Whenever we used paper for art, there was little chance of anything else getting a look in while he was busy with the paper. So I took the paper away. Instead we used two other items – bubble wrap and a white plastic platter. The bubble wrap was a bit of a bust – I think it scared him a bit, but the platter was magnificent. I put some different coloured paints on it, and let him go (with a little demonstrating). He loved moving it around the platter, and mixed it all together.

Painting with a 9 Month Old: Adventures of a Subversive Reader

Recording the Fun

Although I took a few pictures, I mostly kept the camera safely out of the action (we were covered in paint by the end). I did bring some paper down with us, though, and used to to ‘print’ what Squirm had done on the platter – pressing it down on the paint. Squirm then embellished it a bit (a bit of fingerpainting) leaving us with a lovely art work for the fridge.

Painting with a 9 Month Old: Adventures of a Subversive Reader

What did We Learn

I learned that it’s ok to get messy, and the clean up can be great fun (I poured water over the concrete area at the end, which Squirm ended up playing in – also removing some of the paint from him!) I learned that it is more about the process – touching the paint, mixing the colours, looking at how moving your hands in different ways give different results – than actually creating something. And I learned that it doesn’t really take that long to organise and ‘do’ art. We’ll definitely make sure to build art into our week, and I don’t feel like an ‘art failure’ anymore!


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