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How Can Finger Painting Help Your Preschooler’s Development?

different things lying on a table to try arts and crafts, painted by kids

Is your child a finger painting fanatic? This early childhood education classroom staple is more than just messy fun. Take a look at how this simple art activity can help your preschooler develop new skills and abilities.

Fine Motor Skill Development

It’s all the name. Finger painting requires your child to do exactly what the name says — paint with their fingers. This means your child will use their fine or small motor skills. As your child pushes the paint onto and around the paper, blends colors, and smooths the surface, they’ll develop fine motor abilities such as:

  1. Bilateral skills. As children master this ability, they start to use both of their hands together (at the same time). Finger painting allows the preschooler to move their hands together in chorus as they cover the paper with temperas.

  2. Eye–hand coordination. Your child will need to coordinate what they see with how they move their hands as they create finger paintings. This skill can provide a basis for other fine motor activities, such as drawing and writing.

  3. Muscle strength. The ability to control small motor movements while painting can lead to increased finger and hand muscle strength.

While fine motor development is a primary benefit finger painting offers, it isn’t the only reason child care centers encourage young students to engage in this art activity. Along with the development of hand and finger abilities, your preschooler can also build new early literacy and vocabulary skills.

Early Literacy and Language Development

Early literacy and language development don’t only happen in the library or story-time center. Art bridges many different early childhood content areas — including literacy and language. Finger painting can boost these skills and help your child in this crucial developmental area when they:

  1. Talk about their art. The early childhood teacher may ask your child to talk about their finger painting, the choices they’ve made, and specific aspects of the art (such as colors or shapes).

  2. Learn new vocabulary. Does your child know the color or shape words? If not, the teacher can use finger painting as an opportunity to build vocabulary skills.

  3. Create stories and narratives. While some preschoolers create abstract style finger paintings, other translate stories they’ve heard (or from their imagination) into a concrete work of art. This type of activity helps your child to better understand elements of the narrative structure.

The more your child’s vocabulary grows, the better able they are to express themselves. But that doesn’t mean your preschooler will become a master of verbal expression, at least not yet. Beyond the ability to express themselves through spoken language, finger painting (like other art explorations) can also foster the development of emotional expression.

Emotional Development

Your three-year-old angers easily and sometimes still throws tantrums out of sheer frustration. Does this scenario sound familiar? This normal behavior may happen when the young child is overwhelmed, hasn’t developed self-regulation skills, or doesn’t have the words to completely express what they feel inside.

How can finger painting help your child to develop emotionally? This popular early childhood art activity:

  1. Provides a physical means of expression. Does your child hit or kick when they’re angry? These types of aggressive behaviors are unacceptable. A vigorous finger painting session allows your frustrated child to get physical in a more appropriate way.

  2. Improves self–regulation. Self-regulation is key to your child’s emotional development. The control your child needs to put paint on the paper can help them to develop this crucial ability.

  3. Encourages expression. Whether your child paints the colors of their emotions or creates a picture of something they’re happy, sad, or mad about, art can assist with appropriate emotional expression.

If your child responds well (emotionally) to finger painting activities, talk to their teacher about ways to use this strategy at home. An afternoon or weekend finger painting exploration can ease tensions and help your child to release their feelings in a safe, socially acceptable way.

Is your child ready to start preschool? Contact Advantage Learning Center for more information.

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