Mini Monets and Mommies: Finger Painting with Clay Art Activity

Friday, December 26, 2014

Finger Painting with Clay Art Activity

Finger painting is messy. Yep, it's very, very messy. That's ok, in most circumstances. Your child's hands, face, arms and the kitchen table will all wipe clean -- as long as you use washable paints. But, there are some times when you just can't make a mess. That's where clay comes in to play.

Kids' crafts

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I spent years teaching a preschool art class in a museum. In the galleries of the museum. There was no way that I would have ever been allowed to take paints into an area filled with Van Gogh’s and Monet’s. That said, time and time again the parents asked if their kids could paint. I get it, kids love to paint. But, what could I do? There was no way that this could ever happen in the gallery setting. So, I swapped in some model clay. No, your child isn't really finger painting, but the motion and result is almost the same. This activity also offers bountiful bonuses:


1. Your child is using an art material (in this case it's clay) in a totally new and different way. The unexpectedness of how he'll use the clay will get him amped up to make some art and maybe even hold his attention for more than a few minutes.

2. It's almost mess-free. Ok, no art project is 100% mess-free, but this is much neater than pulling out the real finger paints

3. Even though it's a less-mess activity, it's still packed with creativity and allows your child to express himself. Basically, it's not a neat and tidy color in the lines coloring book version of art.

Here's what you'll need:

  • Cardboard- Reuse the front of an empty cereal box, cut apart the box that your new flat screen came in or recycle some other cardboard source. You can buy cardboard sheets from the craft store, but you might as well light your hard-earned cash on fire (or your debit card in the case that you -- like me -- never actually carry real paper money). Also, you MUST use cardboard or a thick board. Construction paper won't cut it for this activity, and the heavy clay will break or seep through.
  • Modeling clay - You will need to get this from the craft store. Look for a soft clay that your little one's fingers can easily spread. If you can feel the clay through the packaging, go for it. If you get home and realize that the clay has clearly been sitting on the shelf since you were four, return it. Your child will go nuts trying to use hard clay for this project.
  • Scissors - You'll be using these (see my note in the instructions).
  • Crayons

Here's what you and your child should do:

1.     Draw a shape onto the cardboard. Your child can do this, so don't worry if his circle looks like a glob or his star is more like a half-melted snowflake. The shape should be at least the size of your hand. This gives him enough surface space to really work on. Speaking of your hand, make the project extra special and let him trace your hand (fingers open please) with a crayon.

2.     Cut the shape out. While I don't normally recommend "doing" for your child, in this case it's a safety issue. My son likes to call me the most overprotective mother in the world. This extends to other people's kids as well. I don't want to see any pinkies or thumbs getting cut off or callouses created while your young child tries in vain to slice through thick cardboard.

3.     Optional- Your child can (or doesn't have to) draw a simple picture onto the cardboard with crayons. Younger kids can skip this step and move on to applying the clay. Older preschoolers (and big kids who want to try this activity out) can draw a simple landscape, a spring flower or some other nature-like picture.

4.     Pull the clay apart into quarter-sized pieces. Use at least three different colors. Your child can pull them apart into even smaller pieces as he works.
Children's art

5.     Smooth it onto the cardboard – finger painting style!

Kids' clay

Kids' art
Are you looking for more process art activities? Follow my Pinterest board for ideas!

Follow Mini Monets and Mommies's board Process Art for Kids on Pinterest.


  1. Wow, I love this! I'm loving modeling clay at this moment because it is easier to clean up than play dough.

  2. Really Awesome, I want say that i love this finger painting with clay art activity and really help for me and specially kids i want to part this activity because i am a student of Art and want a assignment but any one tell me where i give a Order Custom Assignment? any one have any idea?

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