Last summer, about the time my son turned 1 1/2, I bought an art easel and some washable finger paints for him. Quite honestly, this has been one of the best investments I have every made for him. He loves to paint and can be quite creative.
This is a great indoor and/or outdoor activity. My son loves to mix any number of colors to play with. We have numerous different brushes and sponges for him that he is able to use. It fills up time and it encourages his fine motor skills. (I looked it up and google confirmed that fact for me... lol) It is actually good for a number of skills. He is using his hands (sensory) and tools (fine motor) and when using the easel he is doing all kinds of gross and fine motor skill learning. Then you pile on top of this the fact that we can discuss colors and draw shapes, numbers and letters. It is a great way for him to learn while he plays.
The pro's for allowing my son to play with paint are so many. More recently, he is trying to draw shapes on his own. It can be hard not to try to take his hand and form the shapes for him, but I truly try to let him have his own learning experiences and only jump in when he is showing real frustration or asks for help.
Of course, there are con's. Let's be honest. There is paint and there is a toddler. The first few times we painted there was paint everywhere. The house could have passed for a crime scene on an episode of CSI. You can, of course, control this if it bothers you. You can set out plastic under them or keep them confined to a specific area. I'm not that mom though. I won't lie. It can be a total pain to go around and make sure you are wiping up all the areas that get hit, but eventually they grow out of that phase of running everywhere and stick to the designated spot for painting. Also, all the finger paints we use are washable and wipe up nicely. If you want to see the positive side of it, think of seeing a spot you missed a few days (or weeks... sometimes I'm not too observant) later and remember the joy your little had while making that mark. I could lead you on to a discussion of my philosophy of a well lived in house, but that is really a completely different blog in itself.
The links in this blog will take you to products, that when purchased could benefit my family. ;)