No Mess Smush Painting for Toddlers

Does the idea of painting with your toddler sound terrifying?

Not to worry. If you want to introduce your toddler to paint without destroying the house then this is the project for you!

“Smush painting” is a versatile activity that can be used to make wall art, greeting cards, resist art, you name it. Be creative!

It truly does turn out beautiful. The best part is that it takes almost no time to set up!

No actually, the best part is that it doesn’t make a mess. Quick set up time is second best.

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Smush Painting Sensory Fun

Smush painting provides your toddler with a lovely sensory experience while practicing developmentally appropriate skills. You can read more about why sensory play is important here.

No mess smush painting naturally encourages exploration of the following developmentally appropriate skills and senses:

  • Touch – Your child feels the cool temperature of the paint and notices the smooth texture.
  • Sight – While painting, your child observes the different colors and how they blend together.
  • Cause-and-effect – Pushing the paint and mixing colors allows your child to experiment with cause-and-effect.
  • Fine motor – Smushing paint builds the fine motor muscles needed for critical skills such as self-feeding, shoe tying, and writing.

This is one easy low-prep activity you can feel good about!

Related: 25 Spring Sensory Bins for Toddlers & Preschoolers

Tactile Smush Painting with No Mess


No-mess smush painting for babies and toddlers!

Mess Free Smush Painting Instructions:

Take a sheet of paper and fold it in half or cut it to size. It needs to be able to fit inside a gallon ziploc bag. You’ll want to use thick paper like cardstock or mixed media paper if you plan to save this masterpiece. If not, any paper will do.

Apply small dots of paint to your paper. Be careful not to use too much paint or it will look a mess and take forever to dry.

Carefully place the paper inside a ziploc gallon bag and close it tightly. I repeat, CLOSE IT TIGHTLY! You might even want to tape it shut if you feel like your toddler could be capable of breaking into the bag.

Tape the bag to your work surface – the table, the floor, wherever. (I skipped this step which led to my toddler quickly picking up the bag and trying to open it. So next time I will definitely tape it down.)

Let those little toddler fingers smush the paint around on the paper, creating beautiful abstract art!

When your toddler is finished, take the paper out of the bag to dry.

And there you have it! A no-mess masterpiece!

Keep reading to see the final product!

No Mess Smush Painting Ideas

Smush painting makes a great for sensory play activity for toddlers and babies with almost no effort on your part. However, if you want to put just a tiny bit more time in, you can turn this activity into beautiful, frame-worthy art using one of the ideas below!

Framed Wall Art

Cut your paper to match the size of an old frame you have laying around. Once the painting is dry, pop it in the frame and hang it on the wall.

Shape Paintings

Cut a shape out of a clean sheet of paper and place it over top of your smush painting for themed decor. You could do a Christmas tree for holiday art, a shamrock for Saint Patrick’s Day, or a simple star or heart.

Resist Art

Use painter’s tape to create a design on the paper before your child begins painting. You could form letters or an abstract pattern. After the paint dries, peel the tape off to reveal the design or word.

Greeting Card

Fold your cardstock instead of cutting it and dot the paint onto the front. Once it dries, you’ll have a pretty homemade greeting card!


Use plastic wrap instead of a ziploc bag to wrap up a canvas for smushing. Just make sure you wrap it tightly! Use tape for reinforcement if needed.

Smush Painting: the Final Product

I was quite pleased with how our first smush painting turned out. I plan to frame it and hang it in the toy room.

My husband didn’t believe me when I told him this was art work by our one year old. He kept asking our sweet girl, “Mommy made this one, didn’t she?!”

Unsure if this should be taken as a compliment to our daughter or an insult to myself, I decided to chalk it up to my daughter being a talented genius.

Which she clearly gets from me.

Want more easy toddler activities? Try these!

Easy DIY Sidewalk Chalk Paint

The Big List of Sticky Wall Ideas for Toddlers

How to Make Ice Cream in a Bag

Pom-Pom Scoop & Transfer Color Sort

Will you try No-Mess Smush Painting with your toddler?

Let us know what you make in the comments!

We would love to see your creation. Share your Smush Paint Project on Instagram and tag Happy Toddler Club using the hashtag #happytoddlerclub!

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