While you might not put finger painting at the top of the list when it comes to learning in preschool, this artsy endeavor is actually an important part of your little one's early education. Although simple art, such as finger painting, seems like child's play -- and it certainly is -- it is also a teaching tool that can help preschoolers build motor skills and more.
Fine Motor Development
Your preschooler is beginning to develop more precise and controlled hand and finger movements, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics' Healthy Children website. Although she can now do things like zip her jacket or feed herself with a spoon, your little learner still needs an array of activities that boost fine motor development. One way that preschools often help kids build up finger and hand skills is through art activities. Finger painting allows your child to literally test these growing finger skills by using her hands as painting tools instead of a brush. Finger painting may seem easy, but it can involve complex movements of the hand that can build hand-eye coordination, muscle control and dexterity.
Other Content Areas
Finger painting isn't just an art activity. If you think that your child's preschool finger painting activity will only build up his artistic abilities, think again. The early childhood educator, or you as the teacher at home, can use finger painting to teach other content areas. For example, the child development experts at PBS Parents suggest using finger painting to help preschoolers learn about basic math concepts such as shapes. Kids can use this messy medium to spread across a piece of paper. Using a subtractive method, your preschooler can make shapes in the paint and let the paper underneath show through. Another content area that preschools may tie to finger painting is science. Preschoolers can experiment with color mixing by blending the primaries -- red, blue and yellow -- with their fingers.
Process-based art activities that allow preschoolers to explore and experiment can help young children to build creativity. Finger paint is an important part of this process in the preschool setting. Unlike a coloring sheet or a cut-and-paste activity that are more finished-project oriented, finger paint is typically more experimental. Finger painting activities allow the young child to work with the medium, moving it around, blending it and creating anything from an abstract expression to a family portrait to explore his own creativity.
Literacy and Vocabulary
As the teacher experts at Scholastic note, vocabulary development is a key part of building early literacy skills. While your preschooler isn't ready to read the classics yet, his school will help him to build the basics of literacy. Instead of setting aside a special time for vocab -- like your older child might have in school -- preschool teachers may choose to use other activities, such as art, to help the children to learn new words. The interactive process of finger painting is an important way that preschoolers can learn new words such as color vocabulary or sensory words like slimy, squishy or sticky.