Paint Bag Writing

by Amy on October 6, 2009

Paint Bag Writing | Fine Motor Practice | Let's Explore

Learning to write letters and numbers can be frustrating for little hands! I like to offer lots of play activities that help build those fine motor skills in a relaxed, fun way. Toddlers and up will enjoy making shapes, swirls, and even letters on a plastic bag filled with paint.

To make your own paint bag writing tablet, put some finger paint or tempera paint into a sturdy freezer zip-top plastic bag. Seal it well and smoosh the paint around the entire bag. (You could even add a strip of packing tape across the top if you are worried about your child opening the bag.) That’s it!


We like to tape ours down to the table so it doesn’t wiggle around too much. Try doodling and writing with your finger first. Your child may also enjoy using a cotton swab to write with. When your tablet is full of scribbles (or sight words for older kids), smoosh and smear the paint around and start over. No mess, just fun!

Happy playing!

More fine-motor activities:


Catherine October 6, 2009 at 7:22 am

I love this idea so much! I have been thinking about doing a sand tray for my 4 yr old but have been putting it off because of the potential mess. This solves my problem beautifully. Thanks!

rosa October 6, 2009 at 8:19 am

i absolutely ADORE this idea!!! :) We are so doing this this afternoon… thanks!

Vanessa October 6, 2009 at 9:10 am

what a great idea! this will come in very handy hwen my little guy is a bit older :)

Ashley October 6, 2009 at 11:33 am

Ooh! So great! Thank you for all these fun ideas!

Heather October 6, 2009 at 11:39 am

Thank you for this non-pencil activity. :) My four year old boy melts down when he sees a pencil (unless it’s for mazes). He will really enjoy this while getting the letter/number practice.

MommyAmy October 6, 2009 at 12:45 pm

Love that idea! I think my 2.5 year old twins would have a great time making scribbles on something like that. How fun!

andrea October 6, 2009 at 1:00 pm

tried the paint bags and it didn’t really work well. did i use too much paint? i love the idea. how do i make it better?

Amy October 6, 2009 at 1:04 pm

Thanks everyone for the lovely comments!

Andrea – maybe you used too much paint? You just need enough to coat the inside of the bag with a thin layer. What kind of paint did you use? I did just a few squirts from my bottle of washable tempera paint. Hope that helps! :)

Heather October 6, 2009 at 5:17 pm


LaToya October 6, 2009 at 6:07 pm

This is a great idea. I’ve also seen it done where you put two different colors in a bag and have the child mix before writing. Adds a little something extra. Mixing red and yellow to make orange before working on letters or numbers.

Mama Jenn October 7, 2009 at 2:07 pm

Love this idea!!!

Shannon @ Song of My Heart October 7, 2009 at 7:02 pm

What a great idea!! My kids are gonna love this. Thanks for sharing!

Elise October 9, 2009 at 3:02 am

I like that this is an activity that could be catered to the very young as well as older toddlers. My one year old would have fun squishing the paint around and my three year old would get a kick out of making shapes and patterns. I certainly will be keeping this in mind when it comes to learning letters. Thank you for sharing.

Samantha October 11, 2009 at 6:55 pm

I did this and posted about it! Thanks for the great Idea!

Jess October 13, 2009 at 4:38 pm

This idea is amazing! I’ve used the tempera paint in the bag to teach how colors are made, never thought about “painting” with the bag!

cocuklacocuk October 14, 2009 at 1:00 pm

Thank you for this great idea, we will try

Anna October 17, 2009 at 8:10 pm

This is actually a great activity for kids with sensory issues, too. You can use it to introduce fingerpainting which can be upsetting to kids who don’t like that feeling of getting their hands messy.

Suzanne October 18, 2009 at 8:22 pm

I made these for my kids last week and they were a big hit! Especially with my 2-year-old. She sat at the table for 45 minutes playing with this while I made diner. Also, I am using these for teaching our letter and number at preschool this week. Thanks for the wonderful (and oh-so-easy) idea!

JODI January 7, 2010 at 2:44 am

omg, this idea is fantastic, i want my child to paint without the mess and this is a great idea. am going to suggest we do this at playgroup.

Kid Games February 24, 2010 at 10:52 am

very interesting thank you!

Susan August 27, 2010 at 6:58 am

What a great idea. My daughter will love this.

Pamela July 19, 2011 at 11:21 am

Thanks for sharing! I did this with my 3 year old today. I put in squirts of three different colors, and he had fun blending and using his fingers and different toys to draw on the bag.

Katie August 1, 2011 at 12:51 pm

Love this! Thanks for sharing.

Sara August 31, 2011 at 5:12 pm

I put colored hair gel in the bags and lay the letter cards to practice underneath.

claire September 28, 2011 at 3:18 am

I hope to do this w/ a class of 2-3 yr olds at our church. What could I use besides paint? hmmm…I need to come up w/ an idea. Guess I will look in the cupboards and try try try. Thank you!

Amber October 12, 2011 at 5:36 am

We do this in Kindergarten at our writing center. It’s better than chalk and boards and not as expensive as buying Expo markers when they forget to put the tops back on. You could also put some some shaving cream on a table and let them write in this…not only do they get to play but also are helping you clean.

Tami January 9, 2012 at 8:34 pm

Just stopping by to let you know that I’ve featured your craft on Family Fun Crafts! You can see it here:

If you have other kid friendly crafts, I’d love it if you would submit them. :) If you would like to display a
featured button on your site, you can grab one from the right side bar of your post above.

Jodi January 19, 2012 at 12:00 pm

I found you on Pinterest. I did this activity with my kids today, and they really loved it. I featured the idea on my blog with a link back to you.

Claire January 20, 2012 at 5:39 pm

I love this idea and will do it with my kids tomorrow! They got fingerprints for Christmas but I was waiting for it to be nice out to prevent a mess in the house. Problem solved! Thank you!!!!

Wynnster January 27, 2012 at 10:22 am

Fun fact: You can hot glue the top of the bag shut, using a low temp hot glue gun (if you can’t find your packing tape, maybe that happened to me this morning)

Malia February 18, 2012 at 5:04 pm

My kindergarteners loved this! Thanks for posting. I’ve also had success squishing a thin layer of play dough into the lid of large yogurt container and having my students practice writing their letters or words with a golf tee. Just stack the lids and store them in a Ziploc bag and you’re ready to use them again next time.

Denise March 9, 2012 at 12:13 pm

instead of a q-tip use this to help your child learn the proper way to hold a pencil, and it’s free..

Denise March 9, 2012 at 12:15 pm

btw love the idea, sorry, forgot to say that. I was too excited to tell you of the tool to help the play be more fun and helpful too.

Amy March 13, 2012 at 7:00 am

Thanks, Denise – I’ll check it out!

Robyn May 15, 2012 at 4:57 am

Wondering if you could use shaving cream and food color in the bag? Has anyone try that yet?

anna May 21, 2012 at 6:20 am

great idea, saw it on pinterest and made it at our house, and the kids loved it. thanks for sharing!

Marcie Paige June 19, 2012 at 7:58 am

This is such a great idea! I actually just got this put together and my daughter is playing with her own Paint Bag Writing Tablet right now! This is so easy and no clean up :)

Anne Grisenthwaite July 20, 2012 at 8:57 am

I am a children’s librarian and just did this craft for my Toddler Art class. It was the fastest set up and fastest clean up I’ve ever done, and the kids LOVED it!

I printed out a bunch of 8.5×11 sheets of paper with clip art pictures on them, which the kids could place under their bags. Then they used their fingers to clear the paint away to find the “hidden” pictures underneath. And of course, the writing with Q-Tips was a bit hit too.

I found that 8 squirts of paint was perfect – 10 made the bag too squishy, and 6 wasn’t quite enough.

Thanks for this craft idea! The moms thought it was very successful! :)

Amy July 24, 2012 at 7:40 am

I’m so glad this was a success with the toddlers at the library. I love the idea of looking for the hidden picture underneath!

Barbara Street August 25, 2012 at 5:29 am

I love the idea of using the cotton swab with this. I did these in my preschool class last year with all 6 colors of the rainbow. I used packing tape at the top and bottom to attach them to the table. I encouraged the children to use their fingertips to draw. However, some of them used their fingernails and eventually it would have torn the bags. You can see our bag here: I’ll have to try it with cotton swabs. Ms. Barbara from For the Children

Kim September 6, 2012 at 3:56 am

Fantastic idea! thanks for sharing. :o)

Eryn March 2, 2013 at 6:33 am

My 4yr old son LOVED this! Worked great with a q-tip since it simulated him holding a pencil:)

Marchiena Davis June 19, 2013 at 6:29 am

I used this idea for solving math problems-fingertip dots. I wish I had thought to use Q-tips, though since fingernails cause some problems. Now I will!

marissa lee July 14, 2013 at 4:29 pm

this is such a cool ideal…great fun without the mess…i love it.

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