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Making Art With Toddlers

by Marcella

Toddlers are natural artists! They’re not afraid to use materials in unconventional ways, and they’re certainly not afraid to get messy. Though it may seem a bit early for art appreciation, your toddler can use art activities and materials to deepen his understanding of how the world works. He won’t be painting portraits just yet, but he will be laying the foundation for important developmental skills. You may be surprised by how much art-themed fun the two of you can have together!

project prep
Before you begin, remember that things may get really, really messy! You’ll want to protect whatever surface you’re using with a splat mat or several layers of newspaper. Do art projects outside if the weather permits. Some moms use the high chair—it contains much of the mess and gives you a chance to clean your toddler up before he runs off. Cover his clothes with a smock or an old t-shirt.

explore with paint
Experts say that most of your toddler’s art enjoyment comes from the tactile experience. He’s likely to enjoy the feel of sticky paint on his hands more than he enjoys making a finished project. That’s why most toddlers start out painting with fingers, not brushes. You can guide him gently to make a project you’ll love, by making sure he leaves a few complete handprints on the page. (When he’s older, you’ll compare his hands to those little prints…and tear up a little.)

other materials
Clay is the perfect material for tactile play. Your toddler can learn to pat, roll, or squeeze the clay. It will be a while before he can make a clay snake, but you can make one for him and encourage him to squish it! Have big, stubby crayons on hand for when he’s ready to experiment with holding a crayon and scribbling. One resourceful mom put a sheet of paper in a large Ziploc bag with paint and small sponges. Her toddler could squeeze and knead the bag without making a mess. (Note: at some point, your toddler will try to taste his art. Always choose non-toxic products!)

patience!
Your toddler’s a long way away from spending an afternoon doing an art project. Five or ten minutes is plenty of time for him to satisfy his creative urges. One day, he’ll be painting still lifes with the best of them…for now, let him direct the activity, and have fun!

more resources

The Reluctant Artist

Art With Babies and Toddlers

Photo credit: dverbeek on Flickr.

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