While many parents and teachers are a little hesitant to begin art projects with a toddler because of the potential mess as well as the short attention spans of toddlers, there are many art projects that are perfect for this age group. Many art activities give young children important opportunities to not only develop their creative side, but also help them develop large motor skills, writing skills and social skills. It is often much easier for child and adult if supplies are prepared before the project begins. This should include any cutting that needs to happen, because toddlers are too young to use most types of scissors. In addition, make sure that the area to be used is easy to clean up. If the weather is good, doing these art projects outside might be the ideal solution.
Finger painting is an ideal, if messy, art project for young children. Finger paints can be bought at an art or teaching store, or they can be made by mixing powdered tempera paints with liquid starch. Adding some liquid hand soap to the paint also makes the cleanup easier (and helps paint come out of clothes). Make sure you have a disposable tablecloth or newspapers set up or set up your child at a picnic or patio table outside where you can just hose off the art area. Toddlers love being hands-on and art is no exception: finger painting allows them to experience textures while they are creating art. Toddlers learn best through sensory activities and these should always be encouraged. Try using different types of paper to make it more interesting, such as newspapers or old blueprints. You can also use a very fine grade of sandpaper, for an additional sensory experience.
Another example of simple art projects to do with toddlers also explores science concepts and builds large motor control. Young children, especially toddlers, are drawn to water. On a warm day, offering a toddler a bucket of water (while supervised) and a paintbrush gives them the opportunity to explore art and evaporation. Toddlers will enjoy using the paintbrushes to create lines and circles with water on the sidewalk. Toddlers are also practicing their balance and large motor control during this activity. Remember, children develop from the outside in. They need to master large motor movements before they can master the types of small motor movements that are needed for writing and cutting.
Using bingo dotters is another way to allow toddlers to explore their creativity in a developmentally appropriate way. These can be easily purchased at craft stores or online. Toddler often enjoy banging on things-which if you have ever given a one year old pots and a spoon you know! Bingo dotters allow children to move their arms in a way that feels good to them, while also exploring color mixing and shapes.
One of the most fun aspects of doing art projects with toddlers is the time you get to spend with them, so don’t be afraid to try your own projects with your children, and to get a little messy. Ne sure that you are enjoying the experience and not focusing on what your art or your child’s art looks like. Art activities are about the processes and the exploration most of all, so don’t worry about what it looks like in the end!