Art projects for toddlers:What can you really expect from them

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toddler art

art projects for toddlers

Art projects for toddlers. Are they different than art projects for older kids? We all know that toddlers love art.

If you don’t believe me than come look at my neighbors walls.

You would think it was still pre historic times as her children have taken to decorating her walls as the cavemen used to do Oh! so many years ago. The truth is though, that toddlers are really just learning all about art and materials and how they work.

When my daughter was entering her first year of nursery school, I took her for orientation. This was the time for kids to meet their teachers and to become familiar with their classrooms and teachers.

In the classroom one of the tables set up had some collage materials and paste.

I watched as one little girl under 3 years old, sat down at the table. She picked up a piece of paper, smeared some paste on it and pasted it down.

She was done.

The assistant in the classroom, a young teacher who was a natural at intuitively understanding children, walked over to the table and sat down next to this little girl. She picked up the paper, turned it over and said to the little girl “look it sticks”. I was so impressed.

She knew exactly where this little girl was developmentally.

She was learning that paste sticks things to other things. A toddler who is younger than the age of this little girl is even more far behind than that. Toddlers are truly getting to know the materials and need lots of time to explore and to practice without being expected to “make something”

They are too young and the projects will have no meaning for them.

I remember a friend of mine recounting how her young son came home from school with a  project and said “Look Ma, what my teacher made for you”

They are not dumb, just curious and interested in mushing and gluing and pasting and ripping and coloring and cutting.

There is one way around this problem. If you are a teacher who feels the need to send home a “project” with your toddlers, the best way to do this is to give the toddlers a pre cut shape as a background. This way you can still give the children the gluing, painting and mushing that they need, but they will bring home a shape that the parents can recognize, which makes everyone happy.

3 simple beginning art activities for toddlers

There are 3 basic art ideas and activities for toddlers can do (that don’t include painting )

  1. Coloring (on papers only)or the sidewalk with chalk
  2. Cutting
  3. Pasting

Very simple.

Coloring: You can use any number of media for their coloring activities. If the children are wearing smocks and they are well protected you may want to move them over to washable markers  after they have had lots of experience with the crayons. The older they get the more they will appreciate the diversity in coloring utensils.

Their coloring activity will not last long and it’s best to give them large sheets of paper so that the can really move their arms and fingers when watching as the crayon meets the paper. The standard crayons for little hands are the  Crayola 8-Pack Crayons – Jumbo  but, they also have interesting Triangle Crayon Rings and the ones that I think are the best are the Melissa & Doug Jumbo Triangular Crayons. They come without paper and are so easy to grasp.

The next activity I would give them would be cutting. You can definitely start teaching them how to cut with children’s scissors and long strips of paper. Sit with them as you teach them to hold a scissor and let them cut up the long strip into tiny squares.They need a good childrens scissors something like this Fiskars Decorated Non-Stick Kids Scissors and you must make sure that the scissors cuts well. Fiskars are great scissors so you can’t go wrong with any of theirs.

It may take a while until they fully grasp how to use the scissors.

art projects for toddlers

art projects for toddlers

Cutting with toddlers is an activity that can be done just as an easy toddlers craft activity. They can become engrossed in it and it in end in itself.

If you want to take it further and you see the toddlers you are working with are ready and able and willing they can use the squares and anything else they cut up and paste  the pieces another sheet of paper.

This brings us to the third of the toddler art activities which is pasting.

Pasting: Toddlers loooove to paste. (nowadays they use glue instead of the paste we used to use)

Toddler really love real paste but, if  that doesn’t work for you then you can certainly use the regular glue in the bottles. The standard is Elmer’s Washable Glue and sometimes in the past I’ve purchased cheaper glues and then am sorry when it doesn’t come out of the bottle cleanly.

There were periods of time that I used to put glue in paper cups for the kids to use with either their fingers or craft sticks. What happens in that case scenario is that the children spend lots of their time then pulling the dried glue off of their fingers. The glue also ends up sticking to the  objects they  want to glue.

Be aware that the toddlers for the most part are not really not interested in what they are making, they are just learning about the glue and what it does and will often spend more time just putting the glue all over the place rather then pasting. You might  want to try Avery Glue Sticks for use with thin papers.

art projects for toddlers

One activity that I find works well with toddlers is giving them long , thin strips of paper and letting them just cut them up into squares. Then they can glue those squares onto their papers.

art projects for toddlers

You can also give them pasting activities with shapes that you have prepared for them.(collages)

If you give the toddlers these arts and crafts activities many times, then you will notice as they grow and mature how they are starting to think more and arrange their collages with more thought. Eventually in a few years you will see representational art work from these toddlers.

 The importance of process only art activities for toddlers

I would like to share a story that I heard from a friend of mine who runs a preschool program on the importance of  process only art.

In my friends preschool program she had a little girl  ( a 2 1/2 yr old) who would not go to the bathroom. It was causing her alot of pain and stomach problems.

After some research, this friend of mine discovered that the reason for this child’s discomfort was that she was afraid of getting dirty.  Digging even deeper, she found that the mother of this child was a “clean freak” therefor, the child manifested her fear of dirt in a physical, damaging way.

In order to help this child, my friend started getting her involved in very messy activities, clay, painting, mushing etc. The child resisted at first but, pretty soon was full into the swing of the messy art activities.

Within a few days, the child was using the bathroom normally.

Messy, sensory activities are very important for very young children and should not be denied to them because of an adults fear of mess.

Though I am not saying that all toddler problems can be solved with messy art activities they are a very necessary part of a young child’s development.

This means that children need to paint, collage, color, and do art in general without worrying about what they will make. Activities like string painting, sponge painting  coffee filter drops as explained in easy crafts projects and many other process only activities that can be found online and in certain books.

Below is another activity that I just recently added (which is why it looks different than the ones above that were added a long time ago)

It is of my grandson doing a process only tape activity. I gave him the pieces all cut up and he just randomly pasted them down.

art projects for toddlers

In this post I did not include any painting activities. However, painting is probably one of the most important of the process only art activities for toddlers around. If you can deal with the mess and be on top of it so that the paint stays on the table, it will be well  worth it.

If you are looking for books that have lots of process only art activities then Mary Ann F Kohl is the queen of process only art and you may want to check out some of her books that are great for toddler art. The ones I listed below are the ones that are particularly suited to toddler art.

Scribble Art: Independent Creative Art Experiences for Children (Bright Ideas for Learning)

The Big Messy Art Book: But Easy to Clean Up

Preschool Art: It’s the Process, Not the Product

First Art : Art Experiences for Toddlers and Twos

If you want to look online for ideas then check out Pinterest. If you are specifically looking for toddler art then check out the blog toddlers approved, its geard towards toddlers. You can’t go wrong there. And please, share this post if you like it too 🙂

Leave a Comment:

lynne davis says April 3, 2010

Thank you for your site, i visit it often but have never thanked you for the information you share to help us provide meaningful activities for the children we care for. I am a family day care provider who loves doing proccess art with preschoolers but this year i have 3 babies 11, 12 and 13 months and a 16 month old who loves to fingerpaint. At this age everything goes into their mouths so safety is the biggest issue. What is the best age to responsibly start painting with a group of toddlers.

gary says December 23, 2010

You know Lynne I dont know if you are even getting this so long after you commented, but I just found it. I have not been working on my blog for a while and dont even know why I didnt get notification of your comment, which I usually do. Anyway I am getting back into my blogging much more, as you can see its a whole new look.
And about your question about painting, I dont know if you still have it, but it really depends on how many children you are working with at a time.
You need to be right there with them as they do it and you can’t do that with too many kids at a time.
They also don’t need a whole lot of time when beginning.

Lauren says November 20, 2012

Thank you so much for your website. I have been looking for craft/educational ideas for my 3 year old and this makes sense. I don’t have to be OCD about what he should be making. I can just enjoy the exploring process with him. Other sites made me feel like my son must be way behind, but, your site has a realistic approach to learning and exploring that will leave everyone happy in the end. THANKS

gary says November 20, 2012

Exactly Lauren. The more OCD people get with their kids about their crafts and art the more behind the kids get.Thanks for your comment

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