Wednesday, June 9, 2010

* Making Art At Home: My Favorite Art Supplies for Toddlers

When I was an art teacher, my two mantras were:
It's the Process Not the Product
There Are No Mistakes In Art
(mistakes are opportunities for new ideas/discoveries)

So many moms are intimidated by creating/crafting/or making art
with their children, especially very young children. 
In this series of posts, I will provide lists of some of my favorite art and craft materials
for Toddlers, Preschoolers, and School-Age Children. 

If you don't know where to get started with your kids, my first piece of advice is to 
Keep It Simple

Don't get in over your head or do something you're uncomfortable with
or you AND your kids won't have fun.

Toddlers need you to participate in these experiences WITH them.
They're too little to be left alone with art materials.

If you hand your child a box of crayons, then get on the phone or step in the shower
you're asking for a mural (or worse) upon your return!

I actually received an email today that read,

"I have a two year old that pulls apart and basically destroys everything that I make. 
craft is no fun..... :-( I really want to get him involved??? have you had this problem"

Yes and No.
Here's my reply:

"Yes, of course we all run into the problem of the captain-destructo age of 2+, 
that’s how our youngest daughter got her nickname of Mini-Saurus 
because she destroyed everything my older daughter was playing with. 
I recommend focusing on sensory experiences and playing with materials 
rather than trying to actually make anything.
I think a lot of moms are in the same situation as you." 

My first born, "E" is my natural artist.
She has loved art from the very beginning and showed a natural aptitude for it. 
She could spend hours in my studio painting watercolors, coloring,
sculpting with play-doh, gluing collages, etc. She still does this today.

Imagine my surprise when my second daughter "C"
arrived and didn't really care to spend much time crafting or creating.

If she's in the right mood, she'll humor me and spend time on a project
of her choice but most of the time it seems like she's more interested in 
"how fast can I get this done so I can go do something else."

If you're trying to create a cookie-cutter project with a VERY young child - 
you may end up with two frustrated parties: you and the child.
When I say "cookie cutter" you know these projects...
the ones that come home from preschool or mommy and me classes at the library - 
paper plate fish and  toilet paper tube space ships...
With this age, I focus on materials 
and the sensory experience  of creating and exploring with that medium. 
Don't worry about what you end up with when it's all over. 

So here's my list for "making art" 
and "Craftivities" with toddlers (2-3 years):

1. (If your child isn't too oral...) I love Play-Dough
with this age (home made is my favorite and non-toxic)

Favorite Recipe:
1 Packet of Kool Aid
1 Cup of Flour
1/2 Cup Salt
3 tablespoons of Vegetable Oil
1 Cup of Boiling Water

Mix dry ingredients first, then add wet and stir with a spoon.
It will be hot so do this part out of reach of little fingers --

I like to knead the dough on a sheet of waxed paper or plastic cutting board mat
on my cold granite counter tops to cool it down quickly so we can go play!

It's quick (and cheap) and the smell and color are really fun. 

Playing with dough at this age builds fine motor coordination 
and strengthens their little hand  and finger muscles to prepare them for writing later. 
Get out some cookie cutters, or just roll snakes and balls. 
Smoosh it,  add some stones or little plastic animals
(polly pockets) and make foot prints/ clothing, etc. 
I keep ours in a tupperware in the fridge when we're done. 

2. Food Coloring
* You can color water and experiment with eye droppers 
(save the ones from infant medicine and wash them)
Mix on paper towels, drop on a white plate, mix colored water in little cups or bowls.

* Make colored ice cubes to play with in the tub.

* Mix with Vanilla Pudding for (edible) finger paint!
Finger paint on a clean high chair tray or plate. 
Experiment with Mixing Colors.
You can make a color wheel that you can eat with pudding and food coloring!

* Mix Food Coloring with Cornstarch and water to make non-toxic and washable

Easy to hold. Non-Toxic. They Blend beautifully.
Planet Friendly: No petroleum (like traditional crayons).
(Please Note:  Crayon Rocks ARE a choking hazard
and the company says they are NOT for children under age 3 --
You know your child best, if they still put things in their mouth
please wait another year or two before introducing them to this great product!)
4. A BIG PAD of Drawing Paper

It's easier to use than a small sheet at this age
because they'll color with their whole arm
and it won't get away from them or rip as easily.
Put it on the floor, get down there with them and start scribbling! 

5. Sidewalk Chalk

A classic in our house. We always have a colored driveway and patio. 
Just follow the trail down the  sidewalk to our house! 
You can color mazes to follow, hop scotch, alphabets, shapes, numbers, etc!

6. Sensory Boxes 
(not technically an art supply but they are a sensory supply)

Wonderful for fine motor skills, imaginative play,
and exposure to different tactile experience

But, in order for this to work, you have to be willing to deal with some mess,
putting it on the floor on top of a small table cloth makes it easier to clean up when you're done.
At first, your child will need some help learning how to keep most of it in the box 
and may need a gentle reminder if they start throwing it everywhere.

Something like, "I see this is too exciting right now,
why don't we put this away (in the garage, in another room out of sight)
and we'll play with it again after nap/lunch/tomorrow when you'll be ready to keep it in the box."

This way, you're not screaming like mommy dearest but you are letting your child know,
gently, that there is a right way to play with the sensory box.
Once they get the hang of it, you will even be able to do things like
fold a load of laundry or start dinner while your child/children play peacefully with the box.

This may be obvious, but only bring out one box at a time
unless you want a giant mess to deal with later.
It can be very meditative scooping and pouring
and calm-inducing if you're working with sand/rice/or oat meal.

I use plastic (under bed style) storage boxes,
and fill them with:

Rice (colored or plain)
Clean Aquarium Gravel
Small Gravel
Dried Beans or Peas
Popcorn Kernels
Paper Easter Grass

To get some ideas check out our boxes:

7. Scrap Basket
A different type of sensory experience.

Fill a basket with scraps of different types of material
(think: velvet, velour, burlap, felt, satin, lace, cotton, etc.)
You can cut swatches at a fabric store or raid your stash if you like to sew like me. 
You can even add different types of paper 
(handmade paper, scrapbook scraps, card stock, tissue paper, etc.)
This is fun to sit and sort and explore with for young children.

There's list to get you started...
next post will be about 

pink and green mama


Amanda Jo said...

I LOVE THIS POST!!!! I wish I had found this when we first adopted our little boy - he was diagnosed with Sensory Processing/Integration Disorder when he was 2. The sensory boxes are such AMAZING ideas!!!! He's 6 now and would still LOVE to make a sensory box or two!! Thank you for this post - I'll be sure to refer other moms in my circle to it!!!

Jessica said...

Love this! wrote them all down for our 2 y.o. Can't wait to see the Preschool list!

mother★lode said...

fantastic list - i'll be linking up in some fashion very soon to share this awesome resource with others! THANK YOU!

Melissa said...

This is wonderful thank you for taking the time to post it. I learned last year (thank goodness) that process was much more important than product but the list of supplies and what to do with them is ever so helpful!

Rebecca said...

Great list! And i love your great sensory boxes!

Sunshine Mama said...

Thank you for this post. So many great ideas! My son is 4 1/2 and my daughter is 3. And though technically, my son is completely capable of following directions and do a step-by-step kind of simple craft, he does not enjoy following rules. He's more of a free play kind of kid. So I usually just let him draw with crayons, chalk or paint whatever his little heart desires. And my daughter is not old enough to do crafts with too many steps and she gets frustrated, but wants to do them. I love the sidewalk paint, thanks for sharing the recipe. And I'm also going to make some sensory boxes. They've never had any and I'm sure both of them would quite enjoy it.

Can't wait to see what you'll come up with for pre-schoolers!


Joyful Learner said...

I love your blog! We focus on process too and our JC is naturally drawn to art. She draws and paints every day. I have given her materials and have done very little cookie cutter craft projects. But she's 4 now and I'm wondering if I can direct her more. Any suggestions?

pink and green mama MaryLea said...

Hi Joyful Learner,

My next post about favorite materials for Preschoolers (ages 3-5) should help you out a bit -- it will be up on Friday!!

Thanks so much for reading and keep on creating!

pink and green mama

Andréann said...

Great post! :D

when we paint I put my toddler in the bath and give her her paint and a canva. that way she's allowed to paint not only the canva but the bath and herself.... than I take out the master piece and wash everything

twolittleseeds said...

Love love love this post xxxx

sippy cup mom said...

Great post, the kids also love when I fill a container up with beans. Thanks, Karen
Sippy Cup Central

Kylie said...

Great post (as always). I am a huge fan of The Experience of arting and choose not to do 'cookie cutter' crafts with my toddler. He is 22 months and we have only ever completed one painting activity with an end product in mind (and that was a spur of the moment thing).

Thank you for reminding me that I am on the right path, it is so easy to get sidetracked when you see so much 'other' art/craft projects around.

Actually 90% of what all 3 of my kids do is completely their choice. The biggins attend an art class and at home we will do the odd directed art activity but I can see wholeheartedly how much more important it is for them to have complete control over their art.

When I am in control the end product is never as good (not that that matters) as when they are in control and that speaks volumes to me.

messyfish said...

Oh yeah .... I so needed this post. You are brilliant. "process not product " of course! I will try again withlittle messyfish. I was ready to give up and secret squirrel all my crafting to his sleeping time. There is so much to learn as a parent. Your blog is helping. Thanks so much xxx

Teacher Tom said...

I like that you included sensory materials in your toddler art supplies. For many of them, that's what it's all about. Today, several girls just painted their hands.

My job is to supply the art materials and it's their job to figure out what to do with them!

Redbonegirl97 said...

Wow, great ideas. I will never forget my 4 year old drawing mural on the upstairs wall with crayon. I didn't know WD-40 and toothpaste would come in handy.

Peace, Love and Chocolate

Twig and Toadstool said...

What super advice and loads of information and crafty creative inspiration. Our motto at the Toadstool is simplify...don't overthink a project, the easier the better! I think this advice could be equally effective for us grown up crafters! Today we were making some suns with the bigger girls and our 1.5 yr old was happily squishing some salt dough of her own...she did this for an hour...one ball in each fist...of course we watched her to make sure none went into her mouth, but the pride in being involved with what the big girls were doing...it was spread all over her little face!!
I LOVE your space here!!!
Many blessings
Maureen xo

Joyful Learner said...

Thanks MaryLea! I can't wait to Friday's post! :)

Jackie said...

Great Ideas!! Hopefully it will work with 2 yr old twins, while doing projects with older 3 1/2 yr old.

Johanna said...

you never cease to amaze me. time and time again I am asked about what type of art projects to do with young kids (i'm a high school art teacher). My response is usually to send them here to your blog. I can't wait till my lil one is old enough to venture into the world of art! thank you!

Jenny said...

Wow that is one long post. But it's nifty and yes, crafts with kids are fun. I should prolly try them with my son but he tends to get insane and throw stuff around, therefore making a HUGE ASS mess that I refuse to clean up. I think I'll leave stuff like that to his teachers in school xD

Anonymous said...

What a wonderful post! I love the pictures, too. I'm going to post a link to it on my blog.
You and your readers might also enjoy my post on art; it includes information about what preschoolers learn through art, how to talk to children about their art, and it includes my supplies list. I hope you'll visit.
Susan www.susanlemons.wordpress.com

Anonymous said...

Oh! I forgot the direct link to my post about art. Here it is:
Susan www.susanlemons.wordpress.com

Tisha Smith said...

Whoa....so glad you found me- so I could find YOU! This post is amazing!!! So many right on tips and words of wisdom. Your blog is awesome:)

Magillie said...

What a great entry! I have never tried play doh with kool aid and will have to give that a whirl this summer! I also want to try that cornstarch paint for the driveway--looks awesome. I am staying home next year with our new little one so I will have more time to test drive your cool ideas! xo--jackie

Cara said...

What a great roundup of activities! I was thinking of writing a similar post sometime soon, for the other mommies in my art playgroup who aren't really sure what kinds of art activities to start with. The only thing on your list we haven't tried is making our own sidewalk chalk. I'm definitely planning on trying that soon! I love checking out your blog for inspiration and activities!

Darby said...

These are fantastic and so helpful MaryLea, thanks so much for sharing your brilliantly creative ideas and practical and helpful advice. Thank you Thank you!

Vic said...


Thank you. We're going to rock the playdoh tomorrow I think, and then a sensory box, and then...


Seamingly Sarah said...

Thank you so much for this post! I bookmarked it until I finally had time to sit down read it in its entirety. I am going to try the cornstarch paint for the driveway (although I do just love wet chalk for our driveway) and the rainbow rice for a sensory box.

kristenly said...

this is such a fabulous list full of so many great ideas. thank you for sharing it. i'm hoping that my 18 month old might could do a few of these things. she does love to color and do sidewalk chalk. i might try the play dough next.

Anonymous said...

In my corner of home school supplies, I definitely have several bags of homemade play dough along with containers of finger paints. My 4 and 2 year old LOVE play dough. Great list of ideas!! I buy a lot of my supplies from http://www.k12schoolsupplies.net/Arts-Crafts-s/25.htm Great deals!

molly said...

MaryLea, this is just chock-a-block with goodness! The ideas as much as the cautions and words of wisdom. I embrace wholeheartedly this kind of preschool experience, but even after three, have found some new, lovely ideas here. Thank you!

PS -- we built your ABC boxes months ago, and both my 2 and 5 y.o. are enjoying them greatly!

Anna @ The Imagination Tree said...

I have just seen this post by clicking on your side bar and I just wanted to say how much I love it and agree with everything you have said. So often the focus is all out of whack and becomes a mini competition into what a child can "produce" and this results in negativity towards crafts and activities in the future. I used to teach children who had been frightened into perfectionism in this way, and wouldn't attempt anything by themselves.
I am going to link to this as one of my Friday Favourites this week.

Ivania said...

This is a great post!! THANK YOU!!! I LOVE all your ideas - such a creative person you are!

eli said...

Me encanto!!!! tengo una hija de 2 años y 4 meses y adora el arte. le hice una masa de sal parecida a la q pusiste, pregunto q es el Kool-Aid?? q funcion cumple? y con q lo podre reemplazar? hoy descubri tu blog y me encanto, lo seguire siempre.
un beso

Billy said...

Thanks for all these ideas! My daughter is almost 2 and I try doing some sort of arts with her at least once a week. So far it's mainly "painting", because what can you do with such a young child? So was glad to read all the ideas you have.
Plus I love what you said about how the process and the dealing/sensing the materials is what's important and not the actual product. Should keep that in mind :-).

Dorte said...

I found your blog via Modern Parents Messy Kids. Thank you for all the great advice. I can't wait to get started now -- keeping in mind it's all about the process, not the final product.

deebi27 said...

What a great and sensible list of fun! Thank you!

Jennifer Murtha said...

I love your sensory boxes, and I was wondering where you bought that adorable rug? It would match our nursery perfectly and I'd love to buy one. Please let me know. Thank you!

pink and green mama MaryLea said...

Hi Jennifer, the rug is discontinued, the information about it can be found by clicking the ABOUT button at the top of my blog, I answer questions about the rug in my FAQs there! Good luck with your nursery nesting and decorating- so fun!


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