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Painting with Toddlers

Toddler Painting TipsArts and crafts with toddlers can be pretty tricky. They often do not have the understanding or attention span for a structured activity and, like my toddler son, love to put everything in their mouths. When I was a new mom with Olivia, I questioned whether the process of setting up and cleaning up a project was worth the 5 minutes (or less) she would actually color, paint or play with play dough.

But over the years, and with some key lessons I learned from the teachers at Bright Horizons, I look forward to art activities with Owen.

Here are some of my toddler painting tips:

  • Keep art activities unstructured. I like to tape a piece of paper to the table, lay out supplies in arms reach, and let my toddler explore. Sometimes that means he paints with water rather than paints.
  • Expect a mess but keep all other expectations in check. Painting with toddlers is an adventure. It may be messy. Or the ending result may only be a couple of dots on the paper. A nice reminder that it’s all about the process is good when you’re scrubbing paint off the floor.
  • Offer a variety of painting tools. Some toddlers love to touch everything, others are wary of new textures. Offering different types of painting tools keeps it interesting and engaging for toddlers. I like to give Owen different size brushes, shaped sponges, and stampers. And Owen’s child care teachers are always giving me new ideas – cotton balls, pine needles, toy cars, plastic animals (makes awesome animal tracks!), spaghetti, holiday bows, feathers, yarn, bubble wrap, etc.
  • Get creative with the painting process. When you don’t feel like making a huge mess, tape paper inside a box or plastic container with cover, squirt some paint in, add some plastic balls (ones with texture work best), place top on and shake, shake, shake. That way the mess is contained. Other creative ideas are to paint with colored water, bubble painting in the tub, or create paint popsicles.
  • Sit back and just have fun watching. This one was hard for me to do initially. I felt like I should be guiding and encouraging the activity. But what I learned is if you just sit back most toddlers will explore on their own and maybe even discover a whole new way of painting you haven’t even considered.

Here are my tips. I know there are many more that I am missing. Please share with our readers your toddler painting (or art) tips!

One comment

  1. carrie February 23, 2013 at 7:08 pm

    Loved the one with balls and paint in a closed container. Neat.’

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