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 post will be about 

pink and green mama

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