How To Make Art With Toddlers - 5 Frustration-Free Tips - The Montessori Room

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by Laura Berthiaume April 04, 2022 3 min read

Parents are often eager to introduce arts and crafts to their young children, only to feel disappointed that their child won't follow along.

I think this happens because parents remember arts and crafts being so much fun as a child. They're excited to recreate those memories with their own kids. 

Sound familiar?

You just might be remembering your own experience with arts and crafts at a much later age, more like 6+ years old, instead of 2. 

Some toddlers have ZERO interest in art, while others may only be interested in the tactile exploration of the materials, like finger painting. 

Every child is different but there are a few things to keep in mind that will make the experience morefun, both for you and your toddler: 

1. Toddlers are focused on process rather than product. 

This is not only true for art, it's likely the case with most toddler activities.

They like washing the windows because of the process, not because they want the house the have clean windows (I wish!). 

When you do a craft with a toddler, they likely will not care about creating a finished product, i.e. a card for mom's birthday. That will come later. 

Instead toddlers tend to enjoy more open-ended art. 

Instead,  view it as an opportunity to explore creativity and develop their unique creative expression, rather than the chance to complete a "project".

2.  Present opportunities for tactile exploration.

Children learn so much about the world through their hands so opportunities to explore art in this way is important.

Activities like finger painting and play dough are likely to be much more fun for toddlers than drawing or painting with a brush. 

That’s not to say that you can’t introduce a paintbrush, but don’t be surprised if your child eventually puts the brush down and paints with their hands.

3. What to do if you if your child is still mouthing things

Art activities can be challenging when your child is still exploring things with their mouth.  

If so, they may not be ready yet and the activities can be introduced at a later time. The alternative is to use materials that are safe for exploration with all of the senses, like edible finger paint or play dough. 

4. Prepare for the mess

Art with a toddler can get messy so only bring it out when you're in the right mood. This goes for kitchen work too. See this article if you've been frustrated working in the kitchen with your toddler >

A great strategy for messier activities is to prepare a clean up station ahead of time. Prep damp cloths, paper towels, and a mop so they're easy to grab. 

Every mess can be an opportunity to learn practical life skills too.  

5. Make art like a toddler

In Montessori classrooms, when the teachers are drawing with the children, they make sure to draw at an developmentally appropriate level. 

For a child under 2, this means only drawing a couple of lines and dots, and as they grow, adding in some serpentine lines and circles.  

For most children under 4, teachers won't do much more than scribble and they'll refrain from drawing something the child won’t be able to imitate.

To develop personal creativity, they also avoid drawing objects so that the child is encouraged to draw what they think it should look like. 

For example, your drawing of a tree may be different than your child’s. 

That's not to say you can't draw something your child asks you to, it's just a gentle reminder to leave them as much space as possible for creativity at this age. 

Did my child make this? Crafts made at school...

Teachers can often feel a lot of pressure to send home themed holiday crafts “made by the child.” 

You will know if the art brought home was made by your child or the teacher based on how perfect it is. 

Think about your child’s development and whether you’ve seen them cut in a straight line, colour something in entirely, or recreate a face, etc.

If you receive a card made by your child and there is one line drawn on it or a couple of stickers, your child likely did that themselves. 

The pic below is real artwork made by my 17 month old at Halloween, minus the mummy banana. That was a Halloween snack from the teachers :) 

What if your child isn't interested in art at all?

Some children show very little interest in art. They may just have other skills or interests they're trying to develop right now. That's ok. 

If your toddler shows little to no interest in arts and crafts right now, know that'll it likely come in the next few years. 


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