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How to Encourage Toddler Art Development

by Kathryn Rateliff Barr

Toddler art can improve your child’s hand-eye coordination, fine motor skills, decision making, problem solving and creative exploration. Most toddlers don’t need a lot of encouragement to get involved in art projects. What they want is more time and opportunities to create enjoyable art. The problem many toddlers have is that parents and teachers provide too many directions and rules to allow the child to express full creativity, according to Judy Press, author of “The Little Hands Art Book.” Press recommends that parents supply plenty of materials and oversight to ensure safety, without stifling creativity.

Provide a box of supplies your toddler can use to create anything his imagination can conceive of. Help him if he asks for help, but don’t take over the art project. Demonstrate the skills needed and then stand back and let him try it. Fill the box with paper, crayons, finger paint, paintbrushes, clay, glue, safety scissors and craft sticks. Optional supplies include craft foam shapes, egg cartons, pipe cleaners, cardboard tubes and containers to help your child stay organized. Use non-toxic art supplies to protect your child if he happens to get stuff on him or near his eyes or mouth.

Ask questions that encourage him to use his imagination to get started. Say, “I wonder what you could do with this,” and listen as he comes up with interesting ideas. Don’t make choices for him. If he can’t think of something to use the item for, put it back and give him the opportunity to create with something different.

Model creative art projects by working on your own non-toxic art while he works beside you. Draw, paint, scrapbook or decoupage a project so he sees there are many possibilities for creative work. If he asks, demonstrate what you are doing and let him try his hand at it. Working on your own project will reduce the impulse to control his art. He might also get inspiration from pictures in his books, art displays and art projects at day care or Sunday school.

Monitor your child’s work to ensure that he stays safe. Use safety scissors instead of scissors with a point, for example, or let him tear the paper. If you supply beads, beans, buttons, dried pasta or cereal or other small objects your toddler could swallow, sit with him while he works with the art supplies.

Display his art in a place of honor. Take pictures to send to Grandma or let him send special art to family. Let him hear you brag on his creativity and original artwork. Make your praise specific, such as, “What an interesting use of colors. How did you think of that?” Your praise will give him self-confidence to try new things.

Items you will need
  • Storage box
  • Paper
  • Crayons
  • Paint
  • Paintbrush
  • Clat
  • Glue
  • Safety scissors
  • Craft sticks
  • Craft foam shapes
  • Egg carton
  • Pipe cleaners
  • Cardboard tubes
  • Cardboard boxes

Tips

  • Use non-toxic supplies.
  • Monitor your toddler's activities to prevent him from putting things in his mouth, nose or ears.
  • Cover the art area with plastic shower liners to prevent a mess and facilitate clean-up.
  • Provide cover-ups or aprons to protect his clothes if you don't use washable art supplies.

About the Author

Rev. Kathryn Rateliff Barr has taught birth, parenting, vaccinations and alternative medicine classes since 1994. She is a pastoral family counselor and has parented birth, step, adopted and foster children. She holds bachelor's degrees in English and history from Centenary College of Louisiana. Studies include midwifery, naturopathy and other alternative therapies.

Photo Credits

  • Digital Vision./Digital Vision/Getty Images