The idea of letting a toddler create art can be as exciting for a child as it can be scary for a parent. What if your floors get ruined and Baby’s clothes get stained? Deep breaths. Deep breaths.
Allowing toddlers to have arts and crafts time is important for their development. It can be a great time to teach Baby about colors, textures, and that getting a little dirty is perfectly OK. Here’s a beginner’s guide on creating art with your toddler (without the stress of a mess)!
- Provide protection: This is a rule that covers a lot of ground when it comes to making art with Baby. You can protect surfaces by throwing a vinyl tablecloth over your table, or even a shower curtain liner on the floor. Dressing Baby in clothes you won’t mind seeing stained if that “washable” paint doesn’t wash out as easily as it claims, and dressing yourself the same way in case Baby feels the need to give you a painty hug can take some of the stress out of the idea of a mess. For Baby, less clothing might actually be better, if both of you are comfortable with that, since bare skin can be cleaned up easily in a bath Baby probably had coming anyway. Lastly, of course, art products that are age appropriate and non-toxic will keep Baby safe as well as happy as they explore their artistic side.
- Set the space: Now that you’re ready to go, it’s time to set up the workspace for Baby. Keeping it simple can be a great place to start, since setting out too many materials at once can overwhelm a young child, and cause them to lose focus. Set the stage in an area you’re comfortable seeing get a little messy – maybe even outside, if the weather permits it. This will help keep things relaxed, since you won’t be able to really enjoy the process if you feel like you need to clean up after them with every stroke.
- Talk to teach: Arts and crafts time is a great opportunity for teaching Baby some basic vocabulary. Giving them options, such as “blue or yellow?” and “circle or square?” will help them learn to differentiate between different shapes and colors. The more different types of projects you do together, the more words and concepts Baby will be exposed to!
- Keep expectations realistic: Discuss the project with Baby before you begin, but don’t try to correct their work while they're creating. The work of art might end up totally different than you’d envisioned, but that’s part of process. Ultimately, the goal is that they enjoy making it, which is what makes it perfect. Bear in mind, too, that Baby may not be as excited about the project as you’d hoped. Let them decide when art time is over – even if it has only been a couple of minutes.
- Prepare a bath: You’ll see.