Exploring Different Art Surfaces with Toddlers

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Last week for the toddler art group I taped a variety of materials to the studio tables with the idea of letting the kiddos explore what it felt and looked like to draw and paint on the different surfaces.


Here's the before photo. The tables are covered with crumpled aluminum foil, paper towels, wool, a plastic freezer bag, a row of wooden popsicle sticks, a sheet of fingerpaint paper, colored tissue paper, the insert to an acrylic box frame, some plastic easter eggs, and a plastic paint palette. In other words, surfaces with a variety of textures and colors that I thought would be interesting to draw and paint on. Other ideas include corrugated cardboard, bubble wrap, fabric, wax paper, sticky contact paper, sandpaper, and a mesh bag (the kind that onions or lemons are sold in sometimes). There are so many fun possibilities!


First I put out the Crayola Twistables Slick Stix (oil pastels in hard plastic cases — I love these for toddlers!) so they could experiment with drawing on the different surfaces.


After they drew for a while, I set out some tempera paints and chubby brushes. Here Joe is painting on the plastic freezer bag with one hand and on the aluminum foil with the other.


Even 13 month old Fiona, one of our newest members, seemed excited about the materials!

This is definitely a process-not-product activity. It's very exploratory and seemed perfect for the toddlers, but I actually think older kids would enjoy it as well. Perhaps I'll set one up for Maia soon…

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  1. says

    I love slick sticks, but they are a mess. I didn’t read the instructions, and took them to lunch for the girls to use with their portable paper pads. MISTAKE! The slick sticks were all over them. Still, the sticks are wonderful to use. The color is wonderful!
    I love this idea, by the way. Is it wool roving?

  2. says

    Yes, it’s wool roving. I guess, anyway. It’s wool that we’ve used for felting rocks and balls and easter eggs.
    And yes, the slick stix can be a bit messy sometimes (as can oil pastels). I find that the slick stix are less messy than oil pastels because of the plastic case that the kids hold onto as they draw.

  3. says

    This is great! I saw someone do this with an older child but cut out small squares of different textures and glued them down onto a piece of cardboard -which seemed to be more of an individual texture study for older kids.

  4. says

    Jean, this week our theme was “Paper,” and I did this activity (after reading this post). It was a huge hit! First we colored on the various paper types with markers, and then painted on them…it was a true process-oriented activity that the children deeply enjoyed. Thank you for the inspiration!