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7 Simple and Fun Art Activities for Toddlers

by Jean Van't Hul
June 7, 2021
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These simple art activities for toddlers are open-ended allowing the child for a multi-sensory experience making the process of learning more fun!

Updated May 2021

Toddler painting on paper with watercolors and tempera paint sticks.

It’s the process, not the product.

We’ve all heard that, right? Especially as it relates to children’s art. I first heard it from MaryAnn Kohl, friend, and author of more than two dozen books on kids’ art.

Process art is all about the making and doing rather than just the end result––which by the way––is still stunning artwork. When it comes to toddlers, process art is a wonderful way to engage young children through art.

Toddler-with-artwork-Rachel Withers

You may be wondering why? Similar to any other skill your child is building at this time, they need to experiment and test and explore over and over again. Process art allows this experimentation and over time builds confidence for children to try new methods for creating art. And a comfort level with how and what the materials can be used for.

A toddler making art is exploring the materials, the tools, his body, the world around him, and cause and effect as he creates.

Jean Van’t Hul

As the adult, you can guide your toddler’s art explorations as you guide his/her interactions with the rest of the world—with loving awareness that your child is actively forming foundations for living and being in this world.

Process art places the role of creation, joy and satisfaction solely on the child’s shoulders. Some craft projects require more adult assistance or have a specific end goal in mind while process art fosters imagination, creativity and confidence through its open-ended approach.

For young children, art is about the process of creating, not about how the finished artwork looks. And the younger the child, the more this is true.

Jean Van’t Hul
Toddler painting pieces of recycling and cardboard_Rachel Withers

Tips for Doing Art with Toddlers

Here are 3 top tips for a smooth road creating art with toddlers. For more recommendations see 7 Tips for Doing Art with Toddlers.

1. Toddler Safety

Keep toddlers safe by supervising closely and giving reminders to put the art materials on the paper rather than in the mouth.

“The paintbrush goes on the paper, not in the mouth.”

“Keep the marker on the paper.”

2. Describe What You See

You can give words to understand what your toddler is doing. Here’s some ideas for how to talk with your kids about art.

“Look at the red dots you’re making! I see big dots over here and little dots over here.”

“What big swirls! It looks like it’s fun to move your arm and the crayon around and around that way.”

3. Encourage Your Toddler’s Creativity

And you can also encourage your toddler’s creativity by giving permission to explore and experiment rather than with an expectation to create as you might have.

“I see you’re stacking all the stickers on top of each other. How interesting”

“You’re experimenting with painting on top of the salt, too? What’s it like?”

Remember that a toddler’s attention span may be quite short. Like five minutes, even. And that’s okay. It is still well worth giving them the opportunity to explore and create with art materials, even if it is for just 5 or 10 minutes at a time.

Jean Van’t Hul

Ready? Here is a selection of simple, process-oriented art activities for toddlers. These are the kinds of activities that they can do over and over again, in lots of different ways, as they begin to explore art.

Toddler with squeeze paints

Process Art Activities for Toddlers

(Besides simply drawing (on paper or a chalkboard, for example) or simply painting or fingerpainting, here are some favorite process art activities for toddlers.

Playdough with poke ins - Rachel Withers

1. Playdough with poke-ins

We return to playdough over and over again in our home. It’s as much a staple art material as paint sticks, markers and gel crayons.

Sticker collage art for kids_Rachel Withers

2. Sticker collage art

Pick up round labels from the stationary aisle at Target. They’re cheap and easy for toddlers to lift and stick for a great fine motor building workout.

Maias Ombre Heart Symmetry painting with mixed colors

3. Blotto Art Prints

This is a project we return to again and again at our toddler art classes because toddlers go wild over this activity!

Child-rolling-paint-onto-bubble-wrap–Photo Rachel Withers

4. Bubble Wrap Printing

This is a fun art activity that we return to often at my art classes and with my own kids. Pick up a foam roller at Home Depot for $1 .

Tape bubble wrap to the table and then scoop a few colors of paint onto it. Encourage your toddler to roll it around. At some point this will likely become a finger painting experience as little hands squish and spread the paint.

If you’d like to capture a print before the colors become too mixed, press a piece of paper onto the bubble wrap. Rub all over then gently peel it off to reveal the print!

Child-painting-tracks-with-car

5. Painting with wheels

This is a fun one for toddlers and you can literally see the wheels turning (no pun intended). But seriously, their concentration is at an all time high watching the cause and effect as car wheels create tracks across the paper.

Contact-paper-collages-with-felt-paper-and-yarn-Rachel Withers

6. Contact paper suncatchers

Tape some Con-Tact paper to the wall (sticky side up) and set out cut yarn, felt, tissue paper and paper shapes.

Toddlers painting with watercolors on paper. Photo by Rachel Withers

7. Watercolor and wax resist painting

Another easy and beautiful process art activity that kids can return to over and over again. Get ready to frame the amazing abstract artwork that your kids will create!

And finally, never forget how much toddlers love to squeeze paints in a bottle or glue. Set out a piece of cardboard and let them happily put their little hands to work!

50-Toddler-Art-Activities

More Toddler Art Resources

Visit The Artful Parent toddler art page for lots of toddler art ideas.

Looking for art supplies for toddlers? The Artful Parent Amazon shop is filled with our top recommendations. Download and print our FREE Top 10 Art Materials guide.

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