The best arts and crafts for toddlers are simple and open-ended, allowing for exploration of the materials and the world around them.
Updated February 2022
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Arts & Crafts for Toddlers
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.
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.
This is a project we return to again and again at our toddler art classes because toddlers go wild over this activity!
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!
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.
Tape some Con-Tact paper to the wall (sticky side up) and set out cut yarn, felt, tissue paper and paper shapes.
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!
More Arts & Crafts for Toddlers
Visit The Artful Parent’s toddler art activities for lots of arts and crafts for toddlers.
Looking for art supplies for toddlers? The Artful Parent Amazon shop is filled with our top recommendations.
- 7 Tips for Doing Art with Toddlers
- 5 BEST Toddler Art Activities
- 11 Best Art Materials for Toddlers
- 5 Low Mess Creative Activities for Toddlers
- 11 Best Art Materials for Toddlers
- Easy Yarn Suncatchers for Kids
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