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7 Tips for Doing Art with Toddlers

by Jean Van't Hul
June 2, 2021

Here are helpful tips for art with toddlers from suggestions for success, set up & cleanup, expectations with attention span and more!

Updated May 2021 by The Artful Parent editorial team

Kids painting with tempera paint sticks
Photo by Rachel Withers

Toddlers are constantly in motion but did you know that art is wonderful way to focus their attention, slow them down AND peak their curiosity?

Around the age of one is a great time to introduce your child to art!

Toddler painting on large canvas
Photo by Rachel Withers

Open ended toddler art activities provide children with the opportunity to freely explore materials and processes. You likely know art is important, but here are 7 Amazing Benefits of Art for Kids if you’d like to learn more).

And for young children, sensory play is like a close cousin to process art. Sensory play often incorporate an art element and the combination is magical for toddlers––they find it irresistible!

“Toddlers won’t always use the art materials the way you think they should be used but that’s okay!

Encourage exploration of materials and offer them over and over again. Repetition, as with many things at this age, builds skills and confidence in children.”

Jean Van’t Hul

Consider your expectations before you begin. Try to come with no expectations and allow the process to unfold.

Remind yourself that the goal is to step back and allow your toddler to explore and build a sense of self. This is the heart of process art and the art created during this stage is wonderfully unique.

Keep it simple. Too many choices can be overwhelming for young children. An example of this may be offering only one or two paint colors or collage materials for your child. As their interest begins to fade, add or trade in new choices.

7 Tips for Doing Art with Toddlers

Child fingerpainting on paper_Anna Harpe
Photo by Anna Harpe

1. Use a low table for your art

Toddlers work best when they can move and use their whole bodies to make art. Ideas for low surfaces include a coffee table, adjustable table, or a kids easel. Or lay a piece of cardboard on the ground outside for a big painting project.

Child with paint dabber and paper_Anna Harpe
Photo by Anna Harpe

2. Have a dedicated art outfit

Keep a large T-shirt or art smock on hand for your child to wear while making art (at least for messier projects). Keep in mind, even “washable” paints don’t always wash out completely. Alternatively, have a set of dedicated art clothes or go sans clothing!

Child painting with kwik stix on large paper on floor-Photo by Andrea Martelle
Photo by Andrea Martelle

3. Follow your toddler’s lead

For your toddler, a few minutes may be more than enough for the day. Don’t force it. Remember, the point is to have fun!

Child painting on arm–photo by Andrea Martelle
Photo by Andrea Martelle

4. Make cleanup easy

Have a wet rag or a towel and a dishpan full of warm, soapy water on hand to aid in cleaning up. Some projects are messy enough that an initial wipe is helpful before making it to the sink to wash hands.

Child painting legs_Anna Harpe
Photo by Anna Harpe

5. Let your toddler explore

Toddlers won’t always use the art materials the way you think they should be used but that’s okay! Encourage exploration of materials and offer them over and over again. Repetition, as with many things at this age, builds skills and confidence in children.

Toddler drawing with chalk pastels_Rachel Withers

6. Rethink how to talk about kids art

Rather than saying how “pretty” the painting is, talk with your toddler about the colors and lines. Help your child develop a vocabulary with which to think and talk about art constructively.

Toddler art with tempera paint sticks_Rachel Wtihers
Photo by Rachel Withers

7. Date the artwork

Add the child’s name, age and date to the back of the artwork. It’s very likely that later, you won’t remember!

Child painting on wood board_Anna Harpe
Photo by Anna Harpe

More Art with Toddlers

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

Did you know The Artful Parent has an Amazon shop filled with our top recommendations for art materials and creative play ideas? Don’t miss the toddler art recommendations!

7 Tips for Doing Art with Toddlers_Pin

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