Introducing a toddler to the world of art is a difficult task for the parent.
Toddlers’ minds are different from adults’; there are fewer boundaries, and unrestrained ideas and creativity abound. So while it might be tempting to restrict them to conventional craft, it’s sometimes fun to see where their imagination wanders. They will decide what they like and what they don’t like fairly quickly, but only through experimentation and hopefully a lot of fun.
Most one- or two-year-olds will love exploring colours and textures, and how different materials interact and feel, but a mum or dad must be wary of safety. Youngsters put items in their mouths or eyes, swing arms and legs, and are generally still learning to co-ordinate themselves. So anything sharp such as scissors, pens, pencils and craft knives are clearly unsuitable, while glues, ink and any chemical which might find itself leaking into lips or eyes could be deeply unpleasant. Thankfully, there are craft supplies and products that exist that are specifically designed with little ones in mind.
So be wary, but not despondent, because there are alternatives. For example Crayola has a range of colouring sets for children 12 months and above. You’ll still need to supervise and not all children will be ready at exactly a year, but many will stop eating and start scribbling faster than you think. If they do insist on eating, there are many recipes for edible paint using sugar and cornstarch and a little food colouring, which are safe for children and their little fingers.
A word of warning about play dough – it will find its way under nails and into shoe treads, and into cushion strands and settees, for years. But it is easy to make, as this great recipe from The Imagination Tree shows, and the range of flavours and colours is virtually limitless.
The real magic appears when you combine the dough with large pasta shapes, shells, buttons and other materials (keeping an eye, again, with what goes in the mouth), so keep these stored for the right time and create monsters, animals, houses and other splendid little shapes. If you have any spare time, glue those buttons and to corks and create your own stamps, which work well with the edible food paints.
If you wish to actually create something that should be eaten, rather than something that can, then easy-bake biscuits are a great way to introduce your little one to baking. Let them choose their cookie-cutter (and later the topping) and encourage them to press and roll the dough, before popping it in the oven.
Creating collages with safe glue and a big glue-brush can get messy, but it’s an activity that is timeless. Scraps of felt, coloured card and newspaper can be soon become impressive scenes, although an adult might want to draw a template first for the toddler to follow. There’s no need to keep your crafts indoors either, as leaves and feather make great natural additions. Leaves feature several times in this super collection of craft ideas from Buzzfeed
A final tip: your young ones will gradually be learning about special times of the year such as Halloween, Christmas, birthdays and Easter, and it is never too early to introduce these concepts into the play. Bringing new ideas to the table, literally and figuratively, will encourage your child to grow through exploration, thought and expression – which will set them up for life.
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