Sponge Painting with toddlers and twos

by Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. on March 19, 2010

in Creative Art, Infant and Toddler

Recently, I had a mother on Twitter ask me for ideas for art with toddlers and twos. More specifically she was asking for ideas of art that can be displayed or saved. Her request led me to write this post.
I will address the specific request but first I need to share a few pointers about art with toddlers and twos.

When it comes to toddlers and young twos, it is important to understand that the most important thing to consider when it comes to art is the experience. Even if one wants something to put up on the refrigerator or to save as a keepsake, the experience is what will invite a toddler or two year old to participate.
To get a toddler or two interested in art, the experience should invite the child to want to explore. Bright colors, interesting tools (paint brushes, paint sponges, paint rollers, stamps, cookie cutters), interesting art mediums or materials (paint, play dough, pudding, pasta, shave cream, paper, stickers, fabric), and different sensory experiences (rice, sand, glitter, salt, flavorful oils) are all ideas for getting toddlers and twos interested in exploring art.
The setting for experiencing art should vary too. Perhaps take the art experience outside, sit on a floor, paint on an easel, or tape the activity to a window. Toddlers are incredibly curious about their world and the idea of sitting at a table staring at one thing and spending any time on that one thing probably isn’t too appealing for most toddlers and younger twos.
Timing is also a factor. Where possible, leave the art out and allow the toddler or young two year old to come and go to the experience rather than making art a 30 minute sit down plan.  Have other centers open or activities available and encourage the child to come back to the art experience and try a little more. Some children will naturally stay more engaged in the process and others will only be slightly interested.
Part of exploring any art activity is getting a bit messy. Toddlers and young twos use their whole body and all their senses to explore new materials. It is how they learn about their world. Too often I hear about adults taking the experiences away and opting for non-messy or no-risk art because it isn’t messy or risky. The problem is, the child learns through these experiences and will only improve their skills and their understanding of how to handle art materials and mediums if they are given the opportunity to do so. Of course, all activities presented to a small child should be age appropriate and monitored for safety.

Back to the original parent request
The request was to find ideas for artwork that can be saved and kept as a keepsake. See the lovely artwork above? I will now trim this up and put it in a little frame. I will probably cut off the words at the bottom too. I want this artwork to be all child – no adult. I will add a date to the artwork in the corner and a name and tuck it away or hang it up on a wall. When I look back at this, I will know by the kind of paint strokes that are on the paper and the date in the corner that this was where Wy was developmentally at this time.
Any art can be displayed or framed or saved!

The key to really enjoying a piece of artwork as a keepsake or as something for display is to..

1. Make sure the art is really something child-made.
2. Make sure the art shows something that reminds you of what it was like when the child was a toddler or two year old.
3. Take the art and frame it or laminate it or put it in a scrap book.
4. Add a small name and date in the corner so to remember the age of the child when it was made.
5. And don’t be afraid to trim the art.

I visited one of my preschool parents and hanging on their wall was a beautifully framed piece of artwork with bright colors and shapes. When I inquired about the art, the parents said “you should recognize that, it was made in your classroom!”  Looking closer, I could see it was simply a tissue paper art project with bright colors of tissue paper and liquid starch but the framing added a shine and made it look like a masterpiece!

This article is being shared with you by Deborah Stewart of Teach Preschool - Sharing the wonders of early learning in action!

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