My son is five years old, and one of his favorite things to do is arts and crafts. His daycare has an art table station, and he spends much of his days making intricate inventions out of cardboard, construction paper and tape. He always has a new project to show me when I arrive to pick him up, and it’s delightful.
When he was a toddler, my son was already creating things whenever and wherever he could. Since my husband and I also enjoy art, we had a great time with him exploring crayons, paints, popsicle stick houses and more. The following are a few things you can do if you too would like to have some artistic fun with your little one while simultaneously building their creativity.
Talk about colors
Engage your toddler in conversation about colors as often as you can. When you’re out on a walk together, for example, talk about the greens and browns of the trees, and the blues, whites and grays of the sky. If there are flowers, huge bonus. You can talk about less common colors, like magenta and lavender, as well as which colors look good together and which ones clash. Toddlers can absorb a lot, so unless it’s overload for your child, get as detailed as you wish.
Doing this on a regular basis not only encourages creativity, it also helps build your child’s language skills.
Look at art books
Add some art books to reading time to get your child inspired about painting, drawing and the amazing things that humans can create. You could look for art books made especially for children, or throw in some of the classics from whatever styles you enjoy most. Sharing your passion for art with your child early is a great way to engage them, even if their passion ends up being different from yours. Art books aren’t just for adults, as long as you teach your little one not to bend or rip the pages.
Make an art materials box
You could just designate a cabinet for art supplies, or use a big drawer, but making an art materials box is something fun for you and your little one to do together. Simply find a large cardboard box (or use a wooden crate). Line the inside with fabric if you wish. Paint the outside of the box with your child; encourage them to decorate the box however they want. Glue on feathers, rhinestones and googly eyes. Add stickers. The sky is the limit.
Fill the box with art materials that your child can access anytime. Things like paper, crayons, feathers, fluffy craft balls, stickers and glitter decals work well. If your child uses glue responsibly, add some glue sticks or white craft glue. Cut some shapes out of construction paper and put them in a box or envelope for your child to experiment with. The possibilities are endless.
Make a second box for messier art supplies, such as paints. It can be great fun to paint with your toddler, but it’s something to do together. Unless your little one is very responsible with paint, you might want to keep these out of reach until it’s art time. Also, setting up a small art table is a great idea if you have the space — it keeps paint off of the dining room table and kitchen counters.
Get some building blocks
Another great creativity-building thing to have around is a blocks box. These can be Legos, puzzle blocks, stacking blocks or all of the above! My son became interested in building things when he was very young, and he would build things out of anything. Now, at age five, he loves to make things out of a wide range of materials, and relishes inventing new structures with his Legos and puzzle blocks. They’re great to have around.
Make time to create
This might be the trickiest part. Many people’s schedules have gotten so hectic nowadays that it’s hard to find time to do anything amidst the running around. However, scheduling some time to unwind and create with your child is well worth any timeslot switching you have to do in your planner. Start with an hour a week — find room in your schedule to have art time at a certain time each week, and stick to it.
During art time, keep things flexible. Let your child guide the activity, and help them to accomplish the tasks they are working on. You can work on a painting or craft together, or each do your own side by side; whatever works best for you. You may be surprised at how relaxing and inspiring this time with your child can be… maybe you’ll rediscover a creative flair of your own.
If you have art time every week or more, the masterpieces are going to quickly pile up! Let your child choose where to hang her art on her walls; you can create a sort of room gallery. The fridge is also a great place to display art, of course, and other rooms in your home if you wish. Grab a few to display in your office. Arts and crafts from your child also make a great gift for grandparents and other relatives. They’ll be cherished forever.
If you still have an overflow of crafts, a gallon tub is a great place to stack them until they find a place.
What other ways do you and your little ones get creative?
— Tanya Mead