Very young toddlers enjoy painting. With supervision, they can participate in a variety of painting activities. Painting helps toddlers develop hand-eye coordination, fine motor skills and spacial skills. Through painting they can learn about colors and shapes. Painting develops imagination, creativity and emotional intelligence. Engaging a toddler in conversation about his painting benefits social skills. Writing the child's name on his paintings and displaying them develops a child's self-esteem.
Buy washable, non-toxic paints and “stubby” paintbrushes. Edible paint can be made from cornstarch (see Resources). Always discourage 2-year-olds from putting paint or painting equipment in their mouths. Ideally, edible paint should not taste too good. It is possible to make good-tasting edible paint from cake batter, pudding or corn syrup. However, children may be so busy eating that they are distracted from painting and it confuses the children. Encouraging toddlers to believe paint is for eating could be a problem when they enter settings where the paint is not edible.
Finger painting can be enjoyed by very young children. It can be delicate -- using finger tips to paint lines and dots. More likely at this age it will become a messy, slapdash time. Children will cover the paper, slide their hands around in it and slap it. All that is exploratory play. The sensations of the paint on the hands helps develop sensory awareness. You can talk about squishing and squeezing and explore the slippery feel.
Let toddlers dip their hands into a tray of paint. Make hand prints on paper. Toddlers will enjoy this activity for its own sake, but hand prints can be used to make a variety of pictures. By adding a few extra blobs of paint, hand prints can be made into Thanksgiving turkeys or Christmas angels. Many hand prints together can form the petals of a flower or the leaves of a tree.
Fold a piece of paper in half. Encourage the child to dab one side of the paper only with several paint colors. They may use fingers, brushes or squeeze bottles. Fold the unpainted side over the painted side. Press it down all over, rubbing well. Opening it out should reveal a symmetrical pattern, which may resemble a butterfly. Toddlers will enjoy repeating this activity to discover what new surprises it reveals. When dry, cut out the “butterflies.” Display them on the wall or window. Make some on card stock and suspend them from the ceiling.
Ask the toddler to lie down on a large piece of paper. Draw around him. Ask him to get up and see his own outline. Talk about his hair and eye color. Discuss the clothes he is wearing. Help the child to paint in his clothing and features in the correct colors. When dry, pin the drawing on the wall with the feet at floor level.
Show toddlers how to dip objects into paint, and use them to make patterns on paper. Cotton reels make wheel shapes. Corks make circles. Sponges make interesting textures. You can making printing blocks by carving designs into the flat face of halved potatoes. This activity can be used to teach children to recognize shapes, or to make repeating patterns.
- Nursery World: Art in the Early Years: Drawing
- "First Art: Art Experiences for Toddlers and Twos"; MaryAnn Kohl; 2002
- Penn State Cooperative Extension Better Kid Care Program: Painting with Young Children, There's More to the Picture
- Wee Can Too Edible Art Supplies; Safe Finger Painting for Babies and Toddlers; 2011
- Early Years Experience: Painting Ideas
- Photo Credit Polka Dot/Polka Dot/Getty Images Jupiterimages/Comstock/Getty Images
- Creative Kids Activity Library; How to Make Finger Paint for Kids; 2009
- Fun on a Dime: Cornstarch Finger Paint
- Family Education Network: Arts and Crafts Activities for Toddlers
- "Things to Do With Toddlers and Twos"; Karen Miller; 2000
- Kiwi Families; Benefits of Creative Play; Kerri Tilby
- Tasmanian Early Years Foundation; Creativity and The Early Years of Childhood; Workshop Report 2009
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