Toddler art activities are a great opportunity for parents to spend time with their toddlers while promoting learning at the same time. First Art for Toddlers and Twos, by MaryAnn Kohl, is a great parent resource full of fun art ideas for toddlers! Here are a few of our favorite “process art for toddlers,” focused activities.
First Color Mixing
Mixing colored water in the compartments of a plastic ice cube tray allows children to experiment with colors for the first time and to make new colors. Start with the three primary colors to make any hue under the rainbow!
- Ice cube tray
- Three small containers or plastic bowls (white or clear show colors best)
- Yellow, red, and blue food coloring
- Fill each compartment of a plastic ice cube tray half full with water.
- Put several drops of yellow food coloring into one of the compartments, several drops of red into another, and several drops of blue into another. Leave the res of the sections with clear water only.
- Fill three small containers with clear water, and set them aside.
- Place a paintbrush next to the ice cube tray.
- Put the food coloring bottles on the table to the side.
- Put several drops of food coloring into each of the water-filled small containers, and place them next to the ice cube tray (Adult).
- Dip a paintbrush into the different compartments of the ice cube tray, and mix and explore the colors.
- Add the colors from the containers into the ice cube tray compartments for new shades and color mixing experiments.
- Freeze the full ice cube tray to see what the colors look like in solid form.
- Fill the ice cube tray with a mixture of cornstarch and water to make interesting pastel and opaque colors.
- Mix together water, liquid soap, and powdered tempera paint, and pour it into a plastic ice cube tray. Press a cork into each section, and freeze overnight. The cork will form a chubby handle. (Use leftover paint from the easel to make good use of old paint.)
Children love “touchy-feelie” tactile projects. Cornstarch mixed with water has wonderful and unique physical properties- gooey when poured from a spoon, but hard if squeezed in the hands. And the nice part is how easy it is to clean up with just water.
- Food coloring
- Heavy baking pan or plastic dish tub
- Old tablecloth or dishtowel, if needed
- Spoons, measuring cups, and other kitchen tools
- Premeasure 2 cups (250 g) cornstarch into a baking pan or plastic dish tub. Ask the children to help, if desired. If a child will be handling the dry cornstarch before adding water, place an old tablecloth or large dishtowel under the pan to help contain the powder that may puff out.
- Put the food coloring, spoons, measuring cups, and any other kitchen items on the table to use for exploring.
- Premeasure 1 cup (240 ml) of water, and set it aside.
- Stand at the table, and feel the dry cornstarch with bare hands. (Standing works better than sitting for toddlers and twos.)
- Add water to the cornstarch, and mix it using bare hands. Feel the difference.
- Children love color! Squeeze drops of color from the little food coloring squeeze bottles. Add drops of two or more colors into the mixture, and mix with hands, watching the colors swirl and blend.
- Explore the mixture with spoons, cups, or other kitchen items.
- Cornstarch is nontoxic, though not particularly appetizing. It will not harm children who cannot resist tasting it.
- Scrape dried drips off the floor with the edge of a dustpan, and sweep it up.
- Add more cornstarch for a thicker mixture or more water for a runnier mixture.
Stringing Big Beads
String large homemade beads made from self-hardening playclay onto stiff “strings” of thin plastic tubing or plastic lacing. No more frustrated toddlers and twos trying to string beads onto floppy shoelaces or strands of yarn.
- Choice of “string”- thing plastic tubing (found in aquarium, hardware, or plumbing stores) or plastic lacing (found in craft stores)
- Homemade beads (see previous activity, “easy Big Beads”)
- Other items to string (optional)
- When the homemade beads are dry, secure the end of the “string” by putting one bead on the end of the plastic tubing or lacing and tying it securely. This will prevent the rest of the beads from sliding off. The next bead will rest against the first bead.
- Help the children string the plastic tubing or lacing through the hole in and pull it through. Caution: Always supervise children around beads to make sure they do not put beads into their mouths.
String as many beads as desired. If desired, string other objects such as plastic straws cut into short lengths or empty thread spools.
- Older children can string beads onto shoelaces or yarn with masking tape wrapped tightly around one end like a large pretend “needle.”
- To keep the pieces of straw from springing out of your hands and flying all over, hold them in a paper bag while cutting them.
Scribbling is a must for toddlers and twos! Increase brain activity by varying the scribbling tools, the materials on which to scribble, and the places to use the materials. Not to sound too much like Dr. Seuss, but “in a box, on a fence, on the floor, or a door…” is only the beginning! Mix and match tools, materials, and areas to scribble for hundreds of possibilities.
Mix and match the following tools, materials, and areas to work. Feel free to add your own ideas to this list!
- Calendar, old
- Coffee filter
- Paper plate
- In a box
- On a fence
- Under a bed
- On a window
- On the grass
- On a tray
- Choose a tool, a material, and a place to scribble. It’s best to start with only one of each.
- There are hundreds of possible scribbling activities you can achieve by mixing and matching one item from each list. For example, children can scribble using: a marker on a coffee filter clipped to an easel.
- Scribble freely using the selected tool on the selected material in the selected place.
- Supply more than one material, and help the children change materials as needed.
- Start with only one tool, one material, and one area. Later, try different tools with one material. Make changes when children seem ready.
Find more great art activities in First Art!