Toddler Art: Making messes and growing skills

Here’s the deal. Toddler art can be a little bananas. It can be messy. It can be exhausting. It can be short lived. Can I be so bold as to present you with some reasons for trying it and maybe sticking with it?

DISCLAIMER: It’s hard being a parent to small children. My internship director once told me that the hardest job she ever had was being a parent. As an unpaid, childless intern, I chuckled because I was pretty sure doing her job for 6+ months for all of $0 was pretty stinkin’ hard. BUT I digress. As a mama to 3 blessed cherubs, I do concur that this is the hardest job I have ever had. This information is not meant to make you feel guilty if messy art is not your jam. Somedays we don’t have the wherewithal to deal with another mess. Somedays Disney+ (not an add… but feel free to call me, Disney!) is our bestie boo. That’s okay! Do what you can, when you can.

Reason #1: It can help you connect with your child in a meaningful way. Confession time. I don’t enjoy pretend play. It is not my jam. I would rather have my fingernails pulled out then play little people or babies. (That’s dramatic, but you get the point.) I do however LOVE art. I love painting and coloring and all the things. So when we pull out the art supplies I can spend quality time with my toddler doing something we BOTH enjoy.

Reason #2: But Jess, you say, my toddler won’t do the art! All they want to do is eat the paint or spend 30 seconds doing the thing that I spent all this time setting up. I know. I know. Simplicity is the name of the game with toddlers. Your toddler isn’t designed to sustain attention to any one task for a very significant amount of time. Their baby brains just aren’t developed enough for that. BUT the more you present opportunities to them, the more they will begin to engage in those things. It takes time and a whole lot of patience and supervision (see Reason #1 – reframe it in your brain as connection time). Eventually, they will be able to engage more. Eventually they will stop eating the paint. (PS – Please always use non-toxic materials.) Eventually, you will see the fruits of your labor.

Reason #3: There’s a ton of fine motor practice, sensory stimulation, and problem solving in art. They become little scientists as they figure out what happens if they mix all these colors up (into mud). The little muscles in their fingers and hands become stronger as the use their pincer or palmer grasp to pick up materials or hold Kwik Stixs. They feel all the little sensations of wet, sticky paint on their hands.

Reason #4: Sometimes they don’t engage in the toddler art activity at all, but if you refer back to Reason #1 something else magical happens. Your toddler will bear witness to you engaging in the toddler art activity. Why does that matter? First off, our children learn a whole lot through observation (sometimes more than we wish, amiright? Anyone else “accidentally” say an inappropriate word while driving only the hear it repeated back? No…. just me??). Second off, one the best ways to get your child to participate in any task, but especially art is for you to do it with them. As a popular red headed mermaid sings, “I wanna be where the people are.” Your children want to be where YOU are. Use that your advantage. Finally and what I would argue is the most important part, your inner child gets to play for a little bit. You do have a little person inside of you that needs tending to, this is one of the ways that you can do that.

Be brave. Stay Creative.

Auntie Jess

PS – Ready to give toddler art a try with a little guidance from me? Sign up for one of our Toddler Creatives classes. Find out all the information here!

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