Often, we see craft activities as a good way to spend an afternoon when it’s too wet or cold to go outside to the park. However, craft activities are also a great way to help your toddler engage in new ideas and build a foundation for future learning. If you haven’t delved elbow deep into the craft supplies before, you should know that toddler craft time can be extremely messy. You might also want to be ready to pluck the grubby toddler from the crime scene and deposit him straight into an antibacterial bath after your activity time is done. If you’re willing to brave the sometimes unstructured and messy nature of the activity and start discovering the fun of toddler crafts, read on!
“Toddler craft is no place for the likes of the Lego Movie’s “President Business” or any other control-freak personalities.”
According to Art Therapist Anna Reyner, when writing for the Early Childhood News website, arts and crafts are actually two different activities, with two separate goals. Art involves unstructured activities that draw upon the imagination to envisage an end result, whereas crafts are usually designed with a set outcome or goal in mind. However, in the case of toddlers, you should not focus on achieving a goal or outcome in crafting – you will likely be more successful if you allow art time to take on the unstructured, imaginative play usually ascribed to art-making.
Even though you may have to abandon the usual end goals you might have for crafting, you should absolutely still let your toddler get in on the glitter glue action. Toddler art is important! Allowing your toddler time to craft is vital to their growth and development. Art activities are an essential component of play and discovery, because your toddler is learning while your he is making that beautiful mess. These activities encourage toddlers’ creativity, imagination, the use of colors to show emotions, and symbolism to imply meaning. Problem solving skills, fine motor coordination, and even social skills can be honed during the simple process of sticking some milk bottle tops to a toilet roll and calling it a car. All of these are vital processes to prepare toddlers to engage in and enjoy their surroundings. But perhaps most importantly, craft activities can be great bonding moments filled with fun and excitement.
There are some precautions you can take to ensure the craft activity is appropriate for toddlers, especially those under two. For example, most store bought paints, glue and play dough are not baby friendly. But you can very easily make your own baby-friendly, non-toxic edible paints and glue using simple pantry items such as corn starch, baby rice cereal and natural food dyes.
To make the most out of this art activity for toddlers, follow these six crucial points:
Give yourself plenty of time and space
Make sure the toddler can’t ingest anything that isn’t edible or toddler friendly
Make sure that no toxins or allergens are hiding in ingredient lists
Watch out for choking hazards
Keep scissors and sharp objects out of toddlers’ reach
Keep activities simple. For example, try crafting easy finger puppets, edible finger paint or play dough. Use toddler friendly crayons to scribble on scrap paper, and indulge them in craft based sensory bins.
The most important thing to remember is to start simple!
2 cups of cornstarch
1 cup of cold water
4.5 cups of boiling water
Natural food dyes
Mix the cornstarch together with the cold water.
Pour in the boiling water, stirring between each cup. It should look similar to oobleck. You will want to keep stirring until it forms a custard-like consistency.
Separate your finger paint into small jam jars, (I like to use old baby-food jars or yogurt containers) and stir in some colors with food dye.
Just remember that the shelf life for homemade paints won’t be the same as store bought paints! The shelf life is approcimately seven days, but use it instantly for best results. Strap your toddler into their highchair or sit them at a designated craft table outdoors and let their fingers do the painting!
Hope Skinner is a professional nanny based in Sydney, Australia. Founder of Nanny Shecando, Hope works to support and promote professional nannies and sitters in the in-home childcare services industry. We encourage you to check out her blog as well!