Monday, April 14, 2014

Art Projects with Toddlers & Preschoolers

Now that the Easter season is here, I wanted to share some tips on how to minimize the mess and maximize fun and creativity with your little one. Art projects can be even more fun with a playmate or sibling.

First of all, the importance of art projects with toddler/preschool age is to help them explore with different textures like: sticky, wet, soft, hard, rough, squishy, and gooey. While exploring with their creativity, these projects can help strengthen their fine motor skills.

The thought of supervising an art activity with little ones might seem somewhat daunting or intimidating thinking it can be too messy and out of control. I can appreciate those fears. Supervising a successful art activity with little ones is possible, if you plan ahead and think safety.

Art activities for little ones can be fun using simple materials/supplies like:

construction paper
tissue paper
felt squares
card board
paper bags
stamps and ink pads
masking tape
child size blunt-tip scissors
washable paint
paint brushes with wide handles and wide bristles
no-spill paint cups
large googly eyes
yarn (keep short)
string (keep short)
pipe cleaners
drinking straws
paper plates
cotton balls
plastic clear containers with lids

You could also find anything you can collect as recyclable (cleaned of course) like:
empty toilet paper tubes
empty paper towel tubes
empty baby food containers
empty yogurt containers

CAUTION NOTE: The list could be endless but I do suggest staying away from materials that could be harmful if swallowed like:
tiny googly eyes
Saran Wrap
plastic bags
safety pins or any kind of pins
Keep strings short 
(An exception to this would be if preschoolers are in a separate area from the toddlers and are supervised)

To cover their clothing, I use large short sleeve t-shirts. I have an apron for myself. Other handy supplies that I usually have on the table are: wipes for gluey or paint filled hands and a marker to mark the child’s name on the art project. If your table isn’t equipped for paints or spills, a cover or washable table cloth to cover the table may help. To keep the little ones from pulling off the table cloth/cover, you might want to tape it onto the table.

Where do I shop for art supplies?
I find supplies at various stores like: the local craft shop, fabric store, superstore, school supply store, and online through educational material websites.

Keep it simple and think safety
In my child care program, I keep it simple and find a craft that is easy for little ones to do with a limited assistance from me. It’s a must to think ahead with little ones. They are quick to grab things off the table if you aren’t paying attention. So, when I gather the supplies that I need for the art activity, I place them up high out of reach until I know I have everything I need. Everything gets moved to the table, when I am ready to start the art activity. The toddler scissors are kept in my apron pocket.

How to teach scissor cutting with a toddler? See Scissor Cutting with Toddlers article.

Here’s how I plan it out:
In my child care program, I check my supplies to see if I have everything I need. I do this a couple of days ahead; in case, I need to purchase more supplies. I think of something that is related to the season, or a special holiday coming up. If there isn’t a particular holiday, and you can’t think of something season related, the little ones like animal crafts. Some ideas of animals are: monkeys, lions, and rabbits. Oh, and don't forget Mother’s Day or Father’s Day, either.

Plan time
Art activities do take a while to assist, especially if you have a group. So it’s important to plan ahead at least 30 minutes to maybe an hour before the art project is finished.

How to get started:
Once you have all the materials needed, move everything to the table. Any table should work, as long as you have space for supplies and room to assist with one little one at a time. Usually, I have the table in a corner. The supplies are kept in the corner away from curious little ones, while I’m sitting at the table keeping an eye on the supplies; as well as, the one who is doing their art activity. I find it easier to use a toddler size table for art activities. I sit in a chair while, the others stand by the table. This makes it easier for the artist to reach for the materials we are using.

As I said before, I assist with one little one at a time. That means they take turns. Whoever gets to start first, (with my assistance) he puts on a large t-shirt, making sure his outfit is covered. I suggest either having the little artist stand right next to you, or sit on your lap. Of course, this depends on your table size and the age of the child. Meanwhile, the others are watching. As I do this every week, the little ones eventually gain an understanding that they have to wait for their turn. If I have an anxious one, I’ll let them play with a small piece of art supply like construction paper, while they are waiting. Or, if I have an art activity that requires ripped up paper, I’ll have the others do the ripping while they’re waiting. When the first little artist is done with his art project, I wipe his hands with a wipie. I make sure I have marked their name on the activity. I either post it, or tape it up and out of the way, to display until it’s ready to take home. If it’s something that can’t stick on the wall, find a high shelve to keep it safe. They get so proud of their finished art project, when they can see it from afar. Before I’m ready for the next one’s turn, we wash hands to clean off all the excess that didn’t get cleaned from the wipies. At this point, I’m ready to assist the next little one with their art activity.

Are you interested in how to make the craft pictured above? 

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