Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Toddler Crafts

The internet is full of fun craft ideas to do with kids. As a former preschool teacher, I have books and folders stuffed to brimming with activities and crafts that correlate to almost every possible theme out there. So it should be easy for me to find ideas and activities to do with Stephanie. But the problem i've run into is that she's two.  Most of the craft ideas out there are not developmentally appropriate for two-year-olds, and that makes the educator in me cringe.

I definitely agree that it's fun to do parent-directed activites with children. (Meaning that I come up with a craft, decide it's what we're going to do, prepare all the parts, and help Stephanie execute it.) I even think it's perfectly fine to do these types of things. But I also feel like I need to balance that with child-directed, toddler appropriate activities.

Two year olds need to explore and engage all 5 senses. They need activities that will foster their creativity and allow them to learn and grow. The best way to do this is to provide materials that enable her to do these things. To be there to help guide her, but not directly give her instructions. To not have a "final product" that she needs to create. I have noticed that when I try to do a craft with a finished product in mind, Stephanie gets frustrated and bored fairly quickly. So I've had to dig around in my brain for some of the things that I did when I taught toddlers. Below, I share five of my favorite, simple crafty/sensory ideas for toddlers.

Shaving cream on a tray.
      Children love to squish it, play with it, feel it, and smell it. (And, admittedly, taste it. You have to make sure you're giving 100% of your attention during this activity). If you add a drip of food coloring, your toddler can make colorful designs by swirling it all over a tray.

Scrap paper and glue.
     Stephanie adores glue, and squeezing the bottle is great for strengthening the muscles in her hands, which in turn helps develop her fine motor skills. She squeezes the glue onto paper, and then picks up the little pieces of paper and puts them on the glue. So simple, but it creates abstract art that she is proud of, and I get to sit back and just watch her, instead of directing her on when and where to put the pieces.

     A piece of paper, some paint, and a paintbrush (or finger paint) are all your toddler needs to create a masterpiece all on his own. (Markers, crayons, chalk and paper can achieve these same goals.) It's always fun to ask your child about the painting when he's done with it, too. It's highly amusing to listen to him describe the elaborate scene he sees on the paper, when to your eye it merely looks like a blob.

3-D Art.
      One of my favorite things to do with my preschoolers was save bits of recycling (bottle tops, plastic baby food containers, paper towel/toilet paper rolls, etc.) and have them create works of art. Throw in some yarn pieces, googly eyes, and a few markers if you want, and see what your child can come up with.

Bingo Markers & Coffee Filters.
       The thin material of the coffee filter is what makes this activity unique, and bingo markers are great for little hands to grasp and manipulate. The colors will bleed across the filter, creating fun and colorful designs.

All of these activities are fun, and developmentally appropriate, and none of them have a pre-designed finished product that the child should strive to make. This allows for plenty of freedom of expression, and the opportunity to engage the senses and practice fine motor skills. If you decide to try any of these with your kiddos, let me know, and post pictures!


  1. These are great ideas!! We like to do crafts (as you know) but Ree is the same as S. She gets bored quick (unless it involves glue or paint) if I keep trying to get her to go to the next step. I'm going to try the scrap paper & 3D art soon. Where do you get bingo markers?

    1. I should have mentioned this. Be careful with the bingo markers...find ones that are non-toxic. The ones you find at cvs or other stores like that tend not to be. I've found good ones at the learning stores, and even at toys R us. I'm going to try and hunt some down online, for cheapish.


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