In our house, the fastest way to turn a bad day into a good one (and a cranky mama into a happy one) is for Colin to announce spontaneously, "Mama, want do art!" Oh, be still, my poor old art major's heart! And unless it's very late at night, or this mama is very, very tired, you can bet that I will drop whatever I'm doing and comply, because I love that Colin likes creating "art" and I want to encourage it as much as possible.
One of the reasons, I think, that he enjoys "doing art" so much is that we use really nice art supplies. It's just so much easier for him to create something bold and colourful when he's using rich, artist-quality paints and thick, velvety papers that work with his uncoordinated toddler hands rather than against them. I noticed that when we were on vacation, and using printer paper and some cheap paints I picked up at the grocery store, that he became easily frustrated when the paint ran and pooled on the page.
Fortunately, I didn't have to go out and by a lot of expensive art supplies for my toddler (even I would balk at that). I have tons of supplies left over from my student days--and a few favourite paints and brushes from my childhood, which I got second-hand from my own very artistically inclined grandmother. I can't wait until Colin gets a little bit older. Then we can start using up my horde of inks, pastels, oil sticks, acrylics!
Of course, making art with your toddler doesn't have to just be about paint and crayons--or the fun-but-murder-on-your-carpet Play-doh. Lately, I've been experimenting with other media: noodles, textured papers, fabric scraps. Colin's favourite--by far--has been the "bean tray." Basically, I fill a muffin tin with different kinds of beans and grains, set the whole thing on a rimmed cookie sheet, and let him go to town. The first time I tried this, I included a piece of paper covered in Elmer's glue, thinking it would be fun to see what came out. The result was only a huge mess and a sticky, frustrated toddler. Turns out, just touching and sorting the beans is enough fun for him. And the best part is, he likes sorting them, so I can put them back in little jars and use them over and over.
I'm hoping that next year, when I'm on maternity leave and Colin is home with me all day, that we can do regular art projects--not just for his own development but also to keep me sane. At Colin's day care, they "do art" nearly every morning, and I think the day care workers do it as much for the kids as to find a way to fill the time. I'm hoping that before Colin finishes at the day care in May that I can glean a couple of new crafty ideas from his caregivers there.
What are some of your most successful artistic experiments with toddlers?