Monthly Archives: October 2014

How not to do art with a toddler . . .

Leland pulled out this sticker book full of farm animals, and I managed to keep him from sticking them all over the walls, his brother, and himself to wait for paper while I used the bathroom (Yes you can put it on your shirt; no you can’t put it on the wall; yes you can put it on your pants; it probably won’t stick to the towels; yes you can flush the toilet for me). Two stickers out of twenty-five ended up being used in various ways during this time – I’ll take it.

While I was peeing I thought about how I would draw a quick barn and fence for him to put the stickers around, and then I remembered this great stamp-a-scene set I had with fences, grass, trees etc. so I got all excited and went running around finding the stamps, ink pads, markers, paper, and a pencil.


Then I put out the paper, drew a quick barn, and told Leland he could add some stickers. He put a couple on, but then got distracted by my stamping a fence, trees, grass, and flowers. Also distracted by all my fun art supplies that he wasn’t supposed to use!  I could see him disengaging the more I was doing . He put a bunch of farm animal stickers on and we made a nice picture but I realized this was not the best way to do art with a toddler (not necessarily a bad way, but could be better).


Some takeaways:

  • Don’t put out supplies the toddler can’t use
  • Don’t care so much about making it beautiful
  • Rethink working together on one paper (although if I have my own he usually just wants to help with mine!)
  • Leave the pig upside-down. He put the baby pig upside down so it could be facing the mama pig because they were talking.  I should have left it.
  • Maybe make a basic scene ahead of time, then let him go to town with the stickers
  • (I shouldn’t have to remind myself of this:) It’s the process not the product!
  • Focus on what he is doing, not the great idea I had
  • Don’t do elaborate activities right before naptime

Basically art at this age can be mostly be an open-ended, child-directed event. Simply put out some supplies and watch what happens. That being said, guided kits and structured activities are fine, too! I’m not ashamed of using the pre-colored and designed paint-with-water sheets for the decrease in mess. But I should create more opportunities for his creativity without getting in the way.

I guess what I mean is I got a little carried away with my own ideas this time, and it was a good reminder of what works better.  It wasn’t even bad – just could have been more fun if I had stepped out of the way.