February 12, 2018

I used to find craft time with toddlers daunting, so we rarely did it. Now, we can churn out a project like it’s nothing. Art is something we do everyday if possible, and I seriously look forward to getting all the stuff out for art time.

So I put some thought into what exactly has made it go better (or happen at all) and came up with a few tips below.

Some are general concepts about mothering stuff, and then there are some art specific.


ONE: This is temporary. My kids won’t not know how to hold a pencil and be spilling everything for more than a few years. It’s happening, so enjoy it. Accept it is the stage, and let’s do it. This is your only chance for them to practice creativity at age four. Or three. Or ten. So help them do it how they can at that age. It is a way to love them and being able to think creatively is a valuable skill as an adult. So wiping the marker off the walls for them matters.

TWO: Give yourself freedom in seasons. You may not be going above and beyond with your toddler because you are in your third trimester, or nursing, or your husband is needing to work more hours right now. You want to do what will most serve or bring peace to your home. And sometimes that’s not getting out the play dough. And then sometimes it is. Moms are pros at sensing the needs of their family and figuring out how to handle them.

THREE: Don’t be lazy.

FOUR: But rest.

FIVE: Things will probably get dirty in these activities. Messes get made. It’s my job to clean them up. It will be fine. (And there’s always age appropriate delegation). Get a drop cloth you fold up with the art supplies and always toss it down on your table. Or, I put it on the kitchen floor like a picnic blanket and say they and the paint need to stay on the cloth until they are done.

SIX: When I’m sitting around bemoaning how bad I am for not doing crafts with the kids in a while (or enough outdoor play or baking or whatever), just stop and spend that time doing one little thing in one of those categories. Because it only takes 15 minutes (less?) and then you’ve started. And it hasn’t been six months since you did any art, it’s something you “do” because you did it this week.

SEVEN: Just like adults, little kids like spaces better when they are organized. They understand a sense of pride of having a clean room or getting to pick a toy off a shelf that is orderly versus just a scattered pile of hysteria. So help them keep their art supplies at some achievable level of structure and develop a sense of dignity for how they maintain their possessions.

EIGHT: It gets easier. It shocked me how far my kids came in just a couple months. Dude, the first time you paint with toddlers, there is no shame in just using one paint color. And then you each will get better at it and it will be easier for them and you to do art cleaner, for longer periods, and with more complexity.

NINE: When you see art project ideas that involve a lot of special prep on your part like pre-cutting out a bunch of triangles for bird beaks or falling leaves or whatever, file those away for special occasions. For us we’ve liked having most days of art just be freestyle using basic materials.

I also shared a post about my favorite kid art supplies that make it easy too! (For real, some that are like weird easy.)

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