Art supplies and your almost-three-year-old
Whether they’re at home, at daycare, or at a kids’ art studio, children about to turn 3 have the energy and creativity to churn out a dazzling array of artwork. From construction paper canvases dripping (literally) with color to three-dimensional macaroni masterpieces, your baby can have a great time producing new artistic masterpieces to decorate your home with, and get the chance to experience new sensations and practice new skills while she does it.
Understanding your blossoming new artist
There’s a reason behind this spurt of Picasso-like productivity. As your baby approaches her third birthday, she has gained increasing fine motor control, which lets her grasp a paint brush, crayon, or glitter tube much more easily than she ever could before. At the same time, toddlers have vivid imaginations, and artwork in all its forms is a great way for your baby to channel - and showcase - these amazing new skills. Plus, could there be anything more fun than finger paint?
Cool supplies to spark creativity
Once your baby discovers the magic of creating her own art, it can be fun to make sure you have some supplies on hand so she can start a project when inspiration hits. You may need to do some shopping to stock up, but you also may have some great items in your home already that your baby can weave into her newest creation.
- Look for different types of paper: Budding artists need a blank canvas, but almost-3-year-olds definitely don’t need the expensive kinds! Odds are you’ll have extra copy paper near your printer, leftover plain paper plates from a recent picnic, or construction paper in a closet from an older child’s school project that your baby can transform. And don’t forget those stray sheets of tissue paper lurking in your gift-wrapping stash that can be torn, glued, and scrunched into three-dimensional wonders.
- Explore textures and shapes: Keep searching closets and pantries, and you may find cotton balls that your baby can stretch into fluffy clouds, colorful breakfast cereal shapes just waiting to be turned into a vibrant, one-of-a-kind masterpiece, or nearly empty pasta boxes containing noodles for pasting and painting onto your baby’s latest landscape.
- Seek out colorful paints, markers, and more: In addition to fun household items, toddlers also express their creativity with more traditional tools like crayons, water-based paints, markers, colored pencils, white glue, and glitter. You may discover that your baby is drawn to one medium over another, or that she flits from paints to glitter to crayons – sometimes all in the same creation.
- Follow your toddler’s lead: While you will want to be there to supervise the arts and crafts activity and share in the fun, make sure your baby makes all of the creative decisions about her artistic endeavors.
The art - and science - of staying safe
As with anything toddlers do, your job is to make sure your baby is well-supervised during arts and crafts time, and to keep all supplies in a safe place when they get put away. Read labels when you shop for new products, and focus on materials with the “AP” (Approved Product) label from the Art and Creative Materials Institute (an international organization that certifies arts and crafts materials as safe based on certain specifications) – and make sure all products you buy are lead-free and age-appropriate. Finally, remind your baby that art supplies aren’t for eating - and consider offering her a snack before getting started so that she isn’t hungry or thirsty.
- “Developmental Milestones: 3 to 4 Year Olds.” Caring for Your Baby and Young Child: Birth to Age 5 HealthyChildren.org. American Academy of Pediatrics. 11/21/15. https://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/toddler/Pages/Developmental-Milestones-3-to-4-Years-Old.aspx
- “Arts and Crafts: Are Your Kids Safe?” A Minute for Kids. HealthyChildren.org. American Academy of Pediatrics. 1/16/16. https://www.healthychildren.org/English/safety-prevention/at-home/Pages/Arts-and-Crafts-Are-Your-Kids-Safe.aspx
- “Art and Craft Safety Guide.” CPSC.gov. U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. Pub. No. 5015. https://www.cpsc.gov/s3fs-public/5015.pdf
- Laurel Bongiorno. “How Process Art Experiences Support Preschoolers.” Teaching Young Children. Vol. 7 No. 3. Naeyc.org. National Association for the Education of Young Children. http://www.naeyc.org/tyc/article/process-art-experiences
- “Safety Tips: What You Need to Know.” Acmiart.org. The Art and Creative Materials Institute, Inc. 2017. https://acmiart.org/index.php/art-material-safety/safety-tips-what-you-need-to-know
More articles at this age
Five ways to help young children bond with a new baby
Adding a new sibling to the family is always exciting, but there are a few ways parents can help to ease the transition.
Six things to work into your bedtime routine
Putting a toddler to bed can be as complicated as learning to waltz, or as straightforward as tucking an already dozy sleeper in and tiptoeing out, but whether bedtime is a cakewalk or a little more complicated, there are a few steps that can help the journey run more smoothly.
Talking to your verbal toddler about safety
When your baby starts talking back when you talk to her, your keeping-her-safe plan will have to evolve with PRONOUN_HM_HER_LOWER.
7 ways to encourage kids to help clean up
Although at this point, it may be faster and easier to clean up messes yourself, investing the time to clean up alongside your child will pay off with a child who, with any luck, won't think twice about picking up after herself on her own as she grows.
Is my toddler mature enough to take care of a pet?
As she grows, your baby is getting more and more able to take care of herself, but she's also becoming more and more able to take care of some of the other members of your family.
Tips for transitioning away from a sippy cup
Has your baby held onto the sippy cup as other toddlers have let it go? As she comes closer to her third birthday, it may be a good time to start thinking about making the switch.