12 March 2015
Can you draw a straight line? Most adults don’t consider themselves artistic. Parents do, however, worry about their toddler’s art abilities. As a child care provider for the past 10 years, I’ve had many discussions with parents about ‘how their toddler is doing’ as far as getting ready for preschool or kindergarten. They worry a lot about the final product of their toddler’s art projects. I try to explain to them that art is not just knowing how to draw a flower or a puppy, or whether or not little Jason colors in the lines. Little kids need to experience self-expression and the ‘doing of art’ more than having a page from a coloring book to hang on the refrigerator.
When a two-year old puts his chubby little hand in a tub of finger paint and happily smears all of the colors together on the paper or when he makes yet another ‘snowman’ out of play-doh, he’s creating. Granted, he will certainly tell you that his painting is his dad’s truck even though you ‘just can’t see it.’ The important thing to remember is that by allowing our little kids to experience art in their own way, we let them show us how they see the world around them, how they feel and think.
I always enjoy art time with my toddler and preschool age groups. Yeah, they can make a mess, but they just wiggle with excitement when I take out the ‘arts & crafts’ tub of supplies! Having been a military wife and lived in a few different places, I’ve always returned to providing home day care. As a result, I’ve had to make do with whatever space I can find in the various homes we’ve lived in. There’s not always a lot of room, but art can take place just about anywhere. I’ve found that the activity is most effective when it’s pre-planned and when I’ve set goals for the activity.
Art is important for toddlers because of the way it makes little kids feel special and good about themselves. When your toddler finishes a magazine cut-out collage and holds up his masterpiece to you with that beaming smile doesn’t that make you feel good about both of you? Through creating simple art projects, that same toddler is not only learning to take pride in his accomplishments, but also to think and refine his hand-eye coordination and physical skills. Through art, children learn to identify colors, cause-and-effect, shapes, problem solving, sharing and cooperation among many other skills.
Parents must remember to ask toddlers or preschoolers questions about their projects that will make them think about what they’ve made rather than ask them ‘What is that?’ For example, ‘C.J., tell Mommy about your painting.’ C.J will start to talk about his work or anything else he feels important at the time! This also shows your child that you are interested in what he thinks and aren’t just confused about what you see! Make sure to hang the art work up in a prominent place in your home so the entire family can enjoy it.
Art experiences are a major part of a toddler’s daily activities. They have grown enough to grasp objects and tear paper and hold crayons and brushes. Naturally they are thrilled with the anticipation of a new art project, and most importantly, with the quality time spent with the important adults in his/her life.