Infants and toddlers take pleasure in art & craft activities. Creative activities promote cognitive development and improve motor skills.
Very young children focus more on exploring with different materials rather than on creating final products. Art experiences for toddlers and infants should be safe, simple, and sensory. All supplies should be non-toxic, in case of accidental ingestion. And most of all creative with infants and toddlers should be fun and include you as an interactive and reflective element to the experience!
Infants & toddlers may not have the motor skills to manipulate a brush, but they are able to use their hands to push paint around. The earliest "finger painting" probably involves baby food, jelly and pudding. Babies can paint on high chairs, table tops and paper. This can get really messy, but can be a fun learning experience for babies and toddlers. Being able to create and play with paint can help a child's small and large muscle development and eye-hand coordination. When toddlers are past the stage of putting everything in their mouths, they can move from edible finger paint to non-toxic paint on waxy paper.
Using markers helps little hands develop coordination. Giving babies and toddlers markers, chalk or crayons is always a good way to stimulate their senses and imagination. Use large pieces of paper to insure they have lots of room to make marks. Model drawing for the infants and toddlers and use different colours to help stimulate their curiosity. Large markers and crayons will be easiest for these little ones to hold. In warmer weather, take the baby or toddler outside, sit down on a concrete surface, and allow them to draw with chalk on the concrete.
Playdough promotes sensory exploration and increases muscle strength in young hands. You can buy a familiar brand of the non-toxic modeling compound in a variety of colours, but you also can make it yourself. Small children tend to put things in their mouth, so making sure your playdough is safe for possible consumption is essential. An edible recipe from the Playdough Recipe website solves this problem. It includes 3 teaspoons of cream of tartar, 1 cup of flour, 1 cup of water, 1 package of unsweetened flavoured drink mix, 1 tablespoon cooking oil and 1/2 cup of salt. Mix the dry ingredients in a saucepan, then add water and oil. Stir over medium heat until the mixture begins to form a dough consistency. Remove from the heat and allow to cool. The flavoured drink mix gives the playdough its colour.
When monitored closely, crafts with infants & toddlers can be educational and fun. Safety should be of the utmost concern when doing creative with infants or toddlers. Be sure all materials used in crafts are nontoxic. Monitor infants & toddlers closely so that they do not put anything in their mouths that should not be swallowed. Use washable markers when infants & toddlers are drawing. Infants & toddlers using crayons should be closely monitored. Crayons could break and children could swallow them and choke. When using edible products in your creative be sure you have checked for allergies before beginning. Most of all have fun and allow the babies to experiment!
Nadia Zazzarino, RECE Resource Consultant, Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital