It’s never too early to allow your toddler the freedom of expression. (Disclaimer – the keyword is toddler. By all means let your infant explore too but in my opinion they should be able to sit or stand on their own.) There are many non-toxic crayons and paints you can purchase in case they end up going into mouths. I also have a wonderful food grade finger paint recipe that is so easy to make yourself, that way you do not need to worry if it gets eaten.
Finger Paint Recipe
3 tbs sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup corn starch
2 cups of water
Place all ingredients in a small sauce pan, heat and stir until it thickens. Cool and place into small cups. Add food coloring to create color then paint! Lots of fun!
Ok, back to our main topic…
One of the things I like to do is to take one crayon, peel all the paper off and put it on top of a piece of paper. Try mixing it up sometimes too, white paper, black crayon or black paper, white crayon. Leave it out on the table and allow them to come and go from it as they please. With toddlers their attention span isn’t that long, so it helps to just put the paper and crayon down and allow them to draw for a bit and them come back to it when they choose. This is a great first experience with drawing. Allow your child to experiment with the crayon and see what different marks they can make. I know it’s hard, but try your best to refrain from showing them how to draw something or asking them to draw something. Allowing them to make their marks and figure it out on their own is so beneficial to their growth. Allow your toddler plenty of time and regular, repeated opportunities for mark making with a range of different drawing mediums. Remember, it is not about them representing any particular idea, instead they are learning to co-ordinate their body, arms, hands and fingers, and exploring what is possible when they manipulate each drawing tool.
Finger-painting is a great sensory tool. I usually only put out the primary colors – red, blue and yellow – to allow for mixing and seeing what happens when you mix red with blue, blue with yellow and yellow with red. You can buy rolls of finger painting paper but at this age it’s all about expression and sensory, not final product. Instead of spending your money on disposable paper, my recommendation is to purchase a finger painting tray (Discount School Supply has them for a great price http://bit.ly/1bmKPZR).
I hear from alot of parents they “don’t allow messy projects” at their house. There is a time and a pace for all of it. On a beautiful summer day set your child up outside and after they have made a complete mess of themselves (and had a wonderful time doing it), hose them down and make it all a game. I promise you, they will be thankful you did!
Now go and explore with your child and see what wonderful marks they make!