Art Starts in the Mouth!

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Color Through the Eyes of the Toddler

"Talent is developed more spontaneously in the early years of a child's life than after a child has matured."-Dr. Shinichi Suzuki, founder of the Suzuki Preparatory Preschool based in Atlanta.

As a preschool teacher and parent, I totally agree with the above quote. Creativity is wired into the human brain circuit from infancy. Believe it or not, a baby as young as four month old can already show preference for a certain object based on its color alone. Surrey Baby Lab, has been conducting a study with more than 250 babies, that demonstrate that babies are NOT color-blind. Dr. Anna Franklyn one of the doctors working in the lab, stated for BBC news in an interview, that some babies "show a striking preference for just one color." It is not then overly exaggerated to suggest art training to commence early in infancy.But how do you introduce art to an infant who hasn't yet learned to hold a crayon?

Seeing with the Mouth!

I know parents are all familiar with that little annoying habit babies have of putting their hands into everything and then bringing them back to their mouths. That's because babies also "see" the world through their taste buds. How things taste allows a baby to know if things are good for them or not. With that in mind, let's make sure that we make our baby's first art lessons extremely tasty!

Introducing edible putty and finger paints is a good starting point for budding baby artists. Edible finger-paints for toddlers can be made with pudding and food coloring to create colored finger paints. If you want to get the creative juices running, add a little fruit loop cereal "sand" to the finger paint. This will give it a rough texture and enhance your babies curiosity. As your toddler continues to develop the skills needed to manipulate objects; brushes, foam rollers, and animal shaped sponges can be added to the art cubby. Make sure the brushes are of the kind made specifically for toddlers, without a pointed end. Melissa and Doug, offers a great selection of paint brushes for toddlers.

Play dough is another way of introducing another form of art to babies, sculpting. I have included the recipe at the end of this article.Toddlers love to squish, bang and break apart wads of play dough. As the toddler's motor skills develop, you can teach him how to roll it into balls, stretch it, or flatten up with a rolling pin. You can buy a play-dough factory at your favorite toy store, to turn dough into all shapes and form, including long strings of spaghetti strands for your toddler to pull apart.. As they grow older, children may enjoy the use of manipulatives to make play-dough play more interesting—cookie cutters, shape molds, and other gadgets turn the dough into different shapes and textures.

Introducing the 7 Elements of Art:

Line, shape, form, color, texture, space and value are the seven basic elements in art, and can be taught from infancy. Look for baby texture books that provide a textural experience for your toddler, such as: Animals (Baby Touch and Feel) by Dawn Sirret. When your baby is ready to hold that crayon and begins to scribble, start looking out for zigzags, circles, lines, shapes and colors. Point them out to your toddler, it will make this whole scribble thing way more interesting. Don't forget picture books as an important art teaching tool. Babies are attracted to big, colorful illustrations such as: Eric Carl's famous, "Polar Bear, Polar Bear, What Do You Hear?" or " The Very Hungry Caterpillar." Such books provide an excellent opportunity for toddlers to start making associations between color, shapes, and patterns.

Let Creativity Flow!

Once you let your toddler in to art creating, do NOT interrupt the process. Let them have fun, it's OK if they get the stuff on their hair or face, it's all part of the bigger picture. I know, I know, it is very messy, but like the saying goes: no pain, no gain! I hope you enjoy this article as much as I enjoyed writing it. Look out for my following article, "Art Through the Eyes of the Preschooler."

And now here is the recipe for play-dough.

Have fun!


  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 2 teaspoons cream of tartar
  • 1 teaspoon oil
  • 1/4 cup salt
  • food coloring


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Mochalicious Mom 6 years ago

We will try the recipe! Great article.

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