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The Best Creative Art Supplies for Toddlers

Updated on March 21, 2015

Think Outside of the Crayon Box

As I started to offer art materials to my toddler, it was natural to start out with the simple classics: crayons, paper, markers, scissors, glue. These are staples and tons of creativity can happen with these basic craft supplies! The fun really began when I started to ask myself the question, "What else can we play with?". Finding some inexpensive but fun and different materials that are more interesting to explore became a goal. Not only does it expand a toddler's ever-absorbant mind, it is more fun for adults too! Let's dig into some new materials that you can offer your toddler during art and craft time.


Stretched Canvas

Providing a large canvas for your child to paint (or glue, stamp, glitter, etc!) onto is so much fun! They are creating a ready to hang art piece for your home which gives instant gratification for both of you. They can even help you decide where to hang it! If you don't have an art easel for them, spread out a plastic shower curtain on the floor and lay the canvas down for them to work on. The amount of cleanup is so minimal that you don't need to stress - unless they start experimenting with paint splattering!

One thing that we do is what I call the evolving canvas. We have one large canvas that my daughter paints onto over and over again. We keep it on the wall and every week or so, we pull it down and she paints over it some more, so it looks different all the time!


Watercolors On Fabric

Painting onto fabric is extremely fun and satisfying. The fabric absorbs the paint differently than paper does so you get a different effect. Try using watercolors on an absorbent cotton fabric to play with blending! Secure a large piece of cotton or linen onto a piece of cardboard or a foam core board so that the fabric won't move around much during painting. Use watercolors and one inch wide paintbrushes to paint onto the fabric. It bleeds and blends so nicely, which makes for a wonderful color mixing experimentation!

Loew Cornell 1021095 Simply Art Watercolor Cakes
Loew Cornell 1021095 Simply Art Watercolor Cakes

These watercolors are our absolute favorite! The colors are stunning and much better than the standard set of kids watercolors, yet they're easily affordable. Stock up!


Paint With Q-Tips

Work those fine motor skills by offering your toddler Q-tips instead of paint brushes! You can let them freely experiment with how to paint with them first. Once they have created their own techniques, you can demonstrate making dots with the Q-tip like a stamp, dragging it like you would paint with a brush, or even holding more than one at a time as you paint!

There are some templates you can offer your child to paint on that are created with circles the size of the Q-tip. Have your toddler work on holding the Q-tip properly like you would hold a pencil so that they have more control over it as they stamp. We love using these free ABC Q-tip painting templates!

Crayola Washable Kids' Paint, Assorted Colors 10 ea
Crayola Washable Kids' Paint, Assorted Colors 10 ea

This paint is easily washable and has a great consistency for Q-tip painting. Pour a little of each into an ice cube tray and stick one Q-tip in each color!


Air Dry Clay

Working with clay is an important sensory experience for toddlers. As they experiment with squeezing, pounding, poking, rolling, stabbing and stretching the clay they are learning the cause and effect of these actions. Because clay is such a formable object, they're able to be guided completely by their instincts and imagination as opposed to staying within boundaries like they would with coloring in a coloring book with the picture already drawn for them. Working with the clay is also beneficial for the large and small muscles in their arms and hands. After all, they're going through so many detailed movements as they mold the clay in different ways!

Offer tools for cutting, rolling and stamping and demonstrate how they might use each tool. Set their finished pieces on a shelf to try, and the following day you can pull them back down and paint them! This is the perfect type of project that you create with them with the intention of giving it to a loved one. They'll be so proud to give a handmade gift they worked so hard on.

Crayola Air-Dry Clay, White, 5 Pound Resealable Bucket Natural Clay for Kids, No Baking, Dries Hard, Easy to Paint, A Smoother, Simpler, Less-Sticky Alternative to Traditional Ceramics
Crayola Air-Dry Clay, White, 5 Pound Resealable Bucket Natural Clay for Kids, No Baking, Dries Hard, Easy to Paint, A Smoother, Simpler, Less-Sticky Alternative to Traditional Ceramics

Let your toddler's imagination work hard with air-dry clay to make abstract sculptures of their choosing. Once dry, pull them back out and paint and decorate the sculptures together.


Create Art With 3D Objects

Working with 3D objects literally gives new dimension to the child's artwork. The experience of painting, coloring, stamping and gluing onto 3D objects is much different and more interesting than applying it to flat paper. Once you choose your objects, think of some different ways you could alter them. You might try rolling a wooden egg in glue and then into a bowl of glitter (if you're brave!). You could use sponges to paint rocks and pinecones and try dipping clay pots into paint.

Try crafting with:

  • Rocks
  • Wooden Eggs
  • Pinecones
  • Ceramic Figures
  • Clay Pots

Together you can create a display of their finished work which will give them a great sense of pride! Display painted rocks in an indoor garden, set wooden eggs in a small bowl on a shelf, turn their decorated pinecones into a wreath and hang it in your home, or plant some flowers in a clay pot that they've painted! Making art with 3D objects teaches them early on that art and function can go hand in hand.

Darice 9119-64 Big Value Wood Egg, 2-1/2-Inch
Darice 9119-64 Big Value Wood Egg, 2-1/2-Inch

Smooth wooden eggs are interesting for toddlers to handle and paint. You can apply glossy paint over their work to finish it, so they can play with them safely.


Patterned Washi Tape

Washi Tape is always fun to have on hand, but is also useful as a craft supply for kids! Pull out a large piece of cardstock paper, white cardboard, poster board, canvas, or even a 3D object for your toddler to decorate. Pre-cut the tape so that they have short pieces already available to them since tearing it off from the roll is likely to be a recipe for disaster and wasted tape! Stick the small pieces of tape along a table edge so they can pull off one piece at a time. You might have to sit by them and keep re-filling their table edge with more tape as they go. Offer a variety of patterns and lengths of tape to keep things interesting. Watch them as they work - do they create a design or place the pieces at random? The more you do this activity the more intentional their designs will become! You can also use this as an opportunity to talk to them about colors and patterns on each roll of tape.

Wrapables Set of 6 Japanese Washi Masking Tape Collection Premium Value Pack, VPK2
Wrapables Set of 6 Japanese Washi Masking Tape Collection Premium Value Pack, VPK2

Washi Tape comes in a gorgeous variety of patterns that make it so tempting to find new and inspired uses for them!


Dot-A-Dot Markers

Dot-A-Dot stamping markers (which are almost like a paint as much as they are like a marker) are an essential tool in your art supply stash! The simple stamping action to make dots is appealing to toddlers, the colors are vibrant, and they are quick and easy to work with, unlike paint which comes with mess and clean-up. They're a favorite in our household, and my toddler has dotted her way through countless projects!

You can let your toddler experiment freely on blank paper or you could offer them dot-a-dot templates to stamp. The templates encourage their fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination as they try to stamp within the circles. Try out these free printable Dot-A-Dot templates with a variety of themes available!

Do A Dot Art! Markers Brilliant Washable 6 pack, The Original Dot Marker
Do A Dot Art! Markers Brilliant Washable 6 pack, The Original Dot Marker

Dot A Dot Markers are simple and fun for toddlers to use. Just stamp them onto paper to create art similar to pointillism!


Your Little Artist

What art supply does your toddler love most?

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© 2015 Megan Van Sipe


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