Toddler Art Adventures

One thing I was really looking forward to when my son was born, was sharing my love of arts and crafts with him. I would eye my lovely big box of art supplies, impatiently waiting for the day that he would be ready to glue and stick, and cut and draw and paint and sculpt and… well, you get the idea. We went to a group at the local library that always ended with a craft activity, so I could see the progress he was making. At first it was all mummy gluing the leaves to the autumnal scene, or sticking the eyes on the octopus or whatever it was (these activities are always so prescriptive, but that’s a whole other post for another day!), but gradually his young motor skills were developing and he could join in more and more. We did the odd gentle thing at home too – a few stickers to try and put on a piece of cardboard here, a stick of glue and some shapes offered there, but largely my big art box went untouched – I wanted to wait until he was really ready.

(Pinterest is full of amazing ideas for art and craft “offers” to set up for even very young children. Some of them are quite eye-wateringly elaborate. But here I confess to being a bit of a slacker mum– I don’t want to set up something that takes hours to prep that he will be unable to concentrate on for more than 2 minutes. But don’t let put you off. Some of them are borderline genius – like this paint in the bath idea, here)

We were also going to a great group at a local children’s centre where they would regularly get out all kinds of gloppy, sticky stuff that we would strip the kids to their nappies and dunk them in, so my little guy was definitely not scared of getting his hands dirty! So, the time eventually came – when he was about 14 months old, about the same time he started walking – when he had pretty much mastered a basic hold on a pencil, getting a sticker off its backing and kind of, sort of getting a glue stick to put glue where he wanted it. So joyfully I started doing slightly bigger art projects with him. There was poster paint involved for the first time, and felt tips, and chalks! It was all very exciting.

But there was also a hard part; sometimes he didn’t want to do the stuff I wanted him to do. Sometimes he’d just rather take the pencils out of the pencil case over and over again rather than make an awesome picture. Or maybe he’d rather just paint with the water rather than use the paint I had also provided. And here’s the bit I didn’t expect – that really stressed me out! I had built it up so much in my mind, this idea that we were going to have so much fun doing this together, that when he deviated from the script and didn’t want to do it, I got really worked up! I knew it was ridiculous even as I was doing it, but I couldn’t help myself! This was our thing!! We had to nail it! It was so important to me to pass on my knowledge, but sometimes L just wanted to do things his own way.

A friend with older kids knew the feeling, and told me about the time her son had ignored the paper she had given him and just poured all the paint into the water pot next to it instead! She really wanted to intervene and show him the “proper” way to do it but she conquered her frustration and let him explore, and then watched with delight as he took some paper and made a print from that watery paint in a marbling style.
(How did he know to do that? A creative mind at work I guess! He discovered it for himself. Or maybe he’d seen someone do it and stored it away – kids remember so much more than we realise). So, I took a deep breath, remembered about Louis and the marble paint, and swore I wouldn’t interfere with my son’s explorations. And would try not to get stressed about him not doing it “my” way. Because otherwise, he’ll only ever do what I teach him, and maybe he’s capable of doing far, far more than that! So, it’s still our thing, we love to do arty stuff together, but the way I look at it now, he’s just as much of a teacher as I am!