Age Under 2 years
Crafts for toddlers often has more than one goal. My main goal is special time together but often I have a secondary goal like fine motor development, learning colors, or sensory play. My daughter is 20 months old and I have no laundry list of things I want her to know at this age , my goal is to expose her to lots of fun activities and see what she takes a liking to. She loves water play so I thought she might like to try puffy paint again, I was right. This is a great activity for preschoolers too, don’t think simple crafts like this are only for toddlers.
- Gather your materials. You will need some plain old shaving cream, green paint ( darker the better), something to stir with , plain white glue, a marker , scissors and heavy paper.
- Start by drawing a shamrock on heavy paper don’t worry about it being even close to perfect you will be slopping and squishing puffy paint all over it!
- Time to mix. My son who was playing Lego in the playroom but didn’t want to make a craft did pop up to help mix. I do this so often I don’t measure anymore. I usually use about a cup of shaving cream to about 1/4 cup of glue. Then add the paint until it’s the color you want. Ours was greener than it looks but definitely a mint green.
- Start playing.
- She wasn’t sure at first.
- But soon both her hands were squishing, spreading and exploring.
- Yay fun !! We played and played.
- She was not happy when I told her it was time to wash hands.
- But washing the container in the sink was a great treat… for both of us.
- Let dry (at least 24 hours so the paint stays puffy even after you cut into it) and cut out.
My toddler is in the eating paper phase and the fling the paint phase. We are still having fun with paint but when we do my camera is safely on a shelf since I need two hands to wipe down the playroom walls. Today while her brother was at school we made this mess free butterfly craft with ribbons something she has no desire to eat or fling. If your toddler’s reaction to an activity frustrates you find a way to connect and create with them that doesn’t push your buttons. I say all the time how if we make the challenge too great for our kids they shut down and stop learning well it goes for us too. If I am frustrated I am not connecting with my child and getting angry about exploration serves no one. Don’t give up on the messy stuff (they need it) just try it again when you have the patience to deal with their exuberance.
- Gather your materials. You will need some sturdy paper , contact paper , ribbons in your choice of colors , scissors and crayons.
- Have your child color the paper first. I forgot. For really little guys skipping this like I did is probably best, it’s another step that might make it too long. While they do that cut the ribbon.
- Fold your paper and cut out a butterfly shape.
- Cut out the middle.
- Peel the back off your contact paper and press your butterfly on sticky side up.
- Give the butterfly to your child. She just felt it for a minute or two. I just let her explore.
- Hand them the ribbon. She immediately started adding it to the butterfly.
- No need to help unless they seek it, every now and then I would say ” That’s a nice red ribbon.” or ” You found a yellow one.” but it wasn’t a constant dialog.
- They will let you know when they are done. Activity will slow, items may start finding the floor… just know that toddlers typically won’t spend long on a structured activity like this and don’t feel like you are doing anything wrong . We spent about 5 minutes total. This is her “done” she claps her hands once and says “un!”
- Put it up where your little one can see what they made and know you think it’s fantastic!
We love penguins and was one of my favorite themes for daycare and preschool when I was teaching toddlers. My daughter loves the penguin bath toy you see in this post so we decided to use a penguin to paint a penguin. This was a huge hit with my toddler who thought it was hilarious to whack it on the paper. With older children encourage them to do the cutting but with toddlers the goal is fun, exploration and making something fun to show off on the fridge. This penguin is on our fridge right now and my daughter likes to point to it saying her name and smiles.
- Gather your materials. You will need 3 sheets of construction paper ( blue, black and orange) , white paint, a dish , a bath toy ( but a sponge will do), glue, scissors and googly eyes ( although I put them on at the end she is too little and still eats things).
- Start by pouring paint into the dish, and placing the toy in it.
- Hand it and the black paper to your monkey and start painting. My daughter carefully made a few prints…
- Then really got into it.
- We paused to wipe paint off our hands and mouth and switched paper. The blue paper is the icy habitat so it needs paint too!
- I gave her snack after clean up #2 and allowed the paint to dry some. And cut out some feet and a nose from the orange paper.
- Then cut out the black into the shape of a penguin.
- Time to glue. We took turns gluing.
- If they want to take time to explore the glue bottle don’t fret, they are making connections. Just stay close so any giant messes can be minimized.
- Put the body on the glue.
- I added the glue for the nose and feet putting it on a wide area so she could choose where to place the pieces. Don’t correct your kids and where they place things, this is their creation. If they are able to glue ( and get more than a few tiny drops) by all means encourage them to do it.
- Add eyes ( if your little bug is like mine and eating all small potentially hazardous items wait until they are napping or engaged in other play and add them on) and let dry.
Penguins, Penguins, Everywhere! by Bob Barner is a cute rhyming book filled with simple facts about penguins. My toddler loved the bold illustrations, and my son really liked the facts and it sparked a desire to learn more about the animal. That is one of my favorite things about non fiction books like this that look like stories , they plant seeds of interest that can be launched into deeper inquiry. Great book for preschool through Kindergarten.
Penguin by Polly Dunbar was an unexpected delight! The book started with Ben who got a penguin as a gift but no matter what he did he got no reaction from his penguin. Finally as happens with young kids Ben lost it, has a temper tantrum and a lion eats him. Yes I said a lion eats him. My son loved it. He howled with laughter and don’t worry in the end it’s happy so nightmares are unlikely if you read this before bed. I loved the rhythm of this book and the simple illustrations were a perfect fit. Big thumbs up from kid and parent on this one!
Tacky the Penguin by Helen Lester is such a cute and funny story, your kids will love it! Tacky is an odd bird but when hunters come to get some pretty penguins is funny odd ways of doing things turn off the hunters and saves Tacky and his perfectly not odd companions. This is a sweet look at being different and being happy as pie about being different. My son loves this book and will often point out that Tacky is proud to sing just the way he wants. I love that it can preach to kids without preaching at all.
This sensory activity allows kids to use their imagination to give you or themselves a new hairdo with playdough. My toddler is a huge fan of playdough play and it’s great stuff for toddlers and preschoolers… but my 5 year old gets bored easily sometimes. It’s not essential we all play the same things but it’s nice to play and be silly together .It was inspired by this paint project from Putti Prapancha . Adapting it to playdough allowed us all to sit and play together .
- Gather your materials. You will need some sheet protectors, some photos of faces that you can cut, playdough ( ours is store bought but homemade will work a-ok), a few sheets of construction paper, some scissors, painters tape, double stick tape and a garlic press.
- Start by cutting out the faces from some family pictures. Cut off the hair!
- Tape them onto the construction paper using double stick tape.
- Slip it into a page protector. I had to trim my construction paper to fit.Tape to the table with painter’s tape if you have a little one like my daughter who takes great pleasure in “clearing off” tables.
- Start playing. We used the garlic press, our hands and scissors to make the hair.
- My daughter loved putting it on my face, apparently she wants me to have a goatee. Don’t worry about toddlers putting the hair in the “right” place, there is no “right” place. Talk about who they are looking at , talk about how squishy the playdough is and ask if they have hair etc… no need to make it a battle of wills, this is supposed to be play, so let them explore.
- We rotated through the pictures taking turns ( another good lesson) .He loved mixing the colors in the garlic press.
- Squeezing it out.
- Adding it on. For some reason the concept of chest hair has been a big topic at our house – not something I was expecting until closer to puberty but ok. He added some on his sister and himself. Have fun with this.
Books About Families
Something From Nothing by Phoebe Gilman is one of those books that you read and think oh I love it, but will kids? I am here to tell you yes! They love this old Yiddish folk tale about a little boy, his very special blanket and his grandfather who made it for him. Over the years Joseph’s blanket transforms into a jacket, a vest, a tie, and handkerchief and finally a button. The story is beautiful and kids love not only the repetitive text when the grandfather is sewing but also the continuing storyline of the mice that live under the floor boards who use the scraps of material for all sorts of things. There are no goofy gimmicks, no lights or sounds just a great story and beautiful illustrations in this gem! A fantastic book about family and growing up.
All Kinds of Families! by Mary Ann Hoberman was not what my son or I expected at all. The story is really disjointed both connecting similar objects into families and talking about the generations of a family. I like that it explains that there can be all sorts of families and that it talks about how your family makes you into new things like a son, sister or cousin but I think mixing the two is too disconnected for the average picture book reading kid. To be honest it was a little disjointed for me too. My son was ready for it to be over half way through and that is never a good sign. Usually by the time he’s asked if it’s over he’s tuned out. The illustrations were cute but even they didn’t save it for us.
The Family Book by Todd Parr is a book that doesn’t give readers a narrow definition of family , it doesn’t say that your family has to look a certain way, or be the same as your neighbors. As a teacher I really appreciated the matter of fact way it embraced diversity. Kids see that families are not all like theirs and it’s important to validate the truth while recognizing that while they may not all look alike, all families are made with love. Great book , cute illustrations and children love it.This post contains affiliate links.
I know tomorrow is Valentine’s Day but my mind is already planning St.Patrick’s Day. If you need a Valentine’s Day craft idea we have those too but I had to share this because it was too much fun to keep to ourselves any longer. The major bonus of this project was that for toddlers who are putting everything in their mouths it’s no biggy if they take a bite. I added koolaid to make it smell great and sour to discourage eating it. This must be kept in the fridge so make some , you won’t regret it.
- Gather your materials. I used 6 foil pans I had on hand but any container will work to set the gelatin, you will need plain gelatin packets 4 per color, food color, spoons, a pot, measuring cups and koolaid for scent/added color. Also a big tub and some bath toys for playing.
- Start by mixing your colors. I used koolaid mostly for scent but also for color.
- Make the gelatin. I used the recipe on the back of the knox gelatin box adjusting it to 1/2 as much liquid ( 1/2 cup of cool and 1 cup hot and 4 envelopes of gelatin) as the recipe called for to make it thicker for play using plain water with color/ koolaid in it. I made all 6 colors.
- Let cool – I had to stack them in my fridge so I popped a few in the freezer for a minute to stiffen and totally forgot about this purple one… if froze, and was unusable. The kids didn’t miss it at all.
- When set slice into pieces. I used a knife then scraped it into the tub using a spatula.
- Add kids and toys. He was so excited he was bouncing, this is the best picture of many very blurry bouncy pictures I took.
- You can probably tell we did this in our bathroom, please find a place where tiny bits of color won’t ruin anything. The gelatin won’t stain hands but can be absorbed into clothes and other fabrics. Please go somewhere where kids can have fun without you hovering and you won’t have to search for stain removers on Pinterest after this project. Our bathroom was perfect, I had a damp cloth handy for little bits that got shaken off hands or toys and flung all over. It also had a door to stop kids from running into the rest of the house before hands were washed. All this said it was still completely worth it.
- They stuck them on the side of the tub.
- Smelled it.
- Tasted it ( love my son’s face, he’s telling her not to eat it).
- Mixed them all up and had a blast.