Have you engaged in an art activity with your toddler where the final product doesn’t look anything like the example? Perhaps you found yourself “fixing” the finished product to make it look better or wondering why anyone would suggest the activity for a two-year-old?
Multi-step projects are great learning opportunities for toddlers. The use of language, problem solving and sequencing in a multi-step project are first opportunities for two-year-olds to build skills they will need when they write a book report or complete a science project in elementary school. Hearing a caring adult say, “first this, then…” helps them build awareness and regulation skills, similar to “ready, set, go.”
While the final product may not look like anything like photo, the toddler’s pride will be equal to completing masterpieces — and for them it is. Developmentally, understanding representational art (the activity represents what a real lion looks like) is still months away. For toddlers, it is the process of creating the lion that is important!
The art project is also good for you. Working with a toddler is the best opportunity practice being in the moment. Rather than thinking 3 steps ahead or multitasking on your smart phone, narrate your toddler’s actions aloud. For example, “Stirring the paint.” Or, when your child touches the paint say, “Oh, it’s wet.” Describe aloud what you are noticing and feeling. When you say aloud what you are each experiencing, seeing and doing; you are letting the toddler know that you notice him or her, you care about his or her learning, and that you think his discoveries are important.
So, let go of the final product and be in the moment! The final product will show all of the toddlers’ discoveries. Give it a try!
Bio: Dr. Terrie Rose is a leader in the field of early childhood development and emotional readiness. She is an author, speaker, trainer and an Ashoka Fellow, who has developed a childcare model and curriculum for infants and toddlers to ensure emotional readiness.