As your child grows through their second year, their hand control develops immensely and they can discover the joy of art and creativity. Offering your child lots of opportunities to use their hands, explore colour and shape and enjoy making messy paintings is a great start to art. Dipping your child’s hands in finger paints and showing them how to make a mark on paper is a great way to start a lifetime of rewarding creativity – and building strength in their hands which will help with drawing, dressing and writing later on.

Dig that dough

Soft Stuff gives little hands a wonderful workout. Your child can explore the cool feel of the dough and enjoy manipulating it with their hands. You can try using a lump each to start with, to show your child what they can do. Roll, pat, squeeze or pull apart a piece of Soft Stuff so your child can see how rewarding it is to manipulate. You can offer your child simple tools such as a plastic spoon or small rolling pin to help them get really stuck in.

Trying new paintings

Offering your child simple paper and paints is the ultimate art introduction. Two or three colours are plenty to start with. Offer different sized brushes, or try showing your child how to blow wet paint through a straw. Or dip scrunched up newspaper or cotton wool into paint to make varied prints on paper. Or add texture to paint with coffee grounds or crushed cereal. Let your child experiment with colours and shapes on the paper. You’ll end up with a messy picture, messy table and messy – but happy! – child. The enjoyable part of art is the actual process for your child, so ending up with a big brown mess is perfect.

Tiny tear-aways

Toddlers love tearing, so rather than discouraging it, offer them different types of material to rip, such as tin foil, used wrapping paper, tissue paper, newspaper or kitchen roll. The ripped pieces are a great start for a first collage. You can show your child how to screw up the pieces, or how to tear big or little bits off, but let them take the project in whichever direction they choose. Gluing and sticking is great fun for even the youngest toddlers. You can also start with a sheet cut into a big simple shape, such as a fish or a car. Your child can feel really proud of their result displayed on the wall, if indeed you can separate their sticky fingers from the artwork!

This play idea is great for...

  Creative play
Offering your child free outlets for their growing creativity enables them to express themselves. While they’re still learning to talk, encouraging your child to express themselves artistically can help them start to understand the world around them.
  Fine motor skills
From around 18 months your child will manage the ‘pincer grip’, which is using thumb and forefinger to hold a pencil or crayon. Encouraging your child to scribble, paint and mould will build their skills so they find colouring, dressing and writing easier later on.
  Building confidence
Encouraging your child to explore and experiment with art – and make a glorious and enjoyable mess – is a lovely way for them to follow their instincts, try out ideas, and have the confidence to experiment.