Ask the expert: Fun toddler craft ideas

Apr 26, 2011 at 3:00 a.m. ET

Toddlers love to try new things -- especially when those things involve paint and glue! Columnist Ann Douglas shares some fun activity ideas perfect for toddlers.

Coloring leaf craft

Your question:

My three-year-old is just starting to show an interest in arts and crafts, and I'm eager to encourage his creativity. Do you have any suggestions for activities that we could enjoy together? - Cori in Geneva, New York

The parenting expert answers:

Here are some terrific toddler-friendly craft ideas:

  1. Gather up textured objects like leaves and use them to make rubbings with crayons. (Place the leaf underneath the sheet of paper and rub the crayon on top of the sheet of paper. You should end up with an imprint of the shape of the leaf.)

  2. Help your toddler drizzle some glue on a sheet of construction paper. He can then sprinkle sand, cornmeal or birdseed on top of the glue to make a picture.

  3. Unroll a sheet of clear adhesive paper and place it sticky side up. Then give your toddler a variety of art materials to stick on the paper. Apply a second sheet of clear adhesive paper or a piece of construction paper, and you'll have some instant artwork.

  4. Trace your toddler's hand and feet on a sheet of paper, or let him make handprints and footprints with paint. (Also see 5 handprint crafts for kids.)

  5. Let your toddler fingerpaint on a window or mirror or in the bottom of the bathroom sink. If he's not into getting his fingers dirty, he can use a paintbrush instead.

  6. Attach bubble wrap to a paint roller. Your toddler will enjoy observing how the bubble wrap affects the design he's able to produce with the paint roller.

  7. Give your toddler a bunch of fun alternatives to paintbrushes: sponges, feathers, old toothbrushes, combs, Q-tips, a potato masher, apple slices cut into shapes and so on.

  8. Pop the ball out of an empty roll-on deodorant bottle and fill the bottle with liquid tempera paint. Snap the ball back into place and your child will have a fun roll-on art tool. (Just make sure to keep the bottle away from the bathroom or you could end up starting your day with neon-green armpits!)

    Mother Words - Ann Douglas

  9. Make pasta necklaces using large pasta. You can paint the pasta first using tempera paints or combine food coloring with a little water to dye the pasta instead. (Simply dip the pasta in the colored water for about 10 seconds and then allow it to dry overnight -- but be sure to wear plastic or rubber gloves, as this may stain your fingers.)

  10. Roll a cob of corn in a shallow dish containing a thin layer of paint, and then roll it along a piece of paper.

  11. Dip a plastic strawberry basket in a shallow dish containing a thin layer of paint, and then press it on a sheet of paper. (A frisbee or a tin pie plate tends to work particularly well as the paint holder.)

  12. Place a blob of paint in the center of a large sheet of paper. Your child can drive a toy car through the puddle, and watch how the wheels leave tracks on the page.

  13. Place a piece of paper in the bottom of a square cookie tin. Dribble a bit of paint on the sheet of paper and add a ping-pong or golf ball. Put the lid on tightly and show your toddler how to shake the container vigorously. The ball will end up "painting" the page.

More toddler fun & craftiness

Keeping toddlers active

Make your own bubble solution

How to make sidewalk chalk

Arts & Crafts: beyond paint with water | Real Moms guide

Activities for a great staycation with your toddler

Age 14 Age 15 Age 16 Age 17 Age 18 Age 13 Age 12 Age 11 Age 10 Age 9 Age 8 Age 7 Age 6 Age 5 Age 4 Age 3 Age 2 Age 1 baby pregnancy