Making toddler crafts can be tricky. I mean, toddlers are notoriously always on the move. I’ve heard it said that managing a toddler is like nailing jello to a tree or herding cats. It’s difficult! But that doesn’t mean that they won’t benefit from doing crafts. There are just so many good reasons to make the effort. I want to share with you a few of my favorite tips to make crafting with toddlers a little easier and WAY MORE FUN!
Our Top 7 Tips for Crafting with Toddlers are:
- Always put safety first
- Choose the craft project wisely
- Don’t over-help
- Limit Distractions
- Encourage exploration
- Include planned movement breaks
- Manage expectations
Now let’s break each of these tips down and look at them a little more closely. By the end of this article, you will feel that you have the tools you need to make toddler crafts with even the busiest of little bees. And you will be so glad that you took the time to invest in your child through crafting together.
Why Should I Even Bother to TRY to Make Crafts with My Toddler?
The benefits to making crafts with your kids are immeasurable. There are the obvious things, like improving fine motor skills and motor planning. And there are so many things that you can begin to work on through crafts that will be needed when your child begins school, like reading, writing and using scissors. Then there are the benefits to cognition, like improving memory, sequencing and problem solving.
Did you know that crafting together can also be an excellent way to work on language skills? These ideas from “Modern Speechie” for including speech skills when crafting are absolutely wonderful.
Then there are the many, many hidden benefits of making crafts with your kids. As a matter of fact, there are so many hidden benefits that we have written an entire article on it.
Now, let’s get to it. You now know that crafting with your toddler is so worth it. But you may need a little bit of help to make it happen. Here are some of our best tips (from an experienced pediatric occupational therapist).
Always Put Safety First
Toddlers don’t have that safety filter in place just yet. So, it’s our job as the grown ups to make sure that we are paying attention to the safety aspects of the activity. Be away of any little items that may end up in mouths and put off using scissors until your child understands how to use them safely with limited supervision. Because, let’s be honest, a toddler can get into trouble in the blink of an eye. That means we need to keep any potentially dangerous items out of the area all together. Trust, me there will still be plenty that you can craft with.
Choosing the right craft to make with your little one is important because if they aren’t interested, you have lost the “battle”. Pick a craft that is, first off, age appropriate. Don’t pick something that is going to require the grown up to do most of the crafting while your kiddo watches. That is not the point.
Go out of your way to find a craft that is themed according to something that your toddler like. Do they have a favorite cartoon? Love trains? Can’t get enough of puppy dogs? Whatever they love, you will find a craft out there. On this site, use the search box or the drop down menus to find what you’re looking for.
Once you have fostered a love for crafting, then you can explore more and more things that are outside of their exact particular interests. You will be able to challenge your kiddo more and more. But first, you need to help them love the activity. Linking it to something that they already love is a great strategy.
To get you started, here are a few of our favorite toddler crafts for you to try:
- Printable Animal Crafts
- Fingerprint Circus Crafts
- Bird Nest Picture
- Newspaper “Pillows” (these can even be done with scribbled pictures)
- Tissue Paper Sunsets (a grown up will have to do the cutting out for this one)
Even with the most amazing craft sitting in front a toddler, let’s face it, they have the attention span of a flea. And, that is is how it’s supposed to be. Toddlers are not supposed to have well developed attending skills at their age. So, don’t expect them to sit still and do anything for any period of time. As a matter of fact, who says that crafts need to be completed while sitting. I mean, yes, it’s more ideal, but there’s not law saying that’s how it has to happen. If your child focuses better while standing or laying on their tummy, set up the craft project accordingly.
To increase your chances of getting through the craft project successfully, decrease distractions in the environment. Don’t work in a high traffic area. Put up visual barriers or close doors. Turn off screens and silence your phone. You can craft with soft music in the background, but don’t have it loud enough that it limits conversation and distracts from the task at hand. Also, make sure that there is good lighting. Poor lighting can be a distraction for some kiddos.
Have you ever heard the famous quote…
“Tell me and i forget, teach me and i may remember, involve me and i learn”Benjamin Franklin
Once you start making crafts with toddlers, it’s really important that you are as hands off as possible. Yes, there will be times when you need to offer some support, but be super careful not to take over. Remember, this is their project. It doesn’t matter how it turns out, only that they are trying.
When you take over a project from your kiddo, the only thing that you are teaching them is that you can do it better. So, why should they even try. Do that enough times, and what will happen is something I call “learned helplessness”. Instead of moving toward independence, your child will turn to you over and over again to do everything for them, even the simplest of tasks. I know that you want to be a good parent. And helping our child makes us feel like a good parent. But in reality, you are doing a child a great disservice by not letting them try and even fail, so that they eventually learn how to succeed.
Your toddler is learning about the world, and they do this through all of their senses. It’s important that they have the opportunity to explore with all of those senses, from touch to smell to hearing…allow them to engage with the craft supplies and truly experience all that they have to offer. Have them feel the fluffiness of cotton balls and listen to the crinkle of the tissue paper.
Yes, there will be mess. Expect it. You may even want to put down a tarp on the floor, a big paint shirt on your child and whatever else you need to manage your stress level as you see the mess that ensues. Just take a breath and remember how worth it it truly is.
On a side note…handprint and footprint crafts are totally adorable. And they are a great way to begin to introduce little ones to sensory experiences and participating in a task. But…they are not great for exploration and actual creativity. If you really think about it, the grown up is doing most of the crafting when making these types of crafts. So, use them sparingly please.
Include Planned Movement Breaks
We’ve already talked about how active toddlers are (like you didn’t already know that). They NEED to move. To accommodate for this, include movement into your crafting activity. Have a plan. I even like to use a timer when creating with little ones. Set the time while crafting and let them know that you will be “working” for 3 minutes and what specific thing will happen when the timer goes off. For example, “you can play with your legos for 2 minutes” or “you can jump on the trampoline for 2 minutes”. DO NOT have the break time be anything with a screen. It is just too difficult to get kids to transition back from a screen to a table activity.
Set the timer during the break time. Gradually increase the “work” time and decrease the “break” time. This is a great way to improve attention span. For more tips on crafting with kids with high energy levels, check out this article.
It’s so important to remember that toddlers are not little adults. They don’t think like a grown up or reason like one. And they certainly aren’t known for “coloring in the lines” so to speak. You should not expect that toddler crafts will turn out like the image that you have in your mind for how the finished product should look. And that’s how it should be.
Make sure that you are always giving lots of positive encouragement, not for the outcome but for the effort being given. Say things like “I really like how you keep trying” or “Wow, you are working so hard”. It’s all about the journey, not the destination.
Get to It
Now, no more excuses. It’s time to make some crafts with your toddlers. Trust me…you will never regret the time you spend creating with your kids. Not only will they get so much out of it, but so will you!