Ask Kytka Archives April 2000
Q: What Kind of Crayons/Pencils/Art Materials Would You All Suggest I Buy For My Toddler?
“She’s my first so I have no idea at what ages kids can do what, but she has been grabbing pens and thee awful Crayolas we have and stabling out scribbles, lately, so I wanted to get her some beautiful tools in case she would enjoy them in the coming months or years. I’ve heard that blocks or triangle shapes are easiest for toddlers?” ~ Emily
Scribbling is pretty much the extent of a toddler’s ability (with the crayons). There are also limits to the clay that can be used because children under 3 tend to put things in their mouths (but that doesn’t bother some moms). My children used block crayons and I believe for non-toxicity and ease of grip, it’s probably a good idea to start with those and then at about 2 1/2 introduce the stick crayons. I also like the wet-on-wet style of watercolor painting and I have allowed this with the hands as well as with brushes. The sensory experience is so wonderful for toddlers, and making a mess is a part of the learning process so relax and allow it.
A: I wouldn’t expect your toddler to be able to make a triangle or square as that is more of a 3 year old skill – but all children and wonderfully different and unique. It’s probably a hidden blessing that you “have no idea what ages kids can do what” because then you would compare and dissect the results of your child and measure her against others, which in my mind is a sin as ALL CHILDREN ARE UNIIQUE and develop in their own way and on their own time schedules. Just remember that at this age the experience is definitely more process than product. Also, keep in mind that the process is all sensory and at this level that is the key developmental strategy, so allow whatever they create to flow through them. The stabbing may be a form of communication that she has not yet found the proper words for, so she is expressing them in her art time. Be patient and trust the process.
There are also things from nature that you can use in art to enhance the sensory experience.
Take a little basket outside, choose some items, and have your daughter but glue all over a piece of paper, then you can put your found items on it. But again, what you get matters a lot less than finding the materials and being in contact with them.
Lastly, I wanted to say that this time, the toddler years, is a time of opening up the world to our children. It is these experiences that form the bases for all others. The best thing I have ever done for my children is take them outside and let them do their own thing – completely undirected, unstructured, unguided. I simply allowed them the freedom to do what they do.
As they are given this freedom, they feel, touch, smell, experience and soak up so much and intuitively I know that there are things going on within that are forming more important things in later life (the kinds of things adults would call unresolved childhood issues, wink). Sensory is KEY at this age and this is why the natural beeswax materials are more recommended. They are natural and warming in a child’s hands. They smell delicious and if they happen to take a nibble (which many children at this age do) they are non-toxic.
Allow your child to explore artistic endeavors on their terms and stop measuring, judging and otherwise stressing about the result. This is a process and it is a lifelong process and there is no one right way. Undirected art and play time is probably the greatest gift I have given my three children thus far, after, of course, my love and care.
Below are some suggestions for art materials. Enjoy!