Toddler Art Space Tips & My Youngest Client Ever
A year and a half ago I was hired by a local mom to set up a toddler art space for her 16-month-old daughter, Sadie. She wanted the art space to be in a small area between their family room and kitchen so that Sadie could have easy, independent access to the supplies. I was so impressed at my client’s willingness to jump right in with such a young child and allow for messy art exploration in the hub of their home.
I have found that when it comes to allowing kids independent access to creative tools and materials… the earlier, the better! Toddlers are naturally curious about their art supplies and they will learn quickly how to use them through guidance and exploration. Through their exploration, they will develop important fine motor skills, creative confidence, and a self-sufficiency that will carry over into other aspects of their lives.
Toddler Art Space Tips
If you’re thinking of setting up an art space for your toddler, I’ll take you through Sadie’s art space to share some tips and hopefully inspire you to get started.
For the work surface, we chose an adjustable table (set at 15″ high) with an attached paper roll. I love using paper rolls for toddlers because you can roll it out over most of the table (a built-in table cover!) and it allows toddlers to work with big arm movements. Toddlers often prefer to stand while they work, but in case Sadie wanted to sit, we chose a 10″ high stool that is the perfect toddler height.
For storage, we decided to add open shelving in order to allow for easy access to toddler-friendly supplies. At 1.5 yrs old, Sadie could easily access the lower 2 shelves and the top shelf was reserved for items that needed to be out of reach (the paper organizer, paint, brushes, and other paint tools).
Tip: Toddlers love to dump things out, so use small containers and only fill them up part way. When your toddler dumps out all of the pom poms, or markers, there won’t be very many to pick up!
The lower shelf holds Two woven baskets with handles. One basket holds natural play-dough and tools and the other holds plastic animals and cars that can be used with play dough or paint for imaginative play.
Tip: I love incorporating toys into a toddler art space. It makes it more playful and will hold their attention for longer periods of time. Toddlers love driving toy cars through paint or shaving cream or making animal footprints in a soft pile of play dough.
When I taught art classes, there was one toddler who would paint her favorite plastic animal every time she came to class!
Under the shelves, resting on the floor, are two baskets. One holds cardboard, plastic, and wood items- this is a great place to store larger items like egg cartons, plastic lids, etc. The other basket holds fabric scraps and short strips of yarn.
Chalkboard or Easel
Toddlers love to make big art movements, which is great for developing gross motor skills. If you have the space, I recommend incorporating some type of easel or wall chalkboard into your toddlers art space. You can use a stand alone easel or mount one to your wall. Or, like in this example, you can paint a chalkboard onto your wall.
I used Benjamin Moore Chalkboard paint that’s available in any color and chose a blue that would work well with their family room decor. To make the chalk and eraser easily accessible, I added wall hooks with mini buckets at a low height.
The final element of this toddler art space is a large linen art display board. I made this display board by covering a large canvas with linen, and attaching twine across the board using eye hooks on either end. Clothespins are used on the twine to hang the finished art. It’s important to display kids’ art to show them that you value their work. As they grow, they can look back on previous work and see how they progress over time.
Toddler Art Space In Action
2 months after I set up the art space, I received this note from Sadie’s mom with some photos:
“Sadie is loving her art area! Seriously, the transformation has been amazing. Initially she needed assistance with painting and drawing, but now she is doing it all by herself! She initiates everything on her own- gets paper down from the tray, gets paint and brushes and says to me “painting”. She also knows how to open her markers by herself and has made so many special drawings. She loves the stamps, play dough, and particularly the little animals. Anyhow, we are thoroughly impressed and truly amazed by how quickly she has learned. Now, art is a part of her everyday life :) Thank you.”
Look at that confidence! This melted my heart to hear how, at 18 months old, this young toddler had already learned how to use the tools and materials on her own and was now making art a part of her everyday life.
A Year Later
Fast forward to a few months ago (a year after receiving that email) I ran into Sadie and her mom at our local library. Sadie’s mom said that her art space has become her happy place. She is confident in her creative exploration and expression and she is learning so much more than just how to use art materials.
Isn’t this just amazing? I saw this incredible learning experience all the time when I taught toddler art classes, but I don’t see very many people offering this in their homes for such young children. So I wanted to share this with you to show you that it doesn’t have be so scary to let your toddlers have open access to art supplies. That it can actually be one of the best things you can do for their learning.
Toddler Art Supplies
For links to my favorite toddler art supplies, click over to my art supply resource page here and look for the items that say *great for toddlers* or *for all ages*
Other Toddler Related Posts
If you need some guidance on how to allow for messy art exploration read this post on Toddler Art Exploration and Clean-Up.
Or if your toddler has an older sibling, read this post on Navigating Art With Siblings.
I hope this inspires you to set up an art space for your toddler and feel free to post any questions in the comment area below!