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Exploring Art and Developing Fine Motor Skills with Toddler Collage

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Your Toddler's First Collages
Squares Collage

This collage is a square within a square decorated with squares. How's that for reinforcing a concept? Squares everywhere! You can use glue as a guide, but remember that your toddler's work doesn't need to be perfect to be educational, expressive and fun.

Photo © Stephanie Brown
You can start doing collage with your child as soon as you notice that she is picking things up and moving things around with care and deliberation, which is usually around the 1-year mark. You'll probably notice this during mealtimes. You might even notice her starting to arrange food on a high chair tray. (Toast over there, fruit front-and-center, eggs in the corner...) She'll do even better if she's started to refine that pincer grasp, which happens in the last half of the first year. It's also a good idea to wait on doing collage until your child is past the point of exploring every little thing with her mouth.

Initially, you will probably want to draw or print something for her to place materials onto and you'll also want to cut or tear the materials for her. A good, first collage that introduces a concept is a collage of squares like the one shown here. You can:

  1. Draw a square on a piece of paper
  2. Cut large squares from construction paper
  3. Place a thick band of glue along the line of the square
  4. Encourage your child to place the cut squares on the glue line
  5. Allow to dry flat and hang later to display

Sometimes you may feel like you are doing most of the work of the collage since you are setting up all of the materials. That's true and nothing to worry about. The more collages you do, the more your child's skills will improve and the more involved she will be in future collage preparations.

Other easy collage ideas for toddlers who are beginners (typically in the 12-18 month age range) are:

  • Placing stickers on paper
  • Using decals on a window (like those you can purchase for holidays)
  • Going through a magazine together to find pictures on a theme (red things, mommies, babies, diapers, etc.) and gluing those to construction paper
  • Using the sticky side of contact paper face-up as adhesive
  • Dipping macaroni pieces into a shallow dish of glue and placing them on paper
  • Using refrigerator magnet letters (only with constant supervision and look for the kind that are flat decals or have magnets sealed inside since toddlers have died from swallowing two magnets and toys with magnets that can come lose are recalled all the time.)
  • Using Wikki Stix (only with constant supervision and keep the finished product out of reach as they could be rolled into a ball and pose a choking hazard.)
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