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Crafts for Toddlers

Help your little one create masterpieces with these simple projects

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Toddlers are not known for their long attention spans and willingness to sit still. In fact, it may seem like you'd never be able to get a child under 3 years old to focus on a project long enough to make anything. However, these simple and engaging crafts are perfect for little ones. They require very few materials and very few steps, and will still be wonderful even if your toddler's art skills aren't highly refined. Give them a try with your child and encourage constructive play activities that will build creative thinking and self expression.

1. Window Crayon Art

Crayon Window Art
M. Hegarty
This is one of those fabulous projects that lets you recycle something you probably have far too much of -- broken crayons. All you need are some broken bits of Crayolas, wax paper, a towel and your household clothes iron. My kids made some beautiful window displays, which are perfect for brightening up a gloomy day spent indoors.

2. Puppet Show

M. Ryan
Making puppets with your child is offers another opportunity to recycle materials. Paper plates, old CDs, popsicle sticks, scraps of paper, pieces of broken dolls and toys -- all can be used to craft a puppet that can star in a creative show about anything from monkeys to cupcakes and all things in between.

3. Cape and Mask

homemade mask
M. Ryan
Simple costume accessories go a long way to sparking a child's imagination. You don't need expensive princess dresses or superhero costumes, though. Just get some colorful card stock paper and trace a mask that you can cut out. Let your toddler decorate it with paint or stickers, feathers, sparkles, or other craft materials you have around that house. Add a hole on each side that you can thread a piece of elastic through or use two pieces of yarn that you can tie together. For a cape, dig out an old scarf to tie around your little one's neck or make a cape together out of a pillowcase.

4. Finger Paint

fingerpaint
P.Burns
Finger painting is messy, but you can control the mess by setting up a special spot on the floor, covering it with a sheet and a messy mat, and making your own paints that wash off everything easily. The payoffs are worth it -- you get adorable artwork to decorate your home while your toddler builds fine motor skills.

5. Hand Print Crafts

Foot and hand flower
M. Ryan
Artwork marked with your child's hand print (or foot print) are just so cute. They also offer a great keepsake that will remind you of how small and delicate your little one was as a toddler. For a flower project, use your toddler's foot prints to create a flower stem and her hands to create flower petals. Paint your child's foot and have her step down on paper to create a foot print stem. Then use her toes to create a leaf on each side. Paint her hand a different color and have her spread her fingers and press them down on top of the stem to create a ten-petal flower. You can also create a simple hand print plate to hang in her room.

6. Homemade Playdough

playdough
Photo © Stephanie Brown
You can whip up your own molding clay at home for endless hours of playdough fun. Making the dough yourself lets you extend the play and gives you an opportunity to introduce some early math and science concepts like measuring. It also lets you experiment with different types of playdough to see which consistency or even aroma appeals to your child.

7. Self Portrait

self portrait
M. Ryan
This project takes a lot of patience and may be hard to do with very young toddlers, but if you can get your child to stay still and pay attention in small doses, you can complete it over the course of a few days -- and the results are worth it. To start, roll out a sheet of craft paper that is a bit longer than your child. Have your little one lay still on the paper while you draw an outline of him. Help your child paint or color in the outline. (This is a great opportunity to talk about the name for various body parts.) If your child isn't ready to paint details like eyes, you can cut facial features (eyes, nose, mouth) out of paper and help him glue them in the right spot. You can also use yarn for hair instead of having your child paint this on. Most toddlers are also not ready to paint for long periods of time, but using a pan filled with paint and thick brushes, you can have him paint in the clothes for his self portrait in just a few strokes. You can cut out the outline yourself, but also give your child a chance to try cutting and using scissors (even if it's just using them with your hand over his).

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