Activities That ... Encourage Artistic Expression
Babies about 10 months old will wrap a fist around a crayon or marker and make dots on paper. By 1 1/2, they make wavy lines. Some draw circular lines, although they often cannot stop the lines to draw a single circle. Thick crayons are best, since some babies experiment with breaking slender crayons.
Feeding the Fish
Hold a baby up and show him how to give one or two shakes from the fish food can to feed the fishies. Babies delight in watching the graceful patterns of the fish.
Chants With Hand Motions
As infants learn to sit up, they become more able to sway, raise their arms, and control finger wiggles. They enjoy learning chants with finger motions. "The Eentsy-Weentsy Spider" is an all-time favorite. Infants focus carefully on your fingers and on your singing, and try hard to imitate your gestures. Frequent use of chants stimulates early language learning.
Sing a Song
Babies love songs! Sing the same ones over and over so they "belong" to the babies. Brain research shows that children who have early music training have increased cortical development. Language is easier to learn when melodies carry the words.
Dancing to Music
Choose music that varies in tempo. As mobile infants move to the beat of the music, they are using their muscles and adjusting body movements to each tempo.
Offer a wide variety of graphic art experiences for toddlers. These can include drawing, painting, play dough, peanut butter clay, soap flake finger paints, and cornstarch goop.
Toddlers are able to draw straight lines that cross at: right angles. Some can draw an X shape. Others can even draw an egg shape for a head and place two dots as eyes, although they may add a wavy line for a mouth anywhere on that "face!" Often, by the end of the toddler period, children are drawing stick figures. Usually they draw two long lines coming straight down from the potato head oval face. Be sure to provide chalk and chalkboards, nontoxic marking pens, as well as markers and thick crayons. An angular rubber tube that slips over a pencil makes it easier for a toddler to grasp.
Easel and Painting Opportunities
Painting activities are often messy. Be prepared. Collect orange juice cans to hold poster paints. Provide fat brushes that little fists can hold. Exclaim with pleasure when toddlers use a color over and over on the same spot! They may be concentrating on the awesome depth of blue that they can now see rather than trying to "represent" an object or animal in their painting. Indeed, they may be particularly fascinated by the long drips of paint that flow down the easel paper when paint is thickly applied.
Collect old shirts to be used as painting smocks. As they wrestle with putting a shirt on backward, children are developing motor coordination. As they paint, they learn which brushes, hand positions, and colors work best for them.
The dramatic-play area can have artfully and casually placed baskets of old clothes and accessories. Children enjoy dressing up and creating scenes, such as pretending to be firefighters or "fancy ladies." Provide mirrors so that the children can see themselves adorned. As children bend, twist, and move about in their costumes, they are strengthening muscles and practicing different motor skills.
Gardening is a "complete" activity that blends artistic work with vigorous motor activities such as digging and lifting earth onto a shovel. Children also gain knowledge about sequencing. Their cognitive planning abilities are galvanized as you talk with them about what they will plant, and where and how the plants will be cared for.
Older toddlers who can create recognizable representations such as a person, a bunny, or a bus enjoy creating a mural together. Tack up a large piece of drawing paper all along a wall. Encourage children to talk about the "mural" they are going to create. Such a cooperative activity helps children learn to work together and builds brain connections for a variety of positive social interactions.