Toddler DIY: 4 ways to learn art, not make it

In a world of ever more ambitious Pinterest projects and perfectly themed Instagram feeds, it's easy to push your kid toward share-worthy art projects. But at young ages (really, I'd humbly argue, all ages), the focus on what children are making takes focus away from what they are learning. There will be plenty of time later to hone their crafts, but for now, here are four tips to help your kid learn more, as well as ways to display your favorite lessons.


Use canvases

Tiny easels for tiny masters.

Tiny easels for tiny masters.

Even the thickest paper won't stand up to the globs a neophyte finger painter will make, which means you'll have a frustrated kid in less time than it took you to put on his apron. These inexpensive canvases can stand up to even the gloppiest projects. If you're using washable paint, these canvases can be rinsed, dried, and re-used. But if you accidentally leave them to dry, display your favorites on these tiny easels


Make multiples

Warholed fridge. 

Warholed fridge. 

As any parent who has heard the same joke 37 times before lunch knows, young learners favor repetition. Once you've found a medium your kid likes, let him work with it over...and over...and over. If your kid likes painted handprints, keep putting down new index cards for him to stamp. Hang them in grids (these simple magnetic clips from Oxo are great) or make matching envelopes for personalized stationery. 


Upcycle the un-saveable

A happy to-do list. 

A happy to-do list. 

Maybe you can't bear to part with your daughter's 100-page series of crayon lines on construction paper. Or maybe you just don't have space to store all those gallery-sized stick families. If the artwork is really piling up, consider wallpapering your playroom with it. Or save your favorites and use the scribbles for smile-inducing scrap paper. 


Transform messes

Maybe your child is more of a conceptual artist. Did she get a hold of a Sharpie? Put a frame around each of her scribbles to make a temporary gallery before you're ready to sand and re-paint the wall. You can't leave his installation of crayons-in-register during the winter months. But you can take a picture. Once the mess is clean and you've had time to recover, his #1minutemess might make a gorgeous print

Where are the other 50? #alwayscreative #1minutemess #atleasttheheatsnoton

A photo posted by snackdinner (@trysnackdinner) on


Bonus tip: Remember, if your child's art looks magazine-ready, you forgot to let him help you make it.