Toddlers naturally like to explore and get into things. Keeping them occupied with art activities lets them explore in a more controlled setting and provides valuable parent-child interaction time. Many of the art supplies designed for older children are not safe for toddlers. Since many toddlers still like to explore the world through their mouth, edible and natural materials can be safer, but make sure he doesn't try to eat any supplies that present choking hazards. Always supervise toddlers during art activities, but let them explore and create their own masterpieces. The end result is not as important as the process of creative exploration and sensory awareness.
Make homemade finger paint with flavored pudding. To create different colors, use vanilla pudding and add food coloring. Use a packet of flavored gelatin mixed with a cup of cold water for scented water paints or add cornstarch to the mix for a textured paint. Mix mashed berries with a little water or allow your toddler to smash the berries directly onto the paper. When the paper dries, pass the scented art work around the room or make a scratch-and-sniff book out of the paintings.
Mix together two parts flour, one part salt, a package of unsweetened drink mix and one part water for a quick and easy scented play dough. Provide an assortment of cookie cutters or other play dough toys. You can air-dry your toddler’s creations if you want. Make soft pretzels using any pre-packaged dough mix or by kneading together 2 cups flour, 1 packet of yeast and 3/4 cup of water. Your toddler can twist and shape the dough any way he wants. Enjoy a snack with your toddlers after you've baked his creations for 15 minutes at 350 degrees.
Fill several bowls with different types of uncooked noodles. Add a few drops of food coloring and mix. Spread the noodles onto a baking sheet to dry. Let your toddler glue the colored noodles to paper, cardboard, paper plates or empty juice cans. He can also practice fine motor skills by stringing macaroni noodles onto yarn, twine or plastic lacing. Supervise carefully, ensuring the hard noodles stay out of his mouth.
Pour a handful of rice into a plastic baggy, add a couple drops of liquid food coloring and massage the bag to color the rice. Make several different colors. Provide your toddler with simple coloring book pages or large outlined print-outs and encourage him to "color" the pictures by gluing or pasting the colored rice on to color the picture, similar to sand art. Use only non-toxic glue or paste.
Take your toddler on a nature walk, collecting leaves, small sticks, pinecones and pebbles. Ensure none of these find their way into his curious mouth. Cut out a piece of cardboard from a box in any shape you and your child want. Make a nature mural together by gluing on the items you found during the nature walk. Hang the mural on the wall in a place where your toddler can easily view but not reach it.