Kristine Miller, a mom of three in Swarthmore, PA, was concerned she'd gotten in over her head when she decided to let her 2-year-old son, Matthew, make gift cards using paint and sponges. After making a few, Matthew squeezed the sponges and watched the paint ooze out everywhere. It was a messy moment, but worth it, Miller says, when she had the cute cards to admire afterward.
Despite the cleanup involved, toddlers are at the perfect age to start experimenting with arts and crafts. "Giving your child materials she can squish or manipulate can help build fine motor skills and creativity," says Kathy Rywolt, director of Red Brick School in Barrington, RI. Plus, it's fun!
At this age, kids often insist that they can do it themselves, so offer projects they can do on their own without scissors (which can be tough for little fingers). Using play clay and doing finger-paint pictures are good bets. When she's all done, ask your child, "How did you make it?" or "Tell me about it!" If you ooh and aah and then display her work, you'll help her build a lifelong love of expressing herself through art.