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resources and inspiration for art making: toddlers and preschoolers

We believe that all kids, even very little ones, should have access to meaningful arts engagement with their caregivers. Here are some ideas to try together. These collaborative art experiences will help build sensory skills, problem solving, the building blocks of literacy and tool use. All of this is possible through inspiring process art prompts which can engage you and your little ones in meaningful play together. 

what is process art?

This simply means to focus on the process of making, doing, tinkering, experimenting and not the finished product of what your little one makes. We believe that the learning and relationship building that happens when you engage in the play part of art making should be the focus when working with young children. 

You can really think of process art as "art play," which means engaging in art making that supports sensory exploration, inspires creative thinking, requires problem solving,  develops creative confidence, accesses the imagination, sparks curiosity, and promotes experiencing joy and wonder through making together.

PODCAST: The Value of Process Art

"Creativity takes courage"

- Henri Matisse  


Let's raise courageous children!

sensory exploration

Making with little ones, helps you see the world as full of mystery and recognize so many opportunities to experiment and learn through play. Soft and colorful spaghetti noodles, playdough habitats, water play, ice paint or even dyed rice and pasta can all be amazing ways to turn up the sensory experience and scientific inquiry for young artists. 

Learn more about the benefits of sensory play and discover ideas for this kind of exploration at home!

Why Sensory Play is Important for Development

The Importance of Sensory Play for Early Years

Benefits of Sensory Play for Brain Development

List of Sensory Play Activities

50+Sensory Play Activities for Kids

homemade play-dough

There are so many different recipes on homemade play-dough that can be found online.  Do a search and find the one that uses ingredients that you have at home.


Click here for our Favorite Homemade Play-Dough Recipe and check out the Instagram tutorial on how to make gluten-free play-dough from @dupagechildrens museum.

We also love making bread clay.  It's a simple, tactile, way to make sculptural dough and fun for little hands to mix and knead.  You can use bread that is past its due date so you don't have to throw it out.  Just be sure to remove any potentially moldy areas!  Here's a recipe card for bread clay.  You can download and print it using this link here.

Screenshot of ScreenFloat (6-15-20, 8-53

"Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning. But for children play is serious learning. Play is really the work of childhood."

- Fred Rogers

art and play

A Year of PlayZero to Three Parent Resource

12 Art Projects for Toddlers

25 Of The Best Toddler Crafts For Little Hands

40 + Sensory Activities for Toddlers and Babies

5 Best Toddler Art Activities

create BIG art

This gives young artists the chance to blend gross and fine motor movement, practice tool use and run experiments with color mixing. You can add a spray water bottle and squeegee to invite exploring cause and effect. A big surface to make art on, whether that is paper, cloth or a shower curtain, allows children to work together and experience having their own space simultaneously. Consider adding music to dance while you make marks to match the rhythm. 

encourage tool use

We believe it is important that even very young children are exposed to tool use at an early age. When caregivers are ready to introduce spoons at meal times, it is also a good time to safely introduce tools for exploring and impacting your little one's environment. Initially, the fine motor practice of lifting and moving an object in space is the only goal, but learning how to apply pressure and or operate simple hand tools like stamps, scissors, or hole punches can offer toddlers increased independence and lay the groundwork for early literacy skills. 

The Best Scissors to Introduce to Preschoolers

"Play is the highest form of research."

- Albert Einstein

make tinker trays

Tinker trays can be containers of any sort that present art and non-traditional materials in a way that is organized, visually stimulating and allows young children to make choices, work with increased independence, and engage in sensory play and sorting. They can range in style, complexity and theme, but their presence creates an art invitation for your little one to explore loose parts and tinker. For our youngest makers avoid things that can be a choking hazard, but with an engaged "tall assistant" these art invitations exercise the imagination.


All About Tinker Trays + 10 Ways to Use Them

Tinkering Around with Trays


Tinker trays are inspired by the Reggio-Emilia philosophy of education which originated in Italy. This approach is student-centered and encourages self-guided activity and self-directed, experiential learning.  The program is based on the principles of respect, responsibility and community through exploration, discovery and play. 

Although there are few Reggio-Emilia schools in the U.S. many teachers implement different aspects of the Reggio-Emilia curriculum in their classrooms.  This video illustrates some of the activities and environments created to encourage this discovery-based learning and play.  It is filled with inspiration and ideas for activities and tinker trays you can set up at home using materials you have available!

Reggio Emilia: How to Get Started in Your Setting

The Kids Create Change blog has lots of ideas for art making with kids at home!

Check out our recent posts!

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