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Your Toddler, the Artist

Learn about the ways your toddler can express himself through art and music.

Your Toddler, the Artist

Even one-year-olds take satisfaction in creating works of art and love to admire and show off the products of their work. You can encourage your young artist by giving him plenty of supplies:


Make sure that all art supplies used by your toddler are non-toxic—and hopefully washable, too.

  • Throughout the second year, your child will find scribbling with crayons and chalk fun and easy. At the beginning of the year, you might do well to start with thick crayons and sidewalk chalk, but by the end of the year, he should be able to handle smaller crayons as well as chalkboard chalk.
  • At one, your child will probably enjoy finger painting (unless he's exceedingly fastidious about clean hands), which allows a direct and sensual experience of creating art. A little later in the year, you can let him try his hand with a thick brush. You might want to give your toddler some valuable practice by giving him a large paint brush and a bucket of water so he can "paint" the sidewalk.
  • Sculpting also offers your child a sensual experience of art. Media like molding clay and playdough—whether homemade or store-bought—will give your toddler a hands-on opportunity to create shapes, mix colors, and discover the delightful sensation of squishiness.
  • If you don't want your toddler decorating the walls, floors, tables, and chairs, you'll need to provide him with plenty of surfaces on which he can create his work. Blank paper, the back of junk mail, and cardboard can all yield works for your permanent collection. For temporary exhibitions, try a chalkboard, washable placemats, your walkway, your driveway, or the sidewalk.


For a year now, you've been singing songs to your child: lullabies at bedtime, silly songs at playtime, active songs like "If You're Happy and You Know It" and "Wheels on the Bus" in parent-baby play groups. Now it's time for the two of you to start singing together.

Certainly you should continue to sing lullabies and play songs to your child, but encourage your toddler to join in the clapping, stomping, and rolling wheels of active songs. Start to invite your child to sing along with you. (Many young children seem to know many more words in songs than they do in everyday conversation.)

Your child also can begin to make music with various musical instruments. Pot-and-pan "drums" allow your child to make delightful sounds—at least to your toddler. Other favorites include such simple musical instruments as a small xylophone, a toy piano, or an electric toy piano.

By the end of your toddler's second year, she may not just be banging at random anymore. Instead, she will start experimenting with carefully selected notes to see what "melody" they produce. (It may not necessarily be anything you would recognize, but it will be music to you child's ears.)

Continuing to read or recite nursery rhymes, like singing play songs and lullabies, will help improve your toddler's language comprehension and verbalization skills.

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