While your child may be a budding Matisse or possibly the next Rembrandt, there are several styles of painting you may want to consider. Most toddlers love exploring the world of color, art and splatter, and the messier the better. But, there are ways to rein in the mess while still giving him plenty of room for self-expression. You may want to invest in an art apron or just use one of Dad’s old T-shirts over play clothes to keep the mess to a minimum.
Start with a little pop art or abstract by introducing your toddler to finger painting. If you toddler is still in that “I need to taste that first” phase, and you don’t mind stained fingers for a few days, try a basic finger paint recipe. Mix one cup of flour, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, one cup of water and a few drops of food coloring. Draw a few squiggly lines, a square, a triangle and a circle on a sheet of butcher paper. Ask your child to fill in the shapes and paint over the squiggly lines.
Sponge and Tempera
Tempera paint, also called poster paint, has a thicker consistency and spreads easily with a paintbrush, fingers or other items. This type of paint takes a little longer to dry, but the colors, available in primary, bright and pastel, work well on heavier papers, butcher paper and cardboard. Put several colors into separate cups and show your toddler how to dip a natural sponge into the paint and dab the paper to make funny shapes and animals. Make sure the paint you choose specifically states non-toxic on the label, just in case.
Let your toddler wear art by teaching her how to paint a T-shirt with fabric paint. Available in small squirt bottles, fabric paint comes in numerous colors and lots of styles. You can buy puffy paint which is dimensional, glitter paint, which glitters, and slick, which has a sheen. Buy a 100 percent cotton T-shirt and place a piece of plastic or cardboard inside the shirt to keep the paint from bleeding through. Show your toddler how to lightly squeeze the bottle — this takes a little patience. Make sure the brand you choose is non-toxic.
Gouache and Brush
For a touch of surrealism, try your toddler’s hand at gouache, a water-based paint containing chalk. Your toddler can use a big paintbrush to cover an entire piece of watercolor paper, creating an opaque and dreamy background. After it dries, she can add a second coat of another color. Use blues for a misty morning or browns for a mountain range, greens for rolling meadows and bright reds and oranges for a sunny day. Gouache is not meant to be used by toddlers still eating their paint, though the paint is usually non-toxic. Always check the label.