Crafts are a form of self-expression. If you’ve ever watched two small children make the same craft out of the exact same materials, you’ll know that often they’ll end up with two dramatically different projects. For toddlers, just squishing paint through their fingers can be amazing. Even better, crafts are educational as well as fun, as the kids learn fine motor skills while they hone their creativity. Animal crafts help the kids learn about the wider world while having more fun than a barrel of monkeys.
Using a large dinner plate, trace a circle onto a piece of heavy weight cardboard. For a festive turkey, cut beak, wattle, feet and feather shapes from white construction paper and have your toddler paint each item with water colors or finger paint. Have your child use a glue stick to glue 1-inch diameter wiggly eyes toward the top center of the circle. Glue the beak and waddle just below the eyes and the feet toward the bottom. Turn your circle upside down and have your toddler glue feathers all the way around the cardboard circle—gobble, gobble, all done. For a peacock, eliminate the waddle and have your toddler paint the feathers in blues, greens and purples. Add a red crest and use red and white feathers and you can make a rooster instead.
Egg Carton Crafts
Cardboard egg cartons can be used for all sorts of crafts. For an egg-cup chick, cut two cups from a carton and trim the edges. Have your toddler paint both cups with washable yellow poster paint — she can use a paintbrush or her fingers, just make sure there isn’t any taste-testing involved. Cut out five orange triangles for feet, wings and a beak. Show your toddler how to use a glue stick to glue wiggly eyes on one cup, one triangle on each side of the cup for wings, and two triangles to the bottom of the other cup for feet. Tape the two cups together from the inside, open ends facing each other and you have a completed chick—chirp, chirp.
If bugs are more your toddler’s style, have her paint a single egg cup red with black dots. She can use a glue stick to attach wiggly eyes and construction paper or pipe cleaner antennae and her little bug is ready to fly.
Paper Plate Critters
Paper plates make perfect crafts because they are inexpensive and accept paint and markers quite well without bleeding through. To make a paper plate lion, have your toddler paint the inside of a plate with light orange or yellow paint. When it’s dry, she can glue two big wiggly eyes to the top center of the plate. Draw a nose below the eyes and two ears at the top. Have your toddler use brown paint all along the rim of the plate for the lion’s mane, one big dot to fill in the nose, and a little paint to fill in the ears. You can use the same concept for all sorts of animals. Just switch up the colors and the shape of the ears and nose and you’ll have lions, tigers and bears, oh my!
Several pieces of paper and cardboard can help your toddler transform into her favorite animal. For example, to make a set of bunny ears, cut a 4-inch strip of butcher paper long enough to fit around your child’s head. Using thin cardboard, cut out a pair of rabbit ears about 6- to 8-inches long. Use a marker to draw the inside of the ear on the paper so your toddler can color this part pink and the rest of the ear brown. Show your toddler how to use the glue stick to glue the ears to the strip of butcher paper. Tape the ends of the strip together and place the animal ears headband on your child’s head. Other easy ears include cat ears, dog ears and bear ears.