Contact Collage

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Sticky contact paper might just be the perfect medium for art projects with toddlers; everything sticks instantly but there’s no glue required (i.e. no mess and no drying time). This particular project also incorporates great ways to talk about shapes, build vocabulary, and more.

To start, I taped a piece of contact paper up to the wall, and peeled off the backing so the sticky side faced Veronika. You can make this surface as small or as large as you want. Feel free to cover the full length of a wall! Veronika trotted over and was quite curious about the way the paper stuck to her fingertips.

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I gave her a pile of things to stick up on the paper, including pictures cut from magazines and fabric scraps in various textures, everything from soft cotton to bumpy burlap to fuzzy felt.

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She immediately began sticking things up, declaring, “Sticker, sticker!”

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I let her select which items to put on where. The magazine pictures interested her far more than the fabric to begin with, and I said the name of each item (“dog!”) as she applied it.

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For a little learning, I cut some of the fabric scraps into squares and others into triangles. I also pointed out the different textures as she hung them, using descriptive words for how each one felt.

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She was so proud arranging and rearranging her canvas. Although the magazine pictures were stuck in place, the fabric could be pulled off and moved elsewhere.

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My girl looked so big, standing at her artwork. This one really made me feel like I have a toddler, no longer a baby.

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What a masterpiece!

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Crumple Crazy

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Glue + crinkly tissue paper? This art project is a toddler’s dream come true!

To make a glue solution that isn’t quite so sticky, I first mixed a little white glue with a splash of water in each compartment of a paint tray. This turned into a nice solution that was just sticky enough, but wouldn’t immediately do damage if Veronika got it on her hands or face.

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She was wild about dipping a paint brush into it! I showed her how to smear the gluey mixture over cardboard. (Note: Use any piece of cardboard from packaging for this project, or an old cereal box, or even sturdy construction paper).

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Next, I tore off pieces of white tissue paper and showed her how to crumple them into little pieces. These could stick perfectly onto her gluey cardboard. Could we hide all the glue?

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It turns out that she loved lifting off the crumpled pieces, pulling them off the sticky surface and then putting them right back on again. Or tossing them to the floor!

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Once there had been enough sticky glue play, the fun continued with extra tissue paper on the ground. Shake the pieces overhead, or crumple them close to the ear and talk about the sound it makes.

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I thought for sure she would want to tear the tissue paper up, but that didn’t interest her. Instead, we crumpled them into tight balls that were great for tossing… and kicking!

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How will your toddler play with tissue paper? Please share in the comments!

Mark and Erase Pictures

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Veronika loves to color now, especially whenever she sees her older brother doing coloring book pages. As a result, we’re quickly running out of white printer paper, as I give her sheet after sheet to scribble on. Here’s a great way to let your toddler draw over and over, without the waste!

I drew shapes and easy lines to follow on a few sheets of white paper, then slipped them into plastic lamination pouches.

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Veronika immediately began using markers on the plastic pouches. It fascinated her that there were already colors and shapes there to see, as she scribbled busily over them.

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I demonstrated how she could follow along over my easy shapes, either with the same color or a different one. Obviously she’s way too young for this kind of pen control, but you can introduce the concept now, and then it becomes a game that will grow with your child.

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When the pages were filled with her scribbles, I simple wiped clean with a damp paper towel. Now the fun could begin all over again, no wasted paper! I’m definitely going to bring along a couple sheets like this the next time we’re in a restaurant, too.

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The Scribble

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It was bound to happen: Veronika discovered that she can color on the walls (luckily with washable crayons!). So here’s an ingenious hack to foster your toddler’s artistic impulses with a safer way to color.

I used magnets to hang a large sheet of craft paper on the fridge and sat Veronika down in front of it with a few markers. She didn’t need me to tell her to start coloring; she immediately launched into the art of the scribble.

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Aside from one mommy stick figure, this drawing was 100% Veronika’s. She loved switching up the colors.

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She also was very focused on putting cap to marker in between colors, a great chance to work those fine motor skills!

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As she drew, I talked about how the color on the paper was a “yes” (use sign language here to reinforce the idea!), but that other places were a “no”, like the floor or her hands.

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This will help a toddler start to learn that art belongs on paper, for now at least!

As for those crayon marks on the wall, here’s an ingenious trick: Heat the area with a hair dryer for about 30 seconds to melt the wax. Then scrub off the remaining streaks with soap and water. Ingenious!

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Make Your Own Pinata

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Travis has been learning about birthday traditions around the world, and one that especially intrigued him was the Mexican pinata. It seemed like a fun idea to make our own!

Full disclosure: we worked with materials from a kit, but if you’re doing this craft completely DIY, you’ll need to cut two equal-sized circles from cardboard, as well as a third strip of cardboard to be the loop between them. Tape the three pieces together, leaving a slot through which you can later add candy or other treats.

Cut strips of yellow paper, and then snip them half-way up to make fringe. Travis liked the challenge of this step.

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Now begin gluing the strips onto the cardboard base, working from the bottom up.

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Ours wasn’t perfect, but soon we had a fringed yellow face!

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We added fun details like sunglasses and a smile cut from additional colored paper. Tape a string to the top of the pinata and loop it onto a stick. I held the stick aloft, while Travis took a swing!

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For extra authenticity, kids can swing blindfolded.

If you don’t have candy, fill the inside of the pinata with fun confetti or even pom poms. Travis was ecstatic once the pinata had a tear and the pom poms rained down.

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Knight Light

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Travis still complains of bad dreams, though we’ve tried everything from worry dolls to dream catchers to fancy night lights to make his room feel safe and cozy at night. The fun play on words earned a laugh when we spotted this craft in Highlights magazine, so it was worth a try to see if Sir Lights-a-Lot can guard against bad dreams!

Cut gray cardstock to size so that it fits around an empty oatmeal container. Glue on and let dry. Cut a hole through the paper and container once the glue is set.

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Cut a visor shape and a feather plume shape from additional cardstock. We used a fun bright orange for the feather! Glue these onto the container. (Alternatively, poke two brads through the visor to attach over the hole).

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Attach wiggle eyes to the ends of curled black pipe cleaners and glue on so they dangle down and show through the visor. This step was a bit tricky, and I found it was easiest to use hot glue.

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We added a few lines of blue washi tape for a decorative finish. What a brave knight!

Come nighttime, we inserted a tea light and set him to keep watch.

Animal Puppet Craft Challenge

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More and more I’m watching Travis take the lead when it comes to the monthly craft challenge in his Highlights magazine. This morning, I presented him with an empty paper towel tube, a few craft sticks, and construction paper, with the challenge to make an animal puppet. It didn’t take him long to get creative!

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He could immediately see how the tube would work as the body. Whereas I had envisioned the sticks only as a handle for a puppet, Travis figured his animal would need arms. As soon as he held the sticks out to the side of the tube, he declared, “A bird!”

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Now we knew we needed construction paper “feathers” for the wings.

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I helped him cut these out, along with a head and beak.

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A second little winged creature looked a bit different without the circle face. Travis declared this one was a bat! He couldn’t wait for them to dry so he could flap his puppets around.


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What animal will your kid come up with using only these materials? Please share in the comments!

Ooey-Gluey Colors

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It’s not often that I find an art project for my 5-year-old that feels refreshingly new. This artsy idea from Highlights magazine had definite goo factor that appealed to him!

First, drip school glue all over the clear acrylic cover from an empty photo frame. We used an 8×10 frame for maximum work space.

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Drip food coloring over the glue, ideally with some restraint, although Travis loved making big puddles of color.

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Finally, use a paintbrush to smear it all together.

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The colors will swirl and mix in neat ways and make little bubbles on the acrylic. This is a fun chance to experiment with different brushstrokes.

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Let dry completely, then insert back into the photo frame (gooey side in) for instant art. These look particular pretty when the sun hits them through a window, acting almost like a suncatcher.

Cactus Toss

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This game is sure to get laughs from your kids, and is a fun craft to boot!

Start by drawing two cactus shapes on green poster board, about 1 foot high. Older kids will have fun drawing these on their own; I did this part for Travis, who declared my cactus “clumsy”, which I thought was just about the best description in the world.

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Decorate the cactus with paint markers. I helped Travis think about how we could depict spikes and thorns, with lots of crosses and slash marks.

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Make a slit in the bottom of one cactus half and a slit in the top of the other so they can slot together. Add point values to each arm of the cactus, and glue pom poms on top.

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Time to play! To set up the cactus, place it in a clay dish. We added sand and rocks for desert authenticity.

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Twist pipe cleaners into circles for your playing pieces. I was yellow and Travis was red. Here’s the wind up…

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…and the toss!

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First player to 10 points wins. Travis was so proud when he hooked a 5 pointer on the top!


Can Toss Tumble

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Travis has been having lots of arcade fun recently, and we continued the theme with this homemade carnival game. Play it just with family members or invite friends over for a can tumble tournament!

For about a week, I saved any canned goods we opened up: beans, soup, lentils etc. Rinse each can thoroughly and let dry completely.

To make the cans more presentable, we went through a pad of brightly-patterned craft paper and selected patterns we liked best.

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Glue the paper to the cans and let dry. If your kids want to get even more decorative, feel free to add other embellishment like glitter glue or stickers.

Now set up the cans in a pyramid and it’s time to compete.

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We used a beanbag, though a ball would also work.

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Travis was gleeful with each tumbling can! This was such simple but great fun for a little after-school “sport”.

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Note: I didn’t worry about sharp can edges with my five year old, but if you play with younger children, make sure to cover any jagged metal edges with masking tape or painter’s tape.