Like most toddlers, two-year-old Anna is very curious, and she has a lot of energy! Toddlers don’t waste time, and I find that one of the challenges of raising toddlers is keeping them busy so that they don’t come up with creative activities on their own – like covering themselves in marker while I cook dinner. Thankfully the marker was washable, so this particular adventure made for my favorite photo of the week.
One of my favorite tactics for getting toddlers to “behave” is to take an inappropriate activity, look at their reasons for pursuing that activity, and then finding an appropriate way for them to experience something similar. With the marker incident, Anna had found the markers, but not the paper. The collage activity I’m writing about today is something I set up after I found Anna rubbing glue all over the dining room table. I found some construction paper in the closet, ripped some of it into pieces, and showed her how to glue the pieces onto whole pieces of paper. It was a very easy toddler activity that kept Anna busy for at least one hour the first day, and another hour the next.
Two-year-olds are at a magical age where they want to explore the world. If you give them the tools, they often show a lot of patience and determination as they work to master a skill. Anna had to think a lot about how to put glue on the paper, and then which side of the paper to put face down to make it stick.
Once the basics were mastered, Anna made the task more complex, all on her own. She started naming different pieces of paper (I think the one she is holding up here is “Mama”, which she thinks is hilarious since I am standing there with the camera, and also possibly because it looks nothing like the real me) and arranging them together on the paper. In the photo below, she is gluing a mom holding a baby onto the paper.
Collage activities like this are wonderful learning opportunities. Besides storytelling opportunities and creative expression, it’s an opportunity for toddlers to develop the fine motor skills and manual dexterity they need to succeed in elementary school.
Basic crafts like this are also great parent-child bonding opportunities. Don’t worry about the finished product – the process is what matters, especially at this age, but also as kids grow older.
Both Anna and Mike enjoyed making this silhouette scene together! Mike cut out shapes as Anna requested them, and then they both added details in pen.
Next time your toddler is fussy or getting into trouble, hand them a glue stick and some colored paper. I do recommend sitting them down at a table first, unless you think your couch would like a lovely glue stick varnish. Take a few minutes to create alongside them so that they understand that it is an activity you value, and that you are not simply trying to get them out of the way. If possible, bring some work of your own and sit at the table next to them – whether you are peeling potatoes or sending emails on your laptop. It’s an easy way to keep them happy, busy, and learning!