Open-Ended Sensory-Rich Art Activities for Toddlers

Open Ended Sensory Rich Art Activities for Toddlers and Preschoolers | Mama Papa Bubba

If you know me well, you know that one of the many things I would LOVE to do one day is facilitate sensory-rich art and play classes for little ones and their parents or caregivers.  It’s been a dream of mine ever since Miss G was four months old and she and I attended Kindermusik classes in a fellow expat mama’s home during our first stint in Kuwait…  I just loved that the instructor was creating this awesome little community of expat mamas while doing something she loved and getting to stay home with her kiddos all at once – a dream come true, really.

I was lucky enough to get a little taste of facilitating sensory and art classes when I taught at a creative play and learning centre during our second stint in Kuwait, but what I’d really love is to have a gorgeous little studio in the backyard {I’m picturing bright white walls and loads of light pouring in through big windows} dedicated to bringing parents and their littles together through playing and creating.  As much as it would be a space for parents to connect with their kids, it would be a space for parents to connect and form friendships too…  There would be time for free play, books  woven into our time together, and the projects would be as sensory-rich and open-ended as possible.  Ugh – doesn’t it sound amazing??  {ONE DAY!!}

Until then, I’ll enjoy all of the fun play and art projects with my own kiddos and since the weather recently perked up in the Okanagan, Sam and I have been doing just that!

Below are 5 open-ended, sensory-rich art activities that he’s absolutely loved recently…  In all of these, we used one or more products from Crayola’s ‘My First Crayola’ line aimed at meeting little ones in the early stages of their development.  The art tools are sorted by stages rather than ages, which I love because as we all know, all kids develop and progress differently.  The 3 stages are:

1) Scribble – for kiddos making their first random marks

2) Doodle – for little ones who can repeat different types of lines

3) Draw – for kids who can draw shapes and basic pictures

Now while I’d say that Sam is pretty much in Stage 2: Doodle at the moment, there are definitely Stage 1 tools he still loves using and there are even a couple of Stage 3 products he’s able to use independently.  In the end, you know your child best, so go with what works for them!

This post is sponsored by My First Crayola.  I’ve been a Crayola fan for pretty much my entire life… {tell me – was there anything better than opening a brand new jumbo box of crayons with the sharpener built into the back as a child?! Nope.  There really wasn’t.} as always, all of the opinions in this post are my own.

Alright, ready??  Here are 5 super fun, open-ended, sensory-rich art activities to try with your little one…

Rip & Stick Sticky Collage

Open Ended Art Activities for Toddlers

The materials:

  • Crayola construction paper {we used full-sized sheets from the huge pad we always keep on hand as well as half sheets from the Preschool Readiness Kit simply because the colours are so beautiful}
  • clear contact paper
  • clear tape
  • Crayola safety scissors {from their stage 3 line} optional

Open Ended Art Activities for Toddlers

The set-up:

Cut out several construction paper frames, adhere them onto a large roll of clear contact paper, and then cut away the extra contact paper.  Hang the frames up onto a wall or window sticky side out and include a little basket or tray of small construction paper squares and the safety scissors {if including them} nearby.

Open Ended Art Activities for Toddlers

The process:

Invite your little one to rip {and or cut} the construction paper squares into small bits. Sam’s not quite ready for scissors just yet, but he was very interested in them and gave them a go.  Ultimately, we went back to ripping because it’s more appropriate for his current abilities and he loved it!  While it can come off as simply destructive, ripping paper actually provides a great fine motor skill workout and provides both auditory and tactile feedback – win-win!

Open Ended Art Activities for Toddlers

With the paper bits ready to go, invite your little one to stick the bits up onto the frames.  The contact paper is a great way for little ones to explore the concept of sticky and makes creating collage-style art a breeze.

Open Ended Art Activities for Toddlers

Another perk?  A contact paper collage means no glue necessary, so this is virtually a mess-free activity.

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The finished project:

Isn’t this beautiful with the sunshine streaming through the window?  I especially love this project because it can be left up for days and added to when the mood strikes.

No Paint Watercolour Painting

Open Ended Art Activities for Toddlers

The materials:

Open Ended Art Activities for Toddlers

The set-up:

Using painter’s tape, secure the watercolour paper to a flat, easily washable surface.  This will not only keep it in place as your little one creates, but will also leave a beautiful white border around the edge of the piece that will make the finished project  pop and look super polished.  Remove the caps from the tripod markers and stampers and place them in a tray for easy use and prepare a jar with some water and the paintbrushes in it for a little later on.

Open Ended Art Activities for Toddlers

The process:

Invite your little one over to draw and stamp on the large piece of watercolour paper.

Open Ended Art Activities for Toddlers

The more colour the better in this case, so it’s perfect that the little shape stampers we used basically beg to be coloured in.  {Just look at that concentration, will you?!}

Open Ended Art Activities for Toddlers

This is also the perfect time to experiment with different types of lines…  Slow ones, fast ones, straight ones, wavy ones, crazy ones – anything goes!

Open Ended Art Activities for Toddlers

Alright, now for the magic!  Once your little one is done colouring and drawing, tuck the markers and stampers away and bring out the water and paintbrushes.

Open Ended Art Activities for Toddlers

Invite your little one to paint their picture with water and watch as they observe with wonder.

Open Ended Art Activities for Toddlers

When the painting process is complete, leave the piece to dry.  Later on, gently remove the painter’s tape to reveal white border.

The end result:

Open Ended Art Activities for Toddlers

Stunning, isn’t it?

Upside Down Drawing

Open Ended Art Activities for Toddlers

The materials:

Open Ended Art Activities for Toddlers

The set-up:

Using masking tape or painter’s tape, secure a piece of bristol board to the underneath side of a low table {coffee tables and kid-sized tables are perfect for this}.  Trim the bristol board first if needed.  Set out a variety of crayons in a tray or basket under the table.

Open Ended Art Activities for Toddlers

The process:

Invite your little one to draw upside down!  Sam totally got a kick out of this.

Open Ended Art Activities for Toddlers

While this may seem like such a simple activity, the upside down element really brings a sense of excitement to the project and requires some gross motor planning that just isn’t required when drawing or colouring in the usual manner.

Open Ended Art Activities for Toddlers

Depending on your little one’s interests and abilities, he or she may experiment with different kinds of lines and formations like Sam, or he or she may compose more of a traditional picture – both of which are great.  There’s no right or wrong here and the activity can be left out and added to for as long as you like.

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The end result:

This is what I found under our coffee table a few days ago after more than a week of adding to it.  Obviously Miss G jumped in on the fun at least once and fun was had.  It may look like nothing more than scribbles, but the purpose with open-ended art is the process of course.

Foamy Painting 

Open Ended Art Activities for Toddlers

The materials:

  • a large tray with a raised edge {even a baking sheet will do}
  • watercolour paper
  • water
  • Crayola Fingerpaint {this stuff is super washable – even after sitting on our easily stained white table for 45+ minutes}
  • dishsoap
  • cornstarch
  • a blender
  • a paint tray of some sort
  • Crayola Jumbo Paintbrushes

The recipe:

  • 1/4 cup of water
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons of fingerpaint
  • 1 tablespoon of dish soap {while natural formulas will work, the foam made by a traditional formula seems to last longer}
  • 1 tablespoon of cornstarch

Simply place everything into a blender and blend on high for approximately 30 – 45 seconds.  Repeat for each colour, working quickly as the foamy bubbles do disappear over time.

Open Ended Art Activities for Toddlers

The set-up:

Trim your watercolour paper so that it will fit on your tray or baking sheet.  Whip up foamy paint, place it into a tray of some sort, and set it out with Crayola’s Jumbo Paintbrushes {I love the sensorial element these add to painting projects}.

Open Ended Art Activities for Toddlers

The process:

Invite your little one to create a masterpiece using the foamy paints you made. I tend not to give Sam any instructions with projects like this one…  The more open-ended the better.

Open Ended Art Activities for Toddlers

Although the foamy paint will thin out with time, the beauty of pairing it with these Crayola Jumbo Paintbrushes is that their sponge-like textures totally have the ability to reactivate the bubbles.  Sam discovered this on his own as I sat back and observed and he was so pleased with himself.

Open Ended Art Activities for Toddlers

Allow your little one to explore the paints with his or her hands too if desired!  This is as much a sensory play activity as it is an art activity and this homemade paint is super washable, so nothing to worry about there.

When done, carefully remove your little one’s piece from the work tray leaving all of the bubbly foam in place and set it somewhere to dry.  If you have something that will allow it to get some airflow on the bottom too, even better!  {The cooling trays you use while baking are amazing for this purpose.}

Open Ended Art Activities for Toddlers

The end result:

How unique is this finished texture?!  It almost reminds me of the moon’s surface.

Bubble Wrap Stomp

Open Ended Art Activities for Toddlers

The materials:

Open Ended Art Activities for Toddlers

The set-up:

Set your drop cloth out and secure the bristol board to it using the white border method.  Place your paints into a paint tray of some sort and designate one paintbrush per colour.  Trim a piece of bubble wrap so it’s the size of your bristol board or smaller.

Open Ended Art Activities for Toddlers
The process:

Invite your little one to paint on the more textured side of the bubblewrap.  For this project, you may want to encourage him or her to be generous with the paint as it tends to turn out better when a good amount is used.

Open Ended Art Activities for Toddlers

Next, flip the bubble wrap over onto the bristol board canvas and invite your little one to {carefully} walk, dance or stomp on top of it.  You want the bubble wrap to stay as flat and still as possible, so if you can hold down the edges while your little one dances and stomps, I’d recommend it.

Open-Ended Art Activities for Toddlers

You may also want to put on some tunes for this step – I mean, what doesn’t a little ‘Baby Shark’ make better??

Open Ended Art Activities for Toddlers

Carefully lift the bubble wrap and invite your little one to do some more painting on it.

Open Ended Art Activities for Toddlers

Then repeat the walking / dancing / stomping process again and again until the bristol board is covered in layers of textured, bubbly-looking paint.

Open Ended Art Activities for Toddlers

And if all that stomping and dancing tires your little one out, why not let them have a little lay down on their artwork, right?  {HAHA!}

Open Ended Art Activities for Toddlers

The end result:

Beautiful, right?  I love how the colours gently blend together in some spots while the individual bubbles are quite evident in others.

Well, that’s it.  Five super open-ended art activities for little ones that are all about experiencing the process rather than creating something with a specific finished product in mind.

What do you think…  Would your little one enjoy any of these?

Open Ended Art Activities for Toddlers | Mama Papa Bubba

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