Simple Art for Little Hands

On any given day you can walk into my house to find several paint splashes across my kitchen cupboards, leftover pieces of playdough crumbled on the floor, crayons and markers spread across the counter, and piles of artwork stacked up. Does the thought of that make you cringe or inspire you? If you are in need of simple art ideas to try with your toddler, I’m hoping you will join your little one in trying a few of these simple creative invitations.

Arts or Crafts

I believe that young children benefit the most from art that includes open-ended exploration of materials instead of direct instruction. On the contrary, crafts typically have a specific end result or plan and come with instructions. Crafts can be wonderful tools for practicing following directions, building comprehension, and learning imitation, but I find crafts with young kids tend to stress me out and require more planning than I have time for. However, I hate missing out on enjoying seasonal artwork. A way I invoke certain seasons or moods into my child’s artwork is through the materials I offer: if it is winter and snowy, I might offer paint and puffballs, or, I might cut their completed artwork into a snowflake shape. I promise, your toddler won’t mind if you keep their art projects simple and led by them.


Give your child the opportunity to put color and marks on paper often. Drawing is essential to building hand strength and fine motor skills necessary for writing. In my house, I leave crayons, markers, chalk, pens, and paint sticks available for my daughter to reach. Having different types of tools has kept her interested in continuing to put marks on paper. I introduced crayons before age one and left them out in her reach for independent use shortly after. There have been two intentional “wall art” incidents in over a year, so I’d say that is a pretty good success. Keep your Mr. Clean Magic Eraser on hand and it can be smooth sailing. 

  • Simple: Leave out blank paper and one type of writing tool in reach of your toddler as an invitation to draw. Pick from crayons, markers, or chalk.  
  • Limited Materials: Use what you have. Your pen and the envelope from your latest billing statement are easily accessible.
  • Less Mess: Put drawing materials into a clear canister with a screw top lid. Place it within your toddler’s reach. This will encourage them to use the materials, but you will still be able to keep control of when and how they access them. If you fear for your walls or television being drawn on, start here.
  • Expand: Work towards allowing your child to choose their own writing tool and experiment with multiple mediums at one time. You could also offer different surfaces to draw on. Try crayons on an Amazon box, window markers on your glass front door, or a pen and a spiral bound notebook.  


Keep in mind that paint is a sensory experience. It is so important for your young child to have messy play and paint is a great way to do it. 

  • Simple: Begin with a few squeezes of paint on a paper plate and one paintbrush per color. I prefer to give the primary colors red, yellow, and blue to encourage color exploration through mixing. Provide a generous size paper.
  • Limited Materials: Mix cornstarch or flour with water to desired thickness and add some food coloring. Use an old makeup brush, marinade brush, or qtip for your child’s brush. Anything can be used for a surface; I love brown paper bags from the grocery store.
  • Less Mess: Use colored construction paper, a paint brush, and a small glass of water as your paint. Or, try painting before bath time: put your paper up on the shower or tub wall with painter’s tape and let your child go to town. Clean up is easy and contained and your child can learn to help by scrubbing the wall with a washcloth.
  • Extra: Try watercolor painting and expand your activity by using white crayons to make a wax resist piece to paint or adding salt after the painting is done (your kiddo will love sprinkling the salt with a pinch or using the salt shaker!). Add other kinds of paint tools including leaves from outside, a fork, or sponges. Use finger paint and put the paint right on the paper without providing a tool.


While we do not have any simple stamp pads at my house, we’ve found ways to stamp and print that are easy for anyone to do.  

  • Simple: Get your child a large, washable stamp pad and a few stamps, and you are in business.
  • Limited Materials: Just about any material dipped in your paint of choice works for printing or stamping. Old laundry detergent tops, cookie cutters, spatulas, toilet paper tubes, and your child’s own fingertips make printmaking easy and accessible with any kind of paint.  
  • Less Mess: Use your stamps with water or stamp your bathtub wall with paint and a sponge. 
  • Extra: Make fun and messy memorable prints by painting your child’s hands and letting them stamp the paper; expand the activity by having them paint your hands to print as well. Painting on a surface such as bubble wrap or corrugated cardboard and then pushing the paper onto the surface is another way to make fun prints.

If you are looking for more detailed inspiration to fuel your little artist, check out my current favorite artsy kids Instagram accounts for tips and ideas:

Hopefully these few ideas have encouraged you to present more creative projects to your child. Most importantly, I hope you find ways to let yourself be creative together with your little one—some days we adults just need to let ourselves color outside the lines and enjoy the feeling of wet paint on our hands for a while, too. Stay creative!

After you’ve tried some art projects, try these fun ways to introduce the concepts of STEAM!

Miranda Zoumbaris
Miranda is a mama to two young girls. After spending 13 years serving families of babies and toddlers in early intervention she recently took a leave to care for her daughters and build her own small business. Miranda is currently working on developing an LLC to provide parent and me education classes along with coaching and support for parents and professionals surrounding the birth to five age range. In her spare time she enjoys baking, creating, and working hard to keep her pandemic house plants alive. You can follow her journey on her favorite social platform Instagram @earlyinterventionmama.


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